Monday, April 6, 2009

Sometimes, Postmortems Can Be Fun!

Why am I fighting an AT-ST in a hangar?  And how am I going to bring it down with a mere blaster? Remember Shadows of the Empire?  You know, that early Nintendo 64 title that spawned a small nation’s GDP of merchandise, including an entry into the expanded universe.

Well, GameSetWatch recently posted a classic Game Developer magazine postmortem on Shadows.  The game was released in late 1996, and the article is dated January 1997.

There are a few reasons you might want to check out this piece.  First, its a great time capsule for mid-90s game development.  The Shadows team spent nine months developing the title without finalized N64 hardware.  They were basically emulating projected N64 performance, and the ins and outs of that process are pretty fascinating. 

Second, the team partnered with Industrial Light & Magic to include motion capture animation for the protagonist, Dash Rendar, as well as some of the enemies.  Unfortunately, none of this was useable.  Something about joint representation, yadda yadda yadda.  It just goes to show you how good ideas can factor into development issues, leading to infinite delays in worst case scenarios.

Unfortunately, the article spends only brief time discussing the adaptation of this odd source material.  Shadows of the Empire was a bizarre project for LucasFilm.  They set out to create a successful new entry in the universe with all of the media-push behind a film, without the actual film.  In some ways, I think they succeeded, considering I find an article about the project’s thirteen-year-old N64 title plenty interesting.