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What's it like adding a world to Star Wars? The Outlaws developers explain

Some insights from Massive's Julian Gerighty on negotiating with Lucasfilm

A shot of Toshara, a planet in Star Wars Outlaws, with a cloudy horizon and city structures above a savanna
Image credit: Disney

Star Wars: Outlaws isn't just an open world retread of existing Star Wars locations, like Tatooine. It contains a whole new moon of developer Massive Entertainment's creation - Toshara, which is home to the Pyke criminal gang and visually defined by huge deposits of crystalline orange material and cities hacked out of mountains. What's it like adding a whole bloody world to Star Wars? Here are some quick thoughts from Massive Entertainment's creative director Julian Gerighty.

"It's really, really fun and it was a process that taught us that no matter how much you think you know about Star Wars, you don't know enough about Star Wars," he told Game Informer, in an interview published this week. "There is a beauty and a simplicity in terms of the design of every single one of those locations that we've really learned a lot from."

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What makes a Star Wars location Star Warsy? A balance of recognisability - in this case, the setting is influenced by the savannas of east Africa - and weirdness, which seems pretty worldbuilding 101 to me, but then again, I have never created a billion-dollar sci-fi license. "It has to be familiar, it has to be something that you could almost recognize on Earth but there's always a twist," Gerighty continued. "And in the case of Tashara, it's these huge streaks of Amberite material, that's translucent [and] forms part of the landscape, but it's also within the cities. The city is carved into a mountain, it's very windswept - everything is very familiar, and yet there's a twist that makes it uniquely Star Wars."

The game contains a bunch of stuff of Massive's devising - new characters in the shape of "emerging scoundrel" Kay Vess and her de rigeur floofy sidekick Nix, a brand new ship for the player, the Trailblazer, and a new underworld crime syndicate, the insectile Ashiga clan. As Kay, you'll tangle with several of these syndicates in succession as you try to outrun your erstwhile patrons, the Zerek Besh, who operate out of the casino planet (aka world's most dragged-out plot detour) from Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Getting these new bits into the canon has involved extended haggling with license owners Lucasfilm, as you'd expect. "Every week, we have several calls with them where we share what we'd like to do, the intentions, and they challenge us and we do a back-and-forth like that over several weeks to be able to get the shape language right, to get the lore right, to make sure that it becomes part of Star Wars canon," Gerighty said.

"So the Ashiga clan is part of Star Wars canon, Toshara is part of Star Wars canon now, and that's super gratifying when you help design a creature that's as lovable and fierce as Nix, and it becomes part of one of the most storied IPs in the world." Gerighty added later that "the power of this property is being able to to work on small pieces that become part of a much larger whole".

All of which I am both interested by and fatalistic about, having reported on the closure of LucasArts in 2013, the cancelling of several Star Wars games including the very promising Star Wars 1313 and First Assault, and Disney's accompanying de-canonisation of much of the expanded Star Wars universe, which wiped swathes of novels, games and other adaptations out of the timeline. "As though a million voices cried out", etc.

It's nice to think of a new generation of developers tooling around in George Lucas's toybox, but I suspect that another great erasing will happen at some stage, should the universe swell beyond Disney's liking - especially now that they're trying to combine Star Wars with Fortnite, of all things. In the meantime, I look forward to checking out those mountain cities and meeting the Outlaws version of Jabba the Hutt, who absolutely isn't a season pass exclusive. Star Wars Outlaws will release on 30th August 2024.

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