For this May the 4th, we are going behind the scenes of Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge – Enhanced Edition to learn more about what went into making the hit PlayStation VR2 title! Leading up to the galaxy’s biggest holiday, we’re sharing interviews with key members of the creative team to give you a look beyond the spires at creating the action-packed experience.
To kick off the series, we’re chatting with Ian Bowie (he/him), Experience Design Supervisor based out of our Singapore location, to learn a little more about bringing IG-88 to life in Seezelslak’s Tale “The Bounty of Boggs Triff.”
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself and your role working on this experience.
Hi! My name is Ian Bowie! I am an Experience Design Supervisor here at the studio. On Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, I was one of the Lead Designers on the Droid Repair Tech Adventure, and the Design Director on “The Bounty of Boggs Triff.”
Experience Designers work really closely with all the other departments to craft the story and the interactive beats that make up the player experience. That spans making the first design documents, scripting, crafting and putting together the moment to moment player experience all the way to the final bug fixing. We’re right at the nexus of all the departments as we’re routinely plugging in the amazing work they do into the player, guest, or participant’s path. On any given day you’ll see us working with our talented Engineers, Artists, Animators, VFX, Writers, Sound Designers, Project Directors, and more. It’s a Lead’s job to facilitate, support, and guide the Design team in making the project throughout all the different phases of development, while also ensuring the creative direction is represented throughout.
What is your favorite part about working on creating this VR experience?
Working with the team we have here at the studio has always been the most rewarding part of any experience, but especially so on this project. We created the biggest Star Wars adventure we’ve told at ILMxLAB thus far. Everyone really rose to the occasion.
What sort of things were integrated into the experience to really make you feel like you are playing as a droid?
IG units are really tall and the moment you realize you are that tall, you instantly know you’re a different character. Along with that, our UI Designer did an amazing job of giving you a HUD display that made you feel more like a droid. You’re seeing the calculations, scans, and computer processes that a droid would see.
Our main point of inspiration for what an IG unit was capable of in combat was from IG-11 in The Mandalorian. We wanted to make sure we stayed true to that wish fulfillment and authenticity of movement established there. You should be capable of doing things you can’t do as the droid repair tech. We leaned into the idea that IG-88’s targeting computer is what your hands are controlling and there is an element of auto aim at play. This lets you target enemies in totally different directions quickly and with confidence. It also speeds up the combat loop and lets you feel like you’re in a different league when it comes to blasters, while also having its own intricacies. IG-88 is one of the most deadly bounty hunters in the galaxy and we really wanted you to feel like it while playing.
What were some of the inspirations for “The Bounty of Boggs Triff”?
Our fantastic writer Ross Beeley and I looked at single location action movies like The Raid, Dredd, and Die Hard. We also looked at the western and samurai tropes where a villain ends up taking on a noble job. Which leads to the question, what happens when a notoriously merciless bounty hunter like IG-88 takes a job with an honorable cause?
How did Neeva and her story come to be?
Neeva had an interesting character development process. In a very early version, she had a much smaller part in the story. In a story meeting, Lillian Noble, who is now in Lucasfilm Publicity, provided detailed feedback on how we could do even more to develop Neeva into an even stronger character. Everyone instantly agreed and we made Neeva’s story be a much more integral part of the Tale. She also became a personal favorite character of mine. She’s a character who is taking action in spite of her situation and stakes, but is distrustful of IG-88. That character relationship evolves from there and into a working partnership between the two. A fun fact about Neeva’s species is that they now have an official name: Nobilllian. The species was named after Lillian for her fantastic efforts in our early story development to make the character who she is today.
Is there one thing in particular that you learned while working on this experience?
When designing a new feature or interaction, take accessibility options into account from the very beginning. It’s good to invest time and effort in enabling players to access your content no matter what their situation. The more people who can enjoy your experience the better.
What are some hidden gems/easter eggs around “The Bounty of Boggs Triff” that you don’t want fans to miss out on?
One of my personal favorite facts about the Tale is that Boggs’ tower itself is reflective of his state of mind, with each floor representing a different stage of grief. From the ground floor being denial making way to anger, then you travel to bargaining, then depression, and then finally the acceptance of the oncoming assassin. Each floor’s lighting also takes on a color indicative of that particular emotion, and each floor has music that reflects it as well.
We also have a ton of easter eggs. The number that IG-88 scans in the elevator is actually the founding date of our studio. There is also a certain crate you can find and scan once you defeat all the henchmen in that room that has a very familiar symbol on it. The wonderful score that Joe Trapanese has masterminded has a big influence on the world around you as well. Next time you’re in the alleyway, take a look at what’s happening around you and how the music plays into it.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work on this experience?
There are a lot of little things that I could mention here but I’d love to shine a light on the music by Joe Trapanese. The music was developed hand-in-hand with the experience from the get-go. We really wanted to have a solid driving musical connection as a tool to represent IG-88’s drive as he took on this bounty. The moment Joe came up with the “theme” of IG-88 being the two note sequence and having that be a driving rhythm throughout the experience, I knew we had something special. It really brings so much emotion to the feeling of being this big bad assassin droid.
Finally, can you tell us about your journey getting to ILMxLAB?
I have been a huge Star Wars fan ever since I can remember. In junior high, I started making fan films and getting involved in the fan film community. During that I started getting into modding Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, which got me into the process of game development. I went to school at the University of Advancing Technology for my degree in Multimedia, then got my masters degree in Entertainment Technology from Carnegie Mellon’s ETC program. While there, I got to work with a lot of XR tech in its infancy. I then got an internship at Treyarch working on the Call of Duty: Black Ops series as a Level Designer. Then, one day, I saw the recruitment video here and applied immediately. I just knew I had to be a part of what was happening in immersive storytelling.