Based on the Cartoon Network series and collaborating directly with Lucasfilm Animation, Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes allows players to take up arms on behalf of the noble Galactic Republic, while pursuing the mysterious bounty hunter Cad Bane and combating the all-new Skakoan super villain Kul Teska.
Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes allows players to fight as both Jedi Knights and Clone Troopers through over 30 unique missions, all created incorporating the same ground-breaking, stunning visual style from the TV series. Featuring a brand-new storyline, players will get the chance to take part in the key events that lead directly into the highly anticipated second season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!
I’m Vince Kudirka, and I’m a producer on Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes.
WP: What’s so special about the Wii version of the game? The demos are out for the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game, but no one’s had a chance to look at the Wii iteration.
VK: We’re really excited about the Wii version. The controls are really one thing that we jumped on with the Wii, as do most people. We have the ability to use the lightsaber. You wave the Wiimote like a lightsaber, but I think the clones is where the controls really shine because we use the pointer, the UV pointer on the front of the Wiimote, and you can point it at the screen, and it’s almost like a shooting gallery where you have a little reticle that follows around where you’re pointing on the screen, and you can take guys out that way. You actually have unbelievably precise shooting controls on the Wii.
WP: Are you using Wii MotionPlus?
VK: We’re not using Wii MotionPlus. That actually came out toward the end of our development, and we considered it, but it probably would have been too costly development-wise.
WP: What about visually? There was a lot of talk of keeping the television show from sharing assets with the video games, but asset-wise, how have you been sharing assets across the different console and handheld platforms?
VK: We actually built the models so we wouldn’t have to change that much. I believe on the Wii and the PS2 and the handhelds, we made some changes to it, but for the most part, the models are the same and the animation rates were the same. All the cut scenes, actually, are identical in all the SKUs except for — I should mention that the DS is a bit of an offshoot. That one follows a different plot, and there are a couple of different characters in there. But the rest of the games have all the same stuff. Even the PSP has the same cut scenes. We actually rendered out the ones from next-gen and put them in the PSP, so there is definitely a lot of sharing. You basically do get the same game, regardless of what platform you play on.
WP: What’s in the DS game that differentiates it from the other titles?
VK: The DS game was built by our internal LucasArts team in Singapore, whereas the rest of the SKUs were built in Krome Studios, which is in Australia. The DS follows a different story line. One thing we did work with these guys to make sure was the same was the fact that you can play as both Jedi and Clone. Obviously the controls are very different because of the way the DS stylus works, but you do kind of play off each other in that game. You’ll be a Jedi, kind of show the Clones where to go, and then you get to play as a Clone. You kind of open up pathways for each other. It’s kind of difficult to describe, I guess, but you kind of play off each other in each level.
WP: In that case, the Jedi and the Clones are working together.
VK: Yeah, you do work together more directly in there.
WP: In the middle of working on the game, how do you bring in that aspect of Anakin Skywalker being a good guy but with some dark foreshadowing?
VK: Anakin is a very complicated character, and sort of the Star Wars saga is about him. It’s the same thing in our game. There’s a lot of decisions that Anakin makes. There are a couple of levels in the game where he’s with Obi-Wan, and I think that’s where that part of Anakin is really highlighted because Obi-Wan is so controlled, almost like the epitome of a Jedi, whereas Anakin’s very emotional and he makes rash decisions. He thinks with his lightsaber instead of his mind sometimes. That definitely happens in the game. There are some parts of the story where Anakin kind of goes and does his thing. There’s a part at the end of the story, actually, where Padmé gets involved.
WP: Do you get to play as Padmé?
VK: You don’t get to play as her, unfortunately, but she is involved in the story, and she basically gets captured and then Anakin has a lot of tough decisions to make as to whether to break off from his mission, kind of defy orders and go save her, which, of course, he eventually does. There’s definitely a lot of that going on in the game.
WP: How many times has she been captured, exactly?
VK: It’s probably in the thousands now. It can’t be counted! (laughs)
WP: You showed us briefly in the demo, but there’s an upgrade shop you can buy upgrades for the characters but you can also buy costumes and make them look like the characters from the series. Lucas in general has always been very firm on the Star Wars canon, so was there any trouble internally convincing the higher-ups in licensing authorization?
VK: Surprisingly, they were really open to this idea. We actually did concept art of all the hats and masks that we had, and we showed the whole thing to licensing, and they went through one by one. They changed a couple of them, like they made some changes to the Jar Jar mask, believe it or not, which I think is only in the Wii version. They definitely had some comments on it, but they were very open to it, and I think the reason they were is because it’s really just a mask or a rubber hat that you wear, and it’s not as if you’re becoming Ackbar and running around with a lightsaber. I think that opened us up to be able to do a lot more with that, but they were really great about it.
WP: Two questions. One’s a little bit silly. Are there any nods or tie-ins or references to other Star Wars properties besides the Clone War series?
VK: Yeah. Believe it or not, one of the things that you can buy in the hat shop is a very familiar-looking brown fedora, so yeah, a little tie-in to some Lucas properties there.
WP: What about to the books or the Shadows of the Empire game?
VK: Oh, to the extent of the universe stuff? That actually we didn’t touch on as much because we just wanted to go for the show game. Kind of the way we looked at it is we build the game to really fit into the show, so we didn’t want to draw in any other characters that would distract from that, other than creating the characters that we did.
WP: The second question is what is your favorite pairing of Jedi in the game?
VK: I think my favorite pairing has got to be Anakin and Obi-Wan. There’s just a great level where they kind of play off each other and you know, Obi-Wan is always chiding Anakin and vice versa. I think that level is really great in the way that the action works, where you’re fighting and jumping around, and then it’s a quiet moment, and Obi-Wan will say something like, “We almost got killed back there!” I think that is my favorite pairing in the game.
WP: What was it like working with the voice actors? When you brought in voice actors from the show, did they just jump right in, or did they have some comments about the process or script?
VK: They were great, actually. We had a writer from the show who also penned the game script, so it really meshed together really well. We also had a really great voice director, Dave Collins, and I think he’s worked with some of these guys before too, so that went really smoothly. In fact, some of the actors after the sessions said, “That was really great. That was almost like recording an episode of the show.” It’s very authentic in that way.
WP: Do you foresee releasing any more games as the second season is going on, or are you going to wait until it concludes before you start building out a new concept?
VK: Well, Clone Wars is a huge property, obviously, so it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. I guess that’s pretty much all I can say about that. We’re definitely excited about the prospect of the franchise in the future.
WP: Do you think you might start the development cycle a little earlier, just to give it a little polish or do different things on different consoles?
VK: This game, actually, we did a little bit over two years, which I think is just about right. You guys might be interested in the length of the game. It’s pretty long, especially for a game that has the target audience that it does. It comes in probably at about eight hours, which is pretty good. There’s a lot of game there, and if you really want to go back and do all the collecting and buy all the hats and masks and combat upgrades, you have hours beyond that too. The answer to the original question is that this felt just about right in terms of the length of the dev cycle.
WP: Looking back, there was a short time when LucasArts had a line of desktop adventures. They were based on licensed properties like Star Wars and Indiana Jones but were short, lightweight games that fit on a floppy disk. With the advent of PSN, Xbox Live and Sony’s PSP minis line, has there been any talk about doing a more lightweight game from the classic series or the Clone Wars?
VK: Yeah, that’s something that LucasArts is definitely looking at. It’s a big push for us as a company, and we’re very, very interested in that space: things like downloadable content, episodic content, that kind of thing. It’s definitely something that we’ve been looking at, and it’s going to be something that will probably be with us in the future for sure. There’s nothing that I can say specifically, unfortunately, so it’s a very vague answer, but it’s definitely a push for the company for sure.
WP: Regarding the Wii game, you mentioned earlier that you can swing the Wiimote around like a lightsaber. When you got that working in development, how much time did you guys spend playing the game, and how much time did your testing team run around, just swinging the Wii to hear the sound?
VK: Actually a lot. (laughs) The sound, the actual hum of the lightsaber, comes out of the speaker on the Wiimote, and the sensitivity was actually one thing that we put a lot of thought into. I remember when we first put the Wiimote action in there, it would be crazy. You would just move to the side a little, and all of a sudden, your Jedi would start doing combos and stuff, so it’s really something that we really had to tweak quite a bit, so QA got a lot of hands-on time with that. I don’t know if they really loved it, all that time swinging their arms around, but I think it turned out really well, and it feels good. The kids love it. They love that part where they can actually get into the lightsaber.
WP: Is there a head-to-head multiplayer mode?
VK: There’s only co-op multiplayer, except for some instant challenges. Basically throughout the game, you’ll come across icons in the middle of a level, and if you stand on it and you hit a button, you sort of go to this separate mode where they’ll all of a sudden spawn in tons of droids, and you just start taking them out, and you’re actually competing against the other person who’s with you, and we even put in VO lines to taught each other while it’s going on. The idea is that when you finish it, you get a medal for it, which is just an in-game achievement. You can see how many gold medals you can get, and there’s an achievement associated with that, but also if you win, you get extra points that you can spend in the shop. We did try to add in a competitive element so that the whole thing wasn’t co-op, but the crux of the game is based on co-op.
WP: The game is targeted toward younger players age 10 and up. The show itself, as far as what we saw in season two, takes on a rather dark tone. In the first three episodes, there were a lot of explosions, death and destruction. Even in the game demo, we saw one of the characters sacrifice himself to save his compatriots. Was there any sort of talk about how you were going to approach the more serious themes for a game that’s targeted to younger kids? These aren’t teenagers.
VK: That actually was a bit topic of conversation for us, especially as we were writing the story. There’s a lot you can do by putting in dark elements, where you can get someone really emotionally involved in it. For the game, we actually stayed away from a lot of that stuff. Never in the game will you see dead clones or anything like that. It’s interesting to see the way the show is going, but for our game, we definitely kept it on the light side, knowing that our target is 6 to 11, and we wanted to keep it age-appropriate for them. We do get a lot of action in there, and that doesn’t need to have a lot of violence. Every enemy in the game is actually a droid, too, so you’re very rarely fighting a — there are a couple of bosses, like Dooku and Ventris. You’re usually fighting robots so there’s not a lot of real violent surrealism in there. We wanted to keep it pretty light.
WP: Do you think you’ll grow into that if the series keeps going on this dark path?
VK: It’s hard to say. We’ve got to keep within the bounds of the ESRB and what they would expect out of a game for our audience. I think it’s something that we’ll have to balance going forward, for sure.
WP: With the co-op and younger players, if one player keeps dying but the other stays alive, do you just keep playing?
VK: Actually, the game is very forgiving. When you die by falling off a cliff or being shot by a droid, you will respawn and you lose a few Force points, but it’s not much. We wanted to make it not punishing at all, very accessible. So what basically happens is that as soon as the other player reaches a checkpoint, the guy just pops up there. You can even both jump off a cliff at the same time and wait for a second, and you’ll both appear again. It’s very forgiving, and we really wanted people to play through and enjoy the story and game itself instead of having to worry about difficult jumps. We have a lot of tuning in there to make the platforming stuff easier. I don’t know if you noticed, but there are some poles that they were balancing on, and it’s not really difficult to do. You basically jump at it, and they kind of stick on to it. It should be really accessible in that way, I think.
WP: Which mode is your favorite, Clone or Jedi?
VK: Ahh man, I like them both. If I must choose, I think I started out liking the Clones better, and then at the end of the day, I think the Jedi ended up being really great. I really like the droid-jacking. I think that’s one thing that in development, our team at Lucas really pushed for. We had a lot of heated discussions with Krome about how it was all going to work, and it worked out really well. It adds that extra little dimension there. There are a lot of games where the character has a sword and is just sort of chopping through. You’re just really mashing on one button. In this, you can take over any enemy in the game. It’s not even specific enemies in specific places, like some games do. At any point, you can take over any enemy and use them as a weapon. Even the mini-bosses — you can jump on them, do the droid jack and take them over as use their weapon. In that way, I think the Jedi are my favorite.
WP: Is there anything about the game or development process that we haven’t talked about that you wanted to add?
VK: Well, we have Cad Bane as a playable character, and he’s really cool because he has twin blasters. Actually, we have this mode in the game where you can go back and replay levels with whatever character you want, so once you beat a level, you can go back and play it as Soka, Obi-Wan, Kid Fisto, Anakin — whoever you want. Then you can go through the Clone levels and play through as Cad Bane. He’s definitely one of the more popular characters.
We really had a great time working on the game, and it was really cool to work with the guys here. I’ve been at LucasArts about two years now, and I grew up with Star Wars and I love Star Wars, so to come up here and be talking and interacting with the guys that are creating Star Wars content now, it’s amazing. It’s every geek’s fantasy, really: making Star Wars video games. What could be better?
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