When Zen Studios went to Lucasarts about a year ago, they offered a straightforward pitch for a series of Star Wars-themed pinball tables. OK, here's the Original Trilogy pack: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi. OK, now here are the three prequels ...

"They said no," said Neil Sorens, Zen's creative director, "we want you to explore. Go into the expanded universe, get into the characters, everything. 'We'd like you to pull out some surprising and interesting stuff.'"

That's why the first three tables in Zen's Star Wars Pinball series are not Episodes IV, V and VI, but The Empire Strikes Back followed by a dedicated Boba Fett table, and then one based on The Clone Wars animated feature. The series will arrive for Zen's pinball game on "a multitude of platforms," principally the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Mac. Other platforms are still being worked out, a Zen spokesman said. Pricing and a release date have yet to be specified.

Star Wars has a long and noble history in pinball—on real tables—so when Zen first started constructing virtual ones, fans naturally clamored to see it, too. "Ever since I've been in the company, when we first started working on pinball, Star Wars has definitely been at the top of everybody's list," Sorens said. "Fans would bring it up and we'd also say the same thing: 'Wouldn't it be cool?'

"But at that point, it was completely unrealistic," Sorens said. Zen had just gotten started with unlicensed tables like Speed Machine and Agents. It wasn't until Pinball FX2 introduced its Marvel Pinball series in 2010 that Zen acquired the creative and reputational heft it would need to land a Star Wars-sized deal.

"Working with Marvel, I think, Lucas saw that we were able to treat their brand with respect and do well with it," Sorens said. Their Lucasarts liaison pointed to what Zen did with Blade, a relatively minor Marvel character, as a reason why Lucas wanted Zen to explore all that Star Wars had to offer, rather than stick to a liturgy of movie-themed releases.

That said, beginning with The Empire Strikes Back was almost a no-brainer. "If we were going to do a movie table, that would be the one," Sorens said. "It's the most iconic and well liked movie, the apex of the classic Star Wars films."

The main table missions in Empire will be scenes from the film, Sorens said, "very easy to start, very accessible." A lightsaber ball return positioned by one of the sinkholes will appeal to advanced players, and the game's wizard-mode showdown will feature Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader in Cloud City's reactor. Movie scenes will play out on the game's dot-matrix board, calling to mind other pinball adaptations of Star Wars, principally Data East's brilliant 1991 table.

Sorens said none of the 10 tables planned will be derivative of earlier works. "We've generally stayed away from imitating other pinball tables or being referential to them," he said. "Earlier on, when some of our [unlicensed] tables were derivative of real-world tables, we looked on that as sort of a black mark on our history. So we've really tried to get away from that."

Boba Fett, the second table in the series of three, is at once an unorthodox but obvious choice. "He's a guy with a lot of name recognition and popularity, very disproportionate to the amount of screen time he gets in the series," Sorens said. "We wanted to introduce people to the character, and it's also sort of a fan service to those who like Boba Fett." Its audio features all-new dialogue, including Jabba the Hutt, speaking in Huttese.

As for The Clone Wars, the table is "based largely on the plot of the movie. It's ramp-heavy and you'll see a lot of combos, a mix of getting the ball between the upper and lower playing fields," Sorens said.

As a centerpiece product for Zen, working on Star Wars Pinball was unquestionably a preferred assignment for the staff's 30-man team working on pinball in Zen's Hungary office. Nearly everyone had a Star Wars pinball concept in mind years ago, so Zen had to rotate creative staff to make sure all the developers got a shot. With 10 tables in the series, they will (the themes and release window for the other seven have not been announced.)

"Some people might say, 'Oh, it's just pinball,'" Sorens said, "but when you work on it, it's still super cool. Back in the days when we were doing original tables, people generally liked them, but it wasn't the kind of stuff they write about in The Wall Street Journal.

"We've been happy to work on pinball whether it's the big mainstream tables or not. But the large stuff really makes you feel that you've come into your own, and you're legit now."

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: The Empire Strikes Back.

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: The Empire Strikes Back.

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: The Empire Strikes Back.

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: The Empire Strikes Back.

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: The Empire Strikes Back.

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: The Empire Strikes Back.

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: Boba Fett.

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: Boba Fett

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: Boba Fett

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: Boba Fett

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: Boba Fett

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: Boba Fett

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: The Clone Wars.

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: The Clone Wars.

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: The Clone Wars.

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: The Clone Wars.

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: The Clone Wars.

Star Wars Pinball Proposes a Unique Trilogy With Its First Three TablesS

Star Wars Pinball: The Clone Wars.