The Massive Entertainment creative director shares more about turning the galaxy far, far away into an open world.
It’s not easy for our favorite scoundrels to navigate the Star Wars underworld, but it sure looks like fun. Thankfully, Star Wars Outlaws, the first ever open-world Star Wars game from Massive Entertainment in collaboration with Lucasfilm Games, promises to let players experience all the shady deals, backstabbing, and blaster shootouts for themselves. Coming in 2024 for Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, and PC, Star Wars Outlaws puts fans in the role of Kay Vess, an up-and-comer in the seedy side of the galaxy. Following the game’s announcement in June that revealed a first look at gameplay, a new behind-the-scenes featurette just premiered at San Diego Comic-Con 2023 during a dedicated panel. To mark the occasion, StarWars.com spoke at length with creative director Julian Gerighty, discussing why the team chose the scoundrel archetype for the game, how Kay and her companion Nix will work together, and if there’s more to ND-5’s trench coat.
StarWars.com: When did you first see Star Wars?
Julian Gerighty: I grew up in the UK, and we got Star Wars in December 1977, which means that at the time, the word of mouth, the phenomenon gained steam, and it was a big, big deal for the movie to come out there. So I'm pretty sure that I saw it in 1977. But if I didn't, it was in January 1978, just afterwards, once the movie went. I was five or six years old.
StarWars.com: What impact did it have on you at the time?
Julian Gerighty: Huge. Colossal. I mean, it's tough to describe in today's landscape of incredible images all the time. But just the fact that there was this Star Wars adventure that was even further than what we'd imagined while playing with toys, onscreen, was simply mind blowing. So it set off a lifelong fascination with science fiction, video games, with the possibilities of technology, all of the things that make me who I am today. This was a very, very big deal. It was the first VHS tape that I had. I watched it to death. So, the original trilogy is extremely important to me as a creator and as a fan.
StarWars.com: Star Wars Outlaws is the first open-world Star Wars game. Why do you think that Star Wars fits that genre so well?
Julian Gerighty: On one side, it's what the team at Massive and our co-development studios that we're working with are really good at creating. But it's also, for me, an opportunity to have the player step into the world of Star Wars, step into those locations both new and iconic, and really discover and direct the experience that they want. They're going to be really driving their adventure with all of the opportunities that an open world means. So you may have some objectives, but you are going to be distracted by your curiosity as a player.
StarWars.com: I always felt like Star Wars was designed with such a sense of history that you want to explore it. And I feel like that lends itself to open world.
Julian Gerighty: We were talking about this the other day, but Episode IV — the cantina in Mos Eisley is going to be recreated in this game. And if I turn my mind back to when I saw it first, you do want to investigate all of those nooks and crannies. You do want to investigate the locations that George Lucas didn't show on camera, and be the director of your own adventure. So I completely agree with you there.
StarWars.com: Tell me about the decision to use the scoundrel archetype, versus a another Star Wars character type.
Julian Gerighty: There are a lot of character types in Star Wars, but one of the things that we wanted to do when we approached the game was, “How could we have a lot of different experiences within this open world?” You know, driving, flying, smuggling, shooting, sneaking, and all of these experiences combined into one particular character and character archetype. And it's through the collaboration and the discussion with Lucasfilm Games that we very, very quickly settled on the scoundrel archetype. And the scoundrel archetype is, for me, a dream come true, because my favorite characters were always the scoundrels, because they seem to be having the most fun in the galaxy.
StarWars.com: What can you tell us about the main characters of the game — Kay Vess, Nix, and ND-5?
Julian Gerighty: Everything started with Kay Vess. We built her to be somebody who was a rookie thief, so just starting in the scoundrel lifestyle, if you will, but has dreams of exploring the whole of the galaxy. She has a very contained life and gets mixed up in something that she can't control and becomes a fish out of water on a planet that's really a hive of scum and villainy. That was the spark that set off this character on her adventures.
So she’s a rookie thief and she needed a companion that was an extension of her capacities in terms of gameplay. And we think of Kay and Nix together as a whole. Nix is a trusty companion — he is more than a pet. This is the only person that you really trust as Kay Vess. The duo, the gameplay that that represents is really key to the adventure that we've prepared.
ND-5 is a character that you meet a little bit later on in the adventure and, he joins as a minder, a bodyguard, but an observer, as well. We can’t wait for players to learn more about him.
StarWars.com: How will the gameplay work with Kay and Nix? Can Nix go off and do something while you do something else?
Julian Gerighty: Exactly. It's what I said before. There are so many experiences that we wanted to create within the open world structure of the game. So there are going to be fighting moments, there are going to be sneaking moments. There are going to be moments where you have to distract an enemy, and you can send Nix to do something, make a noise, distract an enemy, sneak past them, or you can send him to attack. If you're faced with three or four different enemies, Nix can maybe handle one of those while you're taking care of the others. Nix can sneak into places that you can't fit in, help you open doors, push levers, activate mechanisms. It's really an extension of your powers and your actions.
StarWars.com: Is Nix a new creature type, or is he based off an existing one?
Julian Gerighty: Nix is an absolutely new creature that we created for Star Wars in collaboration with Lucasfilm Games. Nix is a merqaal.
StarWars.com: Did you design him with the idea of what you would need him to do in the game? Or was it just like, “Let's create something that's kind of cute, maybe also kind of dangerous?”
Julian Gerighty: Even a thief like Kay has a friend and every friendship has a story. That story was where we started, and then from there it was really figuring out how he allows Kay to have more powers without relying on gamey tropes. In terms of what Nix looks like, there are a lot of references from animals on Earth that have been mashed together, mixed together. And the creation is this beautiful, lovable, but incredibly aggressive merqaal that we call Nix, that’s become a huge favorite on the team.
StarWars.com: Where'd the name come from?
Julian Gerighty: I wish I could say it's the name of my dog or my cat, but it isn't. One of the writers proposed it and it was a name that really fits. We all loved it.
StarWars.com: Regarding Kay, you were talking about how she's kind of a novice in the scoundrel game. I was wondering if you could talk about that choice, and if it was it meant to give Kay the same starting off point that the player has going into the world.
Julian Gerighty: It’s all of those things, right? It's starting off with the player, but it's also giving her room to grow as a character. It's also incredibly relatable — somebody who has to fake the confidence that it really requires to stand up to somebody like Jabba, or some of the other criminal bosses and underbosses. That sort of fake confidence is something that I think is incredibly relatable and something that allows her to carve out a real personality for herself that is very different from everybody else in the Star Wars galaxy.
StarWars.com: Yes. It's like, “Fake it till you make it,” basically.
Julian Gerighty: It's exactly that. That's the line that we've used, extremely often, to describe her. She has no choice but to fake it in the hopes that she makes it, because of how dangerous the underworld can be.
StarWars.com: In the behind-the-scenes video, which just debuted at San Diego Comic-Con, we learn that the game partially takes place on Tatooine. We've seen Tatooine, obviously, in movies and shows. It's also popped up in games. But I would have to imagine that it has never been as developed as we'll see it in this game, because you have to be able to explore it. Can you talk about your approach to making it a living, breathing place?
Julian Gerighty: Yeah. When we first started, we had a short list of places that we wanted to go and we had some recent discoveries. Kijimi, which was featured in the trailer, and Toshara, a brand new location that we created ourselves. But we also wanted an iconic location, and that was, for me, Tatooine. It was a big challenge because there's so many things that exist on Tatooine that it's become a puzzle to put things together. But we went back to the source. We went to some of the DK visual guides, and we started building, “Okay, what are the most important parts and what's gonna make the most fun for the player to explore?” So Mos Eisley is a big part of it, but there's also a lot of the dunes, the canyons, and things that you really expect. You know, the greatest hits of Tatooine that we try and put together.
We talked about the sort of singular nature of open worlds to allow the player to have agency on their experience. But there's another part of it that I love and that's very Ubisoft in a way, which is virtual tourism. And the virtual tourism in a place like Tatooine is great, because I've always wondered how far the moisture farms were from Mos Eisley. I've always wondered how the cantina was constructed. So all of these things, we're trying to do justice to the source material by really recreating it as authentically as possible, with the help of Lucasfilm Games.
StarWars.com: You mentioned Toshara, which is a new planet in the game. How did you go about creating a new Star Wars planet, wanting it to be unique, but also still feeling like Star Wars?
Julian Gerighty: I think the magical thing is that, in general, Star Wars always feels familiar, but with a simple twist that really brings you to this point where you go, “Wow, this is different.” Just think of those first shots on Tatooine of the desert and a structure. But there's two suns, and you're going, okay, I'm in something that is undiscovered, that feels relatable because it has elements that you know, but really takes you out of the familiarity with that little twist.
And for Toshara, the way we approached it was that, first off, we wanted this open world experience, so we wanted it to be thrilling to traverse. We wanted a big urban location, a big city in it. We went to Tanzania to do some audio recordings, to capture the soundscape, so the biome is based on the African savanna, but with huge amberine slabs of crystal, and amberine is beautiful in the game because it catches and reflects light. And the main city, Mirogana, is carved into one of these huge mountains right in the middle of it, sandwiched in the middle of it. And the pillars are made out of amberine. All of these simple, but really, really refined little elements make something that is completely fresh, but still relatable.
StarWars.com: I love the city in the rock. I thought that was really creative and feels like Star Wars.
Julian Gerighty: It's a lot of iteration when you start a project like this. I hope for everybody that they have the opportunity to work on a Star Wars project because there's so much that you learn. There's so much craftsmanship that goes into building any one of the planets that we've seen and that we know so well now. The work behind it is exhaustive. Just learning the design principles, the simplicity, the twist, the shape language, all of those things is amazing. And it's made us grow as professionals too.
StarWars.com: How would you reach a point where you felt, “Okay, now this looks and feels like Star Wars,” whereas maybe at some earlier point you thought, “This isn’t right. This feels like something else?”
Julian Gerighty: That's a great question. I think one of my favorite examples is actually the speeder. You know, we have Luke Skywalker's speeder, which is a hot rod inspiration. You have the chopper speeders, you have bike speeders. The approach that we had initially was, “Okay, we want motocross to be the flavor, the theme of Kay’s speeder.” So we based it on a classic Swedish design of a motocross bike. And we started removing elements, simplifying it, and the more we removed and got to the essential shape, the more relatable yet futuristic — retro-futuristic — it felt. There's this simplicity that you put it through that really brings something that feels like Star Wars. Another great example is ND-5. He is a BX commando droid with a coat, but just that coat and the posture and the animation and the voice brings a real personality to him.
StarWars.com: I saw fans talking about the coat online. Is the coat just ‘cause he likes to wear a coat? Or is there a reason for that?
Julian Gerighty: No, there's a reason. I think ND-5 is a droid with a very complicated past and I think he's going to become a huge fan favorite.
StarWars.com: I know we see Jabba in the game. Have you created any new crime lords?
Julian Gerighty: Yeah. One of the crime lords that we featured in the trailer is one of the underlords on Toshara. And, of course, there'll be more because these criminal syndicates and your relationship with the criminal syndicates is an integral part of one of the [game] systems that we call the reputation system. That's all about the spinning plates of working with one criminal syndicate to backstab another, or backstabbing both of them at the same time. It's your unique narrative path throughout the adventure, contrasting your relationship with the different criminal syndicates. You get on their good side, they're going to get you special prices, access to faction territories, adventures, unique quests. Get on their wrong side, they're going to send people after you. So there's this unique path that you are going to draw. And by the end of the game you'll have a real reputation with all of those crime syndicates.
StarWars.com: The setting to me is interesting — the time period between Empire and Jedi. You've got Boba Fett in play, all the bounty hunters that we meet in Empire, even some from the comics, like Doctor Aphra. You’ve got a lot to choose from. Might any of these characters pop up in the game?
Julian Gerighty: Fans are going to have to play the game to see who might show up as a part of Kay’s story. I think Jabba's the most obvious that we've featured.
I think the period is so perfect for this, as well. When we pitched the idea, Lucasfilm were the ones who went, “Okay, this is the ideal period — this one-year period between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, because the criminal syndicates are so active, because there's so much chaos out there in the universe.” And, you know, we were trying to stay calm in the room in San Francisco, but inside there was a huge, huge celebration.
StarWars.com: What is the Ashiga clan, which is said to feature Star Wars Outlaws?
Julian Gerighty: The Ashiga Clan is a clan that we created in close collaboration with Lucasfilm Games. They're based on Kijimi, which we saw in The Rise of Skywalker. It's a faction that we really designed around this idea of a very hierarchical society that's based on honor, tradition, history. Their visuals are very much inspired by insects, and they propose a gameplay challenge for the player in terms of NPCs that are really contrasted to everybody else. So that's not just in combat, but it's also in stealth. There’s a lot of things that they manage to fill out for us to be able to have a very different experience for players compared to some of the other syndicates that you'll meet, like the Hutts or the Pykes.
StarWars.com: Is there anything you want fans to know as they count down toward the release of the game?
Julian Gerighty: I think I want to stress that idea of being able to step into Star Wars and to experience Star Wars on your terms, as a scoundrel in the underworld. You are going to decide where you go, how you get there, who you're going to work with, who you're not going to work with, how you're going to make those credits, and how you're going to get away from the bounty on your head. That's really the spirit behind this open-world Star Wars game.