One of the highlights of the GameCube library — a launch title no less — was Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II, a wonderful sequel to the Nintendo 64 original that dazzled with high-end graphics. For fans of the films that wanted to immerse themselves in the action and go all Luke Skywalker, it was an exciting and must-have game.
Factor 5 was the developer — though is now out of business — and one of its former employees has spoken about some of the projects he worked on, including the much-loved GameCube Rogue Squadron titles. This is what Albert Chen told notenoughshaders.com about the design philosophy behind the 'Cube launch title.
I think the number one thing that will make or break your game is whether you have a laser-focus on what game you’re building.
For SW: RS2, we completed development in about 9 months, in time for the Nintendo Gamecube launch. If you look carefully at RS2, the game mechanics were mere refinements over the original. What took the greatest leap was the graphics which really pushed the Gamecube hardware. We also anchored the game’s story and levels to the classic Star Wars trilogy so everyone knew exactly what the game was going to be like. Lastly, our mantra throughout development was “fantasy fulfillment”. If what you were working on didn’t support or make you feel what you felt when you watched the classic trilogy movies, you were working on the wrong thing. All theses elements helped the team focus its efforts on giving fans the truest Star Wars experience in a video game.
Chen also discussed the scripting of levels for both GameCube titles with some tech speak, which is potentially interesting for any budding programmers.
At Factor 5, we used a level editor called L3Dedit which was a proprietary level editor from LucasArts. It evolved over time as we added new functionality to it for each title we worked on. In the original RS, moving objects were stuck on splines which were not rendered in game. That means that all the spacecraft and vehicles were running on tracks and their movement was controlled by adjusting elaborate spline networks.
During RS2, we were able to attach objects onto splines and then script them to leave and use a free-roaming AI. By the time we got to RS3, we were using mostly free-roaming AI and splines were relegated to situations where the designer wanted pinpoint control of a level object’s movement.
For RS2, we used the major movie battles as narrative anchors and graphical set pieces for the main campaign. I worked on the attack on the first Death Star which was the first level in the game and the space portion of the Battle of Endor which came near the end. The Death Star Trench run was my homage to the classic Star Wars vector graphics arcade game. The physical obstacles and the crazy speed in the trench added to the tension and excitement that replicated the feeling you got when you saw that sequence in the theater.
For the Battle of Endor, I really wanted the player to relive the entire sequence so the beginning of that level is fully interactive instead of a cutscene. I used the Millennium Falcon as a visual cue for the player to follow until Admiral Ackbar says “It’s a Trap!”. The Falcon and all the big Rebel capital ships were on splines which had a U-turn. That’s how I was able to get all the Rebel ships turning around in perfect formation. I also threw in the maximum number of spacecraft the game engine could handle because I really wanted the player to feel the epic scope of the battle.
During RS3′s development, we knew that we had to add some new things to the sequel so that’s where the ground vehicle and character combat came in. The character combat borrowed cinematic camera work from the “Devil May Cry” series while the shooting mechanic came from twin joystick arcade shooters such as Robotron and Smash TV. The problem with the character combat was that the mechanic didn’t jive with the Star Wars universe. You never saw Luke mow down a thousand stormtroopers with his blaster. Also, the twin stick shooting controls didn’t really work well with a cinematic camera which frustrated players.
Talking of fantasy fulfilment, the prospects of the GameCube titles appearing on a Wii U Virtual Console were raised, but it was the suggestion of a 3DS remake that particularly appealed to Chen.
Absolutely! I would love to have a whole new generation of gamers play the games that we worked so hard on. I’d love to see a 3D version of RS2 on the 3DS. How cool would that be?!!!!!
Sometimes exclamation marks are over-used, but in this case we think it's fair enough. Did you enjoy the Rogue Squadron titles, and would you like the debut GameCube entry to get the 3DS remake treatment?