Updated 11:38 p.m. Pacific on Sunday: GamesBeat incorrectly said that EA introduced Star Wars: Uprising. We have corrected the error.
When Lucasfilm introduced Star Wars: Uprising, some fans cringed when the name Kabam came up.
Among most gamers, the online and mobile game studio doesn’t have the reputation of a BioWare or Obsidian when it comes to the cherished franchise. But the company’s role-playing game studio, Kabam RPG, has taken a smart approach to becoming one of the first to add to Star Wars’ new post-Return of the Jedi canon: hiring some of the Extended Universe’s seasoned veterans. It’s a smart move in the $30 billion mobile gaming industry, one that shows how important this release is for Kabam. And by allowing a mobile publisher to create a part of Star Wars’ new canon, it’s a sign of trust from Lucasfilm and the importance of gaming on smart devices.
“It’s extremely exciting. Being the first canon thing that was worked on at all post-Jedi was a huge opportunity,” said Daniel Erickson, the director of Star Wars: Uprising. “The respect and sort of trust that it shows from Lucasfilm that hey, we’re going to let this come out as in a game format, says a lot about what we’re trying to do with it and, obviously, the talent we brought in to do it.”
Uprising joins Star Wars: Aftermath (which came out Friday) as the first two stories that begin to tell what happens between the original trilogy and this winter’s upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the new film set about 30 years after Jedi. Uprising releases Thursday for iOS and Android. It’s a story about what happens “in the places we love in The Empire Strikes Back,” Erickson said.
“[Uprising and Aftermath] sort of button. There are things that overlap,” Erikson. “We had some pretty serious discussions with some of the canon characters and where they were and when they were. Lucasfilm brings everyone together very well. We have a little timeline and pow-wows.”
This isn’t Erickson’s first Star Wars rodeo. He was the original lead writer and later a creative director for Star Wars: The Old Republic. While it never became a World of Warcraft killer, developer BioWare Austin’s game continues to be a bright spot for storytelling in massively multiplayer role-playing.
The process this time around, Erickson said, is that why Lucasfilm still gives freedom for others to “put their stamp” on Star Wars, it pays far more attention to how it all fits together in the continuity than in the old Expanded Universe (now known as “Legends”).
“They keep a much tighter control than they used to on making sure everything connects to everything else,” Erickson said. “All of the original pitch came from us. … Lucasflim came back and then said, ‘Are you aware of the following 700 things.’ And then we started putting the connections together.
“In the early days, we were not interconnected with other parts of Star Wars lore because those parts had not yet been determined. There was still enough stuff in flux about the new movie, about the new books, etc. As all of the various parts of, let’s say, everything surrounding this between [Jedi] and [The Force Awakens] period became more concrete, we would go and make sure we connected those dots and pulled the web together.”
Along with a number of game developers who have worked at the defunct LucasArts at one time or another, Kabam RPG has also hired folks who have written in the EU. Alex Freed worked at BioWare and wrote a Star Wars comics that Dark Horse published, including Star Wars: Purge’s — Tryant’s Fist, which showcases Darth Vader. He’s now working on Star Wars novels for Lucasfilm.
“Combined, we’ve got a good decade-plus of hardcore EU experience,” Erickson said. “And on top of that, we’ve got a bunch of people that are a bunch of ex-LucasArts.”
Star Wars: Uprising also has a luminary from The Clone Wars working on it: Danny Keller, who was a storyboard artist and later an episode director for the series from Season Four and beyond. He’s the head of animation for this mobile game.
“We’ve got a lot of Star Wars experience,” Erickson said.
But this time, that experience feels different.
“Oh, my god, yes. Hugely, hugely,” Erikson said. “This is moving to the major leagues. Sitting down at the table, creating new canon, creating the next chapter of Star Wars is hugely different. The EU stuff is fantastic and really fun to do, but it’s not the same thing.
“Playing in history isn’t the same thing as making history.”
Especially if any of Uprising appears at the new Star Wars land at Disneyland.