Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
The game's Wii cover art
2008 by LucasArts
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (TFU) is a LucasArts video game and part of the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed multimedia project; other TFU project developers and publishers include Dark Horse Comics, Lego, Hasbro, and Del Rey Books.
The game will be available on the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360 handhelds/consoles. The game will be released in North America on September 16th, 2008; in Australia and Southeast Asia on September 17th, 2008; and in Europe on September 19th, 2008.
This was the first visualization of the "Force unleashed" concept. Game planning began in Summer 2004. Over 100 initial concepts were whittled down to 20 to 25 that included making the game the third entry in the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series, or to have the character play as a Wookiee "superhero," Darth Maul, a bounty hunter, a smuggler, a "gadget-wielding mercenary", or "the last Skywalker". Consumer feedback helped the developers narrow in on seven concepts, and elements from those seven went into The Force Unleashed 's overall concept. Production was greatly aided by the generation of a large amount of concept art, which was intended to visually bridge the two Star Wars trilogies, convey the impression of a "lived-in" universe, show how the galaxy changes under Imperial rule, and to seem familiar yet an off-hand comment about the Force in the game being powerful enough "to pull a Star Destroyer out of the sky" inspired an image by senior concept artist Amy Beth Christenson that became an important part of the developers' idea pitches and evolved into a major moment in the game.
These illustrations inspired the creation of dozens of simple, three-dimensional animations. Eventually, a one-minute previsualization video highlighting the idea of "kicking someone's butt with the Force helped convince the designers that The Force Unleashed would be "a great game"; Star Wars creator George Lucas, upon seeing the one-minute video, told the designers to "go make that game". Once the concept of creating a "third-person action game with over-the-top Force powers" was solidified, the development team grew from ten to twenty people.
In April 2005, after "several months" of planning, the LucasArts team received Lucas' encouragement to create a game centered on Darth Vader's secret apprentice in the largely unexplored period between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, "trying to draw the two trilogies together". LucasArts spent six months developing the story. Lucas spent hours discussing with the developers the relationship between Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, and he provided feedback on what Vader would want out of and how he would motivate an apprentice. Lucas Licensing reviewed many game details to ensure they fit into Star Wars canon. Focus group feedback said that while hunting down Jedi at Vader's order would be fun, they wanted the character to be redeemed in keeping with a major Star Wars motif.
Engine and physicsEdit
During pre-production, about 30 people were on the project team. Prototyping, level construction, marketing, and public relations took about a year. Until late 2006, the production team was ascertaining "how many polygons, lights, and characters" next-generation platforms supported; a year of full production began in early 2007. A series of quickly-produced "play blast" videos helped the developers focus on mechanics, the user interface, and finishing moves. Development of the Xbox 360 version came first; PlayStation 3 development started when the production team had enough development kits. Getting the game to run on both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 was "a monumental task". The game is based around LucasArts' proprietary "Ronin" game engine but also integrates third-party technology: Havok for rigid body physics, Pixelux Entertainment's "Digital Molecular Matter" (DMM) for dynamically destructible objects, and NaturalMotion's Euphoria gaming software for realistic non-player character artificial intelligence. Developers also had to strike a balance between realistic and entertaining physics. LucasArts opted not to develop a PC version of The Force Unleashed because doing the game well would be too Central processing unit intensive for typical PCs.
Lacking Havok, Euphoria, and DMM, Krome's Wii version relies on the company's in-house Game physics. Some character animations may be Ragdoll physics while others are preset; in developing the game, Krome tried to keep the distinction between the two "blurred". The lighting system in the Wii version is more advanced than that in the PS2 version, which Krome also built; used a different lighting system.
Cinematic focus and cast performanceEdit
The Force Unleashed is intended to make players think they are "actually, finally, in a Star Wars movie". It is the first game on which LucasArts and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) have collaborated since they both relocated to the Letterman Digital Arts Center. This collaboration allowed the companies to co-develop tools to make movie-quality effects.
It took four months to cast The Force Unleashed. ILM's face and Motion capture "CloneCam" technology recorded actors' voice and physical apperances. This led to a change in LucasArts' casting process: for the first time, actors needed to match characters' age and gender. Actors performed their lines together, rather than in isolation, to better "get the sense" of their characters interacting with each other. Consequently, the script's dialogue was reduced while reliance on characters' expressions -- captured through the CloneCam -- increased.
LucasArts music supervisor Jesse Harlin said the music matches the game's motif of redemption and goal of bridging the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope:
"We had to make sure that the game's score started off rooted within the Prequel Trilogy feel of ethnic percussion and sweeping themes that spoke to the nobility and grandeur of the old Jedi Order". As the game progresses, however, the Empire gains more control, the Jedi are hunted, and the ordered control of the Prequels gives way to the more romantic temperament of the Original Trilogy.
The game's soundtrack includes material composed by John Williams for the films in addition to material created specifically for The Force Unleashed. The 90-minute soundtrack was recorded by the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra and mixed at Skywalker Sound in September and October 2007. During gameplay, a proprietary engine will combine certain "musical elements according to the pace, plot, and environment of the game at any given moment", resulting in a unique musical experience.
The game is intended to be "easy to pick up and play"; the development team included "horrible" gamers to help ensure the game's accessibility. Players can "play it easy" and "run and gun" through the game --but players who take a stealthy, more tactical approach "will be rewarded". To help keep the game accessible, the main character auto-blocks with his lightsaber some weapons fire; manually deflecting fire can become advantageous in battles. Developers treated the main character's lightsaber like another Force power, and wanted to ensure "something visceral and cool" happened with each button-push. The game has a combo system for stringing lightsaber attacks and for combining lightsaber attacks with Force powers. The game includes enemies that are easy to overcome; game difficulty arises from presenting these enemies in "overwhelming" numbers that can wear down the player's character.
The enemies, which number over 50, have various strengths and weaknesses; developers faced the difficulty of effectively placing them throughout the game's varied environments.
The game's developers wanted each platform to offer players a distinct, "unleashed" experience. Some gameplay elements were not ported to all platforms because of each platform's differing features -- for example, the Wii's "social experience" led to the design of that version's two-player duel mode. Although the story and characters are consistent across all platforms, specific details vary between them -- for example, the opening level on Kashyyyk will be a daytime attack on the Xbox 360, while the Wii, PSP and PS2 depictions happen at night with different levels. The Wii, PlayStation 2, and PSP versions -- all developed by Krome Studios -- will allow the player's character to participate in Jedi trials, encountering the spirits of long-dead Jedi.
The Wii version will use the Wii Remote to simulate the ability to wield a lightsaber, while the Nunchuk attachment will simulate Force power use. In addition to duel mode, the Wii version also includes five levels not included in the Xbox 360 or PS3 versions.
The PlayStation Portable version will feature an exclusive "historic mode" that allows players to reenact five battles and events from the Star Wars films as well as multiplayer for up to four players.
The Nintendo DS version, developed by N-Space, will allow players to use the stylus to input a chain of lightsaber effects combined with Force powers.
THQ's Universomo studio developed mobile phone, iPhone, and N-Gage versions of The Force Unleashed that is "very different" from other platforms', but still tells a story about Darth Vader's secret apprentice. These games feature a "CellWeaver" gesture system: each enemy has a symbol above its head that corresponds to a "gesture" or button combination that controls the player's character's attack.
Lucasfilm claims the game will "unveil new revelations about the Star Wars Galaxy with a motif of "redemption". Darth Vader (Matt Sloan) sends his secret apprentice, codenamed "Starkiller" (Sam Witwer), across the galaxy to destroy the Jedi who survived Palpatine's Great Jedi Purge in Revenge of the Sith. Although the player's character initially will carry out Vader's orders, "things aren't going to be the same" when the game ends, and Starkiller will become "even more powerful than Vader". Starkiller's actions throughout the game will influence which of several endings the player experiences at the game's conclusion. Additionally, the game will depict the ongoing feud between Vader and Palpatine, and the way their actions lead to the creation of the Rebel Alliance that opposes them; Princess Leia Organa will play "an important part of the story", and Bail Organa also will appear. Developers felt the presence of characters already part of Star Wars would help "ground" the game within that continuity. The story progresses through a combination of scripted events, in-game cinematics, cutscenes, and dialogue.
During the first level, the player will control Darth Vader, searching Kashyyyk for a surviving Jedi whose son goes on to become Starkiller. The player will control Starkiller for the rest of the game in locations that include the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, Nar Shaddaa, Raxus Prime, Darth Vader's Star Destroyer, "Executor", the Death Star I, Starkiller will travel between missions aboard the Rogue Shadow, a vessel analogous to the Millennium Falcon, whose crew develops a "kinship" despite their "dark side" agenda.
Main Cast and charactersEdit
Galen Marek (Starkiller)Edit
- Sam Witwer as Starkiller - The child of two Jedi, Starkiller becomes Darth Vader's secret apprentice and is dispatched by his master to kill the Jedi who survived Palpatine's Jedi purge. Developers decided not to give Starkiller a name in the game, but the novelization and comics gives Starkiller's name as Galen Marek. Although Starkiller starts as Vader's apprentice, a focus of the game is to allow the character to evolve into "something more heroic, something greater". Witwer secured the role by demonstrating to developers his deep understanding of the character; in portraying Starkiller, Witwer brought many new ideas about the character and imbued him with a sense of humanity. Developers tried to make Starkiller not so evil that players would have difficulty connecting to him. The character Luke Skywalker was originally named "Annikin Starkiller".
- Matt Sloan as Darth Vader - Starkiller's master, who discovers Starkiller as a child and raised him. In addition to dispatching Starkiller to kill the remaining Jedi, Vader also presents plans to unite with Starkiller to overthrow the Emperor, although there are "twists and turns" in this scheme. The events depicted in The Force Unleashed are "pivotal" to Darth Vader's history and development.
- Nathalie Cox as Juno Eclipse - Rogue Shadow's pilot and Starkiller's love interest. Eclipse was not originally part of the game; early concepts had the apprentice as an older character who develops a connection with a young Princess Leia. Lucas, uncomfortable with this idea, encouraged the developers to create a love interest. The apprentice, who has had limited interaction with women when the game begins, does not at first know how to act around her. Her introduction early in the game allows the relationship with Starkiller to develop, and her inclusion helps "recapture that rich ensemble feel of the original Star Wars". According to Sean Williams, who wrote the novelization, the romantic storyline is the key to the The Force Unleashed. The name "Juno Eclipse" was originally proposed as a name for the character eventually called "Asajj Ventress" -- it was rejected for Ventress as insufficiently villainous. The Force Unleashed project lead Haden Blackman brought the name back for the mythic quality of the name "Juno" and the duality suggested by an "eclipse
General Rahm KotaEdit
- Cully Fredericksen as General Rahm Kota - A Jedi Master who provides Starkiller with additional insight into the Force. Developers realized early that Starkiller would require insight into the Force from someone other than Darth Vader; after rejecting the idea of this coming from the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn or some version of Darth Plagueis, they decided to fill this role with one of the Starkiller's Jedi opponents. The character was conceived as a "tough-as-nails" contrast to Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi and concept artist Amy Beth Christianson drew upon samurai influences for Kota's appearance. The character changed little after being conceived; Cully Fredericksen's own traits made the character tougher. Fredericksen was the first actor cast for the project.
- Adrienne Wilkinson as Maris Brood - A Zabrak survivor of the Jedi Purge who was Shaak Ti's apprentice. The character as originally conceived went on to become a pirate captain, and Christianson's early art included Brood's lightsaber tonfa's. Wilkinson brought "strength" to her performance, leading to an expansion of the role with more dialogue.
- David Collins as PROXY - Starkiller's holodroid sidekick, capable of changing its appearance. Collins said PROXY has "the innocence of "Threepio" but also is "really dangerous". The droid is eager to please his master, but doesn't know how dangerous it can be or that there is a conflict between its programming and Starkiller's wishes. It is also programmed to attack Starkiller with the intent to kill every once in a while as a way of keeping him alert. Trying to avoid having PROXY's dialog become too reminiscent of either C-3PO or the villainous HK-47, developers focused on PROXY's friendly naïvete.
Other Cast and charactersEdit
See Cast for more info
LucasArts has officially announced Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. It will be released in late 2010.
GamePro said the The Force Unleashed has "cool powers", "elaborate physics" and "beautiful graphics", but also cited "uneven" combat design and "disappointing" boss battles. Rather than feeling increasingly powerful while progressing through the game, GamePro said increases in Starkiller's powers seemed to be dampened by increasingly difficult enemy abilities and positions. The Official Xbox Magazine cited the game's linear gameplay and lack of multiplayer modes as reasons The Force Unleashed feels "more videogamely and less of an all-engrossing Star Wars experience than Xbox entries like Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast or Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, but added that "when the game is on, it's on". GamesTM suggested that "by even allowing the choice between simple hack-and-slash gameplay and the more complex mix-up combos, LucasArts has ensured that many will never view the title’s full potential". Electronic Gaming Monthly classified the game as "an ambitious--yet ultimately dissatisfying--effort". Nintendo Power praised the story and the number of lightsaber combos but criticized the game's easiness and hack-and-slash gameplay. It praised the Wii version for its story and Force powers, but criticized the game's lightsaber controls and linear gameplay.
Tracksounds called Mark Griskey's The Force Unleashed soundtrack "the most entertaining Star Wars score since Return of the Jedi".
The demo was the fourth most-played Xbox Live game during the week of August 25, trailing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Halo 3, and Grand Theft Auto IV.