Stick To Your Design Pillars

Can you have a Star Wars story that feels like Star Wars without the Force? Would a Mass Effect story still make sense if no biotics or mass effect travel occurred? Would a story set in the Bladerunner universe make sense without a Bladerunner hunting replicants? Does cyberpunk as a genre work without the juxtaposition of chrome versus street? Does a story set in Middle Earth still feel like Middle Earth without a fellowship of motley heroes daring the impossible?

These were the questions racing through my head when I was watching the new teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode 9 (, and I think it can prompt an excellent discussion about the feeling of the stories we tell and about their authenticity.

I think it’s more important as designers to identify early on what the core design pillars and feelings of our games and stories will be, and to make sure that those ring true throughout the design process, than it is to work within a particular setting. Rogue One felt like Star Wars, but Solo did not (imo).

I’m actively looking forward to people disagreeing with me. Let the Debate commence!


I think way more important to Mass Effect than biotics and mass relay travel were a) Reapers b) being an interplanetary space cop. Which is why whatever that belated sequel was called was terrible.

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That’s an interesting point, because Reapers did provide this existential threat that I believe the second was missing. Andromeda’s premise was that: 1) we can’t go back, 2) our arrive was completely fucked, 3) the worlds we want to colonize are some combination of already lived on buy indigenous species, immiscible because of terraforming problems, and under hostile occupation. I feel that “we need to make a home out of no home” is just as valid of an existential crisis as “invincible killing machines are coming to wipe us out for an unknown reason”, so to me, Reapers are not a key and necessary part of what makes Mass Effect.

I think that there are some elements that are more vital to a specific type of story than others, but that there’s probably a pretty wide range. Inclusion of elements seems to be more important than exclusion.

So if you include the Force, the story is going to feel inherently more Star Wars. But can you still achieve that without the Force and instead include other elements? The Empire is a big one, of course, with their stormtroopers and TIE fighters. Ithorians are far less vital in that way…but if you include an Ithorian and blasters and droids…is that enough to provide the Star Wars feel?

I think it’s an interesting question and one that a game designer needs to be considering at each step in the process. What world am I trying to portray? Does this element fit into that world?

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I think Solo tried answering this question, and my issues with the story asside I think its answer was no; however, I think the question is far from definitively answered. I think that the Mandelorian tv show will be asking the same question, and I’m curious to see what its answer will be.

Very true. Although there have been so many different Star Wars stories over the years in one format or another that I think the answer’s likely already been determined.

I think with a pre-existing property, it’s easier to gauge these things. Harder to figure out what is essential to a new fictional world in that way.

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