Behind the Scenes: The Making of the New 'Star Wars' Videogame

Despite the awesome advances in high-def graphics and killer surround sound, a lot of people still don't even think about playing videogames on their home theater systems. But today's games offer A/V performance that often exceeds some Blu-ray Discs, while delivering excitement that lasts far beyond one or two viewings. If you're still on the fence about bringing games into your theater, LucasArts' The Force Unleashed might finally get your attention. (For more on the game, see Drew Thompson's first-look review.) Few franchises have the passionate fan base that Star Wars has. In fact, the fourth largest reported religion in England and Wales in 2001 was "Jedi." Between the movies, books, comics, cartoons, games, and toys, fans can never seem to get enough.

Fortunately, you won't have to camp out in line for weeks to enjoy The Force Unleashed, which launches on September 16. Even though it's a videogame, Unleashed has all of the Lucas organization's considerable power behind it. And whether you're a casual or hardcore gamer, or you just seek out anything related to the Force, the latest installment in the Star Wars saga will give you plenty to get excited about.

Wanting to see how LucasArts had come up with a game that's just as impressive on a high-def, 7.1-channel home theater setup as it is on a gaming rig, I ventured out to the company's San Francisco headquarters in the Presidio to talk to the people behind it and see how its various elements were created. After finding the right building (I was told to "Go through the glass doors past the Yoda fountain"), I got to talk to nearly everyone involved in making The Force Unleashed, and to see and hear almost everything that went into its development.

"GO MAKE THAT GAME"

Whether we're talking about a movie or a game, slick graphics and explosive sound can carry things only so far. Ultimately, it takes a compelling story in order to be entertaining and memorable. That's what the development team behind The Force Unleashed was looking for back in August 2004 when it began working on what would become "the next Star Wars game." The team brainstormed concepts and ideas for 6 months until it finally nailed down the story. The result is so intriguing and powerful that even non-gamers will be chomping at the bit to play - or just watch. The hook? You get to travel the galaxy as Darth Vader's Secret Apprentice and carry out Vader's bidding using the Force in devastating ways you've so far only imagined.

Besides fleshing out events that take place after Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and lead right up to Episode IV: A New Hope (the original Star Wars film), The Force Unleashed answers some questions that have fascinated fans for over 30 years while offering some awesome gaming moments. Although the design team had freedom to develop the story, George Lucas's approval was required for certain aspects - specifically, pivotal plot developments revealed in the game that will shake the canon and bring new understanding to events in A New Hope.

Lucas also wanted to make sure that players understood the characters and their motivations, such as how Darth Vader would act as a master and how he would treat an apprentice. The game also explores the relationship between Vader and the Emperor, who, according to project leader Haden Blackman, "basically considers Vader as somewhat broken following his duel with Obi-Wan on Mustafar at the end of Episode III."

After creating a pre-visualization that demonstrated how the game would look and feel, Haden and team headed to Lucas's office at Skywalker Ranch to make their pitch. (Blackman remembers cranking the sound until it practically blew Lucas's hair back.) Lucas liked what he saw and gave the mandate: "Go make that game."

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