The Lego Star Wars series has a rich history that extends beyond the source material — an interpretation of the two trilogies that stays both stays true to the films while injecting innumerable visual gags. For its upcoming take on The Force Awakens, the first new Lego Star Wars game since 2011, developer TT Games is trying something new. For starters, the game will explore what happened off-screen, with seven of the games' 18 "story levels" taking place in the lead-up to Episode VII. How did C-3PO get his red replacement arm? You can read the comic to find out, or you can experience yourself through digital Lego bricks.
The other big change is the addition of voicework from the original cast — both lines from the movie as well new voicework from "key talent" like Daisy Ridley. It's not a first for the Lego series, but Lego Star Wars has long relied on silent characters pantomiming the familiar scenes.
Last week at GDC, we had a chance to spend some time playing the new Lego Star Wars entry. While there are a few key additions that add variety to the game — notably, a cover system for blaster battles, arena-based dogfighting at key moments, and the chance to build multiple objects out of the same pile of Lego bricks — overall, the Lego Star Wars experience has been preserved.
We also had a chance to sit down with lead story designer Graham Goring to talk about some of the narrative changes for the new title. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What was the decision to include voices in the game. This is a first for Lego Star Wars, yes?
Goring: Well, to the Lego Star Wars series, absolutely, we’ve never had voices. The first games [we did] with voices were Batman 2 and Lego City Undercover.
It’s just the case that we are always trying to do something a bit new with our games. Lego City Undercover was a game where we were telling an original story. Obviously, when you know a film, you can sort of fill in [what the actors are] saying there. With an original story you can’t do that. So we had to do it for that game. And then it just seemed silly to go back from that. It just stuck.
Earlier in the presentation, you mentioned your rapport with Lucasfilm, who you've worked with for many years. Has anything changed in that relationship for The Force Awakens?
I think possibly it’s even closer than it was before. I think with the previous games, they came out a long time after the films, so it’s not like the two things were going along a parallel track. [For The Force Awakens] we worked really closely with them, and they were fantastic to work with. It had to be, by the necessary nature of the project, a lot closer.
When did development begin on this? Was it during production?
It was early last year. It was early in 2015.
The Lego Star Wars series has grown into its own distinct experience over the years, with its own sense of humor. How much is Lucasfilm involved in that aspect? Are they ever asking for more visual gags? Less?
We'll will send them a script outlining the cut scenes, there might be something there where they’ll say they really like that sort of humor. I don’t think there’s ever been a case where they've said, "no, don’t do that." Because, we love Star Wars, the last thing we want to do... I think we laugh with it, rather than laugh at it. We’re about celebrating it and trying to make the best Star Wars game that we can.
[Since the Lego games are co-op], it's one of these things that parents and kids love to play together, and that’s just really nice, to be building something that kids have a really fond memory of. As with Disney movies, it’s nice to think that you are part of someone’s memories — something that’s treasured from their childhood. And we take that very seriously. That’s why, like I say, we never want to offend. We want to make just something that is utterly charming. And I think we’ve done it with this game.
It was fascinating to me was more than a third of the levels in this game will explore things that happened between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Obviously these are goofs and you're interpreting a lot, but is that stuff canon? Will this generally-speaking be, for example, the story of how C-3PO lost his arm?
It’s all stuff that came from Lucasarts, who told us, "here’s a bit of story you can tell." And so we pitch them a design for it and go back and forth again. It’s all incredibly authentic to the universe. I don’t know what is canon or what is not, I’m not exactly sure what word to use. But it is all totally... sort of... faithful. The whole thing about where C-3PO got his arm, that’s based on a comic book. There’s a lot of authenticity there.
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be released on June 28th.
Additional contributions by Alex Brokaw.