Star Wars: The Clone Wars is due for release on DS and Wii on the 14th November. We talked to Feargus Carroll, Project Lead on the DS version of the game, about both games and the continuing development of the Clone Wars series.
Perhaps surprisingly, considering that the cinematic release of Clone Wars predates both the release of these games and the animated TV series, Feargus told us about how originally, plans for the Clone Wars franchise were a little different.
FC: Initially it was going to be a TV series and a game. George Lucas himself only got involved with the show as closely as he is now once he saw the first couple of episodes and how well-animated and fantastic they were. He got more and more involved, and now he’s all over it, and the plans evolved. It was going to be the show, then he thought, hang on, we could make a theatrical release as well, so that got booked in.
It seems clear though that, with the DS version in particular, the links to the TV series have remained fairly strong.
FC: (The DS developer, Lucasfilm Animation Singapore Studio) is the same studio that animate the TV series, so we sit alongside the animators for the show.
In fact, the portable version even continues and adds to the Clone Wars narrative and universe in ways that the TV show doesn’t.
FC: I wanted to make a game that enhanced and supported the TV show, so we’ve written our own story – there’s a story arc that isn’t anything to do with any of the particular plot lines of the season – but it’s all the same characters…
(FC Cont’d) We invented some new characters for you to fight, but you get to fight Dooku and Ventress as well… They’re called Night Sisters, they’re Sith Witches. They do exist in Star Wars canon. You can find them in Star Wars Galaxies, I’ve been told. I wasn’t aware of that. And, I hesitate to say this, a Knight Sister first appeared in the Return to Endor Ewok movie, but our Night Sisters are nothing like the Knight Sister who is in that movie. If you imagine Darth Maul in a bar fight with his nasty sister – that’s a Night Sister.
As Carroll started to talk more on playing the DS version of the game itself, the central gameplay mechanic he kept on returning to was the idea that ‘the stylus is your lightsaber’. As he says:
FC: If you point on the screen where you want the lightsaber to go, it will go there. Absolute pinpoint.
However, as neat an idea this is, the actual tagline for the game is ‘Two Jedi fight better than one’:
FC: If you watch the show you’ll find that the Jedi are not James Bond, they don’t go behind enemy lines and take hundreds of people out all on their own. They actually fight side-by-side with the clones, and generally as a pair… Our game is about the fact that the Jedi is powerful, but he’s far more powerful when he’s paired up either with some clones or another Jedi.
Considering the multiplayer features that this tagline suggests, we were a little surprised to hear that there are actually going to be no multiplayer modes in the game. However, Carroll defended the move, suggesting that the game was easily feature-rich enough without multiplayer.
FC: That game’s got all the characters from the TV show, you can choose six different playable characters in pairs in any combination. You can revisit all the levels multiple times and depending on which pair you have allows you access certain different rooms that other pairs and combinations can’t.
FC (Cont’d): It’s got full audio for all the characters, and the audio comes from the actors in the show. [They] recorded all the lines for us. It’s not all the way through, but there are certain moments when you’ll see the characters and it’s just like you’d get on a console game, but we managed to get it on the DS. There was an awful lot going on, so unfortunately we weren’t able to get multiplayer in the finished game.
We got to have a quick play on the DS game after the interview, where it came across as a good-looking, full-3D adventure game. As project lead though, here’s how Carroll sums up his ‘labour of love’, as he called it.
FC: (It’s)the TV show in your pocket. With the DS game, you do fight and the stylus is your lightsaber and you do those Jedi action sequences. There’s also numerous different mini-games, so there’s a mini-game where you have to cut holes in a door with the Lightsaber – a trace the pattern thing.
FC (Cont’d): There’s a separate mini-game where you have to hack into a computer and hack open doors. You know how they’re always hacking into things to switch off force fields and so on. We also have a mini-game where you play as R2, you know when he sticks his little spinny-thing – and it’s always compatible, whatever the machine, it always works!
FC (Cont’d): So, there’s lots of different things you do in the DS game. Bearing in mind that the target audience for the DS game is 8-12 year olds, same as the show. So, it couldn’t just be the same thing all the way through the game, we wanted to give them something really different.
Although naturally keen to talk on the DS version, Carroll has also had a hand in the development of the Wii version, saying that he worked with them ‘very closely’, especially during the early days of development. He went on to describe how Clone Wars: Lightsabre Duels is designed to be the first game that really lets you control a Lightsaber with the wiimote in the way you’ve always imagined.
FC: About 30 seconds after every gamer in the world visualised what the Wii was, they all came to same conclusion instantaneously, in fact I’m sure some people felt a disturbance in the force – lightsaber! I know that the head of production at the time, Peter Hirschman, when the Wii was announced a couple of years back, his inbox just got flooded. Every single person at LucasArts individually emailed him “I’ve got this fantastic idea for a videogame, it’s a Wii, it’s a lightsaber!” So, this game is that game.
Much like the DS version, it ties-in with the animated television show.
FC: The single player game recreates set piece battles from the TV series. So they’ve been through the entirety of season one and picked out some really cool-looking battles. If you’ve seen the movie, there’s a battle between Obi-Wan and Ventress in the temple, you can go and play that in the game.
FC (cont’d): What they do is take a small clip from the TV show and play it back as a small little movie in-game, then they interchange between the movie clip and the characters, in the exact same environment. Then you fight that battle.
We got to play a few matches of this fighting game, which relies on Wii-mote movements to execute lightsaber combos. It’s very much about the battles, with much less emphasis on adventure than the DS version.
FC: The DS version is very much a narrative-driven, character-rich game. The Wii game is very much, imagine Wii Sports with a lightsaber if you like. It’s a game where I see that being played once a week for an hour or so, straight after you’ve watched the TV show, but over the full season. Rather than something that you’re going to sit down for eight hours and play all the way through to the end.
FC (Cont’d): There is a storyline, there’s a campaign mode in there that unlocks things, but this game is really about is you picking up the Wii Remote, swinging it left, swinging it right and it makes that “Vrooom” noise, and your character on the screen is doing exactly the same thing.
FC (Cont’d): (The Wii-mote senses) up/down/left/right, diagonal doesn’t trigger. There are different shapes [for the combos], it can be down, left, back again and down, or another combo could be a square. Now, if you try to do that square by doing across, down, left, right and re-centering each time, that wouldn’t trigger the combo. You have to draw the shape.
Suggesting a game dynamic that’s both intended to be very accessible, but which has some scope for more advanced gamers.
FC: Some of the characters are far easier to play with than others. Dooku’s combos are harder to pull off but they’re more powerful. So, there’s something there for a gamer to go and play, whereas his seven year old brother won’t care about that – they just want to play with a Lightsaber, and they can do that.
Although it seems like the game would be a good candidate for the new Wii Motion Plus system, Carroll tells of how he wasn’t party to any knowledge of the system before it was released, and so it doesn’t feature in the game.
FC: We knew about the same time as when Nintendo announced it. That said, I think the guys learnt a lot from making The Force Unleashed, they created a brand new control system, and I think they did a great job anyway. I’m not gonna say I’m sure the Wii Motion Plus would have made that job easier to do, but they I think they got to where they wanted to be anyway.
Considering the relatively short time between the release of The Force Unleashed and these new Clone Wars games, we asked Carroll whether he felt the games would be impacted.
FC: If you look at the two games side-by-side, you could almost release them in the same couple of week period. TFU is a tent pole Star Wars game built for the 360, built for the PS3… It appeals to probably an older demographic than the Clone Wars games. Now, the Clone Wars games, on the other hand, first off they’re based on a multimedia release – there’s the movie, there’s the TV show, all happening at the same time.
FC (Cont’d): I think our primary audience is the same audience that’s going to pick up on the TV show: 8-12 year olds who, I happen to have my own focus group at home – a 12 year old son and two girls, they love the show, they play tested the game for us during development and commented on where they got stuck and so on – and first of all so it appeals to them, you can pick it and play it, you can get it.
and specifically on the Wii title,
FC: The Force Unleashed is all about kicking ass with the force. This isn’t the first Wii lightsaber game, there’s Lego Star Wars, there’s TFU, but nobody has claimed that they are the game you’ve all been waiting for. This is the game people have been waiting for.
Carroll couldn’t comment on any future games in the series, but he certainly sounded busy when we asked what was coming up in the pipeline.
FC: Loads, but I can’t tell you. Like I say, though, there will be more seasons of the TV show, so do the math.
And of course, no interview with a Star Wars game maker is complete without asking them what their favourite Star Wars games are. What can we say? He’s a man of taste:
FC: It’s a tie between X-Wing Vs. Tie fighter and Dark Forces.