THURSDAY Star Wars (including pics)
DOGS AND CATS SLEEPING TOGETHER. EVERYTHING GOING DIM AND ALL IS FUZZY AND CONFUSED.
I MEAN, MORE THAN USUAL.....
FIRST UP...........HAPPY 79TH BIRTHDAY TO LANDO CALRISSIAN! (I MEAN, BILLY DEE WILLIAMS, OF COURSE).
AND FOR THE BIT-PLAYER FANS, HAPPY 59TH BIRTHDAY TO JOHN RATZENBERGER.
The New Force at Lucasfilm
The tech convergence has George Lucas’s gaming and movie divisions working hand-in-glove. R&D honcho Steve Sullivan and project lead Chris Williams explain how it’s working
There's a natural affinity between the fantasy worlds created in movies and video games.
At Lucasfilm Ltd., George Lucas' privately held entertainment company, the convergence of technology and manpower is hastening that collision. The ultimate goal is to boost collaboration between Industrial Light & Magic, the vaunted effects shop and biggest Lucasfilm unit, and its smaller game division, LucasArts.
The payoff is two-fold.
ILM's legendary technological prowess helps improve the next generation of video games.
Exposure to LucasArts is expected to help imbue ILM with some of the game unit's faster-paced culture -- and it will yield more video-game-like tools for use in movie-making.
The core technology driving the convergence is a proprietary internal software platform called Zeno, which both ILM and LucasArts will now use. Having a common technology lays the groundwork for each division to access the other's work and -- the hope is -- will lead to increased collaboration and borrowing.
The convergence is also aided quite literally by Lucasfilm's new facility at the Presidio in San Francisco, which brings together units previously separated by geography and corporate culture.
LucasArts moved in last July, and most of ILM was in house by October.
On Friday, Mar. 24, Steve Sullivan, ILM's head of research and development, and Project Lead Chris Williams, a LucasArts producer, spoke to the Game Developer's Conference in San Jose about the convergence between the two units.
BusinessWeek Corporate Strategies editor Brian Hindo caught up with them by phone.
Here are edited excerpts of their chat:
What was the impetus of this drive for more collaboration between LucasArts and ILM?Sullivan: I think George [Lucas] has intended this for quite a long time. It was hard before because we were geographically separate. The technology wasn't far enough that ILM and LucasArts could actually trade all that much. Computers had to get to a certain speed before it could really be meaningful to use film graphics in games. The consoles had to be powerful enough to support that kind of thing. We really had a sweet spot where the companies have co-located in the same building. And George is really strongly dedicated to this now that Star Wars is done.
What's the hope for all this collaboration?
Williams: George views LucasArts as a company that can do things very, very quickly and in real time. But we still have a lot of room to grow in terms of our visual quality and our visual target. And ILM is a company that can do things with very high visual quality. But that takes them a lot of time.
So this is not just ILM helping Lucasarts make our games look better. It's really a shared benefit.
Sullivan: We're definitely not real time. We're more concerned with "can we do it," rather than "how fast can we do it." Because our pipeline is built on taking a long time to get a perfect image, it slows down that period of iterative process, where you're looking at something -- "Is this right? Now, let's change that."
The game engines they're building at LucasArts and the way they're pushing their tools, they're going to provide us with techniques that are maybe approximate, but really fast -- like real time. You can converge very quickly to 95% and then send it off to the render farm (where computer generated images are rendered).
So that can save you time and money?
Sullivan: Yeah. It also changes the content of the projects, because you can iterate very quickly through ideas, brainstorm things. You might get two or three stabs at some big idea.
What else might more collaboration with LucasArts enable ILM to do?
Sullivan: Pre-visualization, which is a big thing that George has been pushing lately. It's a tool that directors would use to quickly mock up the ideas of a story and see what's going to work. It's really like building up a preview of a movie in a video game world. Instead of using static story boards, you can really just get in and create 3D content and camera moves directly. It's the best example of the kind of collaboration we've got going on.
It came from George -- it didn't come from either division. But it requires things that both divisions have expertise in.
What's different about movie people vs. game people?
Williams: Fundamentally, movie people are all about shots. How they get to the shot, and the process that they go through, is new and different and there are unique challenges associated with that. But at the end of the day the final output is something that goes on film. In game development you're making a software application. It's code that needs to run on a piece of hardware. So that's a very fundamental shift in terms of what your output is. You also just have to do a shot once, while a game has to work over and over again, in different ways.
Sullivan: Quality assurance (QA) is a fundamental part of their culture and we don't have it at ILM. They have to have QA, and it's really rigorous, because it's not just for their development process. The product going out the door is going to be judged on whether there are bugs in it.
As a result of the convergence, moving into new offices and using a new software platform, Zeno, what sorts of cultural shifts have been going on at LucasArts?
Williams: What LucasArts needed to do, from a cultural standpoint, was really embrace this notion of developing a cross-company tool with a pretty well established code base. And obviously not everything about that code base is going to be optimal for what we want to do, so there were certain concessions and compromises that we made early on.
But now we're in a really good place where the tool's working really well for us. That was a challenge. The history of game development is one of small groups of engineers growing it from scratch. And this was us embracing a huge set of already established code. This collaboration seems to imply that the traditional way video games and films are made will change.
Sullivan: An example would be, ILM is doing a shot for a film, but LucasArts artists can have that exact shot sitting on their desk, and they can start building a game environment around it or incorporating that somehow.
Is that happening already?
Williams: It's not happening right now, in that there's no project that ILM and LucasArts are both collaborating on right now. But there is full intention that we get to that place. That's certainly a key part of the vision. We're not in a space right now where we just want to be cranking out movie games. To the extent that we did that with the Episode III game, we're kind of done with that. We want to be telling new stories, new experiences, and really taking advantage of the interactive medium. And not just rehashing or serving up a film experience in a sort of interactive way. We're not sitting here right now waiting for ILM to come to us with some big film project so we can just crank out a movie game of it. The goal is use these tools, techniques, and knowledge to make a really exciting, innovative, next-gen product.
EDITOR'S NOTE: AND NOW....BUY UNCLE GEORGE! AND HIS ENTIRE FAMILY! (ACTION FIGURES ROCK!)
More Lucas In Hi-Rez
For your viewing pleasure, here are some high-resolution images of the Lucas Collector's Set. Featuring characters that were played by the Lucas family in Revenge of the Sith, these figures are exclusive to StarWarsShop.com and are due later this month.
Custom Star Wars Tees Now Available at StarWarsShop
StarWarsShop is now offering an exclusive array of customizable t-shirt designs paired with some cool phrases and slogans new to the Star Wars galaxy.
"SWF Seeking Scoundrel" might adorn your Princess Leia tee, while "Pass the Cough Drops" makes the perfect tag for Grievous.
How about "Nobody Likes a Whiner" for Anakin or "I got Jedi skills!" for Obi-Wan?
Of course, these phrases are optional -- you can create a slogan-less tee with any of the 1,500 Star Wars-related images available, or customize for sports with numbers on the back and/or names on the front.
There's also the ability to choose your t-shirt's color and style -- from a pink Leia camisole to a traditional white/black Vader ringer. The possibilities are endless! EDITOR'S NOTE: WELLLLLL...TECHNICALLY, THEY'RE NOT ENDLESS. BUT LOTS.
SOME SAMPLES ---
Here's what you'll find at StarWarsShop's custom tee studio:
Over 1,500 authentic Star Wars images to choose from
Over 20 characters, starships, locations and more represented from all Star Wars movies including the Clone Wars series
Customize the shirt by adding your name, or select from hundreds of phrases
Over 20 shirt styles including men's shirts, women's fitted shirts, long-sleeve shirts, sweatshirts, kids shirts, and infant clothing
Over 90 colors and style combinations to choose from
Sizes from infant and youth small all the way up to 5XL (3XL-5XL are available in the basic t-shirt style, while 2XL is available in both men's and women's styles)
Head on over to StarWarsShop and start creating your own customized Star Wars t-shirts today! EDITOR'S NOTE: I'M GUESSING THEY WON'T LET YOU USE BAD WORDS OR STUFF LIKE THAT.
"THIS &*^%#@ MOVIE SAGA HAS COST ME $9000 SO FAR, AND ALL I GOT WAS A @#&* T-SHIRT"
IS PROBABLY OUT OF THE QUESTION?)
Battle of Endor Figure Preview
Following the Battle of Coruscant, the fifth wave of Star Wars 2006 Saga Collection 3.75"-scale figures from Hasbro features characters from Return of the Jedi's climactic Battle of Endor.
Here's a first look at the figures available everywhere this fall, each with a base and randomly-selected bonus hologram figure. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHAT'S WITH THE RANDOM HOLOS? I JUST BOUGHT A ROTS KI-ADI MUNDI AND GOT A TPM QUEEN AMIDALA. IT'S JUST WRONG. WRONG WRONG WRONG.
Chief Chirpa is the wise, gray-furred leader of the Ewok tribe that befriended a Rebel strike team sent to the forest moon of Endor to destroy the Imperial shield generator. After some initial hostilities, it was he who accepted the Rebels into his tribe. A fierce defender of his people, he had been looking for a means to effectively resist the Imperial occupation, and did not hesitate to assist the Rebels by committing his forces to battle. EDITOR'S NOTE: TURNS OUT, HIS 'PEOPLE' WERE SO DURNED CUTE, THE IMPERIALS ALL WENT INTO SUGAR-SHOCK, AND THE REBELS AND THEIR FUZZY LITTLE FRIENDS OVER-RAN THEM WITHOUT A FIGHT.
A capable but arrogant officer, Moff Jerjerrod commanded the second Death Star during its construction. His first priority was to complete the powerful superlaser, which was used to destroy several key Rebel cruisers and nearly turned the tide of the battle. He perished when Rebel ships managed to detonate the space station's reactor core. EDITOR'S NOTE: FINALLY! AN ACTION FIGURE THAT SNIVELS!
Death Star Gunner
The immense weaponry of the Imperial fleet was operated by these highly skilled gunners. They were easily recognizable in their large, distinctive helmets, which were designed to protect them from the dangerous flashback of turbolaser batteries. Accustomed to the vast power under their control, they operated with smooth, calm precision, even during the fiercest battles.
EDITOR'S NOTE: SWING LOW, SWEET CHARIOT....SORRY. SOMETIMES THINGS JUST POP INTO YOUR HEAD. AND THEN, YOU SHARE.
No one was more surprised than C-3PO by the sudden manifestation of godlike powers brought on by the golden droid's frustration at being unable to convince the Ewoks to free his friends. Then his sudden short, Force-induced flight around the village drove the superstitious Ewoks into a panic. After that, he was able to make his lack of interest in a delicious meal made up of Han, Luke, and Chewbacca fully understood.
EDITOR'S NOTE: YOU KNOW HOW I CAN TELL HE'S A BADDIE? CAUSE HE'S UNATTRACTIVE. DUH.
A powerful and diabolical Dark Lord of the Sith, Emperor Palpatine very nearly succeeded in turning young Skywalker to the dark side of the Force. It was his focus on Luke, however, that caused him to miss the doubt growing within his original apprentice, Darth Vader. So confident was he of victory that he engineered his own destruction at Vader's hand. EDITOR'S NOTE: EVIL CAN BE SOOOOO SILLY SOMETIMES.
EDITOR'S NOTE: AND NOW, THE WEEKLY PICS -----
Senators Chi Eekway (Katie Lucas) and Terr Teneel (Amanda Lucas) stand with various extra Senators in front of a greenscreen to fill out newly acquired shots late in production.
Kurt Kaufman develops the interior of the Slave I for Attack of the Clones, based on what little we saw of it in The Empire Strikes Back.
Even a Grand Moff needs a SPIFF now and then.
ILM Modelmaker Danny Wagner puts the final touches on the ornate markings on Shaak Ti(played by ILM Production Operations Manager Maria Brill).
One could imagine the awkward silence between Skywalker and Vader in this environmental study of the interior of the Imperial shuttle, as illustrated by Norman Reynolds.
Ed Natividad illustrates a noble statue that might be found on Coruscant in Episode I.