Star Wars: Republic Commando Designer Diary #7 - The Write Stuff

Writer Ryan Kaufman discusses his involvement in the development of this Star Wars shooter's central characters.

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Scheduled to arrive in stores this week, Star Wars: Republic Commando is a tactical first-person shooter set during the Clone Wars that kick off at the end of the Episode II movie. In this, our final designer diary for the game, writer Ryan Kaufman, whose credits include numerous Star Wars games dating as far back as 1995, talks about his involvement in the game and the evolution of its central characters.

The Write Stuff

By Ryan Kaufman
Writer

Writing for videogames is an extremely collaborative process. If you've ever locked yourself away in your study, labored and agonized over a story, and then emerged triumphant with a work of pure genius--well, it's nothing like that.

Republic Commando promises to offer an intense combat experience.
Republic Commando promises to offer an intense combat experience.

When I got recruited into the clone army, a great deal of writing and story development had already been done for Republic Commando. Justin Lambros, intrepid boy reporter and previous Content Supervisor, had laid the groundwork for the intense combat experience. Then, Michael "Mike" Stemmle, adventure game auteur, took a pass at the incredibly-important squad characterization and added his unique brand of humor. Then, finally, I came in and do what I do best--obsess about the details.

But seriously--my job was to take the various elements and attempt to unify the voices, make it all feel like one big experience. Luckily, I was simultaneously involved with the Republic Commando: Hard Contact novel, so I was able to surreptitiously steal a bit of military-ese and general hard-nosed combat attitude from esteemed author Karen Traviss. (Please don't tell her. She's trained with combat knives. Enough said.)

From the get-go, the RC team was concentrating on gameplay, squad mechanics and a satisfying combat experience. But they didn't have a lot of back-story on their squad. We needed to give the commandos that extra something. Searching for a way to differentiate our soldiers, I developed the idea of the commando "pods." It seemed logical that the Kaminoan cloners would train the commandos together, from day one, to cement their bond and intensify their squad cohesion. Karen Traviss expanded on that notion by suggesting that external experts were recruited secretly to Kamino, and we decided that Jango Fett would prefer ex-Mandalorian soldiers for these crucial roles. So the story expanded. And those details gradually crept into the game, enriching the squad banter and adding a layer of realism and grit.

The Republic Commandoes aren't superheroes, they're soldiers.
The Republic Commandoes aren't superheroes, they're soldiers.

The other story requirement involved the ongoing Clone Wars, a raging backdrop for our Republic Commando story. Tim Longo was adamant that the Republic Commandos weren't superheroes; that is, counter to standard Star Wars story-telling, they weren't out there personally saving the galaxy. They were soldiers, doing their part for the larger struggle. So the story of Republic Commando is much more akin to "Band of Brothers", where the individual missions and skirmishes play out in the context of a larger, off-screen conflict. The level designers took every opportunity to drop in hints and references to the events of the movies and novels, without letting those moments overwhelm the tale of Delta Squad.

But at the end of the standard day (yes, I am a geek) the story is about Delta Squad: the steadfast Fixer, wise-cracking Scorch, psycho Sev, and their leader, Delta Three-Eight. Four guys determined to complete their mission, against overwhelming odds…and along the way, blow up lots and lots of stuff. As we wrote more, played more, and developed more, Delta's personality started to emerge. Now, when I play the game, I feel like I really am among brothers--weird armored clone brothers wielding exotic weapons, but brothers nonetheless. (Hey, every family is different. Don't judge!) I think the end result is a tough, scrappy game that gives you a look at a Star Wars no one has really seen before.

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