A Talk with LucasArts: On Plagues, Reviews and Internal Development

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When I spoke to Haden Blackman, executive producer of The Force Unleashed, last month about the upcoming new level of the Star Wars game he told me that they are considering giving players new force powers down the line as part of a downloadable content pack. But what interested me more were the cut force powers. "We implemented more force powers than we shipped with," Blackman told me. "We removed some because of consumer feed back. There were too many in the game and (the force) started getting watered down. "We do have other ones we could go back to look at." While Blackman declined to list out the cut force powers, I did manage to get him to talk about one of the cut powers he particularly liked."We had this plague power where you could infect enemies and they would get sick and lose health over time," he said. The plague power, which showed up in a different form in the final game as a crystal power-up for the light saber, also spread. When an infected enemy got near their cohorts they would catch the killing disease too. The problem was it moved a little too slowly for the pacing of the game, Blackman said. "The Force Unleashed is such a visceral, fast-paced time, that it wasn’t that effective." Speaking of not that effective, I also asking Blackman about the sometimes problematic targeting system in the game. (No, I didn't mention my son crying. LucasArts already emailed me to apologize.) Turns out he was surprised that so many reviews mentioned the sometimes touchy targeting. "Targeting wasn’t an issue that came up when we did focus testing," he said. "The other thing I was really surprised about, the story was strong, and reviews have said that, but we haven’t seen a lift in scores." "Maybe that means stories aren't important to reviewers." Personally, I think that's more an issue of the current state of review systems, rather than a statement about the the importance reviewers put on story in a game. Or at least I hope that's what the issue is. Blackman pointed out that the average rating on Amazon is higher than the Meta Critic score, which he found gratifying. "We worked really, really hard on all aspects of the game," he said. "On bridging the gap between those trilogies. At the end of the day I hope we provided a good, satisfying experience." Now that the game has shipped, Blackman and some of the team are concentrating on the downloadable content. "Everybody working on the DLC is someone from the core team," he said. "Everybody worked on The Force Unleashed. It’s all being produced internally. Blackman brought this up, he says, in part because of the rumors still floating around that LucasArts is no longer doing internal development. "We absolutely are," he said. "This is the continuation of The Force Unleashed team while we plan our next game." "We are doing internal development and have projects in the works. I'm hoping more (of my team) will roll onto my next product, which will more than likely be a Star Wars game."



I just want to know when a patch for the game is coming out, since I'm more likely to look at playing it when I know it's going to be less of a glitch-fest. I don't know what to say about LucasArts actually apologizing for making Crecente's son cry. I mean, it makes me a bit speechless. So I guess I'll just leave it at that.