Star Wars: The Old Republic Developer Story and Cinematics Talk Star Wars Celebration 2022

Story and Cinematics in Legacy of the Sith talk with Charles Boyd, Creative Director, and Ashley Ruhl, Lead Cinematics Director. Hosted by the Galaxy of Heroes booth as they are bringing the character Darth Malgus into their game!

Rough Automated Transcript

hi everybody
all right sorry this year we should be
saying ‘hello there’
thank you so much for coming we are
here to talk about how we build story uh
content in star wars the old republic uh
thank you so much for coming i’m charles
boyd i’m the creative director for star
wars zeal republic and i am joined by
i am ashley rule i’m the lead cinematic
designer on Star Wars: The Old Republic
as you can probably guess if you’ve
played the game we have some players
here i think probably yeah
story is really the first thing that
we figure out in anything we do in the
old republic it leads the way for
everything else it decides what the what
the planets we go to are going to be
what the characters are going to
every all everything all the gameplay
flows from the storyline because that is
you know for us the central part of the
game kind of our our
unique feature the thing that we feel
like everybody shows up for in the
first place is to play through your own
star wars adventure with your own
character good or bad or
romantic whatever they might be
right and and explore the galaxy uh
really the first step in anything we do
is just developing a plot summary it’s
the least exciting looking document
you’ve ever seen it’s a word document
most of the time which is literally
describing what the storyline is going
to be at a high level
sometimes that can be the storyline
for two years worth of stuff and
sometimes it can be the storyline for 15
minutes worth of stuff it just you know
at every level we try to uh
have those documents because they serve
a lot of purposes right
it’s so
in some cases it’s other writers writing
them for me to review and all that uh
they exist so that we can share them
around the team especially the
cinematics team early on so that they
can start thinking about how they’re
gonna build these stories how they’re
gonna tell them in cinematics and
playing helping the world designers
start planning what the world is going
to be like how it’s going to be laid out
and also perhaps most importantly uh
with our partners at lucasfilm uh
everything we do still goes through
lucasfilm still gets reviewed by the
story group
we’re still deeply involved we actually
work with pretty much the exact same
people we’ve been working with for
for me almost 16 years now believe it or
not so they’re still really involved
with the story still really involved
with what we what we design and build
which is so cool to get their feedback
and their thoughts and contributions uh
with everything you do
so we kind of shift that off shift that
around share it around
and then the next step is the
dialogue writing so we have special
custom tools because of course our
dialogue unlike most movies or shows is
branching right it’s spread you have
choices those choices have different
responses those responses have different
you can’t really do it very easily in a
normal screenplay format so we have a
special tool that kind of looks like
a like a tree it just sort of branches
and branches as it goes down
and so the writers get started
creating the actual dialogue and that’s
while we’re kind of getting feedback
and sharing things around
and that goes through a whole lot of
reviews and feedback and innovation and
stuff as you’d expect
sometimes most of the time it’s
one writer writes a whole story sequence
it’s rare that more than one writer
contributes to a single scene
so for example on manon recently in
the legacy of the sith but one writer
did the entire empire storyline one
writer did the entire republic storyline
on elon i actually wrote most of the
storyline and dialogue on the alarm from
both sides so we try to have one
writer kind of own the whole experience
and it’s similar for the cinematics team
which actually we’ll talk about in a
because i feel like that really gives
it a continuous voice gives it a
consistent tone and feel
it’s important for creative people to
have that sensibility and have that
sense of contribution to their own work
right it’s it’s hard to all be throwing
your own minds into the same thing we
did it once or twice and
i promise it’s none of the quests any of
you like
those turn out well
so it’s always important to to have that
that creative vision that’s consistent
through each individual piece and then
where where it becomes my job is making
sure that all of those creative visions
add together into one
[Music] so
once the dialogue is written that also
goes to lucasfilm
and feedback and thoughts
it is also then submitted to our friends
in spain who translate it into french
and german every single line
and then from that we do generate actual
screenplay format things which are very
hard to read as you can imagine
[Music] we i actually sit in on a lot of the
voice asking sessions which is the next
step right we ship it out for recording
which we do in
los angeles new york london
vancouver sometimes we’ll wait we joke
that where wherever an actor is we will
find them and we will record them i
think we’re over
we’ve got to be over a thousand actors i
think at this point
it’s a crazy crazy
thing but anyway
so as the as the dialogue recording is
the cinematics can kind of start uh
do you want to talk a little about that
and then we’ll i think of the next
step after that i’ll jump right in all
and before the the dial or before the vo
is even in the game i’m going through
all the scenes and checking basically
asset lists like okay we want to build
this giant fish coming out of the ocean
what kind of assets do we need for
this to make it feasible does it fit in
the budget does it fit in our schedule
so we’re going through every single
scene seeing which characters are there
which locations we need if we need any
extra visual effects or special
animations that kind of thing
but once we
have a better
understanding of what all the scenes are
the cinematics team all sits down and we
talk about
visual tone
we talk about what in each of the
scenes is important to highlight in
terms of emotional engagement what is uh
an important player choice what is an
important character moment or companion
moment and that really shapes our uh
film language it changes how we shoot it
and if it’s like a really tender moment
or really like it’s not sticky or just
like really dramatic and epic it really
shapes how we are going to shoot it and
so it’s nice to have a run through with
the entire cinematics team to really get
a high level understanding of how we
want our visual language to look
after that each cinematic designer gets
assigned scenes so they own that scene
from the very
beginning to end and so we have a we
definitely have a tone guide but the
execution of it is very much up to our
cinematic team or at each individual
individual cinematic designer
and then we uh
when we’re in the tool basically like
charles said every single line of
dialogue has its own timeline so we are
building timelines on each line of
dialogue and if it branches we have to
make sure that when it branches it comes
back together that we’ve staged the
in a way
that it all comes back together so
you can’t have one dialog option where
someone wanders up and then the next
shot they’re right back there so we have
to really think about consistency of
and yeah and then we do oh and
then so
the way we build cinematics is we have a
huge animation library sometimes we
do get custom stuff but mostly we rely
on 10 years worth of animation we have
in the game the cinematic animation
that we have and each cinematic designer
is both staging the actors and animating
them by choosing gestures and walks and
head turns everything in this trailer is
just animations that we have in our
library that we use to construct the
scenes and each cinematic designer is
also in charge of talking to our visual
visual effects department making sure
everything looks consistent with what
they’re thinking for the scene they work
with our sound department they work with
music so they really get to be a
director of their own scene and for me
it’s really important that everybody
gets to own that experience and really
deliver on a vision for the characters
it’s also really important to me that
however we execute on these scenes that
it is very much the player’s story we
always want to make sure the way we
shoot it we are putting the player front
and center they don’t have to be at the
center of the screen for every shot but
the story really needs to focus on your
experience and how you engage with the
world and feeling like you have made an
impact that it you are important and you
matter in this world
so that really comes through in our
in our visual language
and then after that we do a lot of
reviews we do reviews with the
narrative team cinematics team the fx
team everybody just comes in throws in
their two cents because getting fresh
eyes on a scene that you looked at for
three weeks is so so helpful because
then if it’s like oh i don’t understand
why this character came from this way or
oh that doesn’t really feel right for
this character let’s try a different
gesture it’s really nice to have that
feedback and just have that really
collaborative feel that everybody’s
coming together to make the same thing
and ultimately it’s really fun to
eventually just get all of our scenes
done and then when we ship
getting to watch all of y’all play
online and see your reactions to it
because that honestly is one of my
favorite parts is seeing people react to
the scenes that we’ve created what
dialogue choices you make how what
your reactions are to certain dramatic
moments or characters or who you romance
and it just forms our hearts we love to
see that experience and yeah
another really interesting thing about
the cinematics is that a lot of it
really depends on that voiceover line
itself existing that’s kind of what our
tools are based around so they you
all are able to do some scene work and
things without the voiceover especially
beginning of legacy of the sith right
like the big space scenes that you built
which were fantastic ashley ashley did
all those awesome space battles at the
beginning uh
and and if you like seeing your
playership in that scene that’s
that’s because ashley went way above and
beyond to make that happen
yeah so
but otherwise it really depends
because like you’re saying y’all are
picking all these animations and
gestures and stuff because you need the
voice over there to get the timing and
it’s and it becomes essential especially
16 voices for a potentially for one line
right with if it’s a player line that
every player has that’s 16 people
in english and then another 16 in
correction another 16 in german so
yeah yeah to get that timing right
yeah and for me the coming from an
animation background listening to the
voice actors and their performance in
the line is so important to me because i
really want to create basically i create
two timelines in my head we have what
the person is saying and how they’re
behaving it’s two different things that
they’re you know either
verbally saying or physically saying and
so getting that performance listening
to the voice lines and trying to really
imagine how do i capture that that
essence of that character make sure that
every every gesture that the
character does is very true to who they
are like zenith acts very different than
kira does making sure that each of these
characters feels very
unique to their personalities
yeah so
it’s just that easy
ashley you’ve been working on sourfield
republic since about knights of the
fallen empire is there any cinematics
that you’re really proud of or your
favorite that you work from?
it’s funny because i actually
worked at on the game at launch it
was my first job in the industry uh
working on a couple other planets and
so it’s it’s funny like i was on spot
tour left went to other companies came
back for coffee quartet
left again came back for echoes of libya
i think from
specifically from like cop here just
anything oh okay
gosh i
i just love the really big epic scenes
just that i i love the drama of it i
feel like there’s not a lot of
properties where you can just go ham
and the uh
the end of echoes of oblivion with the
three emperors was probably one of my
just because it was the most dramatic
thing that i could think of to make
visually i think that scene had about
like four lines in it and you were just
like just make something like cool and i
just like came up with this like
there was like you know mention of the
ghosts and stuff like that but i was
like okay how are we going to do this so
i worked really closely with the uh
visual effects team to really capture
a look for for everything
that was one of my favorites and
i want to say one before
the uh
the reunion with malavai quinn on iopath
is probably one of my favorites too just
because it’s very
in the in the romance sense uh
because i have a soft spot for quinn and
i was listening to the jane eyre
soundtrack on loop while i was building
that scene because i just needed to be
this like
longing sort of scene and i’m so glad
i get to to make that stuff i get to
make these big you know bombastic action
scenes i get to make the really dramatic
force ghost scenes and i get to do lots
of love and and affection scenes
we actually had the pleasure of
hanging out with darren depaul earlier
today who is the voice of valkorian
and of course general daeron
and yeah we got to laugh about
ashley killing him off twice
yeah i did the scene at the end of kotet
and the scene at the end of that goes to
oblivion so and both times it broke my
heart and was like no i can’t i don’t
want to do this but yeah it was it
was very fun to get to do that twice
but yeah we were we were so we
had enjoyed working with ashley so much
that we just kept trying to deliver back
over and over again and so i’m really
glad all right
thank you all so much for coming oh my
hanging out at the image gave us the end
of celebration to be here with us thank
you so much i hope you hope everybody’s
had a wonderful show
yeah i’ve been this is my first
celebration so i’m really happy to meet
all of you and yeah get to be part of
the team and yeah get to celebrate the
game that we all love help yourselves
thank you so much