Respawn Talks Building AT-ATs And Creating Lightsabers For Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Jedi: Fallen Order is a canonical Star Wars story. That means everything that appears in the game – characters, plot elements, designs, etc. – are all things that will exist in Star Wars lore for the foreseeable future. Creating something new for Star Wars is exciting, but it also requires precision, research, and LucasFilm approval. We spoke with the team at Respawn about what it’s like to create new things in the Star Wars universe, as well as expand on elements that already exist in the Star Wars universe – like modeling the interior of an AT-AT for the first time.
The AT-ATs in Fallen Order are based predominantly on those found in the TV show Rebels, as both pieces of Star Wars media take place during the same timeframe. “It’s different than a normal AT-AT. It’s actually a bigger unit,” art director Christopher Sutton says. The ones seen in the most recent gameplay footage, that show Cal climbing the quadruped tanks, also have turrets on top and have a different head than the ones seen in Empire Strikes Back, or later down the timeline with the gorilla-like AT-M6 walkers of The Last Jedi.
The first step toward designing what the inside looked like actually involved looking at a book from the '80s that featured cutaways of assorted Star Wars vehicles, and Empire Strikes Back’s AT-ATs were in that book. “What that guy drew ended up becoming canon, so we kind of had to adhere to that,” senior hard surface artist Tim Wallace says. “We had the rear section with the speeder bikes, and we see a little bit of the engine, but it was the main original space that had not been envisioned. So, we had some stuff to go on and then we put our team of concept artists on top of that to really kind of flesh it out and give it more substance and meat.”
You can see their work in the gameplay footage that was released just a few days ago. “We took the layout and format of what we saw in Rebels, and kind of tried to apply the fidelity of what you see from the cockpit of Empire Strikes Back,” Wallace says. “So we’re taking something fairly cartoon-y and kind of using that to give the audience expectation of what they might see, but then really try to bring it down to Earth and modernize it – make it real.”
The AT-AT is an example of fleshing out something that already existed in the Star Wars universe, but the team at Respawn was also tasked with creating new lightsabers, including the one Cal uses in the game. “I go to [lead concept artist] Jordan [Lamarre-Wan], who designed BD-1,” Wallace says regarding the starting line for creating a new Star Wars lightsaber. “He is kind of spearheading our lightsaber designs. We’re drawing a lot of inspiration from original trilogy lightsabers. I think we’ve drawn inspiration from some of the more decorative ones from the prequels, as well. We’re going right after what exists and seeing what we can build on top of it.”
Of all the assets that needed to be created for the game, Sutton says the lightsaber actually proved to be one of the easier elements. “The other assets took a long time, but the saber didn’t really take that long. There wasn’t too much concept. By the end there were like, eight to ten options made of different elements, but we landed on it pretty quick,” Sutton says.
Cal’s lightsaber was first revealed in the game’s story trailer shown at Star Wars Celebration and it didn’t take long for Star Wars creators to take it and run with it. “In the same day we showed the trailer, there were already people making that lightsaber,” senior environmental artist Lucas Sparks says. “Literally that Monday they had 3D printed versions of what we had shown just briefly,” Wallace says.
The AT-AT and the lightsaber are just two examples of Star Wars elements Respawn had to craft for the game, but for Wallace, the highlight of creating for Star Wars was being involved in creating a brand new droid in the form of BD-1, going so far as to call it his career moment. “I was five when the first movie came out in the '70s, and my dad brought home the Kenner R2-D2 and C-3PO packages and I remember opening them up. I still have C-3PO on my desk,” Wallace says. “I feel like my life kind of came full circle. Getting those action figures kind of inspired me to draw them and create little forts for them out of shoeboxes, and it was a source of creativity that I just latched onto and it really kind of defined my desire to become an artist.”
Wallace’s excitement about creating new Star Wars anything is evident throughout the studio as the artists described the elements they were most excited about, whether it was getting to build and explore Kashyyyk, or even just models the familiar vent designs present throughout all of the Empire’s architecture. “Getting to do something that ends up becoming canon, even if you had just a small little bit to do with it? That’s a huge deal,” Wallace says.
For a whole lot more on Star Wars Jedi: Fallen order, you can head here to read the full cover story, or click the banner below for all of our Fallen Order features throughout the month.