We ask all the important questions to Julian Eggebrecht of Factor 5, and he gives us some very interesting answers.
Every Nintendo fan is well acquainted with the Rogue Squadron series. Factor 5's undeniable technical prowess has impressed the gaming world with each new game. We talked with the developer's front man, Julian Eggebrecht, to find out what Rebel Strike brings to the table as the third game in this popular franchise.
Planet GameCube: What is your role in Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike's development?
Julian Eggebrecht: I am the director of the project.
PGC: We know that LucasArts and Factor 5 work very closely on the Rogue Squadron games. How does the level of cooperation for Rebel Strike compare to that for the previous games?
JE: We worked closely together on the first one for the N64 because the teams were shared between the companies. Since Rogue Leader the design and development for the Rogue series is being done at Factor 5. On Rebel Strike, Factor 5 is responsible all of the development and design aspects while LucasArts is responsible for the Quality Assurance, Voice recordings, and all of the publishing activities such as Marketing, PR, etc… We have always worked closely together, something very easy due to the close proximity of the companies. Brett Tosti, the producer for almost all of our LucasArts games has been a member of the family for almost 9 years. So Brett and the team know very well how to communicate and how to make the production process as smooth as possible. We certainly have an advantage over teams who work with LucasArts for the first time because we simply know how things get done over there. They know our quirks, too.
PGC: How much work is put into fact-checking to make sure the games mesh perfectly with the Star Wars universe?
JE: Quite a lot. For the sequences taken directly from the movies we watch our reference copies over and over to get as many things as possible right. That’s the easy part. The tough one is to make no mistakes with the original elements of the story. Since they do weave in and out of the movies, these original elements get scrutinized by Lucasfilm Licensing, LucasArts, and our resident Star Wars experts.
PGC: Are there missions that let you fly around in one vehicle, land it and run over to another vehicle, and take off again?
JE: There is a mission in which you get out of an AT-ST, run to an AT-AT and capture that. Then there is “Marooned on Geonosis”, a mission in which Wedge has an unexpected encounter over Geonosis, crashes, fights remnants of the battle from Episode 2 and gets out of there in a flight craft.
PGC: We've heard that one of the new vehicles is a new TIE model. Will Luke or Wedge be hijacking it, or are we going to be able to play as an Imperial character?
JE: The rebels hijack one and Wedge uses it as a Trojan horse to make it into a space dock above the planet Fondor to attack a Super Star Destroyer, which is under construction there. This is briefly before the Battle of Endor and the rebels want to prevent this SDD from taking part in the battle.
PGC: What graphical effects are being implemented in Rebel Strike that we haven't seen before in Rogue Leader?
JE: We have a much more detailed landscape engine, which was really needed for the ground levels. On top of the pure ground, though, we also came up with a completely new outdoor lighting technique. In very simple terms, we are simulating how light gets bounced around in the atmosphere as it hits dust, the ground, and other bits in the atmosphere. This so-called light scattering gives our outdoor levels a big jump in visual realism. We are using it also for the co-op Rogue Leader levels set in atmospheres and they look so much better. Bespin is quite a stunner and finally looks close to the movie shots. We were never happy with the way Bespin turned out in Rogue Leader. Another landscape detail that did get addressed is the water. In Rogue Leader we used a simple texture, but this time we are simulating water physics and applying these in realtime with complex shaders.
Our indoor-engine also has nifty tricks up its sleeve: We simulate glows in a much more movie-like fashion, and we have quite accurate shadow-casting. One very cool detail is real-time IK (Editor’s note: Inverse Kinematics are a way to generate character animation.), which enables the main characters to step realistically onto anything on the ground – dead stormtroopers, for example. It just kicks out one more of the annoying non-realistic video game stereotypes of characters not taking steps correctly and other details in the environment.
Finally – of course we think our forest and vegetation engine is quite nice. Endor was the first thing we tackled and everybody was surprised with what we were able to squeeze out of the GameCube.
PGC: What is the plan for Rebel Strike's level of difficulty, and how will it compare to other games in the series?
JE: We heard the criticism and we are doing everything to make it easier. The QA team from LucasArts is very focused on that aspect.
PGC: Are there any plans for GBA connectivity or a LAN feature?
JE: If you plug-in your AGB you will get the wingmen-command-cross displayed and functional on there – so for VS. battles, you can give commands to your wingmen without the opponent seeing what command was issued.
As for LAN: Sorry, not this time. The R&D effort for real online support would have been too big for this one.
PGC: Will the missions from Rogue Leader be playable only in cooperative mode, or can you also play through them by yourself? Will they be included on a separate disc?
JE: We will have the whole game, including the Rogue Leader missions, on one disc. And that does also include 30 minutes of DVD-quality movies in our proprietary DivX format. Rebel Strike is the first opportunity for Star Wars fans to see many favorite scenes from the original trilogy in a digital video format, and it makes the wait for the DVDs certainly tougher.
The Rogue Leader missions are only included as a co-op campaign. For single player, you have to pop in your Rogue Leader disc.
PGC: How do the graphics and gameplay balancing for the cooperative missions compare to the original Rogue Leader missions? Can you give us a few specific examples of things that have been tweaked?
JE: Almost all missions have been tweaked for the co-op gameplay. Just two examples: In Bespin, both players are well served to take out separate energy generators at the same time, otherwise the time limit will kill them. In Razor Rendezvous we have an A-Wing as the wingman to the B-Wing. As you know an A-Wing shouldn’t attack a Star Destroyer, so that player can really focus on protecting the frigate.
PGC: What's the current plan for the other multiplayer modes, like deathmatch? How many players will they support, and will they take place in environments from the story mode or specially-made levels?
JE: We have a lot of neat VS. levels, be it dogfighting, rampage, or even a complex tag-and-defend system. We did pick environments from Rogue Leader because those landscapes were very well suited for VS. gameplay.
PGC: Will Denis Lawson return as the voice of Wedge Antilles?
JE: No, not this time.
PGC: Looking beyond Rebel Strike, is Factor 5 being considered for another game based on the new trilogy?
JE: We are talking to LucasArts a lot about future efforts and nothing is set in stone. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see more games from us and LucasArts, though.
PGC: Would you consider ever taking the Rogue Squadron series into the expanded Star Wars universe, as in the events that take place in the official books, comics, etc.?
JE: Rogue Squadron is a lot about fantasy fulfillment, taking plots and scenes from the movies and turning them into accessible interactive missions. But that alone of course does not fill a whole game and the same way Rogue Squadron had an almost completely original storyline, we have a lot of new content in Rogue Leader and Rebel Strike, too. I don’t think we would jump into the Old Republic timeframe, but one should never say never.
PGC: Just to set the record straight once and for all...can you shoot Ewoks? Is there any penalty for doing so?
JE: Ewoks? Why would you want to shoot them? They are so cute… Let me put it this way: If you could shoot them I am sure it is a bug and not an intended feature.
PGC: Thank you very much for your time!