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Traveller's Tales/Lego Star Wars II

Le'go of your preconceptions as we quiz Traveller's Tales dev director Jonathan Smith

Star Wars and LEGO - a match seemingly made in heaven, with the little plastic bricks combining with the all-conquering Star Wars movies - to become a ahem real force in gaming.

High time then to track down the developer responsible for such a great combination and we've managed to secure a word in the shell- like of Jonathan Smith, development director at Traveller's Tales and veteran of LEGO Star Wars, Prisoner of War and Operation Flashpoint.

So now read on as he discusses plans for the new LEGO title Star Wars Trilogy, talks life on the Ranch with George and offers a tantalising hint of what the future might entail - LEGO Indy anyone?

Do you get much feedback from the Lucas Ranch on LEGO Star Wars? What does the big man himself think?
"All along, we've had terrific support and input from the teams at Lucasfilm and LucasArts. Everyone's always been incredibly kind and enthusiastic about this distinctive take on the world they live and work with - yes, all the way to the top!"

So what is it that makes Star Wars and LEGO work together so well?
"Oh, lots of reasons. The mythic strength of the essential Star Wars narrative is complemented by the creative unpredictability of LEGO. The LEGO building system is well suited to spacecraft, and the Star Wars vehicles make terrific models; just as the distinctiveness of the Star Wars characters makes them ideally suited to treatment in iconic form as minifigures. It all just works."

Can you still cut off Threepio's legs in the second game? How did that come about in the first place?
"Of course you can - and his arms. A lot of those brilliant animation touches were originated and executed by our genius lead animator, and they were entirely of his own devising."

So how does LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy improve on its illustrious predecessor?
"Oh, I could answer this one all day. We very consciously set the bar high,rt. We were all really proud of the original game, and we knew that the only way to feel that proud again would be to produce much more than a straightforward continuation of the LEGO Star Wars story. Instead, we wanted to create something that genuinely developed the game experience in several different dimensions."

Give us a big old list then...
(Deep breath) "A bigger and deeper game all round; more LEGO, and more you can do with it; the ability to get in and out of vehicles like the AT-ST and landspeeder, or to ride creatures; new combat moves and special abilities, including the ability for characters to build with LEGO, Force Lightning, Force Confuse and Force Choke; new competitive bonus areas; the ability to take control of collected mini-kit vehicles; Free Play in space sections; score-multiplying bonus areas; loads of new cheats and extras; Gold Bricks and Power Bricks; thermal detonators for bounty hunters. Plus, of course, the ability to pull off your own head and throw it at an enemy (available for one special character only)."

Well obviously. In addition, how have you created a LEGO Jabba?
"We've based him on the original LEGO model - as a single sculpted element. He does look suitably gross."

And has a golden bikini ever been rendered in LEGO before?
"It's highly unlikely."

You guys are probably the first to have been allowed to genuinely mess around (in a good way) with an IP as jealously guarded as Star Wars. What makes you so special that they let you get away with it?
"Well, there are two main factors there. First, we gain so much from the freedom brought by LEGO. The creative people there have already done a lot of hard work for us, in terms of establishing the ground rules. And second, the credit has to go entirely to the team at Traveller's Tales. The many years of experience they have in making great games, coupled with their innate love for LEGO and Star Wars enabled them to create the perfect early demo. They then followed that up with consistently brilliant work in every area."

Which original series Star Wars location has been the most fun to render in LEGO?
"We instantly started on the Death Star - and I think that remains a favourite location. It's just so much fun to contrast the seriousness of this dark Imperial enterprise with the jokey surprises you'd expect from a LEGO game."

Would you ever consider rendering another movie licence in LEGO? Like the Indiana Jones films perhaps?
"We've got plans for more LEGO games for the future - we hope you enjoy them too."

Lego Nazis. I hate these guys...