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Star Wars: Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge — Last Call debuted in virtual reality this week on Facebook’s Oculus Quest.
ILMxLab (a division of Disney’s Lucasfilm) debuted the first game, Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge, in November. In that VR experience, players crash landed on the planet Batuu.
And in this second and final episode, players will encounter Dok-Ondar (a background character who first appeared in Solo: A Star Wars Story), who will send players on adventures in the Black Spire Outpost.
One of the fun things for fans is that the environment and characters will be familiar to Star Wars fans as they will notice the resemblance to the Galaxy’s Edge experience in the Disneyland and Disney World theme parks.
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I interviewed game director Jose Perez III, Ronman Yiu Yan Ng, lead lighting artist; and Raymond Chou, design lead of The Sacred Garden section. We talked about everything from the theme parks to porg pets.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: Can you tell me what your mission was with Last Call?
Jose Perez III: We were looking at the story we already started with Part One. We already knew where we were going with it, so it was just a matter of wrapping that story up. We’ve completed the droid repair-person story and added a bunch more tales. At the core of it we wanted to tell that story that goes from — this nobody who starts by shipping cargo parts, all the way to somebody who, even though not many people know about it, saved the day on Batuu and formed a little family in the course of that. They made some friends along the way, which I think is what Star Wars is all about. Friendship, adventure, a couple pew-pews, and lightsabers. But at the core of it, it was just to continue our expansion of Galaxy’s Edge and wrap up the story of the droid repairperson.
GamesBeat: How much crossover will people see with the Disney theme parks? Is there much of that here? Or is there more distance?
Perez III: No, there are quite a few really cool crossovers we have going on. One of the main ones is Dok Ondar, who’s actually an animatronic you can meet in Den of Antipodes in Galaxy’s Edge. He’s one of the characters that sends you off on one of your grand adventures, where you go to an ancient Jedi temple on Batuu. We also have Mubo, who owns Mubo’s Droid Depot, which is the droid depot that you find inside of Galaxy’s Edge. His story continues here as well. You get to spend some more time with him and his little buddy droid Ruby. We also have Hondo Ohnaka showing up. This is just flush with Galaxy’s Edge stuff. It’s everywhere.
Ronman Yiu Yan Ng: Part of the reason why I picked this backdrop is because it’s reminiscent of a view you can see out of the cantina, in terms of looking into Galaxy’s Edge and that world. We definitely used photo reference from Galaxy’s Edge to light the environment, especially the interior environments in the cantina and places like that.
What’s interesting, though, when you compare the two — in a theme park you usually have to keep things more lit, because you don’t want people to get lost. You have that theatrical lighting. But here we can move toward more cinematic lighting. That allowed us to create more ambiance. I thought that was a fun part of it. But it was definitely a great reference. We even have light fixtures that were sourced from Galaxy’s Edge as a starting point.
Raymond Chou: I haven’t been to the park yet, but I have seen photos of it. I played the whole game through in the last few days, and when I was in Sardeevem Chasm, where it just opens up, I was like, “Wow, this looks amazing.” I feel like this could totally be — if we were to build this VR experience out into the parks, that’s what it would be. It just looked gorgeous.
Perez III: We just need to get a big section of Anaheim to clear out so we can expand.
GamesBeat: It sounds like there had to be a lot of coordination over a pretty long time for this to happen.
Perez III: We were in constant communication with Scott Trowbridge, obviously, Matt Martin and the folks in the story group that are constantly working with the parks, keeping all of that together. That coordination went deep into–when you look at the window and you see there are actual scans of the parks that were taken. Dok Ondar himself is almost a 1-to-1 scan of the animatronic in the park. There’s a couple things we did when he’s walking around to adjust that a bit. But there’s a lot of different crossovers.
What was cool about it is that when we did get to expand out into making some of our own stuff, that flowed into it. Raymond got to do some of that in Hissiq Springs. That was the first place we brought it into. And then Legend 3, where you get to play as Ady, but older, doing all of that. Getting to expand out that story of a character that started on Batuu and then goes to other places was pretty cool.
Chou: We took off from the first tale, Temple of Darkness, and expanded it to the Sacred Garden with Ady. It was something that was more about the meditative side of the Force, a bit calmer, as opposed to the IG-88 tale, The Bounty of Boggs Triff. You had a yin and yang kind of aspect. What was fun about it was trying to come up with the new gameplay systems, fitting all those mini-puzzles around the different aspects of the Force. Also, the remote training. It was fun doing this character story between Ady and Nooa. Even though Ady is trying to teach Nooa the ways of the Force — balance, patience, and growth — she learns something herself as well.
Ng: One thing I didn’t realize until we were reviewing this stuff was that you could return to each of those different pavilions for additional waves of challenge. I played through it for lighting, so I’m just reviewing the lighting. Then I’m like, “Wait, there are seven more waves? I’m gonna die! This is tough!”
Chou: For completist gamers, we definitely added those cues to let you know there are extra waves if you want to try them all.
GamesBeat: There seems to be some finality, a notion that this is the end of the story. Have you talked about that?
Perez III: The way I think about it, obviously Seezelslak is a big part of the Star Wars universe now in my mind. He has a story that goes from before he arrived at Galaxy’s Edge and after Galaxy’s Edge. His tales will continue on in some form, for sure. But the droid repair-person, we feel like we’ve wrapped up that story. If we were to continue with the Tales stuff somewhere down the line in the future, we’d probably play with some other ideas and characters. But I love the structure we have there. Seezelslak is such a fun character, and I think the franchise is embracing him in a fun way. Hopefully, those tales can continue in all kinds of different ways moving forward.
Ng: I do feel like — in this experience you have adventures and tales, and you embody different characters as you go to different places. When you’re in the VR headset, that sort of transfer of reality from one character to another, after a while- – it’s a pretty deep experience for me. When I’m IG-88 on Nar Shaddaa, when I come out of that, I feel more invincible when I go through the adventures. Or when I go through a Legend and come back to the adventure, I’m thinking, where are my Force powers? I just want to move that rock with my hand! It’s interesting how in VR, with that presence, your realities cross over a little bit. I liked that about the concept we saw in The Last Jedi, with the little boy who grabs the broom. We have those kinds of props in there. It teases the Force in us, so to speak.
GamesBeat: What are some other things you hope will resonate with players in this version, or things where you want to see how players react?
Perez III: For us it’s fun to just watch people react to any of the stuff when they’re running around in there. We had a cool video that floated around recently about a little kid who had seen the trailer and was freaking out about it, running to record it, everything like that. Anything we’re doing that gets people excited is cool.
For me, what’s really cool about this is telling a story about that person who looks like they might not be the hero of the story, but they grow into that with the help of their friends and the people around them, taking down this huge evil empire. Leaning into that story was a lot of fun. But beyond that story, I love the anthology feel of all of this. I hope people understand at the end that this is a bunch of short stories wrapped in the container of a large story, and I hope they enjoy how that expands out to the parks and all that stuff.
Chou: On the adventure side, I love the new upgrades. The hover pack upgrade that lets you fly around, that makes you feel more like a bounty hunter, and it makes combat a lot more fun. I love the new medic gloves, which lets you heal — sometimes in the midst of battle, trying to fumble for that bacta spray gets really hard. Getting that just makes me feel powerful. And then especially the Sacred Garden tale. Just seeing how players react to the finale, trying to get that emotion out of the character and to the player, seeing how they react to it will be really interesting.
Ng: I’m also happy to see that, in terms of the characters we have, we’re bringing in a bit more gender diversity. That’s a nice point for me, just looking at stories that have woman superheroes. That’s a nice thing we can bring to the Star Wars world, more stories like that.
Perez III: Yeah, that’s something we’re constantly trying to do, making sure we’re pushing out and making the most real-looking cast of aliens and human characters we can get in there. We have a couple of characters I’m really proud of, like Lens Kamo, who’s our relic hunter. She’s fantastic. She’s awesome because she’s awesome. She has a cool robot leg. She’s this cool Indiana Jones kind of character. She has her flaws, but it was just fun to be able to play with a strong character like that.
GamesBeat: I guess with aliens, too, who’s to say there are only two genders?
Perez III: Yeah, yeah. In Star Wars, all the genders are there in all different ways. It’s a good thing.
GamesBeat: Do you know what your next mission is, what you’re moving on to? Do you plan to continue some of these interesting traditions you’ve built around the VR experiences?
Perez III: We’re excited to finally be able to deliver a kind of finale to Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge. We feel good about that. xLab is always doing a lot of things behind the scenes. Our future in virtual reality, augmented reality, location-based experiences is very bright at this point. This project specifically, getting to see just that little sprinkling of something that might not be in a lot of video games–we have a physical world that is there right now that you can go to, hang out in, eat churros and do all that stuff. And then that world expands in this VR thing, while the VR stuff we’re doing in Tales feeds back into the park. That’s really exciting. As we move forward in the future of xLab, I think it’s about continuing to find ways to break down boundaries and push things that maybe other companies might not have the appetite for. That’s why we’re here.
Ng: As we’re working — having worked on the Quest version of Vader Immortal, I feel like as we’ve been understanding the power of Quest to Quest 2, we’re figuring out how to get the most out of that device. When I compare season one to season two, there’s so much we’ve learned along the way. With these new devices, there’s a fair amount of investigation, but our productions — we’re very nimble. We move very quickly. Sometimes we can’t capitalize on discoveries in that moment. That’s why the DLC scheme has worked nicely for us. We’ve managed to pull more rabbits out of the hat for Last Call, especially from a looks point of view.
Chou: Taking all these experiences and learnings as the VR hardware gets better, our future progress will just be even more immersive. We’ll really be able to shine, to do more story living, as Vicki Beck likes to say. I’m excited for what xLab has in store for the future.
GamesBeat: It would be nice if people could play with Quest in the theme parks.
Perez III: There’s some really cool stuff starting to happen with things like that. It’s an interesting one. When you’re in the theme parks, you want to be there with your family hanging out and doing all that stuff. Making sure we could facilitate something that creates an experience for everyone that’s there would be a massive challenge, but that would be cool. We don’t have anything that we’re doing with Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge right at the moment, but it’s a cool idea for sure.
GamesBeat: Is there anything else you’d like to add today?
Perez III: The last thing I’d like to mention — we feel really good about this model. We’re excited about what we’ve been able to turn around in two years during a pandemic and how we’ve done it. It was really tricky. We did some work we’re proud of in here. We can’t wait for people to get hold of it and jump back in there. Also, we want to let people know we’re listening. We see the forums and read all the interviews and articles. We went in and did our best to make adjustments and try to give people the best Star Wars experience we possibly could. Like I always say, it’s an honor to get to work in this galaxy at all. Hopefully people enjoy it and we can continue to do more of this.
Ng: The characterizations, some of the characters we encounter in this experience — after you spend a few hours in there, they just stay with you. With Seezelslak and Mubo — like, I want Mubo as my friend. It’s interesting, though, because we experience this for a two-year cycle. I’m in the headset every day. I start realizing that — oh, yeah, I wouldn’t mind an AR companion like this. It just leans into the familiarity. It’s a lot of fun.
Chou: I definitely want a porg pet, after seeing Seezelslak and all those porg shenanigans hanging around. It’s awesome. On top of everything they said, this time around I think we added a lot more content. It feels like it’s almost twice the amount of content in the same amount of time. It’s a great deal, and it’s going to be a good game.
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