Lego Star Wars Designer Diary #2

Director Jonathan Smith discusses the formative stages of this endearing action game in our second diary.


Lego Star Wars is undoubtedly the cutest game based on George Lucas' fantasy universe that has ever been conceived. One look at the blocky little Obi-Wan Kenobi and R2-D2 in the game and you can't help but grin. Even better, in our early experience, Lego Star Wars is a lot of fun to play. In light of the game's imminent release, Giant director Jonathan Smith returns to tell us about the concept stage of the game's development.

Episode II

By Jonathan Smith
Development Director, Giant

A lightsaber that small would have a million applications.
A lightsaber that small would have a million applications.

Hello again. We're having a terrific time here, with Lego Star Wars now gameplay-complete and just the final weeks of finger-crossing bug-fixing ahead of us. It won't be long before we finally get to see if everyone else enjoys playing it as much as we do.

So I'm just taking a short break to catch up with this diary. Before I tell you about our original concept document, let me introduce some of the other team members, while they're working away on those last few bugs.

I'd really like to introduce you to every individual who has worked on the game, as they're all superb, but there's just not enough space!

We have three leads: John Hodskinson on the programming side, James Cunliffe in the role of lead artist, and Jeremy Pardon as lead animator. And each of these guys has decisively shaped the final game. We're not a big team of managers and submanagers; everyone's contribution shines through in the work they actually do, hands-on.

Jeremy has personally created the animations for every one of our 50-plus characters. He has also worked on many of the cutscenes and has directed the others on the cutscene team. James not only determined the art style for the entire game, and built most of the Lego vehicles, but somehow also found time to create both Episode I Scene 1, "Negotiations," and Episode III Scene 4, "Defense of Kashyyyk." And John has tied everything together in code, crafted and tuned the control and combat systems, and fundamentally made everything work.

The Force will come in handy in a lot of puzzle situations.
The Force will come in handy in a lot of puzzle situations.

Loz Doyle is the producer on the game, tirelessly keeping the whole show on the right road. And the time we've spent together as a group, chewing over design issues and coming up with ideas for cool stuff, has been hugely enjoyable.

Now, while I can see that everyone's still busy amongst themselves, I can go back to the start again and tell you a bit about that very first concept document.

It's interesting for us to look back at it and see how closely it matches the final game. Like I said last time, we knew very clearly what we wanted to create here, right from the beginning.

So, our primary goals were:

  • Star Wars Movie Characters
    Minifigure versions of all the major Star Wars characters.

  • Star Wars Movie Scenes
    Play out movie scenes in your own way.

  • A Sense of Fun
    The Lego Star Wars world is full of humor and mischief.

  • Empowerment
    Player characters with cool abilities.

  • Discovery
    A world full of rewards and surprises.

  • Spectacle
    Thrilling visualizations of distinctive worlds filled with action and special effects.

  • Environmental Transformation
    Opportunities to shape the gameworld.

  • Collection
    A compelling structure to encourage and reward exploration and experimentation.

  • Multiplayer Gameplay
    Co-operation and competition.

You can see that we always wanted to offer a big range of different characters, and I know it seems kind of obvious, that of course Star Wars is most of all about the characters, but to state the objective of creating all the characters set us on a path that ultimately led to our 56 playable characters. And we're pretty proud of that achievement.

Tiny new package, same great Jedi powers.
Tiny new package, same great Jedi powers.

It's also interesting to see how highly we put the importance of humor and mischief. This was always essential to our belief that the Lego-ness of Lego Star Wars could give it a fresh new voice. In everything we've done--each character animation, each cutscene storyboard, each sound effect--we've always driven in that direction. And, again, we're delighted now that people seem to appreciate that perspective.

Next time, I'll tell you how we developed some of those goals into specific features and how we took our first steps in development. Cheers!

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