Why should we be interested in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, the latest in the seemingly never-ending factory line of LucasArts games based on George Lucas' spiralling science fiction saga? Because it's the best Star Wars game EVER!!11! That's according to Cameron Suey, the producer in charge of the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game. To find out why he holds his game in such high regard, and why Euphoria, DMM, Havok and all that other crazy tech stuff makes The Force Unleashed, well, unleashed, read on.
VideoGamer.com: Would you say Force Unleashed is the best Star Wars game ever?
Cameron Suey: I'm a humble guy so I try not to use a lot of hyperbole, but it's certainly the greatest Star Wars story that we've ever told in a video game. I absolutely love the gameplay. This is the first game I've worked on, in about four years in the industry, in which I still love the game even a year-and-a-half after I've been playing it a little bit every day. Working so closely to it, usually you get sick and fed up of a game, you never want to see it again once it's done, but I still have fun every time I pick up the controller. Early on that was one of our primary goals and we achieved that. So it's certainly the most fun game that I've ever played and it's certainly the greatest story of a Star Wars game.
VideoGamer.com: But you won't go as far as to say it's the best Star Wars game ever made?
CS: You know what, I'll say it, it's for me, and greatest applies to value judgement and opinion, definitely the greatest Star Wars game. I'm of course biased!
VideoGamer.com: That's great because, being frank, some Star Wars games aren't as good as others...
CS: That is true. Star Wars is one of the greatest licenses for a videogame you could have and in the past we got a little excited about that and we put out games that probably weren't up to the quality bar that we would have liked. That's definitely something we've recognised and we understand. The more Star Wars games you put out and the more you love that environment the more it becomes mediocre and anodyne. We're really focused on telling singular, excellent Star Wars stories with engaging and innovative gameplay and cutting edge technology. That's going to be the future of Star Wars games.
VideoGamer.com: So we'll see perhaps less Star Wars games in the future?
CS: You're might see less and better. Make it right and do it right.
VideoGamer.com: That will certainly please the fans.
CS: I hope so. That's who we make these games for. We can sit in a room and we can make games for ourselves all day long but they're only going to sell five copies. We want to make games for the widest kind of Star Wars fan as possible.
VideoGamer.com: Force Unleashed is coming to every platform going, except...
CS: No Commodore 64, no Apple IIE...
VideoGamer.com: No PC...
CS: No PC as well, yes.
VideoGamer.com: We're a multiplatform website and some of our PC-owning readers have complained about this.
CS: And that's something that every time I read that, we do hear that complaint, it hurts. Our goal was we wanted to get this game to as many people as possible. I definitely wish it had been possible. However the PC being the gaming platform that it is, someone with a $4,000 high-end system would definitely be able to play the Euphoria, the DMM and really technical elements of the game. But someone with a low-end PC would have a watered down experience, they would have to turn all the settings down and it wouldn't be the same game. On the other hand if we made that game for as many people as possible, because we are trying to make mass market games, something that everybody can enjoy, well then it's not taking advantage of what those $4,000 systems can do. So one way or the other depending on how you build that lead PC SKU, it's not going to be for the same amount of people, it's going to be not as good or only for a select few people.
That said we're definitely not out of the PC market. It's just with our choice for this game, with the known quantity for the consoles, and every console is the same with the same processing power, it made sense for us to develop for those consoles.
VideoGamer.com: So the decision was purely about the PC being a varied platform?
CS: Exactly. And no matter where you pick that bar somebody's out of luck.
VideoGamer.com: It had nothing to do with piracy?
CS: I don't have my fingers in the pot of what goes into the legal part of pirating. I'm not really familiar with the figures. I understand it's a lot more prevalent in some areas than others.
VideoGamer.com: Do you guys have any message to your PC-owning fans, because you guys have a heritage on PC?
CS: Absolutely. We started on the PC. Unfortunately that goes back to the point of such a variance of the platform. There wasn't such a variance at that time and it made a lot more sense to develop on PC. The message is that we're not shutting the door on PC at all. Just for this project it happens to be that we don't have a PC SKU. I really hope that everyone can experience this game on a platform eventually.
VideoGamer.com: Might there be a PC version in the future?
CS: No. And if there was no-one has told me about it yet! I've got my head in the sand as far as this project goes. We only don't have a PC version for this product.
VideoGamer.com: Moving on to the next-gen versions of the game, Force Unleashed uses Euphoria and DMM, which isn't about physics, or is it?
CS: Havok is the physics engine that drives everything. Havok is of course incredibly robust and an incredibly well done physics solution. Euphoria and DMM are more like elements of the world. They have to behave within Havok. That was definitely the largest challenge of the entire game, was getting Havok, DMM and Euphoria to hold hands and stick along together, because they didn't want to at first. Euphoria is definitely not a physics solution but it implies some physics information. It has to be transferred to Havok, how fast is this body being thrown through the air moving? DMM the same thing, as these objects tear and break apart, each one of those objects individually has to be controlled by Havok. So it was something that was very difficult for us to do.
Euphoria is in the purest sense an animation system. It's a system of simulating the way the body reacts. The really cool thing about Euphoria that I always love is we say that it's simulating how the human body reacts to stress but Euphoria actually comes from the film industry. What you want in the film industry is not how a human body actually reacts but how a stunt man would react, because we've all learned by watching movies how someone reacts to force. That's all stunt men. So when you see someone actually reacting to force in a candid video it's not anything like it looks in the movies and it doesn't register as real. We've got to the point where films feel more real than reality. So we have the Euphoria actors behaving like stunt men. So they're actually simulated stunt men, not simulated people. That was an interesting distinction that we had to make.
DMM is the other side of the coin, it's a simulation of physical objects, how they break and they tear. That was something that was very difficult to get Havok to understand. Finally we've got to the point where they all play hand in hand nicely.
VideoGamer.com: I know that it was mentioned that there is no difference between the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, but that sounds really processor intensive...
CS: It's incredibly processor intensive!
VideoGamer.com: Does that mean the PS3 with the Cell is the better version?
CS: It was a little easier with the PS3. However the Xbox 360 is a very capable machine and in the end they behave in exactly the same way with the exact same performance with no drop in frame rate. Small things like loading time we were able to optimise across each system. So although they're not identical they appear identical to the user which is the end result we wanted.
VideoGamer.com: I wanted to ask you about the story, and how you've gone for the gap between the two trilogies and implemented an apprentice for Darth Vader. Have you been keeping an eye on what the hardcore Star Wars fans have been saying about it in forums?
CS: Absolutely. Here's the thing about the hardcore fans. They know Star Wars better than almost anyone. However, that almost anyone is a couple of guys that work at Lucas Films in the licensing department, where they have a massive database where absolutely every element of the story, Lando's eye colour, and where was Princess Leia at a certain point of time, all that information is tracked very meticulously. I mean they know the name of characters who were wearing a helmet in the back of a canteen suite. All that stuff is understood and it's a known quantity. They won't let us do anything with the story unless it fits. And if they're a little concerned about it then we figure out a way to make it work. So the story is actually going to fit.
One of the main concerns I hear people say is how can Darth Vader have an apprentice? It breaks the rule of two. He's already the Emperor's apprentice, that's not how it's supposed to happen. But we know that the Sith aren't very good at following their own rules, because we've seen that the Emperor had two apprentices before Darth Vader approximately at the same time, Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus, and Darth Maul. And we know that Count Dooku, with the Clone Wars cartoon, had an apprentice of his own at the time that possibly the Emperor was unaware of. So we know that they're already breaking the rules. That's again why we had a secret apprentice. So everything in the story has been carefully passed through licensing so we understand exactly the impact on the plot.
VideoGamer.com: Last question. We've got a release date. Are you guys planning a demo on Xbox LIVE and PSN?
CS: I'm not certain about the specifics, but we definitely want to get this game out into people's hands. There are people who are excited about it, who are going to play it right away, whether they play it (the demo) or not. But I think that something that is wonderful is that the gameplay itself is so engaging, people who aren't Star Wars fans or who aren't even hardcore gamers, once they get their hands on some of the gameplay and how it works, are really going to be won over by it.
VideoGamer.com: So you guys are planning a demo?
CS: Yeah. We definitely want to get it out there.
VideoGamer.com: Great. Thanks for your time.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is due out for Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii and Nintendo DS on 19 September 2008.