Star Wars 1313: The story behind a highly-anticipated game

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author image by Elr1c | History | 0 Comments | February 13, 2018

I was recently reading “Blood, Sweat and Pixels“, a book covering stories from different game development studios. The book offers an insider’s view of many well-known games such as Witcher 3, Stardew Valley, Dragon Age: Inquisition and more. Among them, a very interesting tale that caught my eye dealt with the turbulent development of Star Wars 1313.

If you never heard of it before, the game was developed by LucasArts. Star Wars 1313, was going to accompany George Lucas live-action TV series that was under development during the same period. It took place in Coruscant and initially followed the stories of two bounty hunters as they were making their way through the planet’s underworld to discover a conspiracy. The game generated a lot of interest which quickly earned it the title of one of the most anticipated games of the period.  Sadly, it was never released.

 

Star Wars 1313: The story behind the game

The book draws its stories from a number of interviews with developers on the project. Star Wars 1313 was considered by many as a sure success. After all, it was representing one of the best-known franchises in the world. When the studio showed the trailer below, at E3 2012, it instantly caught the imagination of all gamers.

 

 

For LucasArts, Lucasfilm’s video-game development studio, it was also an opportunity to make a comeback from the challenges of years past. During the 1990s the studio set the high-standard for video game development. They developed games like Maniac Mansion, Secrets of the Monkey Island, X-Wing, Jedi Knight and more. During the 2000s, Lucasarts served more as a publisher, licensing Star Wars to other studios. That period brought us games like Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic and Bioware’s Star Wars Battlefront. Star Wars 1313 was Lucasarts’ attempt to regain its status as a development studio.

 

 

The beginnings

LucasArts began Star Wars 1313 development in early 2009. The game was originally envisioned as an RPG but the team decided to go all out and create a Star Wars-themed Grand Theft Auto type game. By the end of the same year, 1313, morphed to “Gears of Star Wars” as developers used to call it. It was essentially a variation of popular game Gears of War in a Star Wars setting.

In 2010, a new LucasArts CEO was hired and with him came a new change of direction. 1313 would attempt to mimic the Uncharted series. By the end of the year, the studio had zeroed in on what they wanted to do. During this period, LucasArts finalized the name of the game: Star Wars 1313.  It was named after Coruscant’s 1313th underworld level.

George Lucas was also involved with the development of the game. He served as an advisor and allowed the team to use some of the assets from the movies as well as his unnamed TV series. In the beginning, his involvement was seen as a positive thing. As years went by, however, Lucas started recommending more and more changes that had an impact on the game and development timelines.

 

 

George Lucas gets involved with the direction Star Wars 1313

The game was showcased in E3 2012 and instantly became a hit with fans and the gaming press. Little did they know that the demo they saw, didn’t represent what was going to be in the game. Two months before E3 2012, Lucas had already decided to change 1313’s two bounty hunter protagonists and focus the storyline on Boba Fett. LucasArts leadership attempted to change George’s mind. They indicated that a change like that would send them back to the drawing board and push the game back for months. Unfortunately, they failed to convince him. After all, the famous director owned the company and all decisions went through him.

The team started gearing up for E3 2012 knowing that what they showed wasn’t going to be in the final game. They also knew that they had to make a good impression. LucasArts feared that their parent company might consider canceling the game. For that reason, the team put their heads down and went to work. With E3 they managed to create hype around the game. When it was over, they started making plans on getting the game into production.

 

 

Disney buys Lucasfilm

Around September 2012, Lucasfilm told LucasArts to refrain from announcing Star Wars First Assault – a Star Wars First Person shooter that was in the works in parallel with 1313.  They also issued a hiring freeze and assured everyone that it was temporary. The freeze put the plans of launching Star Wars 1313, on-hold. Nobody at LucasArts understood why.

On October 2012, Disney announced that they’re purchasing Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise for 4 billion dollars (US). LucasArts employees were stunned, however, Disney assured them that business would continue as usual. Internally though, Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, mentioned that the company was looking to license Star Wars games to other video developers.

During that period, LucasArts and 1313 were in a state of limbo. Some thought that Disney would shut down Lucasarts, while others hoped that the buzz around the game was enough to save the project and the company. The truth was, that during that period, Disney was negotiating deals with video game publishers. One publisher finally managed to strike a deal with the new proprietors of the Star Wars franchise; Electronic Arts (EA).

 

Star Wars First Assault was another game that was canceled when Disney bought Lucasfilm

 

Electronic Arts and Star Wars

After the deal became public, it gave LucasArts’ employees a new hope. The rumor was that EA would buy off LucasArts and finish the game. Supposedly some negotiations took place on the topic but they never got too far. By April 2013, Disney had shut down Lucasfilm, canceling all of the studio’s projects including Star Wars 1313. In a last-ditch effort, an EA executive attempting to save 1313, set up a meeting between the leads of LucasArts and Visceral Games; a studio owned by EA. If all went well, then Visceral would hire LucasArts developers and finish 1313 under Visceral’s banner.

Unfortunately, even though the presentation went well, its main purpose was to hire developers off LucasArts in order to staff an unannounced Visceral project. The unannounced project was a new action adventure Star Wars game that was being developed under the direction of Amy Hennig.

As we now know, Visceral was also shut down late last year and all their work got reassigned to Respawn Entertainment. When Respawn’s game finally lands in 2020, it will be the third time where an open-world Star Wars game will attempt to launch. Fingers crossed until then.


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