For Graham Goring, the route to writing video games for a living was straightforward.
“Get bullied at school, develop a sense of humour as a self-defence mechanism, get seen doing stand-up comedy by your boss at a point when a script for one of the company’s projects is going well, and then get asked — hey, do you want to have a go at this script?”
“The way I got into this was dumb luck — with the emphasis on dumb,” he says.
Goring is the lead story designer on the video game Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is being developed by TT Games and is due out on June 28. Goring also got to work on the trailer for it.
The clip, available on YouTube, is hilarious; it takes the actual Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens movie trailer — the most-watched in history — and parodies it, adding "daft visual jokes". So, Kylo Ren's lightsaber fails to light up, and Poe Dameron struggles to find the right button in his X-Wing, instead, activating the starfighter's on-board toaster. "It was really cool to be able to … write the trailer in-house. The reaction was really positive, and we had those videos on YouTube where people compared it shot for shot with the original trailer. When you inspire people to do things like that you know that they're interested."
Goring’s first memory of Star Wars was of watching it as a child on ITV — a television channel in the United Kingdom — at Christmas. “Obviously [writing the scripts] is the coolest thing ever.
“If I had a time machine and went back in time to tell myself I’d be doing this, my childhood-self would say 'Waaaaaah!' and not stop until he got to the present day.”
The downside is that, with production of the game starting a year before the release of The Force Awakens, Goring knew everything that was going to happen in it.
“The animators would come in and say something like, ‘Can we have a scene where Chewie does his taxes?’, and I would say, ‘No. Don’t spoil anything for me’. But, fortunately, the first place I got to see it was in the cinema.”
Wrestling with the much-beloved franchise means Goring feels he has “a big responsibility”. “It’s a massive thing, quite scary when you hear you are going to be writing the script — you don’t want to be the guy who messes that up.”
And Goring is willing to admit that game adaptations of films have a bad reputation.
“Usually that’s because the timelines for making them are so short. Making video games is alchemy, and it doesn’t take much to mess it up if you’re trying to hit [a fixed release] date while starting from scratch.”
This charge has not been levelled at Lego games, which have benefited from the critical and financial success of The Lego Movie.
“We know how to make a Lego game, so even if we are trying to hit a deadline, we have a good concept of how to do that.”
Goring's favourite Star Wars game was Dark Forces, one of the first he played on PC.
"It was like being in Star Wars," he says.
Adding jokes to Star Wars that will appeal to a wide audience is another challenge.
“I like wordplay, I like writing really dumb characters. If I think a child will find it funny — and I have an immature sense of humour — I put it in. And it’s a bit of a scattershot approach, too — we throw everything in there. If one joke doesn’t stick, there’s always another in a few seconds. There’s a cutscene department doing this as well, coming up with jokes. We sent around a few emails asking people to think of a few daft animations, and we’ll sprinkle them through the game.”
Part of the difficulty is that The Force Awakens "is really funny anyway", says Goring.
“It has loads of great, sparky dialogue.”
He treated the characters with some reverence: “You want to be true to the characters, but you still want them to sound like they do in the movie, and you have to be careful not to tip them over into parodies of themselves.”
But, for Goring, the army of faceless Stormtroopers was a comic gift: “You can have a lot of fun, get them to do really dumb things,” he says.
The Lego game will also include a few new tidbits of story. It will show fans how Han Solo and Chewbacca captured the Rathtars, where C3PO got his red arm from, and how Lor San Tekka got that map.
“We’re the first ones to tell the story of some of these events, and it’s insanely cool to be entrusted with that,” says Goring.
LucasArts, George Lucas's production company that was acquired along with the rights to Star Wars by Disney for US$4 billion (Dh14.7bn) in 2012, engaged in a back and forth with TT Games telling them, "this is the name of the planet where the Rathtars are found, this is the kind of planet it is … then their artists show us a bit of concept art about a planet or location … we pitch a level design to them, it was iterated back on forth", Goring says. "It's collaborative, and really a thrill."
On the back of the success of American Graffiti, George Lucas negotiates a contract with 20th Century Fox studios for Star Wars that entitles him to all of the revenues from the sale of merchandise, including toys and games. While this eventually swells Lucas's net worth to more than US$5 billion (Dh18.36bn), critics decide that it is responsible for Jar Jar Binks, perhaps the most hated character in film history, whom Lucas may have created in order to sell more toys.
First Star Wars Lego sets created to tie in with the release of the critically despised Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.
Traveller's Tales (now TT Games) releases Lego Star Wars: The Video Game, which is based on the prequel trilogy.
Traveller's Tales adapts the original trilogy into a multi-platform video game. It sells well and becomes the fifth best-rated Star Wars game, according to Metacritic – not including the many Star Wars pinball games, which don't count.
TT Games releases Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, which combines 2005's adaptation of the prequel trilogy with sequel Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy. It is playable on handheld platforms, consoles, PCs and Macs. It is available on Steam for Dh62 and has a metascore of 80, indicating generally favourable reviews.
Disney acquires Star Wars and its merchandising rights from George Lucas for $4bn. Disney renews its contract with Lego for another 10 years.
June 28, 2016
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens release date.
• Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out on June 28. See the trailer on www.starwars.com/video/lego-star-wars-the-force-awakens-video-game-announce-teaser-trailer