Interview: Star Wars The Force Unleashed II with Brett Rector

About a week ago, your good buddies here at DLC were lucky enough to get a hands-on and hands-off with the nerdgasm inducing Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. The hands-on part was the demo displayed at E3, and it is fan-friggin-tastic, and the hands-off blow by blow account will be posted in the next few days by my partner in crime, Nachos Justice. However, we did manage to get a few moments to speak geek with developer Brett Rector on Rancors and Gorogs and Vader… OH MY!

The Force Unleashed franchise lives in the undiscovered country between the two trilogies, with most purists (like us) not having a lot of love for the prequels.  Both titles lean towards the original trilogy’s end of the spectrum, was that a conscious decision?

Definitely. When we were done with writing the first game we knew that the gray area between the original trilogy and the prequels was the time period we wanted to work in. It had never been allowed before. George would never let it happen before his movies were finished. We really wanted to bring favourite characters in, but not overshadow the Apprentice. We wanted to put him in the world and surround him with these iconic characters but use ones that worked well with his story, like Darth Vader and the Emperor. Due to our lineage at LucasArts, the story is one of the most important aspects and the game has to really service that.

How hands-on has Lucas been? Has there been a lot of back and forth, or has he given you a bit more space due to the success of the first one?

He was very hands-on for the first one, but this time we worked more closely with Howard Rothman from licensing who has been there for forever (since The Empire Strikes Back) and he knows Star Wars better than anyone. He, and the licensing team really help to keep us in check. They’re always asking important questions like “how are you going to use this character?”, “what is his scenario?” or “what is his role going to be?” They do trust us, but they still want to read everything we’re proposing. They wont just let us loose because there is a continuity that has to be kept in mind. That’s one of the great things about Star Wars, the galaxy is just so large! So when people ask “where was Starkiller in the movies?” we don’t have to justify that. There are things going all the time and this means we can do the fans service and yet do service to the canon as a whole too.

As a massive Star Wars nerd I have to ask, “Starkiller” was Luke Skywalker’s original name in early drafts of Star Wars, and it feels like the characteristics and journey of the Apprentice is the yang to Luke’s ying. Was that planned or is it just a theory by a geek with way too much time on his hands?

Ha! It wasn’t a conscious decision by the team, but it’s great to hear things like that from fans. No, it wasn’t like that. We just created a character that worked within the story. Someone raised by Vader with no family and who was treated like a dog on a leash. But I really love that point of view! (laughs) The moniker was a tribute to the fans. We didn’t think licensing would give it to us, but they did. But not the connection, no.

The game looks astoundingly good, how much of an overhaul has the engine had?

Well, it’s not so much of an overhaul, as a progression. We have had iteration of our graphic engines and our rendering engines, plus we use a proprietary engine that we share with ILM (Industrial Light and Magic). We use some of their tools, which are very much plug and play. They’re always saying “What do you need it to do? We can build it!” It’s all a progression. When we turned on DMM and Euphoria for the first time, we didn’t know if the power would go out in the entire building! (laughs) We never worked with something that powerful before, plus it was our first time programming for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, so it was very much about enhancing and getting used to the tools we had. By taking what worked in the first one and then expanding on it.

With pivotal roles on iconic Sci-fi programs such as Smallville and Battlestar Galactica, Sam Witwer’s geek superstar status is on the rise. Has his newfound stardom made him harder to work with?

No way! Sam is one of us, through and through. This guy has even read all the role-playing game campaign guides! He knows stuff about Star Wars that even the team doesn’t. He loves his role and is totally committed to the project. He’ll spend hours working with the team or just hanging out at the studio playing the game. It’s so great to have such a talented actor so dedicated to what we are doing and trying to accomplish. He’s someone that is always asking what do you want me to do? Where do you want me? I’ll be there!

Last question, throughout the presentation, you talked about the epic scale of bosses. Are you doing this to try and up the ante, create new and unique battles rather than reusing bosses as components of other units later on (as seen in The Force Unleashed)?

One of our pillars was to really blow out the scope and size of these battles and make them truly epic. It’s not that we didn’t enjoy the bosses from the first one, but when we started concept art for the Gorog [the massive beastie that dwarfs the Rancor in the teaser trailer] we thought this guy needs to eat Rancors for breakfast. That’s our mantra with the scope. (laughs)

We here at DLC would like to thank both Brett for his time and Activision and Frank PR for such a bang up event.

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Dave Kozicki

Shotgun Samurai
Video game reviewer, presenter and enthusiast. Film and TV-aholic. Pop culture geek. T-shirt and sneaker addict. All around nice guy and one hell of a sexy beast. Writer for Official PlayStation Magazine AU, AusGamers and Hyper Magazine.
  • Fuckpurists

    Purists? Couple of wankers is more like a proper definition. Who are you to say who’s a true fan or not. Purists…. Only the term makes me laugh my fucking arse off!

  • Anonymous

    …and who are you to say who’s a wanker?
    Oh wait. You liked the prequels. I forgot your opinion doesn’t count, douche.

  • Frozencry

    The first game was so fucking bad-ass and such a great stress reliever. Blowing people across a field with a giant force push of infinite death made me smile. Def looking forward to this one.

  • Anonymous

    Normally I’m against such divisive terms as ‘purists’ or ‘real fans’, but when it comes to Star Wars there is a big argument there, supported by more than just subjective opinion. I’m confident that I speak on behalf of us all at DLC when I say that we have treasured memories of the original Star Wars trilogy: Episodes IV, V and VI that helped to be a major shaping part (for myself at least) during childhood.

    I wanted to love the prequel trilogy, which is why I bought my midnight tickets for all three films as soon as they went on sale, lined up for hours before the showing to get the best seats and always went in hoping to feel some of the magic of Star Wars again. Unfortunately, it wasn’t there to be found.

    In trying to understand my disappointment and discover if I was alone in it, I asked many people–friends, family, even strangers–searching through online forums, reading through countless posts and trying to understand the best context to appreciate the prequel trilogy in. I’ve gone back and watched them multiple time, seeing if the sting of Star Wars-level expectations would have added to my initial disappointment… alas, they had not. The films still suck and, no matter how I try to frame it, they always will for me and countless other folk.

    I say countless other folk because the community backlash against the prequel trilogies is a big thing and it’s a big deal. It’s not filled with a minority niche of angry old-school Star Wars fans who are so stuck in their ways that they haven’t tried to understand the place for the prequel films. Instead, it’s filled with angry, hurt and downright frustrated folk who feel as though their childhoods have been tampered with… and then there’s those who have no love for Star Wars but thought the prequel films were dodgy of their own merits.

    Star Wars is and always will be a cultural phenomenon, but the hatred of the prequel trilogy has become a phenomenon of its own. You don’t have to look too far online to discover that it’s very easy to find the bitter taste of purists.

    If your post is serious, it implies that you love both the prequel and sequel trilogy. If this is true, then I envy you, as I’d truly love to share the sentiment. If this is true, then I also pity you because of how you chose to highlight this: through a trollish comment that was clearly designed to start a fight instead of inspire debate.

    Again, assuming that you truly aren’t just a run-of-the-mill troll, I leave you with this final calm thought. It reads as though you’ve mistaken the term purists for elitists. In the context of the original Star Wars trilogy, purists refers to those who adhere to the source material (a la, Episodes IV-VI) and feel that the prequel trilogy has strayed away from this.

    Again, you don’t have to look too far online to discover the many threads and websites dedicated to discussing the many plot holes created by the existence of the prequel trilogy as they currently stand. If you delve a little deeper you can discover George Lucas admitting that much of the prequel trilogy was made up on the fly, with the story (NOT the films) tightened up in subsequent re-shoots.

    What I see here could have been an exciting discussion between two different viewpoints on a passionate topic, but your tact (or very obvious lack thereof) and trolling tactics makes me feel more like I just wasted my time.

    If you want to contribute in the future, I’d advise signing up with a different name and trying to be more constructive in your criticisms.

  • steve farrelly

    Good interview dudes, Brett was awesome – looking forward to this game!

  • Snake

    It would seem that you are not a true fan otherwise it you would have seen where the guys were coming from with the term

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