Lego Star Wars Designer Diary #1

Giant Interactive Entertainment development director Jonathan Smith discusses Lego, Star Wars, and the upcoming action game that will combine the two.

First announced in August of last year, Lego Star Wars is a movie- and plastic-brick-inspired action game in which you'll relive key events from the Episode I, Episode II, and Episode III Star Wars movies. Based on our experiences with Lego Star Wars to date, the game looks to do a great job of re-creating said movies with totally convincing Lego-style graphics, and it uses Lego building blocks as the basis for some pretty neat gameplay mechanics. With Lego Star Wars scheduled for release just a few weeks from now, development on the game is winding down, giving development director Jonathan Smith a chance to reflect on the game's beginnings.

A Long Time Ago…

By Jonathan Smith
Development Director, Giant

Star Wars was the first movie I ever saw. One of those head-spinning events that shapes the imagination of every child. At an age when I'd only the slightest experience of a world outside home and school, for a couple of hours, the fate of the universe was up for grabs. And when the show was over, like everyone else, I took with me this new world of lightsabers, and amusing robots, and Death Star trench runs, and a tall cloaked figure with a deadly stare from his blank plastic face. I took it all home and built it in Lego. X-Wings, TIE Fighters, and even a knobbly disc, which slightly resembled the Millennium Falcon. It was around this time that I played my first video game.

Lego bricks make for some interesting visuals and gameplay mechanics.
And now, finally, I get to spend my days and nights putting those two formative experiences together, working with a group of amazingly talented people to create Lego Star Wars: The Video Game. With all our childhoods now long behind us, we've logged many, many years of Lego play, and many hundreds of Star Wars movie viewings. We've spent days completing a couple of 3000-piece Lego Star Destroyers; we've built and smashed massive Lego droid armies; and we've lost hundreds of shiny lightsaber pieces.

Over the next few weeks, I'll tell you how we've used those experiences to build something completely new: a game where the playful qualities and freedom of Lego bring a fresh perspective to that epic Star Wars story. We're just in the final phases now, adding some last-minute special visual effects, mixing the sound with expert help from the team at Skywalker Sound, and playing, playing, playing the game, making sure everything's in exactly the right place, and everything works just as it should. And we're just so proud of the end result. When we started out, more than two years ago, we had big ideas and lots of excitement, but to see it all finally come together, exactly as we'd hoped, has been remarkable.

We knew what the game was going to be right from the start. It's not often that happens, but in this case, the vision immediately crystallized. What would a Lego Star Wars game be like? Well, obviously, it would put you in control of those Lego minifigure characters we all knew and loved from our Lego play.

The iconic Lego minifigure character--squared-off body, gripping hands, detachable head--was born in 1978, the year after that first Star Wars movie. And since 1999, the Lego Company has been producing vehicles and play sets based on the Star Wars movies. Qui-Gon Jin and Obi-Wan Kenobi from Episode I: The Phantom Menace; Count Dooku from Episode II; Han Solo, Darth Vader, and Luke Skywalker from Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back…all these fantastic characters, and so many more, had already been created in plastic. And they all looked great, capturing the spirit of those movie characters in a unique way.

Characters and situations in Lego Star Wars are instantly recognizable from the movies.
So, we knew we wanted characters, and we knew we wanted to tell the Star Wars story of the movies. There's some terrific material out there in the "extended universe," and lots of new places you could explore, but our immediate ideas about the kind of action we'd want to experience in a Lego Star Wars game came naturally from the films. I'd been working at Lego for a year, experimenting and trying to identify the Lego qualities that we could build on to create new video games. And that work formed the basis of the very first two-page concept document.

I'll tell you more about that, and what they thought of it all at Lucasfilm, in the next installment. I'll also introduce you to the rest of the team, without whom Lego Star Wars would have remained a mere daydream. For now, though, thanks for reading--and may the Lego Force be with you!

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jakeboudville
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