GDC 07: Tossin' Stormtroopers with LucasArts

The Force Unleashed executive producer Haden Blackman speaks about how next-gen gameplay has direct impact on character, story.

Though the casual gamer probably isn't too interested in discussing the differences between hand-crafted gameplay and simulation gameplay, material simulators, and biomechanical artificial intelligence, throw in the phrase "Star Wars" and ears will perk up.

During a strict no-cameras-allowed presentation titled "True Next Generation Gameplay in Service of Story & Character," LucasArts executive producer Haden Blackman's main point to game developers was how sophisticated, tech-heavy game engines can be used to have a major impact on one of the oldest crafts known to man--storytelling.

A good, well-rounded game needs to feature the latest technology, draw the player in with a compelling storyline and engaging characters, and not be overly complicated. However, these features are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and can actually help each other out. Blackman is incorporating all those aspects into his upcoming game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, which is due out in 2008 on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

With the Force Unleashed, LucasArts is angling heavily towards simulation-based gameplay rather than what Blackman says is "realism." Sim-based gameplay re-creates a world that looks and interacts as a real environment should rather than what simply looks like a real environment. By using simulation, the cost of developing games is reduced, the environments are more interactive, characters come to life, and there's an innate sense of freedom, unpredictability, and surprise--no two experiences will be alike.

The main mechanic of the new Star Wars game is the use of The Force, which allows players to lift, throw, and push objects of all sizes around the environments. With all the Stormtrooper flinging that will be going on, a game engine heavy on physics will be necessary to really immerse the player.

Blackman demonstrated two key components of the game's innards--digital molecular matter (DMM), a "true material simulation," and Euphoria, a biomechanical artificial intelligence that was made in conjunction with character-animation specialists NaturalMotion.

Real-time physics simulations are always a blast to watch in action, but for Star Wars fans, they're doubly enjoyable when the unfortunate character being tortured is a Stormtrooper.

Blackman began the technical part of the session with DMM. The proprietary tool is being used to create many of the objects of the games, from walls and structures to alien foliage.

In a live demo, LucasArts staff launched limp characters at walls, wood, and glass, all the while adjusting the characteristics (including density and weight) of each surface for different results. The team also showed the behind-closed-doors demo from last year's E3, which featured R2 units being hurled at Felutian foliage and Jar Jar Binks where he rightfully belongs--encased in Carbonite.

Next, Blackman showed off Euphoria, the tool that will create the animations in The Force Unleashed. As evidenced by the demo, Euphoria's benefits will be especially evident while messing with Stormtroopers.

The LucasArts team repeatedly dropped Stormtroopers on a pile of boxes, adjusting their positions each time, and the results were much more than just the next evolution of rag doll physics. Stormtroopers bent and rolled as they would in the real world, whether they fell on their backs or directly on their heads.

"There's no end to the fun of torturing Stormtroopers on a daily basis," quipped Blackman to the envious crowd.

Euphoria also gives the characters something that is missing in many games--the illusion that they actually don't want to die. Blackman dropped several Stormtroopers on an incline, and as they slid down, they scrambled to get a grasp on anything, before hanging on to the edge for dear life. One Stormtrooper even managed to grab onto a comrade's leg to avoid falling--but the relief was only temporary as his weight dragged both of them to their doom. Again, none of the animations were predrawn--it was all real-time.

Another demonstration of Euphoria's character animation involved Stormtroopers on a plane that shook back and forth. The white-clad soldiers stumbled about trying to keep their balance, prompting Blackman to say that LucasArts "has drunk Stormtroopers down."

While these tools certainly make everything look pretty, Blackman wants them to stir things inside the player. He wants the unique events experienced in The Force Unleashed by gamers to be the subject of the stories they tell each other.

By focusing on simulation-based gameplay, LucasArts is empowering the player with the ability to explore and interact with the environments at their whim. In short, if it looks like it should be able to done, it should be able to be done. The result is a world that brightens the characters and story of a game.

For more on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, read GameSpot's preview from GDC.

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Discussion

151 comments
aramus555
aramus555

can please somebody explain me why THE HELL they are not doin a PC version!?

ringwraith58854
ringwraith58854

sithspawn_ "the in game screenshots make me want to vomit. What is this a nintendo 64 game?!" no it is an in-production game

----HeReTiC----
----HeReTiC----

He didn't say it was KOTOR he said this game would hold his interest him until KOTORIII comes out. Or can you not read past the first 5 words?

BOERGOE
BOERGOE

Wow this game is going to be nice

fuzzier
fuzzier

LostSoul1974 , it´s not kotorIII .. it´s the force unleashed..

LostSoul1974
LostSoul1974

I'm very much looking for to KOTOR III, however this seems like it would definitely tide me over until that day comes....

zerophoenix785
zerophoenix785

Just hope its a more challenging then KOTOR1 & 2 were and more challenging then there most recent game battle front renegade squadron.Besides that it sounds like really good game, I only know about it cuz a video in renegade squadron

gtarmanrob
gtarmanrob

this sounds so awesome. im gonna get it for PS3 for the graphics and if rumour holds true, im gonna get it for the Wii for the lightsaber combat with the Wii-remote (dunno if thats an official part of the Wii version, is it?) No PC version is such a shame...but production costs would of sky-rocketed to produce a PC game to meet todays standards. which is why i rekon they didnt bother. i hope they dont simply port it either. if they are gonna do it, do it ground up or not at all.

sambob530
sambob530

This looks AMAZING! Help, I need to choose between PS3 or Wii. DAMN ITS SO HARD TO CHOOSE!

drquezon
drquezon

What in the name of yoda's little green lightsaber is lucasarts thinking?! NO PC VERSION?!?! The world has gone all topsy-turvy. They're all crazy wahhhh!!! =...(

sithspawn_
sithspawn_

the in game screenshots make me want to vomit. What is this a nintendo 64 game?!

user5689
user5689

Really stoked, but I have one fear...This games seems very prone to being to frickin' easy...

Capt_Shavers
Capt_Shavers

its sounds and looks awsome. wish they didnt have to push it back to 2008 but i guess for sumthin this good its better that they take their time. Sorta was hoping for a republic commando 2 though. *sigh*

Sony_FreaK
Sony_FreaK

Saga Fan also. After Episode 3 weren't you mad after thoses crappy storm trooper killed our fello Jedi heros now your chance to get back at thoses bastards. Use the force to throw them around the world, drop stuff on them, shock them or just plain old slice-n-dice em' like deli meat. Who's with me?

Captain_Orgasm
Captain_Orgasm

This game sounds great - I sincerley hope it ends up as good as it is shaping up to be.

maic
maic

as a saga fan, i´m really hoping this game turns out just as good as it seems to be right now… i´m actually excited for the release of this game, like i haven´t been for a long time :) cheers

thesethcohen
thesethcohen

-excited giggle- yay, This could be the best game ever if they don't mess it up, which sadly seems likely. i mean if this much care was put into every aspect of the game... then i can't describe how good this will be

nick3333
nick3333

This game and especially its engine look completely awesome and almost revolutionary. However, we also want KotOR 3. Hurry up with that already. No, scratch that. Please don't hurry KotOR 3's production. Take your time. But please announce it soon. As for the Force Unleashed, it looks very promising.

Master-SithLord
Master-SithLord

This is gonna be the second best game ever (first best game ever to come is gonna b Fable 2)

Shadow_Fire41
Shadow_Fire41

i hate people when they release things later than they should.

woody_0609
woody_0609

2008 is way to long of a wait for me. I'll have to get an Xbox and play KOTOR until then to keep busy.

glasgow01
glasgow01

can't wait til this get's out!

ryan-666
ryan-666

looks like it could be a good star wars game!!!

ulvemann
ulvemann

looks nice... actualy good to hear that npc's are geting more and more "stable" just this little detail will be very funn when gaming. :) wellwell . time to go dormant untill 2008!! lol

cwhagen
cwhagen

If only we had more info on fighting mechanics. Such as is it going to be like Battlefront, or more like KOTR, or perhaps Republic Commando?

iory2
iory2

has the potential to be the best starwar games ever as long as its not just shooting and tossing stormtroopers around needs to have adventure exploration parts

Sanguis_Malus
Sanguis_Malus

"Tossin' Stormtroopers with LucasArts" = Disgusting !!! Looks like a cool game though !

cop3
cop3

the game looks awsome but it is too long to wait to 2008 but i can agree that it looks awsome

Everon22
Everon22

I could care less, where's the lightsaber fighting mechanics?

mike_efc
mike_efc

2008 NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

denaz
denaz

i'm excited, this should be pretty dam good.

angkawsw
angkawsw

next time im playin' im gonna be sith.. gonna be sith.. gonna be sith..

WikinG210
WikinG210

KOTOR 3 would be awesome... but only if Bioware would develope it and they dont care that much about KOTOR anymore(Mass Effect)... so I hope this will be as great as it looks and dont end up like the star wars episode 3 game... And a personal dream of mine would be that the guys over at team ninja would make an star wars game.

LPArmyMen
LPArmyMen

Im wondering why they haven't thought on a PC version of this game... they could have a better game by having more multi-player possibilities regarding chats or comms between player, better easy-to-install updates, and of course, the most logical option to upgrade the main game graphics... i hope Lucas Arts create better games like Republic Commando, not the kind of game like Empire At War, after a few hours you're bored... at least me and my friends... "May The Force Be With You" -LPArmyMen :P

CTAWATER
CTAWATER

I hope KOTOR 3 snags this engine too. I can't wait for another quality SW RPG.

gazzad
gazzad

Screw that I want KOTOR 3!!

natedogr
natedogr

It looks great! Game Informer has a great article on the game.

warbmxjohn
warbmxjohn

So excited! Im already loving euphoria technology!

skillzdatkillz0
skillzdatkillz0

Jedi Knight Trilogy? Meaning Dark Forces, Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy? But u don't consider JKA to be part of the trilogy? :S. Nah, they really need to stop making Starwars movies, enough is enough. More quality content like this though, that is another story...

hopkins1004
hopkins1004

i wonder if they are going to make a star wars battle front 3 using this kind of tec.

pythxvii
pythxvii

God i cant fraking wait for this game....i cant wait to throw **** at jello like objects!!!! lol...but seriously..the techdemo's iv seen are flipping outrageous...its awsome....Long live the Empire!

decilling
decilling

i thought he was being racist when he said blackman, but then i rememberd its someones name :) silly me

Chaos1100X
Chaos1100X

This game sounds like it will be an innovator! I can't wait to see it in action!

ba7ralr3b
ba7ralr3b

these game I never play it before but I wait game spot what they think and the rating they give