Sure, having a lightsaber and a healthy number of midichlorians in your system may be pretty neat, especially when you’re too lazy to get up and grab the holovid TV remote, but the life of a Jedi isn’t that appealing to me. If I were in the Star Wars universe, I’d be more preoccupied with having my own starfighter. I’d want to be the reckless hotshot setting his foils to attack position, roaring across planets in a TIE fighter that is simply dangerously cool.
That fantasy is getting reignited soon enough, as Star Wars: Squadrons is dropping out of orbit to deliver some cockpit cocking about across eight ships. And these vehicles don’t just look good, they’re pretty darn authentic as well! “A big part of our work in bringing these starfighters to life has been the creation of the cockpits,” Star Wars Squadrons creative director Ian Frazier explained in a new blog post.
They’re challenging, because we’re trying to look as realistic as possible while matching the aesthetic from the films and incorporating the necessary gameplay information as naturally as possible. How do we convey the state of your shields or the status of your target, for instance, in a way that feels like it belongs in the Star Wars galaxy?
This means that when we want to communicate the charge level of your lasers in an X-wing, we design the cockpit instruments for that as if we were Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) building the prop in the ’70s. We don’t say “put a red light there,” we say “if you needed to physically build this using the sorts of parts that ILM had, how would it be built? Is that light a bulb? An LED? How would it be integrated into the dashboard and how would its light interact with everything around it. We ensure the screens are CRTs with appropriately curved monitors, and so forth.
According to Frazier, there was no real rulebook for how these ships would be built within the Star Wars Universe. So the EA team had to slip into some overalls and figure out for themselves how a group of Incom employees would go about putting together the Empire’s infamous startfighters. “We also try to come at it from a purely fictional angle, pretending we’re employees of Incom or Sienar Fleet Systems and then asking “how would we build this?” This was particularly the case with the TIEs, where there was no existing canonical guide [when we started development] as to how exactly those ships are piloted, which meant we needed to figure out the way things like the control yoke actually worked in a very practical sense,” Frazier explained.
This was a ton of fun because it meant working with the team at Lucasfilm, animators, and mocap actors to land on an approach that fit with what we saw in the films but is believable in terms of how a real pilot would need to operate the controls to pull off complex maneuvers. (Editor’s note: We actually built cockpits for our actors when performing motion capture!)
One related thing worth a mention here is that when you start a new game of Squadrons (or later in the options menu), you can set the game to the “Instruments Only” mode. If you do, it turns off all the in-world UI elements (for highlighting objectives and so forth), so you become almost 100% reliant on your cockpit instruments. This definitely makes the game harder, so toggle it on with caution, but if you want to jack the immersion level to the max, it’s pretty darn cool!
As for flying those ships? EA says that the idea for Star Wars: Squadrons is streamline the learning process for piloting all eight starfighters, as they share a similar control scheme. The key focus will be on the Power Management system, which allows to divert and prioritise power throughout your ship, increasing weapon power, speed and the ability to charge your guns up faster.
Every ship has primary weapons, countermeasures, a hull outfitting, engines, and two auxiliary abilities (such as missiles or repair droids), though some starfighters also have shields. The benefit of this system is that if you know how to pilot one starfighter, you know how to pilot them all as they all share the same basic controls, too. Through these functions, players will be able to balance their power systems to face any confrontation.
If you’re in a ship that doesn’t come with shielding, certain processes will function even quicker. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s the full list of ships that you’ll be able to pilot:
- T-65B X-wing starfighter
- BTL-A4 Y-wing assault starfighter/bomber
- RZ-1 A-wing interceptor
- UT-60D U-wing starfighter/support craft
- TIE/ln starfighter (“TIE fighter”)
- TIE/sa bomber (“TIE bomber”)
- TIE/in interceptor (“TIE interceptor”)
- TIE/rp reaper attack lander (“TIE reaper”)
Authentic, deadly and just downright cool. I like what I’m seeing. Star Wars: Squadrons launches on PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 2.
Last Updated: July 16, 2020