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Interview: Feargus Carroll talks Star Wars: The Clone Wars for DS and Wii

In August of this year (2008), LucasArts premiered Star Wars: The Clone Wars, an all new theatrical release based on the CG-animated television series of the same name. The latter will begin airing in the United Kingdom in just a few days (October 25, 2008) and, come November 14, gamers will be given the opportunity to relive moments from both the movie and the TV show with two new videogames: Jedi Alliance and Lightsaber Duels for the Nintendo DS and Wii respectively. Cubed3's Karn Bianco and Ben Southam recently sat down with project lead Feargus Carroll for an in-depth discussion about the various facets of both titles.
Image for Interview: Feargus Carroll talks Star Wars: The Clone Wars for DS and Wii


Carroll, an industry veteran of more than 14 years, is based in Singapore as Project Lead for the games development team within the Lucasfilm Animation Singapore studio (where the Clone Wars TV show is animated). He and his team worked exclusively on Star Wars The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance for the DS, while the Brisbane-based Krome Studios worked on Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels for Wii.

"We were sat in the studio watching the animation in the show, the guys in Brisbane were obviously much more removed and had a much harder challenge to create the game for something they had limited access to due to confidentiality, so they had some challenges there."

Having recently finished work on The Force Unleashed (TFU), Carroll explains that Krome was in a unique position to apply what they had learnt from that game to Lightsaber Duels. Although he worked "very closely" with Krome at the start, Carroll notes that he gradually left them to their own devices.

"They learnt an awful lot in building TFU in a way that they applied to the Clone Wars, so I left them alone in terms of getting the Wii bit right. What I did help them work on was which characters to use, which locations to go to, get their animations and their moves right, getting them to match the TV show as closely as they could."

Image for Interview: Feargus Carroll talks Star Wars: The Clone Wars for DS and Wii


Carroll is quick to point out, however, that Krome didn't simply re-skin TFU and slap a Clone Wars label on it. "It's a completely different control scheme," he says. Given that TFU is less than half a year old, concerns that it is too soon for yet another Star Wars game to be released are not uncommon, but what does Carroll think?

"I think if you were mapping out a five year release schedule, you wouldn't release TFU and Clone Wars quite so close together, but games development is a tricky thing. Making games is hard - if it wasn't hard everyone would be doing it.

If you look at the two games side by side you could almost release them in the same couple of week period. TFU is a tent pole third generation Star Wars game built for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Clone Wars is a Nintendo exclusive based on a completely different property time frame, and it probably skews slightly younger.

LucasArts doesn't make games for gamers, it tries to make games that everyone can pick up and play. So I think our primary audience is the same audience that's going to pick up on the TV show: 8-12 year olds.

If you look at the narrative and what the story is all about, it appeals to an older demographic than the Clone Wars games. Look at the style of the game and what it's all about: it's a Gears of War-style game, it's a gamer's game first and foremost, although non-gamers can pick it up and play."


Image for Interview: Feargus Carroll talks Star Wars: The Clone Wars for DS and Wii


Carroll reveals that he expects "hardcore" critics and gamers to pick up his game and proclaim that it's "a bit too easy, not very deep, not very challenging," but he points out that it isn't made for them, just as the Clone Wars movie and TV show weren't made primarily with an adult audience in mind.

"I think will be very popular with the people for whom we made the game, but that's not the same people who write reviews. I think people may well go 'this is easy and it's not challenging,' in the same way there's plenty of people out there who don't like the movie because it's too cartoon-y and it's all a bit simple.

they're missing the fact that it wasn't made for them, it was made for young Star Wars fans first and foremost and anyone else who wanted to learn about the Clone Wars second."


Despite sharing similar target audiences, the Wii and DS are vastly different beasts, so it was clear from the start that the two Clone Wars games would offer entirely different experiences. But what were the original design briefs for the two titles? Carroll explains how the DS game came to be:

"When we started making our game, the initial premise was 'the stylus is your lightsaber, how's that going to work?' That was the challenge I gave to . I wanted people to have direct control of where the lightsaber strikes in a way that they've never had before.

Previously you can press and the lightsaber will swing, but this is actually 'if you point on the screen where you want the lightsaber to go, it will go there' - absolute pinpoint. It took them two or three iterations of the control scheme to get the combat right, trying to avoid being too complex and trying to avoid also that it wasn't just to vanilla."


Image for Interview: Feargus Carroll talks Star Wars: The Clone Wars for DS and Wii


Carroll explains that during the development of Jedi Alliance, he and his team chose to focus on perfecting a select few gameplay elements rather than attempting to squeeze in every feature they could think of.

"Instead of too many things all at 70%, we have fewer things at 90%. Ultimately that's the way I like to make games, not to be afraid to take things out and focus on what's going in."

Carroll also goes on to say that Jedi Alliance, despite being a single player-only experience (largely due to the aforementioned less-is-more reasoning), is heavily dependant on two characters cooperating throughout the course of each level.

"At one point we were planning multiplayer, but we packed in an awful lot. The game has all the characters from the TV show. You can choose six different playable characters in pairs in any combination, you can revisit all the levels multiple times and depending on which pair you have allows you yo access certain different rooms that other pairs and combinations can't.

Our tag line for the game was "Two Jedi fight better than one." If you watch the show you'll find that the Jedi are not James Bond, they don't go behind enemy lines and take hundreds of people out all on their own. They actually fight side by side with the clones, and generally as a pair. Often as a padawan and a Jedi, but you see episodes were it's Anakin and Obi-Wan - and they're both , Anakin's not a padawan any more, he's a Jedi in his own right - but they'll work as a pair and they team up.

Our game is about the fact that the Jedi is powerful, but he's far more powerful when he's paired up either with some clones or another Jedi."


Image for Interview: Feargus Carroll talks Star Wars: The Clone Wars for DS and Wii


Carroll proudly details some of the impressive technical feats his team accomplished with Jedi Alliance, including a fully 3D game world and even the occasional use of "full 3D lip-syncing" (which he believes is a first for the DS) to support dialogue recorded by actors from the TV show.

Beyond a heavy focus on lightsaber combat, Jedi Alliance also features a series of quick time events which Carroll describes as "Jedi action sequences" and mini-games that aim to prevent the game from becoming stale after prolonged periods of time.

"In the show you'll see the Jedi escaping from very perilous situations in a really cool way. Now, to try and give the player that experience would prove very difficult if they had total control of the character in a kind of Lara Croft way because at that point you have to point the camera where the player is going, whereas in the show you see the action from some really cool camera angles.

So we came up with a system where you can do stylus actions to control the character to escape from certain death, but at the same time we can frame it in the same way that they frame it in the TV show. It allows the player to not only watch one of these fantastic action sequences from the show, but actually play it. It looks like the show, but it's interactive.

It's a gesture based system, so if you're Jedi has to do a huge leap from one side of a canyon to the other you'll get to the edge of the canyon and pause and you'll have a split second to trace and if you're successful he'll make the jump. If you don't, you'll fail - Jedi don't die, they fail.

There's also numerous different mini-games. There's a mini-game where you have to cut holes in a door with the Lightsaber - a trace the pattern thing. There's a separate mini-game where you have to hack into a computer and hack open doors, and we also have a mini-game where you play as R2D2.

Bearing in mind that the target audience for the DS game is 8-12 year olds, same as the show. So it couldn't just be the same thing all the way through the game, we wanted to give them something really different."


Image for Interview: Feargus Carroll talks Star Wars: The Clone Wars for DS and Wii


Carroll reveals that LucasArts' original plan was to create a TV series and a game but not a theatrical release. However, when George Lucas saw "how well animated and fantastic" the first few episodes of the show were he decided a film was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

"When we were making the game, for a long time we didn't actually have a slated release date of the movie or the show to work with, so we were kinda aiming for this period of time because we knew it was coming out in 2008, but we just had to aim for the traditional time to finish a game and see what happens. A lot of the dates only got firmed up halfway through production. "

Carroll explains that he and his team didn't want to simply make a videogame version of the TV show, but rather something that "enhanced and supported" the show while standing up well in its own right thanks to unique characters (such as the Nightsisters) and an all new plot.

There's a story arc that isn't anything to do with any of the particular plot lines of the season but it's all the same characters. We've got five different locations in our game: three of them are from the show itself and one of them is from Star Wars lore but its not actually in show itself. We invented some new characters for you to fight, but you get to fight Count Dooku and Asajj Ventress as well.

Night Sisters, they're Sith Witches. They do exist in Star Wars canon. You can find them in Star Wars Galaxies, I've been told - I wasn't aware of that. And, I hesitate to say this, a Nightsister first appeared in the movie, but our Nightsisters are nothing like the Nightsister who's in that movie. If you imagine Darth Maul in a bar fight with his nasty sister - that's a Nightsister.

One of the starting points was we looked at Darth Maul who was a Sith, and we needed somebody to fight who you could defeat because we can't kill Count Dooku and Ventress in our game because they've got to come back for season 2 . But our game is about 'the stylus is your lightsaber,' so we needed somebody with a lightsaber to be the bad guy, and we found these and they're fantastic."


Image for Interview: Feargus Carroll talks Star Wars: The Clone Wars for DS and Wii


Carroll says he thinks "it would be fantastic" if the Nightsisters could be incorporated into the TV show in the future, but notes that it's ultimately up to George Lucas who, unsurprisingly, already has a lot of ideas of his own.

All in all, Carroll describes Jedi Alliance as "a narrative-driven, character-rich game" that serves as "the TV show in your pocket," but what about Lightsaber Duels?

"About 30 seconds after every gamer in the world visualised what the Wii was, they all came to same conclusion instantaneously - in fact, I'm sure some people felt a disturbance in the force - lightsaber! I know that the head of production at the time, Peter Hirschman, when the Wii was announced a couple of years back his inbox just got flooded.

Every single person at LucasArts individually emailed him 'I've got this fantastic idea for a videogame, it's a Wii , it's a lightsaber!' So this game is that game. This is all about the Wii Remote your lightsaber, first and foremost. That was the starting point.

This isn't the first Wii lightsaber game, there's Lego Star Wars, there's TFU, but nobody has claimed that they are the game you've all been waiting for. This is the game people have been waiting for.

There is a storyline, there's a campaign mode in there that unlocks things, but this game is really about you picking up the Wii Remote, swinging it left, swinging it right and it makes that 'Vroom' noise, and your character on the screen is doing exactly the same thing.

You can go up, right, left, and down very quickly and it can do that. Then, as you learn, there are methods to pick things up and throw them with the force, there are force moves that allow you to do more powerful attacks, and each character has five combos that are unique to them.

It kind of works on two levels: anybody can walk up, pick up and within 30 second they're fighting like a Jedi and it's awesome and cool, but also attempted to add some complexity for people who are more experienced gamers want something that's going to last more than twenty minutes.

There's something for them to go and learn. Some of the characters are far easier to play with than others. Count Dooku's combos are harder to pull off but they're more powerful. So there's something there for a gamer to go and play, whereas his seven year old brother won't care about that - just wants to play with a Lightsaber, and can do that."


Image for Interview: Feargus Carroll talks Star Wars: The Clone Wars for DS and Wii


Elaborating on the game's single player mode, Carroll explains that the solo campaign "recreates set piece battles from the TV series" while retaining the same one-on-one core gameplay that makes up the multiplayer modes while allowing players to unlock new characters and stages.

"If you've seen the movie, there's a battle between Obi-Wan and Ventress in the temple - you can go and play that in the game. What is take a small clip from the TV show and play it back as a small movie, then interchange between the movie clip and the characters in the exact same environment and you fight that battle.

But when you succeed you start to unlock further battles and movie clips. So you succeed and unlock the next clip, but that might be from episode 20, so you're now getting a sneak peak of one of battles coming up in the show that you haven't seen yet.

What very cleverly managed to do is the more you watch the show the more you learn about the game, but the more you play the game the more you start to learn about things that are forthcoming in the TV show.

It's a game I see being played once a week for an hour or so straight after you've watched the TV show, but over the full season. Rather than something that you're going to sit down for eight hours and play all the way through to the end."


Carroll is also confident that Lightsaber Duels and the various other Clone Wars products will help to attract a new generation of Star Wars fans in addition to luring non-gamers out of the wood work thanks to the timeless appeal of the lightsaber.

"The first episode , which aired last week in the States, had the highest viewers for any premier on the Cartoon Network has ever done. So it's out there and the kids love it. Whether it's going to bring more people into gaming, I don't know.

In a house where there's people playing games anyway, when someone walks past a room and they see somebody playing with a lightsaber and can hear the lightsaber noise, they're going to be like 'oh, can I have a go?' And straight away they're doing that thing they've wanted to do since 1977 - it's on the screen, you can do it.

This is probably the, not the first intuitive lightsaber game, it's probably the most by quite a large factor. The Wii allows you to do that. It's not like Sega Tennis where you have to time


Image for Interview: Feargus Carroll talks Star Wars: The Clone Wars for DS and Wii


When the Wii MotionPlus was unveiled in July 2008, Wii owners once again began to fantasize about using the Wii Remote as a lightsaber, except this time their fantasies featured 1:1 motion recognition. Carroll explains that he first heard about the device along with everyone else.

"We knew on or about the same time as when Nintendo announced it. That said, I think the guys learnt a lot from making TFU. They created a brand new control system and I think they did a great job anyway. I'm not going to say I'm sure the Wii MotionPlus would have made that job easier to do, but I think they got to where they wanted to be anyway."

We enquire about the possibility of a sequel with MotionPlus support, but Carroll is unable to comment definitively. Although he hints that there is "loads in the pipeline," even if he can't talk about it.

"I'm not in a position to be able to confirm or deny any kinds of sequels, but I will point that there will probably be at least five seasons of the Clone Wars. do the math."

I think we were all finding out what the Clone Wars was about when we made the game. It was a journey for all of us. Now that we've done that, we understand the show and know where it can go, it would be fantastic to do a second one now, knowing what we do. But that's always going to be true of every game you make.


* * *

Cubed3 would like to thank Feargus for taking the time to talk to us, and Andrew Williams for his technical assistance with recording the interview. Be sure to check back next week (October 29, 2008) for our hands-on impressions with Star Wars The Clones Wars: Lightsaber Duels for the Wii.

* * *

Be sure to check out our wealth of exclusive interviews by following this link:

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Holy schmoly! Fantastic work Karn, Ben and Andrew! Sounds pretty decent, looking forward to the hands-on!

This is all about the Wii Remote your lightsaber, first and foremost. That was the starting point.

Smilie

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

Awesome! I can't wait for Jedi Duels. It's gonna be loads of fun. A bit miffed they're, yet again, gimping online support for Wii. Oh, LucasArts. What are we going to do with you? *sigh* Just give me my powered up, Wii enhanced Rogue Squadron Trilogy game with NWFC/WC24 vs. and co-op support and loads of craft from the prequels and the Clone Wars, and I'll stop bitching.SmilieSmilie

Chance favors the prepared mind.
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Pretty much confirmed there will be more Clone Wars games and depending on how well this DS and Wii version do, it could well remain Nintendo exclusive because of the main demographic. And you know what that means - MotionPlus for the next Wii edition!

Great work guys, looking forward to the hands-on report as well Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Excellent work guys, that was a really good article.

I've never been a fan of Star Wars, but I like the sound of the Wii version of the game. The Lightsaber controls are sounding like they work well too.

Hopefully they'll release another Lightsaber game in the future, but with Motion Plus support.

Thanks for the comments, people. Glad you enjoyed it, Marzy. Smilie

Hands-on should be up this evening with any luck.


Cubed3 Staff < Retro Editor :: Previews Editor >

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