Final month, Aspyr Media rereleased a port of Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast on the Nintendo Switch and PS4. It was a specifically notable rerelease not just for fans of Star Wars, but as an artifact of a distinct era of game improvement and the improvement history of now Activision-owned Raven Application.
To mark the game’s rerelease, A handful of Jedi Outcast developers (who are nonetheless at Raven functioning on Get in touch with of Duty games) dropped by the GDC Twitch channel to share some classic stories from building the original 2002 game.
Right here are a couple of pick stories that designer Eric Biessman, lead gameplay programmer Mike Gummelt, lead designer Chris Foster and engine designer James Monroe shared about the original game’s style ideas that highlight how considerably game improvement has changed, and how the group shipped a cinematic Star Wars game with the tech they had at the time.
When asked about the most significant variations in between functioning on Jedi Outcast and their present operate in game improvement, the group of veterans agreed that in the final 17 years, their roles in the game business have turn into far extra specialized, and their operate on Jedi Outcast stretched far beyond their official titles.
“A single of the issues we speak about is back then, we wore a lot of hats,” Foster explained. “I constructed levels, I was in charge of the style group but I also had to light levels, I was scripting, and we have been undertaking all the continuity of all the things and we have been assisting Eric make confident that when the dialogue went it, that it all created sense give what we had to alter about.”
“So we have been undertaking tons of issues. A lot of instances now we’re a small extra segmented. Like we make the levels and do what ever, but somebody else is undertaking Hollywood-level lighting and somebody is else is a scripter that has you know 20 years of encounter undertaking it so we sort of spread a lot of these tasks out so it suggests a lot extra communication has to occur.”
Biessmann pointed out that when he began at Raven, the organization numbered just 13 persons. Now, there is more than 200. “I nonetheless really like it and I really like the persons I operate with and I get to meet a lot of cool persons at various studios,” he explained, “but…I would be functioning on the narrative, I would be functioning on catchphrases, I would be retexturing, I’d speak to our artists, I would enable with art…”
“There was just extra for you to do and I personally have not been in an editor in I do not know how extended an it is anything that you actually miss.”
These generalist tendencies helped the group transition from getting an exclusively 1st-individual game developer to a third-individual 1. They mention that for the duration of their initial pitch to LucasArts, there had briefly been discussion that they’d be returning the Dark Forces series (which Jedi Knight technically falls in) to getting a 1st-individual shooter. But just after hacking some third-individual tech collectively, they revealed they could continue Kyle Katarn’s Jedi journey he’d begun in Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight.
“There was some weirdness,” Munroe admitted. “We went via a lot of weirdness to get there but the engine currently had a rudimentary third-individual tech, it just set the camera back and we added in a bunch of scripting and traces to manipulate the camera to make it really feel extra organic to do a cinematographer kind factor exactly where if you know back up into the wall it moves the camera up [instead of just clipping the camera through the wall.]”
This led to some finicky operate when it came time to style the game’s lightsaber combat. Dark Forces II had been a 1st-individual game, so the group wanted to let players to nonetheless play in 1st-individual when designing mainly for third-individual gameplay.
“The trick was I attempted all sorts of various issues,” stated Gummeult. “[I attached] the players view to the actual model, but then it was moved about as well considerably.”
“Then I attempted not undertaking that and then your arms are moving about right here when you are back right here, so I blended the two and faded out the arms. I just place some alpha from the arms so they would fade out and conveniently went up to the shoulders.”
Jedi Outcast lives on in in the hearts of so numerous players in aspect since it was 1 of the 1st Star Wars games to function deeply-developed lightsaber combat. It and its successor Jedi Knight III: Jedi Academy would function an array of stances and precise guidelines about applying lightsabers that nonetheless stand special in the planet of game style right now.
Mike Gummelt is typically credited for generating the game’s lightsaber combat, but he also tipped his hat to Jet Dischler, who created the effects that let the lightsabers spark and leave burn burn marks on enemies and on the walls.
As Gummelt explained, “My objective was to make it so that you could be moving in any path and attack in any path. I worked with the animators on that and attempting to hold it as freeform as attainable but give you manage in each path and I wanted it to be swift, I wanted it to be responsive, I wanted it to be relatively lethal. My actual inspiration for the combat was [PlayStation 1’s] Bushido Blade.”
Jedi Outcast’s combat also systemized 1 of Star Wars’ most iconic moments–the way lightsabers could reduce off and instantaneously cauterize a person’s limbs, as symbolized by the shocking bar fight in A New Hope or Vader cutting off Luke’s hand in The Empire Strikes Back. In Jedi Outcast, that dismemberment was created attainable by the G.H.O.U.L program, tech Raven Application had created for the Soldier of Fortune series.
The tech was so very good that correct prior to launch, it was deemed a small…as well very good. “I bear in mind there have been debates and guidelines on what you could and could not dismember,” Gummelt recalled. Correct prior to launch, a request came in to reduced the likelihood of letting players reduce off enemy characters’ heads.
Monroe added extra specifics. “We had to dial down the likelihood of dismemberment per place [on the body,]” he stated. “And the neck was anything like 10 % but we had to take it down to— did we make it zero?”
“Unless it was a droid, you couldn’t,” Gummelt replied.
“Correct, so we had to make it really zero. We have been like ‘it’s a actually low likelihood!’ and they stated ‘no, that is as well considerably likelihood,” stated Monroe.”
And however a year later, Gummelt noted that these guidelines seemed to have changed. “Then in 2003, Episode three comes out and Anakin cuts off Count Dooku’s hands and his head.”
Jedi Outcast exists at a halfway point in between Doom and Halo, with levels and shooting that really feel extra like the former but a visual profile closer to the latter. Brief on memory and without having a GPU to contact on, its creators sought out unconventional options to deal with the technical limitations of their engine at the time.
“Radiant was our editor for the levels,” Biessman recalled. “By this time at least Radiant had extra than a top rated-down view. For the reason that when we 1st began functioning in the Quake editor it was only top rated-down. You had the Z checker and that was the only way you could inform floor or something like that and as quickly as we have been in a position to really have many views it was like a Godsend. It is a game changer.”
“But actually, I imply Radiant is Radiant. And at it is core it is developing brushes, you know all of the surface issues have stayed fairly strong.”
Foster jumped in with the acknowledgement that “Patches have changed really a bit from they way they have to be implemented. I imply there have been never ever like we also had bending modes so we couldn’t just grab a point. We had a tool to take a pipe and really bend it to a precise angle then save it and make confident it didn’t crash.”
“This was prior to regular maps,” Biessman added, “this was prior to specular so you know…textures have been just painted.”
As the conversation turned toward the game’s audio and animations, Gummelt recalled 1 distinct programmatic trick that is not probably made use of in Star Wars games right now. “I bear in mind I wrote a small I guess procedural sort of head bobbing as they would speak primarily based on the volume of the dialogue,” he stated.
Monroe explained this meant the volume of the dialogue straight drove character animation in cutscenes. “To save memory we [didn’t] retailer all the animations— like the upper animations are separate from the reduced legs so that we could do all these left correct attacks and operating. The facial animations have been the exact same way. We just stored seven phonemes you know, various mouth shapes that was to drive all the animations and then to make it look extra realistic we added some head motions so they’re not just puppets.”
“We just fundamentally created it random but as an input to the random quantity generator with the volume so that if they’re speaking extra emphatically they had loop. And now it is a no cost on the fly way to make animations.”
What is striking about these stories from the generating of Jedi Outcast is how numerous of the game’s developers nonetheless operate collectively at Raven Application. Some have moved on, but their shared workloads and overlapping experiences designing the original game emerged in their conversation about functioning on the game. Exactly where 1 developer’s memory lapsed, a further stepped in to fill in the specifics, in aspect since the smaller sized group and timeframe meant they probably worked on these attributes collectively.
For extra of these stories from the people at Raven Application, be confident to watch the complete conversation with them under.