Game

The making of Star Wars Episode 1: Racer – How a sneak peek at prototype podracers inspired this memorable Star Wars racing game

To some extent, game design is constantly changing. But the dramatic shift from sprite-based gaming to polygonal gaming in the late 90s required a re-imagining of the way games were made. Naturally, many early 3D production teams relied heavily on proven designs based on motion graphics. And as former Lucasarts designer Jon Knoles admits, the N64 launch title Shadows Of The Empire was an example of that.

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After deciding to split the project’s release date with the upcoming Star Wars prequel, Jon and the project leads were given a handful of experts from Lucasarts to help meet the strict deadline. “Three members of the Shadows management team stayed together: me, Eric Johnston and Mark Blattel, and our producer, Brett Tosti. We were a pretty small team by today’s standards; something like 25- 30 at the top We needed people with special skills in real-time 3D, and as we are a high priority project with a very tight deadline – it had to come out with the film – we got everyone we needed .”

build something out of nothing

“Initially, the pod racers all looked the same: they each had an egg-shaped pod pulled by two large jet aircraft engines. They were all piloted by human pilots, the youngest of whom was a young Anakin. Each of these concepts had unique body shapes and color combinations, and each vehicle we’ve seen evolve into visually distinct vehicles with an equally diverse array of foreign drivers to fit in. I think there are 24 podiatrists and drivers in the movie, and the three of us at Lucasarts built them all to varying levels of detail to support the N64. Also, one by Jim Rice and one by Clint Young” We’ve added a few of our own designed pilots and Jin Reeso and Cy Yunga – see what we did there? These were only accessible when you entered special codes.”

Along with new characters, Jon wanted the racing game designed with the help of renowned concept artist Peter Chan to include new worlds. “We had a lot of concept art to reference the Tatooine race seen in the film, but we wanted to take the cast on a colorful tour of the galaxy. We were given a lot of freedom and invented the planets just for the game. Many Star Wars planets are one and the same: lava planet, ice planet, rock planet, jungle moon… We have continued this trend, even though Baroonda has a lot more variety: some Tibetan, some Dagobah, some Mayan ruins – all on one planet.

Jon Knoles

Beyond designing the pod racers, their riders, and the worlds they will race in, Jon used trial, error, and testing to come up with the courses that would define the Lucasarts racing game. “The three of us designed it on paper – then prototyped and built it – the final artwork of the game’s 20 pieces. I built the Tatooine and Baroonda pieces, while Duncan Brown and Jacob Stephens designed and built the rest with additional level art. Supplied by Lucasfilm, I had a top to bottom sketch of the Tatooine “Boonta Eve Classic” race course and used that track as inspiration and reference during its in-game creation – our first test track. I tried building it to scale and found it took around 15 minutes to complete a single lap – even at speeds of 400mph! It was too big for our game engine, not to mention fun gameplay, so I scaled it down significantly, then expanded it accordingly. Had a great ‘ah-ha’ time trying to recreate a grand canyon jump. The testers had a lot of fun seeing how far they could fly and t they asked us if we could do bigger jumps. We were making big holes in the ground and doing crazy jumps.

While Jon oversaw the design and visuals of the Star Wars pilot, the other project lead – coder Eric Johnston – focused on realizing these components in an evolving Shadows game engine, a goal that Eric explained in just two words. “There was only one objective: to go fast! As you can tell by just looking at the vehicles, everything else was secondary – the first prototype was a cylinder with no speed limit. It was unclear how this would translate to gameplay, but “go fast” was used as a punctuation mark in many conversations.

And since the game’s hyper-fast vehicles will be driven forward by huge left and right engines attached to their “cockpits”, Eric turned the walking dog into a pod racing simulation to help study physics. “I was living in Half Moon Bay at the time – south of San Francisco on the beach – and I had two yellow dogs named Abacus and Tangent. We had two climbing rope harnesses and leashes and a kick board. wheels. Top speed was always reached on a trip to the beach. The cars in Half Moon Bay aren’t that fast but we were always faster. Officially I don’t recommend it!”

struggle with a motorcycle

Other improvements have been made, including a fully 3D RPG-inspired shop that Jon attributes to feature creep, where race earnings can be used to purchase parts to upgrade pod racers. “Wato’s flea market was a really cool, well-developed setting to add depth using RPG-light mechanics. Curiously, we had no intention of using a fully interactive 3D interface until the development stage. I’m really glad we did that. It was much more immersive and fun between races.

When it comes to in-game runner power-ups, Jon took inspiration from Lucasfilm’s Star Wars prequel, which provided access to sustained speed boosts at the risk of pod runners exploding. “As bizarre as it may seem, we didn’t like the idea of ​​enriching the course with moving power-ups. We wanted to be as authentic to the film as possible, even given the graphical limitations of the N64. We agreed it would take a load mechanic to use the boost – otherwise you’d have been using it all the time, but since Anakin’s mechanic repair skills are such a big part of the racing scene, we wanted to play with this idea. being able to push your car beyond its limits and then fix it instantly.

In addition to influencing the pod racer boosts, Lucasfilm’s prequel – Star Wars: Episode I – also gave Lucasarts’ racing game its name, though Jon and his crew didn’t quite get the hang of it. title they were hoping for. “The game was going to be called Star Wars: Episode I Podracer. Unfortunately, at the time, there was another sci-fi racing game called Planet Of Death – or simply POD in North America – published by Ubisoft. They trademarked the word “pod” in any form of interactive entertainment. We weren’t allowed to use titles for games that contained the word “pod”. We ultimately settled on Star Wars: Episode I Racer because it was succinct.”

think about liberation

And if anything, Episode I Racer was a bigger commercial success than a critical success, and beat out the competition to become the world’s best-selling sci-fi racing game, even though Eric Johnston got away with it. remembered as nothing more than a tribute to rival racers. “We loved F-Zero and WipEout. Development teams were small back then, and playing someone else’s game was like talking to developers. You should see how they fix the issues you gave up on.

Now, when asked about his thoughts on the Star Wars racing game, Eric expresses his nostalgia for Racer’s development environment and his pride in co-creating the game. The source code and development teams were small but about to start growing. It was greeted by the public who were excited to step on the gas and enjoy some impossible vehicle antics. I am proud to be part of it. »

Jon Knoles’ final words on the runner explain the paradox of how the game sacrifices speed while at the same time ensuring much of its enduring appeal through high speed. “At over 400 miles per hour, it’s hard to mimic the kind of door-to-door action people expect from a great racing game. That’s why we’re focused on fulfilling the fantasy of speed through alien landscapes. I think that sense of speed and on-track combat and the strategic use of boost mechanics added to a fun game. Of all the movie-based games I’ve worked on , that was one of the highlights.”

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The making of Star Wars Episode 1: Racer – How a sneak peek at prototype podracers inspired this memorable Star Wars racing game

To some extent, game design is in constant flux. But the dramatic shift from sprite-based to polygonal gaming in the late ’90s required the way games were designed to be all but reinvented. Understandably, many early 3D production teams relied overly on designs proven by sprite-based gaming. And as former Lucasarts designer Jon Knoles concedes, the N64 launch title Shadows Of The Empire was one such example. 
Subscribe to Retro Gamer

Following a decision that the project would share its release date with the forthcoming Star Wars prequel, Jon and his fellow project leaders were given their pick of Lucasarts specialists to help meet the strict deadline. “Three of the Shadows core leadership team remained together: myself, Eric Johnston, and Mark Blattel, as well as our producer Brett Tosti. We were a pretty small team by today’s standards; something like 25-30 at peak. We needed people with specific skills in real-time 3D, and because we were a high-priority project that had a very hard deadline – it had to come out with the movie – we did get everyone we needed.”
Building something from nothing

“Originally, the podracers all looked the same: each had an egg-shaped pod pulled by two massive jet airplane engines. All were driven by human pilots, the youngest of which was a teenage Anakin. We watched these concepts evolve into visually-distinct vehicles, each with unique silhouettes and colour schemes, and equally diverse alien drivers to match each vehicle. I think there were 24 podracers and drivers in the movie, and three of us at Lucasarts built all of them in various levels of detail to support the N64. We also added a couple of our own, one designed by Jim Rice, the other by Clint Young, as well as their drivers Jin Reeso and Cy Yunga – see what we did there? These were only accessible if you entered special codes.”
As well as new characters, Jon wanted his racing game to feature new worlds, which were devised with the help of noted concept artist Peter Chan. “We had plenty of conceptual art to serve as reference for the Tatooine race seen in the film, but wanted to take players on a colourful tour of the whole galaxy. We enjoyed a good deal of freedom, and invented planets purely for the game. Many Star Wars planets are all one thing: lava planet, ice planet, rock planet, forest moon… Well, we continued that trend, although Baroonda had a lot more variety: a little bit of Tibet, a little Dagobah, a little Mayan ruins – all on one planet.”

Jon Knoles

Beyond designing podracers, their drivers and the worlds they would race on, Jon also employed trial, error and testing in order to deliver the courses that would define his Lucasarts racing game. “Three of us designed on paper – then prototyped and built – final art for all 20-something tracks in the game. I built the Tatooine and Baroonda tracks, while Duncan Brown and Jacob Stephens designed and built the rest, with additional level art support. There was one top-down sketch of the Tatooine ‘Boonta Eve Classic’ race course provided by Lucasfilm, which I used as inspiration and reference when building that track in-game – our first test track. I attempted to build it to scale and discovered it would take nearly 15 minutes to complete a single lap – even at speeds of 400mph! That was too big for our game engine, let alone for fun gameplay. So I reduced it considerably, then widened it accordingly. A great ‘ah-ha’ moment happened when trying to recreate a big canyon jump. The testers were having a blast seeing how far they could fly, and asked us if we could make the jumps bigger. Before you knew it, we were cutting big holes in every track and making crazy jumps.”
While Jon managed the design and visuals of the Star Wars racer, fellow project leader – coder Eric Johnston – focused on bringing these components to life within an evolving Shadows’ game engine, a goal Eric describes with just two words. “There was exactly one objective: go fast! Everything else was secondary, as you can tell from just looking at the vehicles – the initial prototype was a cylinder with no speed limit. It wasn’t clear how it might translate into gameplay, but ‘go fast’ was used like punctuation in many conversations.”
And because the game’s hyper-fast vehicles were to be dragged forwards by massive left and right engines tethered to their ‘cockpits’, Eric turned dog walking into podracer simulation in order to help him work out the physics. “I lived in Half Moon Bay at the time – on the coast, south of San Francisco – and had two yellow retrievers, named Abacus and Tangent. We had two harnesses and leashes made of climbing rope, and a skateboard. Maximum speed was always achieved while travelling toward the beach. The cars in Half Moon Bay aren’t that fast, but we were always faster. Officially, I don’t recommend this!”
Wrestling with the engine

Further enhancements followed, including a fully-3D, RPG-inspired shop where race winnings could be used to buy parts to improve podracers, which Jon attributes to feature-creep. “Watto’s junk shop was just a really cool, well-developed set-piece to add depth using RPG- light mechanics. Funny thing is, we had no intention of using a fully-interactive 3D interface until pretty far into development. I’m really glad we did that. It was much more immersive and fun between races.”
In terms of the racer’s in-game power-ups, Jon looked to Lucasfilm’s Star Wars prequel for inspiration, which resulted in constant access to speed-boosts at the risk of blowing up podracers. “As odd as it sounds, we didn’t like the idea of peppering the course with floating power-ups. We wanted to be as authentic to the film as we could, even given the graphical limitations of the N64. We did agree there had to be a recharge mechanic for using the boost – or you’d just use it all the time, but because Anakin’s mechanical repair skills were a big part of the race scene, we wanted to play around with that idea of pushing your vehicle beyond its limits, then being able to fix it on the fly.”
In addition to influencing podracer power-ups, Lucasfilm’s prequel movie – Star Wars: Episode I – also lent its name to Lucasarts’ racing game, although Jon and his team didn’t quite get the title they had hoped for. “The game was going to be called Star Wars: Episode I Podracer. Unfortunately, there was another sci-fi racing game at the time called Planet Of Death – or simply POD, in North America – published by Ubisoft. They trademarked the word ‘pod’ in any form of interactive entertainment. We were not allowed to use a title for any game with the word ‘pod’ in it. Ultimately we settled on Star Wars: Episode I Racer because it was short and to the point.”
Reflecting on release

And if anything, Episode I Racer was a greater commercial than critical success, beating the competition to become the world’s bestselling sci-fi racing game, although Eric Johnston recalls having nothing but respect for rival racers. “We loved F-Zero and WipEout. Dev teams were small then, and playing someone else’s game was like having a conversation with the developers. You got to see how they solved problems you gave up on.”
When asked for his thoughts on his Star Wars racing game now, Eric expresses nostalgia for Racer’s development environment and pride at having cocreated the game. “Racer was written at a special time. The source code and dev teams were small but about to start growing. It was received by audiences thrilled to punch the gas and enjoy some improbable vehicular shenanigans. I’m proud to have been part of that.”
Jon Knoles’ last words on the racer explain the paradox of the game making concessions to speed and yet also securing much of its enduring appeal thanks to its high velocity. “At speeds of 400+ miles per hour, it is difficult to emulate the type of door-to-door action people expect from a great racing game. So we focused on delivering the fantasy fulfilment of speeding through alien landscapes. I think that sense of speed and track challenge, and strategic use of the boost mechanic, all added up to a fun game. Of all the movie-based games I’ve worked on, this was one of the high points.”
Save up to 57% on a Retro Gamer magazine subscription bundle and have the best retro gaming features and interviews delivered to your door each month.

#making #Star #Wars #Episode #Racer #sneak #peek #prototype #podracers #inspired #memorable #Star #Wars #racing #game

The making of Star Wars Episode 1: Racer – How a sneak peek at prototype podracers inspired this memorable Star Wars racing game

To some extent, game design is in constant flux. But the dramatic shift from sprite-based to polygonal gaming in the late ’90s required the way games were designed to be all but reinvented. Understandably, many early 3D production teams relied overly on designs proven by sprite-based gaming. And as former Lucasarts designer Jon Knoles concedes, the N64 launch title Shadows Of The Empire was one such example. 
Subscribe to Retro Gamer

Following a decision that the project would share its release date with the forthcoming Star Wars prequel, Jon and his fellow project leaders were given their pick of Lucasarts specialists to help meet the strict deadline. “Three of the Shadows core leadership team remained together: myself, Eric Johnston, and Mark Blattel, as well as our producer Brett Tosti. We were a pretty small team by today’s standards; something like 25-30 at peak. We needed people with specific skills in real-time 3D, and because we were a high-priority project that had a very hard deadline – it had to come out with the movie – we did get everyone we needed.”
Building something from nothing

“Originally, the podracers all looked the same: each had an egg-shaped pod pulled by two massive jet airplane engines. All were driven by human pilots, the youngest of which was a teenage Anakin. We watched these concepts evolve into visually-distinct vehicles, each with unique silhouettes and colour schemes, and equally diverse alien drivers to match each vehicle. I think there were 24 podracers and drivers in the movie, and three of us at Lucasarts built all of them in various levels of detail to support the N64. We also added a couple of our own, one designed by Jim Rice, the other by Clint Young, as well as their drivers Jin Reeso and Cy Yunga – see what we did there? These were only accessible if you entered special codes.”
As well as new characters, Jon wanted his racing game to feature new worlds, which were devised with the help of noted concept artist Peter Chan. “We had plenty of conceptual art to serve as reference for the Tatooine race seen in the film, but wanted to take players on a colourful tour of the whole galaxy. We enjoyed a good deal of freedom, and invented planets purely for the game. Many Star Wars planets are all one thing: lava planet, ice planet, rock planet, forest moon… Well, we continued that trend, although Baroonda had a lot more variety: a little bit of Tibet, a little Dagobah, a little Mayan ruins – all on one planet.”

Jon Knoles

Beyond designing podracers, their drivers and the worlds they would race on, Jon also employed trial, error and testing in order to deliver the courses that would define his Lucasarts racing game. “Three of us designed on paper – then prototyped and built – final art for all 20-something tracks in the game. I built the Tatooine and Baroonda tracks, while Duncan Brown and Jacob Stephens designed and built the rest, with additional level art support. There was one top-down sketch of the Tatooine ‘Boonta Eve Classic’ race course provided by Lucasfilm, which I used as inspiration and reference when building that track in-game – our first test track. I attempted to build it to scale and discovered it would take nearly 15 minutes to complete a single lap – even at speeds of 400mph! That was too big for our game engine, let alone for fun gameplay. So I reduced it considerably, then widened it accordingly. A great ‘ah-ha’ moment happened when trying to recreate a big canyon jump. The testers were having a blast seeing how far they could fly, and asked us if we could make the jumps bigger. Before you knew it, we were cutting big holes in every track and making crazy jumps.”
While Jon managed the design and visuals of the Star Wars racer, fellow project leader – coder Eric Johnston – focused on bringing these components to life within an evolving Shadows’ game engine, a goal Eric describes with just two words. “There was exactly one objective: go fast! Everything else was secondary, as you can tell from just looking at the vehicles – the initial prototype was a cylinder with no speed limit. It wasn’t clear how it might translate into gameplay, but ‘go fast’ was used like punctuation in many conversations.”
And because the game’s hyper-fast vehicles were to be dragged forwards by massive left and right engines tethered to their ‘cockpits’, Eric turned dog walking into podracer simulation in order to help him work out the physics. “I lived in Half Moon Bay at the time – on the coast, south of San Francisco – and had two yellow retrievers, named Abacus and Tangent. We had two harnesses and leashes made of climbing rope, and a skateboard. Maximum speed was always achieved while travelling toward the beach. The cars in Half Moon Bay aren’t that fast, but we were always faster. Officially, I don’t recommend this!”
Wrestling with the engine

Further enhancements followed, including a fully-3D, RPG-inspired shop where race winnings could be used to buy parts to improve podracers, which Jon attributes to feature-creep. “Watto’s junk shop was just a really cool, well-developed set-piece to add depth using RPG- light mechanics. Funny thing is, we had no intention of using a fully-interactive 3D interface until pretty far into development. I’m really glad we did that. It was much more immersive and fun between races.”
In terms of the racer’s in-game power-ups, Jon looked to Lucasfilm’s Star Wars prequel for inspiration, which resulted in constant access to speed-boosts at the risk of blowing up podracers. “As odd as it sounds, we didn’t like the idea of peppering the course with floating power-ups. We wanted to be as authentic to the film as we could, even given the graphical limitations of the N64. We did agree there had to be a recharge mechanic for using the boost – or you’d just use it all the time, but because Anakin’s mechanical repair skills were a big part of the race scene, we wanted to play around with that idea of pushing your vehicle beyond its limits, then being able to fix it on the fly.”
In addition to influencing podracer power-ups, Lucasfilm’s prequel movie – Star Wars: Episode I – also lent its name to Lucasarts’ racing game, although Jon and his team didn’t quite get the title they had hoped for. “The game was going to be called Star Wars: Episode I Podracer. Unfortunately, there was another sci-fi racing game at the time called Planet Of Death – or simply POD, in North America – published by Ubisoft. They trademarked the word ‘pod’ in any form of interactive entertainment. We were not allowed to use a title for any game with the word ‘pod’ in it. Ultimately we settled on Star Wars: Episode I Racer because it was short and to the point.”
Reflecting on release

And if anything, Episode I Racer was a greater commercial than critical success, beating the competition to become the world’s bestselling sci-fi racing game, although Eric Johnston recalls having nothing but respect for rival racers. “We loved F-Zero and WipEout. Dev teams were small then, and playing someone else’s game was like having a conversation with the developers. You got to see how they solved problems you gave up on.”
When asked for his thoughts on his Star Wars racing game now, Eric expresses nostalgia for Racer’s development environment and pride at having cocreated the game. “Racer was written at a special time. The source code and dev teams were small but about to start growing. It was received by audiences thrilled to punch the gas and enjoy some improbable vehicular shenanigans. I’m proud to have been part of that.”
Jon Knoles’ last words on the racer explain the paradox of the game making concessions to speed and yet also securing much of its enduring appeal thanks to its high velocity. “At speeds of 400+ miles per hour, it is difficult to emulate the type of door-to-door action people expect from a great racing game. So we focused on delivering the fantasy fulfilment of speeding through alien landscapes. I think that sense of speed and track challenge, and strategic use of the boost mechanic, all added up to a fun game. Of all the movie-based games I’ve worked on, this was one of the high points.”
Save up to 57% on a Retro Gamer magazine subscription bundle and have the best retro gaming features and interviews delivered to your door each month.

#making #Star #Wars #Episode #Racer #sneak #peek #prototype #podracers #inspired #memorable #Star #Wars #racing #game


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