Feature Article

Star Wars Battlefront 2 Dev On Showing A New Side Of The Empire With A Female Lead

"There are two sides to every conflict."

Star Wars: Battlefront II is one of 2017's biggest and most anticipated games. A sequel to the 2015 reboot that was one of the most successful Star Wars games in history, the new game has even bolder ambitions. One of the most-discussed elements of the sequel is its single-player campaign, a notable addition after the 2015 game left it out. EA wanted to get that game out in time for The Force Awakens, which makes sense from a business perspective, but some fans were miffed at the lack of a campaign. For the sequel, EA tasked one of its newest studios Motive, to creating the campaign, bringing on writers Walt Williams and Mitch Dyer to write an all-new story for the Star Wars universe.

GameSpot recently had the chance to play the first three chapters of the campaign, which follows an Empire soldier named Iden Versio, and you can read our thoughts here. Of course, the campaign is just one element of the sequel. DICE is making the multiplayer, while Criterion is handling the Starfighter Assault and Arcade modes.

As part of our preview session, we also spoke to Motive lead gameplay developer David Robillard. He told us about the feedback EA heard over the first game ("We want single-player!), what it's like working with so many teams on a single project, why the Empire may not be as purely evil as you think, and why it's "sad" that people think having a female protagonist is anything but accepted. Scroll down to hear what Robillard had to say on those topics and more, including the possibility of a Nintendo Switch version.

Why There Is A Campaign This Time:

After Battlefront 1, the reboot, EA looked at the feedback we got from Battlefront 1. One of the most resounding pieces of feedback we got was, 'We want single-player.' With that in mind, they tasked Motive to bring up a team that are the best in their field in creating narrative and realising on that narrative and executing on it. So we have a great team at Motive that built the single-player campaign. We worked hand-in-hand with Lucas to make it as authentic and immersive as we can. I think we have the best storyline, interactive gameplay feel that you can get up to now in the Star Wars universe.

"One of the most resounding pieces of feedback we got was, 'We want single-player.'"

On If It's A Bottleneck To Work With So Many Teams

No. Between Motive, Criterion, and DICE, we're all experts in our own fields. So obviously DICE, they are kings at making great multiplayer games. Criterion are known for their vehicle gameplay. And the Motive team has been crafted to bring people that have this acumen for storytelling and realisation and for good single-player gameplay. So with that focus, we can all push towards our craft and make it the best we can. And with the collaboration with Lucasfilm on top of it, we can make sure whatever we are crafting is going to be authentic to Star Wars.

On Getting Players To Empathise With The Empire

Are they [evil]? Our approach to it is there are two sides to every conflict. Whenever you are in war, because what's happening in Star Wars is war, there is no right or wrong. There is only the victor. And the victor writes [the story]. So for people within the Empire who grew up in it, who believe from day one that what the Empire is trying to do is the right thing to do, they're trying to bring order, they're trying to bring stability, and they're trying to root out rebellion. If you take those words--order, stability, and root our rebellion--these things seems like perfectly good things to strive for. From that perspective, what happens to those people once the Death Star explodes? How do they feel? How do they get back from that? What happens?

On Iden's Story Arc

I can tell you that at some point, any soldier will question what they are doing. They are going to have to face the ethics of it all. Aside from that, I'm going to have to let players play and see for themselves.

On What Boundaries Lucasfilm Set For Battlefront 2?

Actually, it's been pretty good. We haven't been restricted. I think it comes from the choices we made early on. For instance, the story, and deciding when we wanted to start the story. That was entirely driven by the Motive team. When we said we wanted to start after the Battle of Endor, we want to get that gap from Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens, telling an Imperialist story, we pitched that to Lucas and Lucas was like, 'Yeah, go for it.' After that, they have been in collaboration with us every step of the way. We had people go to the archives at Lucasfilm and scan the props and bring them back into the game so it could be as immersive and authentic as possible. We had our sound team go to Skywalker ranch and get their sound bits there. Get their music, get their ambiance. We've had help from Industrial Light & Magic to make sure the lighting is accurate for any set pieces that are set for Imperials and any set pieces on the Rebel side because they are going to be different tones of lighting. So it's been a great collaboration.

The Timeline Spans 30 Years, So How Does That Work?

I'm not going to spoil anything. But we are playing within the gap [between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens] and we will see some iconic characters from The Force Awakens at some point.

On Having A Female Protagonist

It's sad that the internet coming to terms with [female protagonists] because Star Wars has always been about strong female characters. And for us, telling an authentic Star Wars story had to go through a strong female protagonist. We wanted somebody who would be bold, headstrong, but also show an emotional side. So it made perfect sense for us that it would be Iden.

On Janina Gavankar's Performance

I haven't worked personally with Janina but my colleague who sits to the left of me at work, he's been to motion capture sessions and … she's phenomenal. She's so enthusiastic, she's so happy to be working with us. We have a great collaboration with her. She's always giving 110 percent during our motion and facial capture sessions. I think it shows in the captures that we have. We have captures for cinematic and we have captures for gameplay as well. So when Iden does a melee takedown, that's Janina doing the melee takedown.

"I'm not going to lie, it is daunting to work on Star Wars."

On The Pressure Of Working On A Star Wars Game

I'm not going to lie, it is daunting to work on Star Wars. But at the same time, it is exhilarating. Especially for us at Motive. We did not exist three years ago. So getting the opportunity to write a storyline that is original, that will tie into the broad Star Wars universe has been a blessing. We're very humbled by it and we're super privileged to have the collaboration we've had with Lucas and it's been really a smooth ride.

Is Battlefront 2 Canon?

Lucas doesn't like the word canon so we use the word authentic. You can use them as synonyms.

What Happens In Battlefront 2 Affects The Broader Star Wars Universe, Yes?

It becomes part of the broader Star Wars universe.

On What Happens In Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I don't [know anything]. I know what happens in the trailer but that's about it.

On The Last Jedi Content In The Battlefront 2 Campaign

To be determined.

On Creating New Worlds For Battlefront 2

Vardos is a completely new planet that we created for the single-player campaign. It's created in collaboration with Lucasfilm, with DICE. We created another planet for this game, that's Pilio. It's been fun having the opportunity to create these new locations.

Are These Planets Retroactively Added To The Star Wars Star Map?

I don't know about that. I'm not sure.

On John Boyega Calling Out EA About The Lack Of Campaign In 2015's Battlefront

He wasn't the only one. We listened to the fans after Battlefront 1, and the first decision I think that came out of the conversation about Battlefront 2 was, 'We need to have a single-player campaign.'

On Star Cards In Battlefront 2's Campaign

The Star Card system is a progression system that we borrowed the mechanics of it [from multiplayer] for single-player. Our goal was to make sure that everything you’re going to see in single-player, if you decide to go to multiplayer, it will feel familiar to you. So we borrowed the same kind of progression system. But the Star Cards you have are for single-player only. They borrow from the concepts that are in multiplayer. You might see the same exact Star Wars from single-player to multiplayer, but your progression in single-player stays in single-player.

But Maybe Not Forever

After that, we might look into bridging the gap between single-player and multiplayer but that is something we need to explore. In terms of some progression [from single-player] carrying over to multiplayer.

How How The Campaign Is A "Safe Space"

It's more of a safe space than onboarding. It's its own separate experience. As an offline experience, we wanted the mechanics of it, the minute-to-minute gameplay, to be familiar for anybody who decides to go online. Some players will say, 'I'm not that much of a multiplayer [person]; I'd rather sit on my couch and play campaign.' And that's fine. That's what we wanted to provide. But for those who are intrigued by multiplayer, we was to give them the opportunity to hone their skills and get familiar with the controls. And then jump into multiplayer and not be disoriented by the controls.

On A Nintendo Switch Version

This is something we'll explore if we see opportunities there but it is not something that's on the books right now.

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    Eddie Makuch

    Bring back the Whalers.
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