The folks at Zen Studios have been killing it with their licensed pinball games for the last few years (just check out their last two sets of Marvel comics
tables for proof) and the world went a bit nuts when word went out earlier this year that they had secured the license for the Star Wars universe. With the first set of tables hitting today we were able to talk Neil Sorens, the creative director at Zen Studios about what we could expect from the tables. Be sure to check back later today for our review of the tables.
What was your first reaction when you heard Zen Studios had landed the Star Wars license?
It was a long time coming, so mostly relief that we'd finally managed to finalize things. Of course, once it was time to start work on the tables, everyone was as excited as can be.
Did you go back and look at any of the old Star Wars pinball machines for inspiration? What inspirations did you draw from your previous tables?
Since much of the appeal of pinball is novelty, we try to change things up and come up with new ideas rather than drawing from specific tables. Our designers have been doing this for years and along the way have accumulated tons of ideas, so there is never a shortage of inspiration.
Why the decision to start off with an Empire Strikes Back table? There are plenty of other chapters available that occurred (chronologically) prior to Empire, why start in the middle of the lore?
Rather than telling stories from the beginning, licensed pinball tables are more about condensing the property into the sights and sounds that give you that warm fuzzy feeling as you recall their context. You wouldn't want to get the story for the first time from a pinball table; you'd want a format that is ideal for telling stories. We assume that everyone's already familiar with the Empire Strikes Back story, and the pinball table conjures up those memories while allowing you to pursue the kind of abstract gameplay goals that a pinball table offers.
Plus, if we started chronologically, we'd be doing Dawn of the Jedi
, which is an entertaining new comic series but is not what our fanbase wants to see in the initial group of tables.
What things are you are the most proud about in the first table pack?
We didn't have to sacrifice any originality, variety, or depth on the pinball side in order to cram each table full of Star Wars goodness. Pinball fans will love the depth, stackable modes, multiple multiball opportunities, and the flow and balance of the tables, while Star Wars fans will enjoy all the authentic images, music, sounds, etc. as well as lore from the expanded universe and other details.
Have you made any changes to the underlying pinball engine? Is there anything new that we’ll notice in the tables?
There aren't any changes to the engine itself, but we do use it in new ways. For example, Clone Wars has a mode where a dome-shaped shield encapsulates part of the table, adding a large new collision barrier.
There's also a manual "complete the next shot for current mode" feature in Boba Fett, similar to the Cosmic Cube on Captain America, but triggered with the launch button on demand instead of as part of a table feature. Very handy for when you're chasing that 50 Million point bounty and are running out of time with just one shot left. Of course, it's limited-use, but you start the game with 1 shot and can accumulate more.
It has been said that there are at least 10 other tables in the works under the license, can you give us a hint as to other places you’ll be going during as part of the deal?
t's actually 10 total, so 7 more after the first pack. We haven't decided what all of them are going to be yet, but iconic films, characters, and events are a pretty good bet, and maybe a surprise or two.
Are your creations limited to just the films and their characters or will you be branching out into some of the extended canon from the various books and animated series?
We can use the expanded universe, not just the films. The Clone Wars table in the first pack is actually from the CG animated show, and the Boba Fett table contains quite a bit of material not found in the films.
Any hidden gems or easter eggs that people should be on the lookout for?
With LucasArts checking every millimeter of every table, I have a bad feeling about this.
We'd like to thank Neil for taking the time to talk to us as well as the always awesome Mel for setting up the interview.