Recently we had a chance to get some alone time with with Haden Blackman, project lead for Star Wars: The Force unleashed at Lucas Arts, and we did what any fanboy would, ask him some questions!
Luckily for you, we documented these questions for all to feast their eyes upon! So read on for some Star Wars gaming goodness.
David Creech: The destructible environment made possible by Digital Molecular Matter and the Havok Physics system sounds like an incredible combination...Can you briefly describe how the game uses this environment?
Haden Blackman: We basically tried to make every area in the game feel like a "Force playground" with lots of stuff to grab and throw (using Force Grip), push around, throw enemies into, and break. It also led to some really interesting gameplay mechanics - you can actually use the Force to blast through doors, for example, rather than try to "find a key."
David Creech: Breaking new ground can be difficult. Has the dev team run into any real mind benders using these new technologies that you can discuss?
Haden Blackman: This was by far the most difficult project many of us have ever worked on. Just getting all of the physics simulations to recognize and communicate with one another was a huge challenge. One of our initial problems was the fact that physics simulations, by their very nature, are based on real-world physics and conditions. But, in TFU, we're pushing the laws of physics beyond "reality." Our Force Push moves with such velocity and hits with such impact that it would literally vaporize a human being in the real world, but we're a game and we want to create the sense that your bowling over or knocking enemies backwards. When we first integrated the technologies, enemies and objects literally "exploded" in game, or objects would be moving so fast that the simulations didn't register them - a stormtrooper might pass through a glass window rather than break through, for example. We had to work really hard to ensure that the simulations provide "authenticity" - making you feel like you have an impact on the environment and enemies, in a way that feels true to Star Wars and (most importantly) fun - without necessarily being "realistic."
David Creech: Euphoria sounds like a truly innovative engine for managing artificial opponents. Can you expand on its capabilities a little, and how SWTFU uses them to create a unique game?
Haden Blackman: Euphoria allows us to infuse characters with a central nervous system, so that they have "authentic" reactions. When you throw an exploding barrel at a stormtrooper, he might duck, jump out of the way, or try to protect his head. When you grip an enemy, he might grab onto objects or other characters around him and hold on for dear life. This basically ensures that every time you push, grip, throw, knock down, or defeat an enemy, it looks different. It also results in a lot of unexpected surprises.
David Creech: Have the achievements been developed yet? If so, can you discuss one or two of them that strike you as particularly interesting?
Haden Blackman: We have developed the achievements, and we have quite a few. There are achievements for progressing through the game - stuff that everyone will get just for playing the game and completing various levels. We also have powers related to your Force power use, your creativity with your Force powers and attacks, and completing various secondary objectives. For me, our "Frenzy bonus" achievements - basically, defeating a huge number of enemies in short order, in the most destructive ways possible - are the most challenging. And, we have a few "secret" objectives that are just fun for players to find.
David Creech: Star Wars fans can be quite passionate at times...how do you anticipate they will react to the multiple endings and how they relate to the story of the movies?
Haden Blackman: I hope they like them... I think that the endings are true to the spirit of the story, and really show the consequences of your choices, even if they don't all fit perfectly into canon.