We interviewed the development team that gave us Lego Star Wars I and II, and who are currently working on Lego Indiana Jones. They also make video games.
To kick things off, who are you, and what's your position at Traveller's Tales/TT Games? (nothing personal, I ask everyone I meet this question. Even people who don't work at TT)
My name is Richard Earl and I look after the marketing side of things here at TT Games.
It's now been just over two years since the first Lego Star Wars hit the shops. Not a long time ago (tempted to make a SW reference there, but I resisted) really. How did it all begin? Did you think of the game and then went for the licence, did Lego offer it to you, or what?
It essentially all began with the closing down of LEGO Interactive – TT Games (formerly Giant Entertainment) was the phoenix that rose from the ashes. The LEGO Star Wars game was already in the very early stages of development at this point. We were then able to continue working with Traveller's to complete the game when the new company was established.
The game came about once the LEGO Star Wars play materials had come out. At that point it was suggested that there could be a great game to be made within a LEGO Star Wars universe. The rest is history.
How were LucasArts involved with the title, if at all?
Lucas were very supportive with the first title. If we had any questions regarding characters or story timelines, they were always on hand to help.
Have you played any of LucasArts' classic games, like Monkey Island? If so, did they have any influence on you as games developers, particularly when making Lego Star Wars?
Not especially as we were creating a fun game aimed at young gamers. The classic LucasArts games are fantastic in their own right, but they offer an entirely different experience to what we were going for with LSW.
How did the decision not to use voice-acting come about? Or was it always that way? Did the humour come naturally too?
For us it was a fairly simple decision. We were working with a story that was so well known that to have voices wasn't necessary. We were also lucky to be working with some fantastically creative guys on the dev team who could inject so much expression into the characters, without the need for voices. The humour came fairly naturally as straight from the off you have these tiny little versions of all the classic Star Wars characters, which is funny in it's own right. Then we were just able to tweak iconic scenes from the movies to add the element of humour.
When did you realise it was a hit and you'd have the opportunity to do The Original Trilogy?
We had a massive article in Edge magazine in the UK which helped lead the campaign and meant people began to take notice of the game. Until we started to see how well the game was selling, we didn't know for sure how it would do. In the end the success of the game surpassed everyone's expectations.
Why The Original Trilogy and not 'The Classic Trilogy', which is what LucasFilm usually prefer?
I believe both titles were discussed, but they are 'the original'.
You seemed to address many criticisms of the first game, such as length, replayability, and difficulty, and yet still managed to keep the no-lives aspect that made the first both easy and fun. How did you guys get the balance (of the Force) right?
Once again, this harks back to working with such a great dev team. As with all developers before the first game goes out of the door they know what improvements they'd like to do with a follow up. The 'never dying' aspect is very important to us as we are making games for young gamers that we won't them to enjoy and have a giggle playing.
Which do you prefer out of the two games – or the two trilogies?
Personally, as I grew up with the original trilogy, they are my favourite.
Heh, no one ever says 'Prequels'. Both games have won a lot of awards now (most recently 'Game of 2006' from SFX magazine readers). Were you (or are you still) surprised that a Lego game managed to get so accepted by adults as well as kids? Are you very proud?
We are all incredibly proud. It was a great moment for everyone when we won the BAFTA for Best Gameplay at the BAFTA video game awards last year. I think the game has such a broad appeal as big kids (i.e. adults) know Star Wars and LEGO mini-figures from their childhood, so to see them come alive in their own universe is something they can connect with. The game is also just a joy to play or even watch. Many people who'd normally steer clear of video games tell us how they've enjoyed playing the game with their children or nieces and nephews – that's probably the most satisfying feedback we get.
On to The Complete Saga. How did that come about? It was a bit of a surprise announcement.
We wanted to offer the great experience of the first two games to those owners of the next gen consoles. We were also able to build a brand new DS game from the ground up, really making use of the unique functions of that machine.
What changes will you be making? Will you be updating the Episode III section now that you've seen the film? Will there be a Yoda Vs Emperor fight? (pretty please...)
We have a couple of 'lost' levels which are now in the game. There is Anakin's flight from the end of Episode I and the bounty hunter pursuit from the beginning of Episode II. We've also been able to add some new characters (I believe there's now around 160 in total!) as well as a lot of new bonus levels.
The DS game is entirely built from scratch. It's looking fantastic and gives a complete LEGO Star Wars experience on the small screen. We've incorporated the touch-screen into the gameplay as well as having some DS exclusive bonus mini-games.
Still crossing my fingers for that Yoda fight... now then, The Complete Saga is the first in the series to reach the Wii. Will you be taking advantage of the Wii's motion controls... maybe even for (gasp) motion controlled lightsabers?!
Yes! We're very excited as this will be the first game that enables the player to swish the wii-mote around as if they were a Jedi. There are also a few other functions that you can activate with the wii-mote to give a very energetic and fun gameplay experience.
Would you describe Traveller's Tales as quite a big developer?
It's the leading independent developer in the UK!
Okay, that's a yes! Even for a big developer, you've certainly got quite a lot on your schedule right now! Lego Batman, Transformers and now you've suddenly added another Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones to the mix! Even LucasArts doesn't have that many! How do you cope with such major licenses?
With a mixture of hard work and a very dedicated and talented team.
After the rumours that you were working on a new Lego game started, a lot of people put money on Lego Indiana Jones being the next Lego/LucasArts game from TT Games.
You may have seen the recent announcement from LEGO and us concerning the LEGO Indy toys for 2008 as well as the game...
Although I was personally hoping for Lego Willow...
Funnily enough I watched this only recently and began to think the same thing. However, as we are making games for young gamers (rather than those young at heart) we have to make sure we work with properties that children are familiar with.
Well, we old kids can dream. Can you tell us anything about Lego Batman yet? Will it be similar to the LSW games? Will it have voice acting?
You'll be able to find out more about this later in the year.
Rats. Fair enough. Right, I had about a thousand more questions, but I think that's waaaay more than enough already! Thanks so much for your time and we're all eagerly awaiting all of your upcoming games!