James M. Potter

writings on music, games, and culture

Tag: Star Wars

Honorary Canon: Disney’s revamp of the Star Wars fiction, and why it matters (sort of)

Ever since Disney announced that it would be putting out new Star Wars films and products, there has been a mixed response from one of the world’s most devoted fandoms. To the sci-fi or fantasy fan, more time spent in their chosen universe is almost always an unequivocally good thing. But the fans are realising there will have to be sacrifices. Disney have recently announced that they are streamlining the canon of the Star Wars universe. They’ve appointed a ‘Story Group’ to sift through the vast corpus of media set long ago in that galaxy far, far away, and decide which of it should be considered to have actually happened. It’s put me to thinking – why is canonicity important in fantasy fiction? If all of it is made up anyway, why should it be important that some it is agreed to have ‘happened’ and some of it isn’t? Read the rest of this entry »

Jedi Outcast, or, Why Licensed Music Isn’t Always a Good Idea

Jedi Outcast (or to give it its full, ponderous title, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast) is enjoying a little nostalgic attention this week, with the sad news that publisher LucasArts is closing its doors, causing magnanimous developers Raven to release the source code for the game. People have been rightly praising how much Raven got right with JK2 – the lightsaber combat was satisfying (not an easy thing to achieve), the level design was pretty good, and the storyline didn’t jump the shark. Being a product of that golden sequence of Quake III-engine games, it was endlessly mod-able to boot. I and many others were tinkering with it for a long time after it came out (and with the source code now floating around, it might be here a while longer). It wasn’t perfect though, and what this week’s news also reminded me of was one of the first things I did to the game when I got my hands on Pakscape – I changed the music.  Read the rest of this entry »

Case Study: the music of Star Wars games

We all know what to expect at the start of a Star Wars game: ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away’; that iconic John Williams theme, blaring from speakers that will never be large enough to do it full justice; receding yellow text updating you to pertinent events in the universe like some sort of post-apocalyptic news ticker.

But it’s what happens immediately after that has reviewers reaching for their notepads. The text recedes into nothing, the camera pans down from a star-filled sky…and the developer takes over responsibility. Now comes their first opportunity to show that they’ve carefully dovetailed their concept into the vast history of a very well-established universe. But accomplishing this is not just the task of the visual department, which needs to capture the drab Imperial greys and expansive planetary vistas; and it’s not just the character design, which needs to populate the game with improbably humanoid aliens with silly names. Nor does the responsibility fall squarely on the story writers, who must craft an involving and fitting narrative with frequent recourse to moral absolutism – not to mention authentically clunky dialogue. Read the rest of this entry »