Interview: Disney Infinity game director Vince Bracken on the creation of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens playset
As they promised when the game came out this past August, Disney Infinity 3.0 is adding characters and adventures from the new Star Wars movie with the just-released Star Wars: The Force Awakens playset. But unlike the other Star Wars collections for this game — Twilight of the Republic, which was set during the time of the Clone Wars cartoon, and Rise Against the Empire, which presented highlights from the original film trilogy — this new playset wasn't based on something the developers could just rent from their local video store. And not just because the local video store has gone out of business. Instead, the Star Wars: The Force Awakens set was made while the filmmakers were still working on the movie. Which begs the question: given how secretive the filmmakers been about this flick, how the heck did the game makers know what to do?
To find out, I sacrificed my Thursday night — a Thursday night with a new episode of The Big Bang Theory, no less — to attend a screening of The Force Awakens, followed by a launch party for the playset, just so I could ask Game Director Vince Bracken how he and his coworkers pulled it off. You're welcome.
GameCrate: For starters, is the Star Wars: The Force Awakens playset just a retelling of the movie, or did you guys expand upon it with stories from the books or comics?
Vince Bracken: It is a retelling of the story. We felt it was a unique opportunity, since the first playset was an original story and the second didn't retell the story of the original trilogy but instead just hit the higher moments, and we wanted to take advantage of that. But we did make some changes, in part because it's a kids' game, but also because our game lets you pick and chose whatever character you want to play as.
GC: But how did you guys actually make the game? Because with Rise Against the Empire, you could watch those movies whenever you wanted, but with The Force Awakens, they were making the movie while you were making the game.
VB: Right. Well, they let a couple of us read the script, and they also sent us stills from the film. And I really feel our artists squeezed everything they could out of those images. Because we never got to see anything move. We never saw a single clip of anything from the film. In fact, I only just saw the movie for the first time tonight.
GC: Did the people from the movie help you at all, like maybe tell you how a ship moved or something along those lines?
VB: Yes, exactly. Though it was not the film people, it was actually someone from LucasFilm. We would pitch them on what they wanted to do, and they would tell us how to adjust it.
GC: So how long did it take to make this playset?
VB: We started in November of 2014, and we were done this past July.
GC: And how does that compare to the others?
VB: We usually get four more months do one. So it was fast for us.
GC: Were there any instances where you had planned something in the game, but then LucasFilm were like, "Okay, you have to cut this part out…and we can't tell you why?"
VB: No, though J.J. Abrams did take a look at our script, and he actually did a great job at focusing the story. He was like, "I think I'd tighten this part up a little bit, and make these little changes."
GC: In terms of the figures, Finn and Rey come with the playset, and you also made one for Kylo Ren. But after seeing the movie, I'm a little surprised you went with Poe Dameron instead of BB-8. Or are you saving him the Star Wars: Droidian Slip playset with R2-D2, C-3PO, Chopper, and R2-KT?
VB: Ha! Where did you hear that?
GC: I made it up. Because that's what I want the next Star Wars playset to be.
VB: That's awesome! It would be great to do an all-droid playset.
GC: But to be serious, did you ever consider doing a BB-8 figure? Because he has a much bigger role in the movie than Poe.
VB: Yeah, he does. But with Infinity, we have some constraints because every character can be upgraded through the skill tree, and every character has to adhere to certain movements. But BB-8 is actually part of Poe's character; Poe has a special move where you uses BB-8.
GC: One of the cool things about The Force Awakens playset is that Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, who play Rey and Finn, respectfully, do their characters' voices. Does that mean they also get a say in how their characters look in the game?
VB: I don't think they did. Especially since we just went by how they looked in the film.
GC: Finally, one of the cool things you've done in this playset is that the 3D chess table in the Millennium Falcon also plays arcade games.
VB: Yes. The history to that is we're always trying to make each playset be unique. So we pitched a couple different ideas, and that was the one that LucasFilm liked.
What's interesting is that all of the games are ones that would've been made about stuff that happened during A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back because LucasFilms' comment was that everyone will know about those battles, and they would've made games based on them the way we've made games based on World War II.
The "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" playset for "Disney Infinity 3.0" is out on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, WiiU, iOS, Android, and Apple TV today.