Session: Star Wars, The Force Unleashed

Feb 21, 2008 • 4 minutes to read

**Full Title: **Star Wars: The Force Unleashed: How LucasArts is Building a Game Development Team and a Technology Pipeline…at the same time

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is a new, upcoming title

**Storyline: **Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, between episodes 3 and 4

Designing the Game

  • Big 5 questions - What’s the story, what thing is going to always be fun (using force powers) * unchecked ambitions * Concept art - Lots of images and they’re beautiful, some landscapes look like Wow’s Outland concept art * Pre-Vis work * Rapid prototyping - If I had to do it again, I would have devs prototyping gameplay

  • planning and scope - Add a step to milestones to cut off scope - we shot for the moon, it was too hard, make it decreasing scope a part of every milestone. * What is the deep story? * Early prototyping

Video Demo

  • God of War style jumping on a boss * character jumps inside a a rancor’s mouth and slices his way out (got cut from game b/c of ESRB teen rating) * Character is using Froce grip to throw things at a AT-ST, then gets underneath it and slices it in half

Multi-Platform Development

  • Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 - Started on Xbox 360 because that’s what we had, PS 3’s didn’t come in later * Require to test check-ins on both platforms * Certain things didn’t scale from design - Hire engineers with specific experience with PS 3, always better to hire with direct experience than assume they could learn

Building the Team

  • Concept greenlight from George Lucas in summer 2005 * 221+ people, still hiring * High visibility - No recruiting, president became recruiting manager * Company Mission - became company mission, employ referral plan * Prioritize Hires - What were the studios priority, weekly make sure recruiting knows * Engineering Test - Created tests to gauge/focus on hires * Healthy mix of hires - Junior/Senior devs, more generalists, and smaller number of specialists * Some calculated risks - Bring in people from film, limited work experience, fresh out of school, someone smart who wants to prove themselves, for senior engineering positions make sure you get someone with deep experience * Personality Matters - “No jerks policy”, life is too short to work with someone you don’t like, big team with lots of pressure, make sure everyone gets along

Evolving Studio

  • Rigorous Greenlight Process - positioning and buyoff from everyone * Core Team Philosophy - Key stakeholders, meets every two weeks, talk about worst-first, not just status report, decisions are made in real time (DF: similar to a shiproom?) * QA Involvement - Heavy involvement from the get-go, qualitative/quant feedback, add QA before first playable, project bug counts * Consumer feedback - Test everything from initial concept to final game implementation, embrace the data, make sound decisions (how force grip should work, how character should work) * Culture of alpha - always try the game

Zeno Effort

  • Zeno - Proprietary toolset from ILM * Collaborate beyond code - Lighting experts including Microsoft, how to light, and perf constraints * Identify clients early - * Dedicated production and QA * Aggressive tools release schedule - Weekly release schedule (Major/minor) leapfrog

Ronin Engine

  • 3 different simulation technologies, the scripting, and pipelines * Dedicated physics and audio team - engineers, designers, and creators * Generalists - engineers that could work on a number of things * Do better - Establish clear budgets - AI and designer budgets * Optimize early and often - wish we had started early, can’t optimize enough for these platforms * 3rd Party Tech - Do Deep, deep tech evaluations, some bit us at the end

DMM & Havok

  • DMM - Provides real-world simulation technologies, prepare for a massive bug count, unpredictable * Havok - Physics system

How it all has come together

  • First time shown outside of LucasArts * Force Grip - grab onto other objects to try to protect himself, similar to Valve’s gravity gun * Teaches puzzles (open doors) * Combo system - follow certain attacks


  • Tighten script - 20 revisions, are we saying the riht thing * Get performs * Facial Likeness Capture - Facial mode cap (dots on their face to capture their emotions, bring them all in, chemistry is different * ILM tools - CloneKim (sp)- geometry/textures for real faces that converts people to characters


  • How do you build team dynamics - built on-boarding service, try to pair people up with a strong mentor, * Didn’t limit ourselves to build or buy, spend money to save time if possible

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