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.
Today, we’re chatting with Emily Burch (she/her), Senior Development Operations Engineer, to learn a little more about how she helped bring the world of Batuu to life in VR.
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself and your role working on this experience.
My name is Emily and I am a Senior DevOps Engineer at the studio and the Lead DevOps Engineer on Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge – Enhanced Edition. While working on this experience, my day usually involved monitoring our build processes and working on ways to improve the day-to-day tasks of everyone working on the project. My team’s function is to help other people do their work more efficiently, whether that is improving code submission workflows, or helping production better track completed work, or any number of other things. We really get to see all aspects of the game from blue sky all the way to delivery.
What was it like working on this project?
I loved working on both iterations of Tales. It was so great to see how much fun the team had creating it. For the DevOps team, it was also a great opportunity to look back on our previous projects to see what worked, what didn’t, and how we could improve. It’s really rewarding to take a step back and look at how much we’ve been able to help improve the development process for everyone and to look at where we can still make changes.
Are there any hidden gems that you don’t want fans to miss out on?
The spork in Seezelslak’s Cantina gets me every time I see it. It’s such a great reference to a real thing in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in the Parks that guests can see and, at one point, could buy. I’m a huge Disney Parks fan, so I love any moment that’s a connection between Tales and the Parks. Even just looking out Seezelslak’s window at the Millennium Falcon. There’s some great audio references to things in the Parks to listen out for as well.
What has been your favorite/most rewarding part about creating this experience?
While working on Vader Immortal, my team and I had talked about how great it would be to allow artists and engineers to build the game without having to wait for it to finish on their workstation. During Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, I was able to create a review build workflow to do just that. Anyone working on Tales could submit a review build from their workstation and be able to move on to other tasks while it was built on our production build servers. When the build was finished, it was automatically available to them in their headset for review. It was incredibly rewarding to see my work help people be more productive. I also like to think it gave the team more time to add Easter eggs.
What are some challenges you and your team faced/overcame while working on this project?
When I was working on the original version, there were a lot of firsts for myself and my team. In particular, having everyone work remotely was an interesting challenge. VR can be very PC intensive, so taking the time to figure out how to speed up iteration cycles for the team became a high priority. We all worked together to figure out how we can help the team be as productive as possible in different small ways like providing better and more channels of communication and providing easier access to the game as it moved through development. I was then able to bring those learnings over to my work on the Enhanced Edition to help ensure that the development of it on PlayStation VR2 went as smoothly as possible.
Is there one thing in particular that you learned while working on it?
Working on the Enhanced Edition, I definitely learned to strike a balance between chasing the newest technology out there and making something work with what you have already. While the studio is always pushing innovation, the same is true for the platforms we support. My team helped release Vader Immortal to PlayStation, so we had a baseline understanding of what needed to happen and how we could improve our workflow. We all talked about what we wanted to do better and picked specific ways to try something new. Deliberately making that time to try out new technology when appropriate has helped us keep development moving while planning for the future.
Is there a part of the game that is your favorite?
I loved playing as IG-88 in “The Bounty of Boggs Triff.” Being a feared assassin droid knocking down doors and taking out villains was an absolute blast. I would be lying if I said I didn’t try to embody IG-11 from The Mandalorian in my living room. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, but it was so much fun.
Finally, can you tell us about your journey getting to the studio?
I’ve been a Star Wars fan forever and never imagined I would actually get to work on it! I started my DevOps career right out of college by happenstance. Fortunately for me, it was a great fit and I love what I do. Not long after my first job, I was hired as a DevOps Engineer at ESPN working in Data Platforms. Then, after a few years at ESPN, I started looking around and saw a listing at Lucasfilm for ILMxLAB. I remembered reading an article on Gizmodo announcing the studio and how they were looking to push the boundaries of immersive entertainment. Of course that sounded exceptionally cool, so I thought “what did I have to lose by applying?” I’ve been supporting the studio as a DevOps Engineer ever since.
Emily also participated in a panel at Star Wars Celebration 2022, where she joined fellow women at the studio to discuss working in immersive storytelling. You can read more about it and their work on StarWars.com.