THE GALAXY IS YOURS!
Play through all nine Star Wars saga films in a brand-new LEGO video game unlike any other. Experience fun-filled adventures, whimsical humor, and the freedom to fully immerse yourself in the LEGO Star Wars universe like never before.
During my time on the project, i was primarily a Level Designer, designing and iterating on levels under my responsibility. There were four level designers on the project, and 45 levels spread between us, which meant that each of us were designated particular levels that fell under a certain bracket, whether that was Boss Fights, Chase Levels etc.
With this, It involved being the dedicated product owner of each of the assigned levels, acting as the main liaison with each of the different departments involved with the level. A large chunk of the levels under my supervision had already been mostly designed from the rough blockout stage to the initial Level Design Document, however, like all things during game development, plans change so I had to be first point of design contact to problem solve and iterate on the levels as the game evolved and got further into development.
This of course, included balancing & adjusting the pacing of the combat sections in levels, based on playtesting and Game Director feedback, and also changing original plans for levels, due to any development issues or technical restraints.
In addition to Level Design on the project, I was heavily involved in other areas of the game. These included:
- Three C's
- Blaster Combat
- Lightsaber Duels
- Force Throw
Before I joined the project, there was no dedicated designer working on Three C's across the project. The Skywalker Saga was a new start for the studio, on a new engine so it only made sense that with that, we had brand new controls and cameras, that would bring a much more contemporary look and feel the game.
My first port of call was going to be the cameras. The direction of the game was to be much more "third-person", so i immediately set out to research a tone of other games in the market and research into their camera set-ups and systems.
The Over-The-Shoulder blaster combat was originally led with a trailing reticule, similar to aiming modes found elsewhere in the game and in LEGO titles int he past, however, for the run and gun nature of the combat, this wasn't working and ended up feeling rather sluggish, especially compared to other action-shooter games in the market.
I pitched the idea of locked the reticule in place, and the addition of features such as bullet magnetism, reticule slow-down and other under-the-hood features to help bring the shooting mechanics, much more in-line with modern day expectations.
In the videos below you can see the before and after of the changes.
My main level responsibilities were all of the boss fight levels, however during the development of the game, this lead to me directing the Boss Combat as a whole. This was a particularly difficult challenge, as we were building a very different LEGO game to ones of the past, so this had to be a whole new system, one that evolved the expectation of not only combat, but also the look and feel of how a boss fight could play out in a LEGO game.
I was part of an amazing team of developers, talented coders, animators, audio designers, VFX artists and more. We had little under six months to get something up and running, starting from essentially scratch and needing to be content complete by the end of our timeframe.
Once the OTS shooting was in and bound to working from a centered reticule, It instantly became much more familar to players who have been familar with shooting mechanics from the last couple of decades of mainstream shooters. On top of this, the strafing, Z-Locked targetting inspired movement from the Boss Combat was also in and working, which gave players a lot of finesse over their movement and positioning against enemies in combat. One part of the puzzle that wasnt quite up to scratch was the Force Throwing of objects.
Players could tap a button to deliver a quick punch of the force, but what If i wanted more control over the objects in the environment? What If i wanted to use objects around me against the enemy? With the shooting and boss combat mechanics in a working state, I pitched to the game director the option of being able to pick up objects and transition to a movement and control model similar to the those states mentioned. was in and working in its newly designed state, the next challenge was how to make using the force in a tactical and less-restrictive way work.
LEVEL DESIGN CONTRIBUTIONS
As mentioned above, my main contribution for the project was working as a Level Design. My main priortiy was working on any level containing any of the iconic lightsaber duels from across the three trilogies of the Star Wars film series.
This lead to me working on such fights as the Darth Maul duel from The Phantom Menace, the clash between Obi-Wan and Anakin from Revenge of The Sith and my personal favourite, Darth Vader vs Luke Skywalker from The Empire Strikes Back. The majority of the levels were original designed by Andrew Lyne or Michael Consalvey, however I was the core level designer on the levels for the majority of the project.
EPISODE I: DARTH MAUL
This level was the one level that had the most iteration. Initial, the design was quite linear and had the player battling and chasing Maul down a singular route, much like it occurs in the movie, however with early playtests, I wasn't happy with the sheer amount of 'downtime' was occurring, so the decision was made to open up some side routes from the main arena at the start of the level.
After the first fight concludes, Maul can take either option, decided by how close to a route he is at the time. This not only breaks up the linearity of the level, but also ensures that there's some variety for future playthroughs the player may have.
The level does also contain some levity from combat, involving some light puzzle solving in the early parts of the level, culminating in some slightly more advanced puzzles, in the midst of a heavy combat section, amongst infamous the laser door sequence from the duel.
EPISODE II: COUNT DOOKU
This encounters main attraction was relatively intact over development, however a big addition that was added to the level, was the dynamic of having Dooku disappear and reappear during set points of the fight. This was heavily inspired by the Deathstroke Boss Fight fom Arkham Origins and the Hellhound fight from Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice.
At set points in the level, Dooku flees after being knocked from his perch by the player, but before he does so, he causes a power blackout which plunges the player in darkness. The player must skulk about in the darkness and prepare for Dooku to launch into a sneak attack, in which in lashes out from the darkness and launches into a lightsaber flurry.
EPISODE III: GENERAL GREVIOUS
Easily the most ambitious encounter in the game, one that had many stages and multiple elements for both player characters to partake in. Ultimately, a large amount of the level was cut due to technical and time restraints, but the end product is much more focused and way more in line with the other boss fight levels in the game.
In the original design, Grevious would lose an arm after each segment of combat with the player, this providing a pretty large problem for animation as they would of had to create a different animation set, for each of Grevious' stages. Instead, a compromise was made, in which we never actually change Grievous' animation sets, instead we literally turn off and hide the visibility of one of his limbs after each Saber Lock sequence in the level.
EPISODE III: DARTH SIDIOUS
This encounter was one of the few levels that actually had boss specific mechanics, outside of the standard Saber Combat boss interactions. It contained some quite complex pathfinding for the boss character to navigate in the latter half of the level, which was quite huge in scope, seeing the player navigate multiple platforms in the iconic Senate building on Coruscant.
This also made use of the Lightning Deflection mechanic, which had the player having to redirect an enemies Force Lightning back at them.
EPISODE III: ANAKIN SKYWALKER
A personal favourite of mine from the film series; this was a great level to be a part of. Initially designed by Mike Consalvey, this was one of the more difficult level to help bring online with the other members of the team. Most of the original intent of the design remained in the final product, with some cuts made due to technical restraints of the project, but ultimately I think we as a team, delivered the best video game adaption of this iconic saber moment in Star Wars history.
EPISODE V: DARTH VADER
For me, this duel is the best in the franchise, and I was really excited to start working on when ownership came to me. This was level underwent some pretty large changes, in order to maintain a better sense of pacing and honor the movie sequence in a more authentic manner. This required working closely with the level's animator, Matthew Roe, in order to create multiple distinct cinematic set pieces that litter the level and provide both excitement, humour and of course a hit of nostalgia for fans of the movie sequence.
The level itself navigates through several elements, going from action, to suspense, comedy and even shock horror, this took months of iteration to make sure each moment had its own time to shine, and never outstayed its welcome.
EPISODE VI: DARTH VADER & THE EMPEROR
This was a really challenging level to get up and running, but one that we had to get right, with such an iconic moment in the franchise. With the new-found camera perspective and control scheme, we had the opportunity, to really put players in Luke's shoe's to experience what it would be like to face Vader in-front of the Emperor.
The level has multiple elements, straight up boss combat, some bespoke set pieces, and even a faux stealth sequence, which has multiple outcomes for the level.
EPISODE VI: KYLO REN
This level was one of the many levels that started to really shine, once the Boss Combat system began to come online. Players are pitted against Kylo Ren at muliple points in the level, and in between spend their time, chasing down and closing the gap between themselves and the sith. Like many of the boss encounters, it is quite a narrative heavy encounter, with lots of meaningful story events happening in-game. This includes the famous moment of Rey retrieving the lightsaber from the snow with the force, which the player gets to partake in via a button bashing QTE against Kylo.
The level also has a great sense of escalation, with the terrain of the level, becoming more and more unstable as the player ventures further - this includes moments where duels can be interrupted by earthquakes.
EPISODE X: PRAETORIAN GUARDS
This level was the actual level that kickstarted the boss combat system as a whole, and without working with the talented team involved in it, the boss fights, and arguably, the game as a whole, wouldn't have been as big of a success as it is.
The Lead Gameplay Programmer on the project, Alvaro Fernandez and Aishling Mulhern, Senior Gameplay Programmer, were the programmers on the level and were struggling with the initial design intentions, from the original level designer. After I had taken ownership of the level, we had a meeting on how to move forward with the level, as it was needed to be heavily reliant on the boss combat system. We had to figure out how to make engaging multiple opponents fit into the system, whilst also honoring the movie scene from the movie, where Rey and Kylo face off against multiple opponents at once.
This was during the very early stage of forming the boss combat, which needed to be designed to be pitting players against a singular opponent at a time, which obviously wasn't fitting the intention for the encounter. Alvaro and Aish had both came to the conclusion of what if we had the player locked on or focused on a singular target at a time, this way players wouldn't have too much cognitive load of having to juggle multiple combatants at once.
We agreed that this would fit the bill for this level in particular, and would also fit nicely into the system as a game wide solution.
EPISODE X: KYLO REN
Episode Nine: Kylo Ren" was a level that I had full control over form top-down, to blockout, iteration and polish - my personal favorite level to work on. I initially started my blockout in Unreal Engine 4, an engine I'm very comfortable in, so that I could test out some ideas and concepts before we started full production of the level in our own engine. We also didnt have any access to the movie, so all of these ideas were coming from what I could gather from the movies marketing material and trailers.
Actual development started very late in December 2019, very shortly after The Rise of Skywalker came out in cinemas, which meant for the most part, we were flying pretty blind on narrative details, environments and of course the actual events that transpire during this moment in the movie.
I iterated a lot, and the level was drastically reduced in scope, as the first pass was way too ambitious for the remaining production schedule, which ultimately ended up with a better level, one more palatable for the game audience and more in-line with other levels in the other parts of the game.
The one main benefit I had with this level, was that the game had more of its core systems, including the boss combat, in place meaning any mechanics and features required for the level, were already up and running so I could build and test the level from start to finish in literal days.
The initial blockout of the level.
Final look of the shipped level.
The initial blockout of the level.
Below you can see a timeline of the original blockout, all the way through to the final released version of the map.
EPISODE XI: KNIGHTS OF REN
Like the Rey vs Kylo encounter from Episode Nine, this was started quite late in development due to production timelines related to the release of The Rise of Skywalker. However, due to the amount of work that had gone into the boss combat system, this encounter was relatively quick to get up and running and polished up to a decent standard in the short time frame that we had left for the project.
It was great to collaborate with our main writer, James Pugh on the dialogue for this sequence, as we managed to include a lot of references and easter eggs for Star Wars fans, as well as really hitting the classic TT level of humour fans of the studio have come to expect.