The next Star Wars movie might not hit theaters until later this year, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait to reenter the galaxy far, far away. The video game LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits stores today, and it brings Episode 7 to life in a whole new way.
The latest entry in the long-running LEGO Star Wars series lets you to play through a brick version of the movie as well as embark on six new adventures that plug into the start of Episode 7. In one, you help Han Solo and Chewbacca capture monstrous and deadly Rathtars. In another, you guide Poe Dameron on a mission to rescue Admiral Ackbar from the First Order. (Hopefully it’s not a trap!) Best of all: every actor from the movie recorded new lines for the game — including Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford!
Before the game hit stores, SI Kids spoke with Graham Goring, the lead story designer on the game, to learn more about LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens and what went into creating it.
To start, can you explain a bit what a story designer does?
It's kind of everything to do with any kind of speaking in the game. So sometimes it's telling the story, making sure that it's clear what's going on in terms of the plot. Sometimes it's directing the player so they can complete the missions more easily. If there's ever a point in the game where you're a little bit stuck and it's not something they can make visually clear, then maybe you have a little line of dialogue just to be, "Oh, hey, why don't we go over there and do that thing?" and just pointing it out a little bit.
As a writer and story lead, does it help or does it make it more difficult that you have a full movie like The Force Awakens that you're trying to replicate as a video game?
I think it's really useful, because obviously it means that I don't have to write a story. I don't think I'm actually particularly good at writing stories. It always helps me when I'm on a project that's got one or where the gameplay really directs the story. I'm sort of somebody who writes dialogue and jokes and things like that. So I find it tremendously useful. Also, it really helps that we're making a game which is going to be humorous and funny and it helps that the movie is really funny. [The Force Awakens] has really great, whip-smart dialogue. So that's amazing, too. So, yeah, it's been brilliant having an amazing movie as the backbone for our game.
When you're writing jokes or creating extra scenes for the game, what's your experience working with the people who are in charge of the overall Star Wars universe?
The whole script gets run by [Lucasfilm]. In terms of writing jokes, generally, I spend a lot of my time on Wookieepedia doing research. I try to do as much research as possible to make sure it's right from that aspect. In terms of tone, I think we're lucky it's LEGO Star Wars. It's not Star Wars Star Wars, so we have a little bit more leeway there. But we have these new adventures that are part of our game. We have these six new stories that we're telling that sort of feed into the beginning of the movie. And Lucasfilm kind of told us what they would be, in terms of the basic details. So we always had access to their brilliant minds in order to help us with the details on those things. Thank heavens.
How creative did you get with those new adventures? How did you work with Lucasfilm to create these?
I kind of came onto the story last a little bit, really, because it's completely design led. So what happened is, we knew we wanted to do these extra stories. They said these are bits of backstory that you can tell. And so design would come up with a level design, and then that level design kind of tells the plot of the level in some ways. So, you know, the character does this, and then they do that, and then they do that. And so I'm kind of writing dialogue to service that. But in terms of writing for those characters, I had an awful lot of freedom, which is great. These are characters that, you know, in terms of the film maybe had one line of dialogue and it was "Blaaap!" in the background (laughs) as opposed to genuine dialogue. So getting to kind of slightly create those characters in terms of how they speak and stuff like that is amazing. Getting to invent whole new characters, as well, that's crazy. Getting to name a character that's part of the Star Wars lore, albeit the LEGO Star Wars lore rather than the true canon…
Yeah, do these games plug into the Star Wars canon?
Obviously, Lucasfilm had a massive hand in terms of coming up with these new adventures. But they're not canon in the sense that, you know, if you watch the movie, they aren't LEGO in the movie. This is very much LEGO Star Wars. And while where there's established details that have sort of been written about elsewhere and we're kind of replicating that, we stick to those details. But, yeah, no, I think "canon" is a very strong word to use.
That's fair. There is some original dialogue from the cast...
Pretty much all the cast, yeah.
How did that come together? Watching the trailer, a character like Poe Dameron sounds like he has a lot whereas maybe Han Solo doesn't have quite so much.
There's a ton. I mean, the script is like 5,000-6,000 lines long. Now, obviously, we get a bunch of that from the movie. But there's probably, like, 3,000 original lines for all these sort of different characters. And how it came together, I don't know. Wizardry. I don't know. They have amazing people behind the scenes to secure the services of what is a pretty amazing cast. I don't know how they did it. I assume voodoo, bribery — whatever it takes. Because they got everyone, which is gobsmacking.
Yeah. That was surprising to learn you have lines from Harrison Ford. And then those lines include something like "Wookiee cookies,” which made me laugh pretty hard.
I know! It's so cool. He came in and was totally game and that's wonderful. I think it's, like, the first video game he's ever done, as well. I can't think of any other that he's been in. So that's amazing getting to write for Han Solo as played by Harrison Ford. That's mind blowing for me.
Is there a line or joke or a scenario that you created for the game that you're particularly proud of?
You picked up on it, almost. Getting him to say something as stupid as "Wookiee cookies" that's, I mean, that's ridiculous because it's so playful. But, you know what? It's probably the little background characters. I like writing really silly characters. So Stormtroopers are perfect for that, for a start, because you can have them do pretty idiotic things. They can't hit the side of a barn with a blaster, obviously, and that gets mentioned a fair bit. There's loads of these little background conversations. I don't want to spoil them. But if you hang around certain areas, you'll hear, like, these really fun, stupid snippets and little in-jokes about the Star Wars universe and stuff like that. It's the stuff that's around the fringes that's in some ways the most fun to write because it doesn't necessarily have to drive the gameplay or the story. It's where you can have a bit of fun.
Maybe setting aside the games you've worked on, do you have an all-time favorite game?
It's a really tough thing... It's either Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the Playstation 1, which was unbelievable, it kind of blew me away, or UFO: Enemy Unknown, the original ones by Julian Gollop on the old Amiga PC and Playstation 1 again. I just think outstanding games. I'm a real retro gamer, really. I love current stuff, obviously, as well, but those formed an intrinsic part of my youth.
Do you have a favorite Star Wars movie?
Do you know what? It's the original one [Episode IV: A New Hope], because that's the whole reason I like sci-fi. My earliest memory of ever seeing a film is seeing the original one on ITV at Christmas. And so it's burned into my brain. And that's why I love Episode 7, because it's so reminiscent and reverent of that original trilogy. So, it's like, Episode 4 and then Episode 7. And that's why it's been such a ridiculous thrill to get to work on this project.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is available for all major gaming systems (Playstation 4, PS3, and Vita; Xbox One and Xbox 360; and Nintendo Wii U and 3DS), both PC and Mac computer platforms, and iOS devices (Android coming soon). Visit WBGames.com for more info on the game.
Photos: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment