LucasArts sets out to make a new cinematic action game with help from Industrial Light and Magic and others.
It's been a while since we've seen something exciting from LucasArts in the game space, but the newly-revealed Star Wars 1313 has an opportunity to provide the revitalization the Star Wars franchise needs. LucasArts' secret to making a new must-have game is combining the talent from across the vast LucasFilm company and approaching the Star Wars universe from a new, darker angle.
Rather than working on its own as it has on many previous products, LucasArts is now working hand-in-hand with LucasFilm, Industrial Light and Magic, and Skywalker Sound, companies that help create some of the most groundbreaking special effects in major Hollywood movies. For example, some of the technology being brought in for Star Wars 1313 was what ILM used while working on CGI for the Hulk in the recent hit film The Avengers.
With help from these different groups, LucasArts believes they will be able to create a game with the "highest possible production values." They're aiming for a level of fidelity on par with movies and films, and certainly character movement and face visuals seem to match that goal.
I viewed a behind-the-scenes video of the performance capture for Star Wars 1313. In addition to the traditional black suit covered in white balls that allows capture technology to track even the smallest body movements, LucasArts places two close-up cameras on the actors' suits aimed at their faces. These cameras document all the facial ticks and eye movements of the characters as they move through a scene, leading to a very realistic performance when its translated to the in-game character models.
While LucasArts definitely convinced me that it has some impressive technology behind Star Wars 1313, it didn't yet have much to show of the actual game part of it. Star Wars 1313 puts players into the role of a bounty hunter working in the ruthless criminal underworld of the Star Wars universe -- specifically level 1313 of the bustling planet of Coruscant.
Beyond those details, LucasArts was not ready to comment on the game's story or characters. In fact, the demo I saw featured "test characters" that apparently will not be the final stars of the game. This strange switch-up makes me wonder if LucasArts is making for a big reveal of a character Star Wars fans would recognize in the lead -- perhaps Han Solo or Boba Fett? We won't know for sure for a while yet.
In the demo, two bounty hunters are in an unarmed cargo ship that houses a dangerous creature. After the snarling beast nearly breaks out of its cage, the older of the two criminals informs the younger that they are headed to level 1313.
The cargo ship descends to the titular floor of Coruscant through a gigantic hole. It isn't far down before a ship full of nondescript enemies descends, floating threateningly close. A droid jumps onto the cargo ship that the protagonists are on, latches itself onto the side, and blows open a hole for the other would-be pirates to board the vessel.
As bad guys board the cargo ship and start shooting, the game shifts from cutscene to gameplay without a hitch. The two bounty hunters fight off invaders using cover-based shooting mechanics that will look familiar to anyone who has played a third-person shooter this generation. A bit further on, the game switches to Uncharted-style platforming as the main character flings himself from handhold to handhold on the side of the ship in a desperate attempt to escape.
In the scene's climax, one of the bounty hunters throws a grenade into an escape pod and then sends the pod slamming into the enemy ship, blowing it out of the sky. "Was that really necessary?" screams the other character. Probably not, but it's the kind of slick, over-the-top action that Star Wars fans should love.
In fact, Star Wars 1313 has all the elements that Star Wars fans want from this universe's fiction -- crazy special effects technology, wisecracking between teammates, and even some music with undertones of "The Imperial March." I still need to see a lot more before I believe they can pull it off, but the ambitious collaboration between LucasFilms' studios is at the very least a step toward catching my interest.