Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga
|a game by||Travellers Tales (UK) Ltd|
|User Rating:||9.0/10 - 2 votes|
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In A World Of computer-generated dragons, super-cute robot refuse collectors and sexy jpgs, children can be slightly less impressed than they used to be with a standard 3x2 LEGO plastic brick.
That's where Traveller's Tales come in - their 19th century-sounding name at odds with their 21st century treatment of the most-loved toys and movies of the 20th century. Jonathan Smith is now Traveller's Tales publishing vice-president and he was formerly development director on LEGO Star Wars. He's also an immediately likeable and transparently intelligent man, who appears to enjoy what he's doing. Which is just as well, really. Here, he talks about how it all came about, how to make good games for children, and his own love of where he's working.
- Cuboid Beginnings
"LEGO Company have been making toys for children for the whole of the 20th century. They started making computer and video games about 12 years ago. Mostly on the PC, you had games like LEGO Island, LEGO Racers, based on their own franchises. A lot of them still hold up today. They reached a point, some years ago, where they didn't feel they were getting the impact they deserved. So LEGO put together a team headed up by a guy called Tom Stone, here in the UK, wlio'd come from EA and wlio'd worked in many roles including being the head of the UK studio that made the Harry Potter games. Tom brought in some new people, including me. I'd come from Codemasters. I got the same kind of feeling from LEGO as I got from games. It's no coincidence that the desks of videogame devs are covered in toys. It's a play experience that has a lot in common with gaming."
- The Idea
"Tom said: 'Why not combine LEGO with the world's most famous characters?' So we went over to see Lucasfilm. We were incredibly lucky that it was met with huge enthusiasm and a belief that our games could be fun in a fresh way.
"The team at Lucasfilm saw it straight away. A little further down the line, we started showing LEGO Star Wars in the games industry and people didn't get it. Everything feels natural now, with the success that we've had - it seems like such an obvious idea. But when we were saying, 'It's LEGO Star Wars, it's all the characters brought to life in a new way,' people were shuffling their feet and looking embarrassed for us. It's only when they played the game that they got it."
- The Young Ones
"In the early days, we rapidly came to the conclusion that children are the best players of games. Adults are terrible children. They've forgotten how to play and learn. When you see a child play, they consume games, novelty and gameplay mechanics with such delight and hunger.
"What we find is that when you talk to more educated gamers, they're inhibited in their responses, because they can draw comparisons so easily with all the other games they've played, which they've absorbed and that have disappointed them. An experienced gamer might keep on playing and say 'this might be due to technical considerations'. But if a child doesn't like loading times, or restarting from ungenerous checkpoints, then they'll throw the controller at you."
- Grown-Up Appeal
"We always made the game for children - and for ourselves. We haven't moved from that at all. But what we didn't expect was that other older gamers would feel the same way we did. "We know we made a game that we are happy with, because we've been playing it ourselves solidly for two years. We always left a space to put in levels of challenge, depth, replayability, and touches of detail that were relevant for us, as older gamers.
We've elaborated on that as we've gone through, but nevertheless - the games are still very much aimed at children. "We've had no negative reaction from movie fans. The universes and the treatments of these universes, over the years, shows that there's plenty of room for lots of different takes on the characters. We obsess over the relationships between the characters, and the hatred of certain characters, as much as any fan. We know what would be an irrelevant or disrespectful treatment of the world or the characters."
- Personal Favourite
"My favourite moments are where someone falls over. If in doubt, have someone fall over. Those are the times that I'll be laughing. My favourite bit in LEGO Indiana Jones is in the Well of Souls, when Marion is dropped in. In the movie, she lands on the statue - her dress catches on it. But in our game, she just drops two feet behind Indy, falling flat on her face.
"Also, in the final scene of the Last Crusade movie, when Donovan drinks from the wrong grail, there's this horrific process of ageing, and the Grail Knight turns solemnly to Indy. In our game, Donovan explodes and the Grail Knight, this sober character, points at him and laughs. I really enjoyed that - the animators are always coming up with new gags and details to put in the background."
- Test The Humour
"We don't playtest the humour - we watch the cutscenes, and if we laugh, that's great. If we don't, we say 'can we have a man falling over here, please?'. We have a variety of people involved in the making of the game, and everything is reviewed at lots of different stages by lots of different, smart, people; so we all work together to make it as sharp as possible.
"In Indy, there's this scene at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's the scene where Indy is about to collect the idol from the temple and he uses a bag of sand to outwit the trap. We knew that we wanted him to pull something out other than a bag of sand, as there are no bags of sand in LEGO. I think over the course of eight hours, every conceivable LEGO object was tried out to replace the bag of sand, and deemed insufficiently funny."
"The new Batman movies are great, but we're drawing on the essence of Batman, as he's been over the decades. The great villains of Gotham City have all had lots of interpretations over many decades now, and the LEGO version of Gotham City distils them. The LEGO representations of the world will be recognisable to any fan of any version, and of course, we're telling our own story. But our Joker is based on the character of the Joker, and not any one individual performance."
- Art Approval
"The approval process on the work we've clone has always been straightforward. It may be surprising to say, as you've got major media businesses with a lot resting on the investment of their characters looking over your shoulder, but the fact we're expressing our work in LEGO gives us permission to have fun in a way that others can't.
It also gives us a lot of constraints, that we enjoy working creatively within - the marketing people know and trust that everything we do will be appropriate for the youngest children. It's inconceivable that a LEGO interpretation of any world would contain any kind of inappropriate content."