There’s No Long-Term Vision For Star Wars

There's No Long-Term Vision For Star Wars
There's No Long-Term Vision For Star Wars 1
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – image provided by Lucasfilms Inc.

Lucasfilm and Disney never had a long-term plan with the Star Wars sequel trilogy, and they still don’t. With all the controversy surrounding the latest saga film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and whether it’s actually a great or terrible film (I happen to think it’s just shy of being good), it’s quite obvious Lucasfilm doesn’t have a concrete vision for these new movies. The scepticism people had with J.J. Abrams setting up yet another new universe and leaving other filmmakers to figure out how it concludes has been well warranted.

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Abrams introduced plenty of important and huge questions regarding some of the main characters in the film, questions many people thought would be addressed in a thoughtful way and be the main focus in Episodes VIII and IX. As it turns out, these lingering questions have been completely tossed aside by The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, and it’s quite worrying.

Now, be warned, there will be spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

After watching Episode VIII: The Last Jedi I came out of the theatre feeling a bit dumbfounded and satisfied. It’s a strange feeling, one I rarely have about a film where I understand why some people disliked it and others quite loved the direction Johnson took with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The biggest criticism aimed at The Force Awakens has been that it feels like a rehash of A New Hope – a Star Wars film which ponders way too much to hardcore fans and their nostalgia for this franchise.

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Star Wars: Episode XIII – The Last Jedi (2017) – image provided by Lucasfilms Inc.

And so, Johnson listened to these criticisms and went the complete opposite direction, opting to subvert expectations every chance he could. However, he ultimately leaned too heavily towards the other side, essentially resetting a trilogy which only has one more film left to wrap up the story.

There are two story decisions which, in my opinion, prove Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and the rest of the filmmakers over at Lucasfilm are making it up as they go. The biggest one is undoubtedly Snoke. Star Wars: The Force Awakens set this character up as this important, mysterious figure with an intriguing past. A character which will play a significant role in the overarching story. Abrams set up this mythical figure who, in his eyes, was meant to play a much bigger role moving forward. Johnson took Abrams’ story decisions and essentially threw them away, saying they’re not important.

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Adam Driver in Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017) – image provided by Lucasfilms Inc.

As it turns out, it doesn’t matter who Snoke is and where he came from. He’s just there to further develop Kylo Ren, setting up the wanna-be Darth Vader as the main villain in Episode IX. On one hand, I can commend Johnson for taking such a huge risk with Snoke, killing him off in the middle of this story. It’s exactly the type of filmmaker Johnson is, one who loves subverting expectations every chance he gets. Just watch his previous two movies, Brick and Looper. But on the other hand, it’s blatantly obvious this isn’t the direction Abrams wanted or would’ve taken with Snoke. It’s a meshing of two distinct, opposite filmmaking styles and visions which ultimately ends up hurting the sequel trilogy.

The second story decision is, of course, Rey’s parents, which isn’t as big of a deal as Snoke’s demise but still important nonetheless. I see where Johnson was going with this, as relegating Rey’s parents to being a pair of random drunkards is another way of subverting expectations. Forget about the Skywalkers and the bloodlines and being born a hero – we’ve seen this tale told in the prequel and original trilogies. It’s a brave decision, but one that came up with no planning. This is a major mystery Star Wars: The Force Awakens leans heavily on, and one in which Abrams thought someone would share the same vision as him in the long run.

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Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017) – image provided by Lucasfilms Inc.

With Abrams now directing Star Wars: Episode IX, it’ll be fascinating to see if he’ll undo anything Johnson went within The Last Jedi. He certainly has the power to do so and recent reports suggest Abrams pitched the story for Episode IX just a few days ago. Yet another prime example of the lack of long-term planning from Lucasfilm.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more by Aleksander Gilyadov, such as Zombies and Gore: A Brief History of Resident Evil, and Great, a Chainsaw: A History of Horror Games!

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CGMagazine Best of 2017: Film (Part 2)

CGMagazine Best of 2017: Film (Part 2)

As this tumultuous year winds down, it’s time once again to revisit the films that moved the industry forward. Yesterday, CGMagazine’s Phil Brown explored the best movies of 2017 in terms of Fantasy, Horror, and Comic Book adaptations (you can catch up here). Pop a bottle of bubbly and celebrate the new year with part two of CGMagazines Best Genre Films of 2017.

Best Blockbuster: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

CGMagazine Best of 2017: Film (Part 2)
Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017) – CGMagazine’s Best Blockbuster of 2017.

Already divisive amongst the passionate Star Wars fanbase, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi truly is the Empire Strikes Back of our times. People tend to forget that Empire was the least financially and critically successful film of the initial trilogy. Why? Because as the second act of a larger narrative, the sequel made us question what came before, upset the established order, complicated heroes so they were no longer obviously heroic, and ended on a down note to set up future triumphs. Johnson’s ambitious feature does all of that for a new generation, gleefully ripping apart hallowed movie lore and forcing audiences to ask tough questions about beloved characters before leaving everyone in a dark place. It’s not a nostalgia-fueled crowd pleasure like The Force Awakens. It’s better, deeper, and more challenging than that. Johnson has finally given the next chapter in Star Wars history its own unique direction. It won’t be until we finally get the question-answering finale that everyone finally comes to recognize that. For now, The Last Jedi will be a divisive Star Wars movie and that’s as it should be. Great movies require time to sneak in, even when they take place in a familiar galaxy from far, far away.

Best Action Flick: John Wick: Chapter 2

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Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) – CGMagazine’s Best Action Flick of 2017.

For viewers out there who love nothing more in cinema than watching a bad guy get punched in the face in the most creative way possible, the John Wick franchise was been a welcome addition to action movie lore. The Keanu Reeves headlined franchise has grown into an entire tongue-in-cheek universe of super assassins who spend half their time killing each other and the other half living in lavish secret hotels. It’s ridiculous, but everyone involved knows exactly what they are doing and have created a perfect delivery system for some of the finest physical action scenes of this or any age. John Wick officially grew from a surprising action movie underdog into a genuine genre icon this year. Bring on Chapter 3 as soon as possible; Keanu isn’t getting any younger and the genre isn’t quite as fun anywhere else.

Best War Movie: Dunkirk

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Cillian Murphy in Dunkirk (2017) – CGMagazine’s Best War Movie of 2017.

Christopher Nolan’s IMAX blockbuster is somehow both a straight-ahead visceral action flick and a radically structured art film that doesn’t abide by cozy storytelling conventions. It shoves viewers into the middle of Second World War combat with a subjective intensity comparable only to the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan and somehow manages to do so for the entire running time. There was no moviegoing experience in 2017 as thrillingly cinematic as watching Dunkirk unfold on IMAX using all of the format’s specific tricks to create a war movie unlike any other. It says so much with so little and grabs viewers by the throat for a ride that doesn’t let up for a second (along with a handful of the director’s typical structural headgames). This movie will grow in reputation over time, even though watching it in any format other than IMAX ensures that viewers won’t get the full effect of Nolan’s remarkable accomplishment.

Best Biopic: The Disaster Artist

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James Franco in The Disaster Artist (2017) – CGMagazine’s Best Biopic of 2017.

Finally, we come to a great movie about the making of—arguably—the worst movie ever made. When The Disaster Artist was announced, everyone who knew The Room could guess all of the hilarious backstage stories about Tommy Wisseau’s wild production that James Franco planned on sharing. What was impossible to predict was that Franco also had a unique take on the material and planned to use Wisseau as a stand in for all misunderstood outsider artists. That the flick is hilarious is no surprise. That director/star Franco also found a way to transform a walking punchline into an admirably tragic figure was one of the most pleasant movie-going surprises of the year. Oscar bait biopics are usually pandering nonsense. The Disaster Artist is a special and oddball effort destined for cult status that will stand alongside the so-bad-its-good camp/cult classic at its centre. That accomplishment ain’t easy and is worth celebrating.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Phil’s take on Blade Runner 2049, Happy Death Day, and It! He also had a chance to sit down with Guillermo Del Toro. Check out his interview here!

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review – Star Wars Strikes Back

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review - Star Wars Strikes Back

JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens was, in its own way, a little miracle of a movie. After not even George Lucas himself could make audiences tingle with those special Star Wars feels that flooded through audiences after their first trip to a galaxy far far away, Abrams achieved the impossible by giving everyone a new canonical SW adventure that lived up to decades’ worth of hype.

Read moreStar Wars: The Last Jedi Review – Star Wars Strikes Back

Star Wars Battlefront 2 Economy Change, Free Content Planned

EA Announces Star Wars BattleFront II Beta, Slated For October

The first wave of changes for Star Wars Battlefront, specifically in terms of Lootboxes are imminent, with larger, more substantial changes planned for the future.

EA recently rolled out a new update for Battlefront 2 in which some adjustments have been made to the games’ in-game economy. All the changes to the gave can be viewed below:

End-of-round payout increase: EA promises that every activity will now see an increase in credits earned across the board, and top players will also receive an additional increase in credits won post-match.

3X Credit increase daily in Arcade Mode: Players have been hitting the daily cap in Arcade Mode, which is why EA has increased the payout to give players more of an incentive to play.

Daily login crates increase: Players will now receive additional crafting materials every time they log in for the for the day.

Additionally, new maps, vehicles and other free content will be coming to coincide with the release of the Last Jedi film in the coming weeks.

Finally, new downloadable story chapters for the single-player portion of Star Wars Battlefront 2 will be available December 13.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Bryan Calhoun’s review of Star Wars Battlefront 2

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: Star Wars Battlefront II, Sonic Forces + Episode Shadow, and  Super Mario Odyssey!

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French senator Durain addresses loot box and micro-transactions in letter

Chinese Law Requires Blizzard to Reveal Loot/Card Box Probabilities

A French senator has written a letter to France’s gambling regulators voicing his concerns regarding the prevalent trend of loot boxes and micro-transactions in gaming.

The letter was addressed to the president of ARJEL, the French organization responsible for gambling regulations. Senator Jérôme Durain said the following:

“While I do not think it is necessary at this stage to put in place specific legislation, I wonder about the desirability of providing consumer protection in this area. The use of loot boxes conferring cosmetic additions to the games seems well-accepted by the public. The development of so-called pay-to-win practices is more contentious, as shown by the recent controversy over the game Star Wars Battlefront 2. Quite aside from the acceptance of the practice, some observers point to a convergence of the video game world and practices specific to gambling.”

“Transparency is not common with regard to statistics governing loot boxes, even though good practices sometimes exist,” Durain continued. “China has decided in favour of a transparency of win ratios. Some of our European neighbours (the United Kingdom and Belgium in particular) are looking into the matter through their regulatory authorities. So we see that the question is not unique to France. Does ARJEL have the infrastructure necessary for a general census of win ratios for micro transactions?”

In October, a British Labour MP named Daniel Zeichner opened an inquiry  that asked what the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport planned to do to “help protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling and loot boxes within computer games.”. It will be interesting to see the level of concern increase from parties outside the gaming sphere as more and more games start adopting loot box and micro-transaction systems.

To end the letter, Durain brought up the fact that in addition to ARJEL, he had sent letters inquiring about the current micro-transaction and loot box video game climate to several gaming related organizations.

A copy of the letter can be viewed on Resetera.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out  Bryan Calhoun’s review of Star Wars Battlefront II and Phil Brown’s review of LA Noire

 

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CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

EA Temporarily Removes Microtransactions From Star Wars Battlefront II

Star Wars Battlefront 2 (PS4) Review – Some Games Fall to the Dark Side of Micro-Transactions.

Just hours before the global release of Star Wars Battlefront II, EA has announced that all microtransactions within the title will be turned off until further notice.

The shocking announcement can be found on EA’s official website. Oskar Gabrielson, General Manager over at DICE, stated that after listening to the outcry from fans over the recent controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront II, EA felt that removing all real money related transactions within the game until further notice would give the company time to reassess, listen and address concerns regarding the title.

This change comes prior to the actual release of the game which comes out this Friday, November 17. No word on when and how microtransactions will come back to the title as of the writing of this post.

It’s nice to see EA listen and promptly respond to the situation. Hopefully, this change will get more people to support the game, without worrying about microtransaction related woes.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out  Byran Calhoun’s review of Star Wars Battlefront II and our review of Justice League (2017)

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: Star Wars Battlefront II, Sonic Forces + Episode Shadow, and  Super Mario Odyssey!

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Star Wars Battlefront 2 Controversy Prior To Imminent Release

EA Announces Star Wars BattleFront II Beta, Slated For October

Star Wars Battlefront 2 is only a few days away from release, but a controversy regarding certain gameplay elements, as well as the company’s response to the criticism of these elements, is actively harming the hype surrounding the game.

Early reviewers concluded that it would take roughly 40 hours of gameplay to unlock certain hero characters within the multiplayer portion of Battlefront 2 without resorting to the alternative of having to pay and get immediate access.

EA’s initial response to the outcry from the fans was less than stellar, with the company stating that they felt players should “feel a sense of pride and accomplishment” for unlocking different heroes after the long 40-hour grind. In fact, the response was so poorly received that it became the most downvoted commented in Reddit history with a current score of -670,000.

Since then, EA has attempted damage control by reducing unlock costs by 75 per cent, from 40,000 points to about 10,000 for Leia, Chewbacca and the Emperor, where characters such as Luke and Vader went from 60,000 credits to 15,000. Finally, the main protagonist of Battlefront 2, Iden Versio, has now also been reduced to 5,000 credits to unlock for use in the multiplayer portion of the title.

“It’s a big change, and it’s one we can make quickly,” the post said. “It will be live today, with an update that is getting loaded into the game.”

Unfortunately, thanks to the efforts of Gameinformer‘s Andrew Reiner it has been confirmed that the Hero costs are not the only thing that has reduced by 75 per cent—the end-game completion for finishing the campaign has also been reduced to 5,000 credits from its prior 20,000 pool.

To make matters worse, EA seems to have put a limit on the number of credits players will be able to earn in Arcade mode through the use of a timer akin to ones found in various mobile games.

As of the writing of this post, EA has not commented on the reduction of the end-game credits or the Arcade Mode timer within Battlefront 2.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out  Brendan Frye’s interview with EA behind the story of Battlefront 2’s campaign and if you can’t get enough of franchises with the word Star in it, check out Robert B. Mark’s Seven Deadly words of Star Trek Discovery.

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: Sonic Forces + Episode Shadow, Super Mario Odyssey, and Cuphead!

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CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

 

Disney Buying Fox Might Not Be A Bad Thing

Disney Buying Fox Might Not Be A Bad Thing

Yesterday the movie news cycle was hit by a juggernaut of a reveal. Apparently, behind closed doors, Disney has been negotiating to buy 21st Century Fox. The motivations why are obvious. In recent years the House of Mouse picked up those itty bitty Star Wars and Marvel franchises and the last remaining fragments of both movie universes are still lingering over at Fox (oh and they also added Avatar to Disney World and guess which studio owns that). Obviously, Fox isn’t too keen to give up their big fish properties, so the logical solution for a massive multibillion-dollar organization like Disney is to just buy Fox outright and keep the spoils. And before you think it, yes there has subsequently been word released that this deal is no longer in negotiations. But hey, the last time something like this happened was when the Sony email leaks revealed information about a deal for Spider-man. It was immediately announced in the fallout that the deal was no longer happening and then guess what happened? This seems similar. A deal so big neither company wants it to be scrutinized by the press before completion. It’s likely still happening and it’s also likely not a bad thing.

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Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, and James Marsden in X-Men (2000) – image via 21st Century Fox

It almost goes without saying that the lynchpin to this whole deal is the fact that Fox still owns the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four universes, huge Marvel properties that aren’t under Disney control. Obviously, Marvel would like to have that back. Folding the X-Men and Deadpool into their big ol’ MCU sure would open up additional franchise possibilities that are too good to ignore (not to mention the fact that the Kevin Feige would undoubtedly be able to finally make a decent Fantastic Four movie, which Fox simply can’t seem to pull off). However, it also comes with a big caveat. In recent years, Fox has been willing to embrace R-rated superhero stories and in Deadpool and Logan delivered two massive hits that pushed the limits of the genre in intriguing ways. Obviously, R-rated adult entertainments aren’t exactly Disney’s specialty and if anything, could sour the reputation of the company’s “all family all the time” approach to entertainment. It’s a worry, yet not one worth getting too concerned over.

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Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool (2016) – image via 21st Century Fox

Here’s the thing, Disney buying Fox wouldn’t just be for the properties. They want the logo too. Fox is an established brand, one obviously willing to do more mature entertainment than anything that could appear with a Disney logo. It’s a lucrative market and one that Disney could continue to profit from. They could still make Fox movies for Fox audiences (including the semi-indie Fox Searchlight offshoot) funded by Disney with that parent logo nowhere in sight. If that sounds insane, well it’s not exactly new. Touchstone was a company that Disney created in the 80s entirely for that purpose and one that did well producing and releasing movies that Disney never would have touched under their typical brand like Alive, The Ref, Ed Wood, The Rock, Rushmore, and Starship Troopers. Fox could be operated the same way. They could be a division where Deadpool keeps being filthy, yet can also pull in characters like the Hulk or Iron Man to indulge in his deeply filthy ways. A place where a more mature and R-rated Logan style movie could be made out of other Marvel characters as well. It would actually be a boon for the entire MCU, providing an offshoot filled with new possibilities.

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Bruce Willis in Die Hard (1988) – image via 21st Century Fox

There’s another rationale for all this of course. Disney has made it quite clear that they want in on this Netflix streaming business and has plans to launch their own streaming platform. Obviously there’s more than enough content in the Disney vaults to justify this. But toss in the Fox vaults and suddenly they’ve also got the Alien, Predator, Avatar, Die Hard, Home Alone, and Planet of the Apes franchises to flaunt along with the rest of the lucrative Fox catalogue. More importantly, Fox still owns the distribution rights to the original 1977 Star Wars which Disney essentially has to lease out for any Star Wars box sets or streaming packages. This deal would take care of that and god-willing might allow for a long awaited reconstruction of the original theatrical release of the Star Wars flicks that fans have been whinging about for decades. So, there’s a substantial return on this “screw it, let’s just buy Fox” investment that would work out well for the big company and lead to some good viewing for audiences—it’s actually kind of an intriguing idea.

There is one big concern though. One of the wrinkles in the deal states that Disney can’t buy any of Fox’s television properties as they already own ABC and that would lead to a monopoly. Well fair enough. That’s understandable and I can see why Disney would have no interest in owning Fox News as well, that just makes sense. However, it’s odd to think that would be considered a monopoly while Disney swallowing up yet another film studio wouldn’t be. The fact of the matter is that with Paramount a shadow of its former self and MGM long gone, the number of movie studios is shrinking rapidly and it wouldn’t exactly be an exciting prospect to think that Disney might just own the entire film industry eventually. Like any film studio, Fox makes its share of crap. Yet, they are also a distinct entity of their own willing to take relative risks every year. Perhaps Disney would keep that mandate and collect the money and perhaps they wouldn’t. It’s tough to say.

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John Boyega and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015) – image via Disney

Regardless, aside from the number of massive corporations that control all aspects of our daily lives shrinking down to an even more terrifyingly small number, this merger might not be a bad thing. There are opportunities here. It’s almost worth embracing the Big Brother aspect of it all just for the sweet rewards of getting the original Star Wars edits in HD or getting to hear Captain America drop an f-bomb. Then again, I suppose that’s the exact type of deal with the devil required to inch our way towards that sci-fi dystopia we all know is inevitable. Sigh…this is a tough nut to crack. Entertainment over evil empire? Hmmm…how’d this debate end with the Internet again? Has Google changed its name to Skynet yet?


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Phil’s take on Blade Runner 2049, Happy Death Day, and It! He also had a chance to sit down with Guillermo Del Toro. Check out his interview here!

Want to see more videos? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and check out the First 15: Super Mario Odyssey,  The Evil Within 2, and Cuphead!

Don’t forget to tune in every Friday the Pixels & Ink Podcast to hear the latest news, previews, and in-depth game discussions!

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CGMagazine is Canada’s premiere comics and gaming magazine. Subscribe today to get the best of CGM delivered right to your door! Never miss when a new issue goes live by subscribing to our newsletter! Signing up gives you exclusive entry into our contest pool. Sign up once, you’ll have a chance to win! Sign up today!

Crafting A Morally Grey Star Wars Story: A Talk with EA Motive

Crafting A Morally Grey Star Wars Story: A Talk with EA Motive

The universe of Star Wars is vast and filled with countless stories. The simple concept that came about from A New Hope, has been expanded well beyond that story into something that many people now hold dear. It is a tale of a galaxy at war, about people stuck in the middle of everything. The team behind Star Wars Battlefront II are trying something different with this instalment of the series. They are taking the typical hero story and flipping it. The protagonist, Iden Versio, a loyal Imperial commander, must deal with her own views of the Empire, and find a way to confront the conflict she has between following her orders and the safety of her men on the ground. It is a much more human story then has been seen within Star Wars, and one that goes beyond what many imagined for a Battlefront sequel, especially considering the nonexistent story the first time around.

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Star Wars: Battlefront II – gameplay images via EA

In Montreal, at EA Motive, I had the pleasure of talking to Mark Thompson, the game director for Star Wars Battlefront II. In a brief yet informative conversation, we managed to dive into what helped shape this Star Wars tale, what aspects they could borrow from the universe, and how the team worked to build a morally grey story. One that went beyond the typical galactic conflict and focused on the troops on the ground, a human story that gives players a better idea of the motivations of the people fighting the battles.


CGM: I’m noticing you have that typical Hero’s Journey story line, but you’ve switched from the Rebels as the focal point to the Empire. Why did you feel a different perspective was the best way to tell the story of Battlefront II?

Mark Thompson: I don’t necessarily think it’s the best way to do it, it’s just about finding different voices to tell within the Star Wars Universe. We obviously wanted to create a different style and tone for this Battlefront story. That pushed us in the direction of the soldier’s story and making the scale of it a much more personal and more human—that was important for us.

To tell a story of the classic hero, somebody who is plucked from obscurity and eventually discovers they have this destiny, a power that they discover during their journey eventually changes the fate of the galaxy. I think that grand sweeping adventure is reserved for the main numbered films in Star Wars. Making a good soldier’s story is often just about the fate of the lives of troops on the front lines. The ones who have to deal with the fallout of what happens after the galactic epic battles. But as I see it the best soldier’s story does not happen to her, it happens around her. It’s kind of out of her control, and her job is to maintain composure and still be a leader running a squad and just get off the planet as everything literally crumbles around the people on the ground. So that makes it a slightly different perspective which is a much more grounded Star Wars experience.

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Star Wars: Battlefront II – gameplay images via EA

CGM: Was there ever a worry that you may alienate players by having them play on the site of the Empire?

Mark Thompson: No, I think anything you do, you want it to be interesting for the players. The worst that can happen is that you put passion and effort into creating something with hundreds of people just kind of like viewing it as expected and safe. Specifically for us it’s interesting, I think Rogue One kind of showed that Star Wars is more than just black and white. You know the big episodic numbered films, I think they are always and will always be black and white about their concepts of morality. You know the rebels sometimes did bad things for the good results. This story is not meant to re-educate people about the rebels representing good and the Empire representing bad. Iden knows that the empire did those bad things. What’s interesting is the idea that there are people in the Empire that maybe don’t agree with the Death Star. They maybe don’t think that the Death Star is the right path to peace.

In the movies you never really think like that. The Empire is much more interesting to humanize especially for the troops on the ground. You’ll see hundreds of troops, and they’re all faceless. So it’s interesting to take the helmet off and to meet the individuals. An individual has their own moral compass and they are their own souls. It is this concept I’ve shared them with an audience. I think it’s not about making people want to be part of the Empire, it’s more about empathy. it’s about understanding that there are individuals and they can have different opinions. Maybe some, like Iden, don’t think the first Death Star was the right thing for the Empire to do.

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Star Wars: Battlefront II – gameplay images via EA

CGM: I notice when you’re playing Battlefront II that the troops are going to have different voices and different personalities. Was that intentional to make every little soldier within that universe matter?

Mark Thompson: I think especially on Endor it was important that every storm trooper you meet feels like a person because that whole chapter reverses the power dynamic. Suddenly the Empire is fractured and weakened, and we are not used to seeing it like that. It was important that every storm trooper felt like there was a person inside. I think seeing Iden and the rest of the squad as people—getting to see how they talk and interact, especially when they’re on their own ship and then going down to Endor—it is clear that every soldier is a person, they have a life and there’s a reason they’re all down on this planet and fighting this war. That is much more powerful than the idea that they’re just legions and legions of faceless storm troopers.

CGM: While playing the game, I noticed that the people in command weren’t understanding the struggle of the people on the ground. Was this a major theme for Battlefront II?

Mark Thompson: For the Empire, the path to peace is through order and stability. Sometimes it doesn’t translate from the deck of a command vessel to the troops on the ground.  The stories that you get to experience within the game are from that “on the ground” experience. Much of the game and the multiplayer are shown in that perspective—usually from the troops on the ground in the midst of the action or a ship just above the action. These are soldiers, taking orders and doing the best they can in the situation.

Crafting A Morally Grey Star Wars Story: A Talk with EA Motive 3
Star Wars: Battlefront II – gameplay images via EA

CGM: There have been many games that start the story with you, the player, in the role of the Empire only to find redemption. During the development process of Battlefront II was there a worry of falling into the same sort of trap that has been seen in many games in the past?

Mark Thompson: I think what’s interesting is exploring how the Empire and the people in the Empire are different. I think that’s something that hasn’t really been done before, in terms of what we know from things like the Aftermath trilogy and what happened to the Empire and how it became a different thing without Emperor Palpatine. When the leader of the Empire dies and is replaced, things change. I guess it is more about that experience. How the Empire reacts and how it changes and how people in the Empire react to that change and what impact that has on that belief system.

CGM: There are countless stories, games, novels, and audiobooks that touch on what happens after The Return of the Jedi, did you draw any of that or did you start with a clean slate and think of what would happen while developing Battlefront II?

Mark Thompson: When we started developing, Aftermath was still being written. Because we worked collaboratively with the story group at Lucas Film, they helped steer us in the right direction, tell us what was coming up. Of course, everything written before the story group was formed, before Disney took over the Star Wars license, was moved into Legends, and that meant the actual timeline of actual Star Wars was kind of empty, a blank slate. But the story group is very aware of that stuff and we are starting to see things cherry picked from the extended universe, being welcomed back into the Star Wars timeline. Characters like Thrawn, part of the Timothy Zahn trilogy, are now being brought back into the authentic timeline. That trilogy was one of the few novels I read from the Star Wars universe, despite being a fan, because it carried on a story. But Thrawn is a fantastic character and it was great seeing him brought back in Rebels.

Crafting A Morally Grey Star Wars Story: A Talk with EA Motive 1
Star Wars: Battlefront II – gameplay images via EA

We’re always looking at things that have existed before, even small things like Iden’s command ship. In the movies there is nothing like it. There are Star Destroyers the size of Montreal, and you have TIE fighters that are the size of this room, and there is nothing in between. So we needed a mid-size staging vessel that could travel around the galaxy. We realized someone else has this same problem, the Fantasy Flight team, the people that worked on the Miniature game. They developed a mid-size ship known as the Raiden Corvette and we had a designer who played that game, and he had the model on his desk. We thought it would be perfect; it is small, it has a hyperdrive, it can carry a small squadron of TIE fighters, and has a little bridge, so it looks and feels like Star Wars. So we talked to Lucas Film about it, and they said, “yes let’s bring it back from extended universe into authentic”.

CGM: Thank you for taking the time to talk to CGMagazine.


Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more stories from Brendan Frye, such as the Future of Xbox One – an interview with Xbox Head of Operations, Dave McCarthy, and his interview with Destiny 2 Art Director, Jesse Van Dyke!

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Star Wars Battlefront 2 Preview: A Campaign Worthy of Vader

Star Wars Battlefront 2 Preview:  A Campaign Worthy of Vader

Back in 2015, Star Wars Battlefront was a title that had fans of Star Wars excited. It promised a return to the ground troop based combat we know and love and was a chance to show what EA could do with the Star Wars license. While Battlefront was well built and had a lot of promise, it lacked in a few areas, one of them being the story. This year EA and the new Motive Studios are crafting a full story, and if the first section is any indication, it will be engaging experience fans will enjoy.

Moving away from the virtuous hero, Star Wars Battlefront II puts you in control of Iden Versio, leader of Infernal Squad, an imperial Special Forces unit. You have been born and bred within the empire, and to you, it is your where your true loyalty is found. This is not a story of good vs. bad, but a story of soldiers, working for their cause and fighting for what they believe in.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 Preview: A Campaign Worthy of Vader 1
Star Wars Battlefront 2 – EA Games

The first thing you will notice as you boot up the game is the visuals. Battlefront was one of the best looking games to hit in 2015, and while Battlefront II may have some stiff competition this year, it is a truly stunning experience. Facial animation is up there with the best games this generation, and the landscapes and overall visual fidelity are staggering. From the corridors of spaceships to the forest moon of Endor, Star Wars Battlefront II is a treat for the eyes in every way possible.

Star Wars Battlefront II will take players through a vast array of mission types and locations. At the start, you (as Iden Versio) have let yourself get captured in order to sabotage intel the rebels have intercepted. This is the section of the game that gives the player the basic ideas of how the game is played, and features everything you would expect: some stealth segments, the ability to control a droid, and of course picking up and equipping guns and abilities.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 Preview: A Campaign Worthy of Vader 2
Star Wars Battlefront 2 – EA Games

When in these ship segments, the game devolves into a duck and cover corridor shooter. That is not to say it is bad but were it not for the Star Wars license, these segments could drag on a bit too long, at least early on in the game. That being said, once you move away from the ships and onto the planets things open up in the best possible way.

Moving onto Endor, you will get to experience what makes Star Wars Battlefront II so interesting. Lush forests mixed with a more open environment allow the Frostbite engine to really shine. While the game remains linear in these segments, it allows for a much wider style of play. You can opt to take things on from a distance, you can use abilities, and you can even run and gun—if you are so inclined.

It is after this first segment that the game begins to show what it has in store. Taking place during the same time the second Death Star is destroyed, Iden Versio must work to unite the troops on the planet and strike back even as everything seems to be crumbling around the Empire. It is a take that has not been done before and gives fans a look at the aftermath of The Return of the Jedi. What can the Empire do to maintain control, and what do the troops on the ground feel about these choices?  It is design idea that works well, and even with players playing as troops of the Empire, it manages to be a very human story.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 Preview: A Campaign Worthy of Vader 3
Star Wars Battlefront 2 – EA Games

Moving on through the game, we find the Empire on the run. As one of the small smattering of troops that remain on Endor, you must work to fight against the Rebel forces looking to stamp out the Empire. The paradigm shift makes for some unique gameplay opportunities and works to humanize the troops of the Empire early on. Every group of soldiers you fun into manages to feel distinctive as individuals, something I never thought I would say about a group of Storm Troopers. It works very well, and early on, helped me as the player step into Iden Versio’s shoes and understand what she stands for. She is a soldier and as such, she cares about every member of the Empire left on the planet.

Moving off the lush, vibrant woods of Endor to the debris scattered space to pilot a Tie-Fighter managed to be a haunting image. The wreckage of the once great Death Star fills the area, now just broken metal scattered around, thousands of lives lost. As you fly through what was once the greatest weapon the Galaxy had ever known, you learn a bit more about how the troops of the empire view the rebels.

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Star Wars Battlefront 2 – EA Games

Space combat is what you would hope from the Battlefront franchise—everything is fluid and easy to understand. While I will admit it was during this section that I had the most deaths, it was also some of the most fun I managed up to this point in the play session. From flying through debris to dogfighting, you will get a solid taste of what space combat has in store. These transitions from space to ground work to keep the variety as you play. Motive Studios has clearly spent time working to ensure the missions and overall story mode does not feel tacked on, and has the meat to justify playing.

From the first three missions of the game, Star Wars Battlefront II is shaping up to be a fun single player experience. There is enough variety that things should stay fresh through the 5-7 hour experience and the characters should carry players through until the credits roll. Building on an already great formula, Star Wars Battlefront II is shaping up to be better in every way then the 2015 instalment, although we will have to wait until the final release to say if the story of Iden Versio and her Infernal Squad is worth the price of admission.