For Jon-Paul Dumont and the team at Disney Mobile, the creation of Star Wars: Tiny Death Star was a balancing act. On one side, there was NimbleBit and their hit game, but also their aesthetic of gameplay and of how they approach free-to-play that forms the spirit of their games. On the other side, LucasArts is very protective of Star Wars, and even with Disney owning the brand now they work diligently to make sure that anything Star Wars fits in with the brand.
Getting to work with NimbleBit for Disney’s internal mobile studio was a dream come true, and Dumont had been in touch about working with them but he couldn’t find a partnership that would work out until Disney bought Star Wars. And how did Tiny Death Star come about? Well, Dumont says “Somebody just sort of blurted out, ‘What about Tiny Death Star?’ and lightbulbs sort of went off and it sort of wrote itself from there on out.”
Once the idea was formed, making a game that would feel true to NimbleBit was key. “The team sat down with the guys at NimbleBit and learned from them, what were the fans of Tiny Tower really excited about? What did they love? What were things that they felt like could be improvements?”
“One of the things that we really loved about Tiny Tower was the delightful randomness of the game, and how you never quite know what the next floor is going to be… who the next character is going to be who gets into your elevator. So we wanted to add to that by taking all these fun, iconic villains and heroes and species of Star Wars and giving you a reason to want to see all of them.”
“Even though we built this internally at Disney, this should feel 100% like a Nimblebit game. David and Ian [Marsh] were involved in the game and they reviewed builds often, and helped us stay within what is really important to them as game makers. The great thing is that we were starting from something like Tiny Tower that was very successful and I think really innovative in the market at the time, so we didn’t really feel the need to reinvent their formula. So in the same way that we were really reverential to Star Wars, I’d say we were really reverential to Nimblebit.”
And making the game fit in with the Star Wars brand was important for them and for LucasArts. “The team started working then with LucasArts to figure out, how do we adapt that fun, humorous, 8-bit style that NimbleBit has over to Star Wars? It was the first at least recent 8-bit game for LucasArts, there was a lot of work and back and forth to make sure that our versions of the characters really worked but still had that tongue-in-cheek style.”
“[LucasArts] are really rigorous, and it makes sense given that Star Wars is a property that has lasted so long, and that they have plans to keep it going for decades to come. They are just making sure that the characters fit and that things are logical within the universe. They’re also making sure that they are making the right creative decisions for the future. They have a kind of legacy to protect. And so when they look at an 8-bit Stormtrooper, they’re trying to figure out not just how does it work for this game, but what does 8-bit mean in Star Wars for next year, 5 years, and 10 years in the future?”
This even came down to making the game make at least some sense narratively. Dumont says “We needed to know even if it’s goofy or silly, like our premise is intentionally, it was important to have that central focus of knowing why is an Ewok on the Death Star? Why is Lando Calrissian around your cantina? So, that gave us a grounding element. It was also really important to the guys at Lucas. They really are the guardians of this legacy of Star Wars. So no matter how silly or goofy the game is, they want to make sure everything fits together. And there are things that we followed along that were important to them. For instance, our game is set roughly in the classical era of Star Wars, which means that characters who died in the prequels are not going to show up in this game. Even for something as cute as this, there are really important sort of structural rules that are important to us and LucasArts.”
“I would not call this game canon, they’re not basing movies on it or anything like that, but having something that fits and makes sense is actually really important to us and we feel like it is important to our audience of Star Wars fans who take things, even goofy things seriously. It is really fun to play around in a version of Star Wars that doesn’t take itself that seriously, so it allows us to have a lot of the fun and lots of fun humor and gags.”
And with Tiny Death Star out now worldwide, players can judge for themselves if Dumont and Disney Mobile found their own balance of the Force between the inspirations from NimbleBit and Star Wars. Thanks to Jon-Paul Dumont for his time.
Released: 2013-11-06 :: Category: Games
Tagged with: free, Games, interview, Jon-Paul Dumont, nimblebit, Star Wars, Tiny Death Star