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Interviews

Peter Hirschmann, LucasArts

We put the LucasArts boss under the interview microscope where he talks, Star Wars, Indy and life with George

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Likewise the demos - you can put anything up there. Like you could put your Jar-Jar carbonite demo up...
...And they'd say, "They're making a Jar-Jar game, what? Is Jar-Jar returning?" No... There are great opportunities I think. That's one reason we're so happy with the DMM and Euphoria stuff - it allows us to make intelligent experiences that are pretty self-contained, that would have taken massive engineering to craft before.

The Xbox 360 hasn't got a space sim yet. What are the chances of a return for TIE Fighter?
The thing about X-Wing and TIE Fighter was that they were console games on a PC, with simple controls. The goal for us is to get back to [X-Wing creator] Larry Holmes' level of execution. If you ask Larry, if he had had the horsepower and the budget, the pilot would have got out of the ship, run around, flown down to a planet - all of that. In the old days, you had to have X-Wing, Jedi Knight, all these pieces, and our dream was to do it all together. Now, we want that feeling of being in the Star Wars universe without carving it up into little bits.

LucasArts president Jim Ward said the industry needs to "innovate or die", referring to the need to appeal to non-traditional gamers. How are you going to adapt your rigid universes to appeal to this larger fanbase?
There's never been a franchise that's made such an impact on western civilisation as Star Wars and there's great potential there. The funny thing is that during global surveys Indiana Jones is sometimes better-known than Star Wars; there's something universal about him. But people often forget that LucasArts didn't make its first Star Wars game for ten years. There are the SCUMM games (Sam & Max, Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle) and we actually started with military simulations. Making fun stuff is the number one reason that George has a videogame company - not to make Star Wars or Indiana Jones games. It's to break new ground - not just with technology but what we do with the technology. One of my favourite George quotes is, "A special effect by itself is a boring thing - but a special effect in the context of a story can be really, really exciting." We want to get back to the fun stuff and make people happy with new stuff.

What are your favourite games?
Binary Systems' Starflight was a wonderful game. I have trouble thinking of a gaming experience where I was happier. The original Sid Meier's Pirates! ignited your imagination - such an elegant use of the tech of the time, getting you emotionally invested in this bitmapped pirate ship swimming around on a map of the Spanish Main. To me that's always been the hallmark of a great game. It's not the platform, it's not the tech - it's someone's creative vision coming through on screen.

I was about to ask where you wanted to go next, but it sounds like you're doing what you always wanted to do. How did you get there?
Extreme dumb luck. I've spent the majority of my career at two different places. The first was Dreamworks Interactive, the second LucasArts. I like to tell people I only work at videogame companies owned by filmmakers for some reason. My time at Dreamworks was amazing. I got to be involved in Medal of Honor when that launched, and see that franchise take off and grow. It sounds hackneyed but it really is a dream come true. My number one goal is to get the smartest and most creative people in here - and then stay out of their way. Then I get to play what they make. The conversations you have here, like "How fast is the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon?" are the fanboy-type conversations you'd normally be having with your mates at lunch. You check the Holocron and call the people to check.

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