Fans of the Star Wars universe have been waiting for a new video game for far too long. Aside from the Battlefront series, there hasn't been anything for the fandom to sink their teeth into. However, on November 15, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order comes to PS4, Xbox One, and PC. The series follows Cal Kestis, a padawan who survived Palpatine's Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith, who is learning how to become a Jedi while escaping the clutches of the Empire.
While the panel for the reveal was a bit tight-lipped on specifics on the game, since we're still seven months from release, GameSpot spoke to Stig Asmussen, the game director at Respawn Entertainment on Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and Steve Blank, the director of franchise content and strategy in the Lucasfilm's story group, about the upcoming game.
GameSpot: We live very much in a realm of multiplayer online-only gaming. Why the decision to go single-player with this?
Stig Asmussen: A lot of it just happened because of my joining Respawn. I joined, and Vince and I talked about, "Hey, what kind of game do we want to build?" Like, start a new team with. And my experience was all single-player action-adventure, and that's the kind of game that [Respawn co-founder Vince Zampella] wanted to make because he had been making multiplayer games for so long. So, it was a really good fit there. And then quickly afterwards, we started recruiting people; some people that I've worked with before, some people from other places where that was all their experience and their passion, and it never was a discussion to make anything more than that.
When creating this game, did you feel it was very constrictive to work within the Star Wars universe or was there a lot of wiggle room?
Asmussen: I didn't think it was constrictive at all. We came in very early, and I think the first time that we had a meeting between Respawn and EA, it's like, "This is the kind of game that we think we could make that's really good." But it was in terms of from a gaming standpoint and our kind of much more shallow knowledge of Star Wars than the Lucasfilm guys, and that just started the conversation.
Steve Blank: As Stig was saying, they came in and after having their conversations and knowing and having a strong point of view for the type of game that they wanted to make, the mechanics that they wanted to lean into, the style of gameplay, the single-player story-driven game, action-adventure style, they came to us and said, "Hey, given everything you guys have going on, where do we set this? What does this become? How do we shape this and craft this together?" And, of course, yes, there are other things in development. There are other projects going on to be aware of. There are guardrails when it comes to that, but once we find that slot, once we select what the core of this story is going to be and where it's going to be set, we also put up guardrails for this game with other content. And so, once we knew where this was going to be set, then they could really craft what this specific story was. So there is freedom once we set those markers in the ground to develop within those markers.
And this taking place after Revenge of the Sith but before A New Hope, kind of that Rebels era. Pre-Rebels?
Blank: It's in that range.
What about this time period within the Star Wars universe appeals to you?
Blank: The Dark Times [era] is a place where there are very few Jedi, so somebody needs to be in hiding or constantly on the run, and that adds a whole other feeling to whatever content it is that you're creating because when you think of prequel-era Jedi, right, they're heroic, they're part of the Republic, they're out there as these peacekeepers, and they're known. When you move into the Dark Times, the ones who have remained, have to be something completely different. And it is that air of something a little bit darker, a little bit more mysterious, a little bit more threatening that was interesting to develop against for this type of game.
Asmussen: They're enemies of the state, and we need things to fight against. [laughs] So it's basically looked at as being knights in shining armor or something like that. We had to put ourselves in a situation or a time period where the hero had to fight back, and because you can't just have a Force user going out there willy-nilly cutting through people because then they become a murderer. But if they're constantly under pressure, if they're constantly being attacked, it gives a really good reason to fight back.
Is this developed on the Frostbite engine?
Asmussen: No, we're doing it on Unreal 4.
Are there any plans for Fallen Order to come to Nintendo Switch?
Asmussen: Right now, we're just sticking with PS4, Xbox, and PC, but I love the Nintendo Switch and the game makes a lot of sense on there but we don't have any plans for that
How did your time working on God of War help shape the Jedi Fallen Order?
Asmussen: First of all, let me just say it's not just my time. There are a lot of people from the God of War team that have come over and joined us as well as other teams as well from other great games. I think what I learned there is it really takes the team to be involved to make something that's great and not to [bite] off more than you can really pull off. In terms of just mechanically, we have a really good sense of making a character that just feels good, and that's just based off of experience of working on God of War and some of the other action-adventure games members of our team have worked on, like Batman, Uncharted. Those types of games. So it's always a conversation. It's not ever mandating anything but all of us will point out where things don't feel right, and then we try to hone them in. And that's something we did since God of War.
Have you always been a Star Wars fan growing up?
Asmussen: Of course. I wouldn't call myself like Steve, like a super nerd. You can quiz me right now, I'd probably flunk. It was one of the most influential series of my life, and it really comes up in conversations making games all the time, moments from Star Wars. In God of War III, we had the Tauntaun moment, which is when you split open the centaur's guts, and that was totally inspired by Star Wars, and I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but it was awesome in God of War.
You debuted the new Stormtrooper [Purge Trooper] that will appear in Fallen Order this morning. You brought him out in full costume. How did this character come together?
Asmussen: It kind of came in two different places at once. We didn't know this, but the story team was working with Marvel on coming up with a new Stormtrooper class that filled a gap in the comic book, I guess. And at the same time, we had, and I don't know if this inspired you guys at all, but remember we had that dagger--what we called the Dagger Trooper in the game for a while which was essentially gen one of what would eventually become the Purge Trooper. But it was just a much more skilled Stormtrooper that had tools to fight back against a Jedi. I think you guys were pretty uncomfortable with that, but it's really because we didn't take it through the process and we didn't know the process was already happening a little bit at Marvel but at some point you guys must've been like, "Hey, Respawn's trying to fill the gap where they needed a more challenging Trooper."
Blank: Once we understood the core of what they were trying to solve from a gameplay perspective and why there had been that character design, right, like what the need was there, we could take that back and iterate on that and say, "Okay, within the Star Wars Universe, what can we craft? What can we develop? What already exists? What pieces can we marry together to create a version that is appropriate for this game?
As Stig was alluding to, we were having conversations with Marvel and one of their writers, Charles Soule, who was interested. He was working on [the Darth Vader comic series] telling some stories about the Inquisitors and interested in doing something similar to having the support for the Inquisitors with these Troopers. And so we combined those two ideas, we talked to everybody about that, and Respawn was like, "We'll take the lead on designing this. This is going to be a major element in our game" and we're like, "That sounds awesome." Their team designed the actual Trooper, and built it out, went through that iteration, put it on ahead of their earlier schedule to help support Marvel's timeline first of that of what would appear in the comic. Ultimately, that final design was shared and had appeared in some comics and will appear in HD in the game as a credible threat to Cal. And then, like you said, we saw it in person today which was pretty awesome.
Asmussen: Just for us as partners, it was a galvanizing moment because it was the first time we actually got something... Everything we make has to get approved by Lucasfilm and were trying to navigate those waters and how we worked together on that and that actually gave us a timeline. It's like, "Look, this is going to be in the comic book by a certain date" and it makes us all be honest at that point. We kind of held our feet to the fire. We worked through the iterations pretty quickly and got it done. It was the first thing we got approved. From then, we just had a better relationship.