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New Q&A for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

July 22, 2008

New Q&A for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

THQ Wireless and Universtromo have released a new Q&A for their upcoming mobile title, The Force Unleashed. The new Q&A can be read below.

1 Why did you decide to choose the CellWeaver control method?

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is a third person shooter on the consoles. I think most people would agree that mobile third person shooters have a notoriously bad track record. The controls on a mobile phone are simply not well suited for the job. That is why we made our game in a sense more like a rail shooter or a laserdisc video game. I know those are scary words, as such an approach could easily mean that there is very little for the player to actually do. However, by introducing CellWeaver we have been able to empower the player to do complex interactions through a mobile-friendly control system. Also, the CellWeaver patterns are rune-like symbols that have a certain “magical” quality to them. In the case of this particular game we’d love to think that those patterns are symbolic representations of the Force, something that a Force-attuned person would see when they close their eyes and stretch out with their feelings. (smiles)

2 Do you think it makes the game more accessible for players and how did it focus test/did you have to tweak it?

The casual audience has embraced the control scheme very well. The more hardcore gamer may see the system as a gimmick and start yearning for the established controls for the genre. But what established controls? The two analogue sticks on your Xbox 360? Well, they’re not here. This is still your mobile phone.

Not only does CellWeaver make the game more accessible but also more fun. We at Universomo have a saying that we strongly believe in: the player's having fun as long as their thumbs are moving. When games are adapted for the mobile they are simplified. If that is done solely by reducing keypresses a game can start to feel dull, that it’s on autopilot. In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed your thumbs won’t stop, that I guarantee!

The system has gone through multiple iterations. The original CellWeaver can still be found pretty much intact in the Java version of SW:TFU where it works very well, as the game is not a third person shooter but a more arcadey experience. The N-Gage version of CellWeaver has been made more compatible with the directional controller and, therefore, landscape gaming. Also, a more instinctive defense mechanism has been added to support the “shooter” nature of the game.

3 When playing the demo, I found I was often looking more at the keypad than the screen and it felt like I was missing out what was going in the game. Do you think this sort of thing will improve the more you play?

This is a common first verdict of the game. This is partially due to using unfamiliar hardware. If you play the game on your own mobile where you are already fluent in typing SMSes, you probably have an advantage and the entry is smoother.

But, yes, it does improve over time. After a while you are brave enough to lift your eyes from the keypad to the indicators and, eventually, you will “be in the zone” and be able to appreciate the vistas while torturing poor Stormtroopers at the same time. On the other hand, we as designers want to keep you busy, its part of our set of smoke and mirrors too.

Also, you should definitely try CellWeaver with the directional controller! By using the directional controller, or Controller Key which is the proper Nokia lingo, there is no need to move your mitts and, therefore, no need to peek at the keypad.

4 You're using the keypad as a 3 by 3 grid so does this limit the complexity of moves players can make or does the game unfold more in terms of layering up options in terms of the way you present different (more complex) sequences of symbols on the screen?

The 3 by 3 grid itself is far from being limited! For example, you can draw any character of the English alphabet with CellWeaver. That’s already 26 patterns. The amount of original patterns drawable on the grid is just astronomical. Therefore, we have actually had to heavily limit the possibilities within the scope of the game. The finished game has 5 offensive and 4 defensive Force powers that can be targeted and triggered through the CellWeaver interface.

5 How does the plot of SW: The Force Unleashed on N-Gage compare into the console versions of the game also being developed in terms of plot and characters etc?

Think of this as the Reader’s Digest version of the authoritative story. (smiles) Basically, we have the same story arch as on the console but under that arch we have been allowed to take some liberties.

6 While there's a hardcore Star Wars fanbase, there are also a lot of people who probably feel a bit saturated by SW culture and games. How do you think The Force Unleashed will attract those sorts of potential players?

I think great production values are a good start; the cinematic quality of the visuals and audio will attract people to the game. After we’ve got them that far, the hypnotic nature of CellWeaver will make them fall for the game. (winks)

7 In terms of N-Gage itself, what was the process of developing the game like in comparison to the more traditional Java-based mobile games?

Arduous. (laughs) Don’t get me wrong. The N-Gage platform has been a dream. It is just great to be able to develop in native C++ and not care about Symbian. But, being our first N-Gage game we had to spend a lot of time and effort in building our engine and tools pretty much from scratch. After that, the biggest difference to a Java game project has been the gargantuan amount of content we had to create and manage for the game.

8 Can you say anything about how you're using the N-Gage Arena for multiplayer and/or downloads as well as linking into the community aspects of the service?

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is a story-driven single player game and does not support multiplayer on any level. However, the game supports global rankings and high score boards when playing Survival Battles, an alternative game mode realized with the same game engine as the Story Mode but having a more arcadey angle on the gameplay. Of course, the game also supports Point Plays, the N-Gage equivalent for achievements. No downloads have been planned.

9 What do you think has been the most difficult thing to get right when it comes to SW: The Force Unleashed?

On the art direction / story telling frontier it has been difficult to make the places, beings and devices as true to canon as possible. There is so much out there to conform to and, on the other hand, not enough when it comes to the new stuff Lucas is inventing right now as we speak. (smiles)

On the game design frontier it must have been the controls. Our faith has been tested many times during the process. At first, we had to sell the idea to others. Then we had to develop, test, and redevelop the controls. Then modify them to best support the varied devices that run N-Gage. Then try and come up with game play and level design that would make the best of the controls. And, finally, explaining ourselves for doing them in the first place. (smiles)

10 What are you most proud of about SW: The Force Unleashed?

Well, this has clearly been more of a console game kind of production than a traditional mobile game production. For a mobile game developer like Universomo that is a pretty new experience. I am proud that we as a company got the talent and were able to pull this off. I am proud of the people who made SW: The Force Unleashed.

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