Hot off the release of a new trailer, StarWars.com talks with ILMxLAB about the story, gameplay, and advances of its upcoming virtual reality experience.
The new Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge trailer just dropped, and it has us even more excited for the ILMxLAB virtual reality experience. Not only will we be interacting with C-3PO, R2-D2, and visiting the cantina of barkeep Seezelslak, but we’ll also get to work alongside Droid Depot proprietor Mubo and, in an all new standalone story (known as a Tale), encounter the famed Jedi Master Yoda with Frank Oz reprising the role. The immersive experience offers a whole new way to explore the world of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland® Resort and Walt Disney World® Resort, and discover what exactly happens past the boundaries of Black Spire Outpost. With the November 19 release date quickly approaching, StarWars.com spoke with a few Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge creators, including director Jose Perez III, producer Alyssa Finley, lead experience designer John Nguyen, and lead experience designer Ian Bowie to learn more about just what we can expect.
StarWars.com: The new trailer gives us a ton more insight into what exactly our journey will be like when we step into Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge. How did you approach the multilayered storytelling while ensuring that everything was connected in a realistic way?
Jose Perez III: We always knew we wanted to tell a story that was anthological in a way. We always knew we wanted a bartender that was going to tell you stories that you would be transported away to. The big reason for that is we’re huge Star Wars fans and it gives us the opportunity to play in all the different eras in Star Wars, which is really exciting for us. I love the prequels, sequels, original trilogy, I love it all. I think that love and appreciation was something that was deeply rooted in our approach from the beginning.
One thing that became clear very quickly was that we needed some kind of story that was pulling us into that cantina in the first place and firmly grounding us on Batuu and in Black Spire Outpost, so that’s where the droid repair technician story came in. We felt that we really wanted to use that as an opportunity to introduce all these new characters that are already being talked about in the parks and are going to become a bigger part of the Star Wars galaxy.
Alyssa Finley: It’s all about that experience of being able to go to a cantina and pick what you want to do, whether it’s talk to the bartender and hear a story or play Repulsor Darts. [Laughs] We’re giving you freedom in this world, you’re not on rails, you can move around, explore, and pick the mission you want to be on at any given moment. I like that kind of storytelling, I like to be a little in charge of my destiny and where I want to go. That’s what I’m most excited about.
StarWars.com: The trailer also gives us a peek at a new character, Tara Rashin. What can we expect from our interactions with her?
John Nguyen: Tara is the main baddie in our story. She’s a leader in the Guavian Death Gang, which is doing some nefarious and pirate-y stuff. In classic Star Wars fashion, you’re thrust into one of their heists, you’ve got something that she wants and you’ve got to defend what’s right and good. You’ll be facing off with her throughout your experience on Batuu leading you to very big and fun confrontations at the end. She’s a very interesting character that we loved so you may be seeing her around quite a bit.
Jose Perez III: [Tara Rashin actor] Debra Wilson is such a powerhouse. When she came in to do the voiceover, she already knew what she was going to do and just killed it. She can get very dark in the way that she’s talking and it’s very creepy at times. She makes an excellent antagonist in this story.
StarWars.com: It seems like there is also a ton of new gameplay in this experience. Can you tell us a bit more about what kind of activities we’ll be doing or mechanics we’ll be utilizing?
Jose Perez III: The really interesting thing about Tales is that it allows us to explore a bunch of different mechanics because of the way we’re approaching our storytelling. For the droid repair technician, there’s a heavy focus on being a droid repair technician. [Laughs] You have this cool [item], we call it an “all kit” tool that has fusion torches, little zappers, and a hydrospanner. It’s got all these great capabilities that allow you to do things like slice open consoles so that you can get into those things and mess with them. Within that story, there are also things called training remotes, which can be seen in a lot of the films. As a droid repair technician, you’re able to carry those around with you. There are several different types that have different functions. There are some that you can throw up in the air and they help fight alongside you. They all have some special features that are really cool. On top of that, there are blasters that are used throughout the droid repair technician story -- you’re going to be using a lot of those.
So we’re covering a lot of fun Star Wars fantasy things within that particular story. In the Tale it’s all about the Force and lightsabers and dealing with the darkness as a Padawan. Just off the bat, in Part I we have some really interesting mechanics that we’re playing with. For Part II we can’t say too much about it, but we’re already expanding out into completely new areas and functionalities.
Ian Bowie: The really cool thing about these mechanics is how they allow you to traverse Black Spire Outpost in a way that you haven’t been able to before. When you step into the park, you see those huge spires and get the sense that adventure is out there. Now, you’re given the opportunity to actually venture out into the wilds and experience that adventure. With the tools that you have as a technician, you’re able to take on pirates with the training remotes or use the hoverpack to explore spaces you wouldn’t have been able to on foot. Getting to use these droid technician repair tools in different creative contexts is really very cool.
StarWars.com: How have learnings from past VR experiences influenced how you approached incorporating the lightsabers here?
Jose Perez III: We took a lot of what we learned with Vader Immortal and the lightsaber dojo and took those same mechanics and brought them over to Tales. If you’ve played Vader Immortal, then you understand the core mechanics of it. The big difference here is that we’re wrapping a clean story around that action and I think that’s really what we’re focusing on with the lightsabers here. It’s not about trying to do cool combat, we’ve done that already in the dojo in Vader Immortal, now it’s really about the storytelling and how we pull you through the experience.
John Nguyen: We want it to feel familiar to our players, it’s a big part of Star Wars, so it’s something we cherish quite a bit here at xLAB. So the story is really the new thing here, you get to experience the mechanics through new eyes, which is different from your experience in Vader Immortal. We’re showing what a new lightsaber experience could be like.
StarWars.com: This seems like such a perfect activity: you get to travel to a new world and have new experiences all from home. What do you find so exciting about VR and what it can offer?
Ian Bowie: The transportative nature of VR is something that I step into every day. With everything we’re doing right now to be safe as a society, VR allows me to go out and meet people, to go out and experience things right now that just aren’t safe or possible. Being able to actually feel like I’m in the Star Wars universe with VR actually shares a lot of similarities with how it feels to walk into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It’s a feeling that people who have been to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge understand and to be able to have that same experience at home, and to be able to step back into it any time by putting on the Quest headset, that’s something that I absolutely love about my job. Every day I get to walk up and interact with all these characters that were such a big part of my childhood and creative development. Being able to access it anytime at home is just absolutely fantastic.
Alyssa Finley: I really miss going places with people and I think one of the things that the Quest headset provides you is this sense of immersion -- the idea that I went to a place and I did something. And then you get to talk to other folks that had the same shared common feeling of an experience. Especially in these days it’s really vital to have ways to get out of your head and your video conference call and “go” somewhere else for a change. [Laughs]
John Nguyen: VR is such a powerful transformative medium. Some days I’m here in my home, playing video games on a tiny screen and then others, I’m jumping into VR. The fact that you just jump into the Star Wars universe and you’re having a conversation with Seezelslak, it’s great. Right now, I really only talk to my wife every day and my co-workers, but that’s all on 2D screens. [Laughs] It’s just such a different sort of feeling, being in VR and having a character respond to you and your movements, and you get to be a part of their story while they also become a part of your own story.
Jose Perez III: Black Spire Outpost is a real place, it exists right now. So the story we’re telling in Tales aren’t covering what you do when you usually visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, like building a lightsaber or going to Oga’s Cantina. We’re trying to build out stories that are on the outskirts, that bleed in and expand that world. For me, it’s really exciting to hang out in Seezelslak’s Cantina and look out the window, see the Falcon, and know that I’m going to be able to go back there at some point, but right now I’ve got another job to do. I’m going to go out to Batuu and do my droid repair technician jobs and know that when I’m done with all of that, I’m going to go back to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in the Parks and all these new stories will be in my head. I’ll know who Mubo is, I’ve hung out with him. We want to give people another medium to experience Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in the meantime, and then when you do return to Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World Resort, it’ll be an even richer experience because of the stories that we’ve told.
Watch the new Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge trailer below.
Star Wars: Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge arrives November 19 on the Quest family of headsets.
Anina Walas is an associate producer at Lucasfilm with the Star Wars online team and writes the occasional article for StarWars.com. She loves pretty much everything Disney, great weather, traveling, making and eating really good food, and of course, Star Wars. Although Admiral Ackbar was her favorite character, the Child from The Mandalorian has definitely made its way into that top slot.
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