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Postmortem: Factor 5's Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II
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Postmortem: Factor 5's Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II

May 1, 2002 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

When I think back to the development of Star Wars: Rogue Leader, the first thing that comes to mind is time - or rather the lack of it. Never in the more than 13-year history of Factor 5 have we had a project under greater time pressure than this one.

Many might think that Factor 5's history reaches back only as far as 1996, when the company moved to its current location in San Rafael, Calif., just next to Lucas Arts and Skywalker Ranch.
In fact, Factor 5 was originally formed out of an Amiga hacker group back in Cologne, Germany. In the late 1980s, the Amiga became very popular in Europe, but it didn't have any good action games. It was a port platform, but the machine deserved better; our games, including R-Type and Turrican, were among the first ones to really push the technology unique to the Amiga.

With the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis/Mega Drive reinventing the console market worldwide, we moved on to these platforms and got into contact with Lucas Arts, Konami, and Nintendo. During this time, Factor 5 made Super Turrican 1 and 2 and Mega Turrican on the SNES and Genesis, Indiana Jones - Greatest Adventures on the SNES, International Supertsar Soccer Deluxe on the Genesis, and both Contra 2 and Animaniacs on Game Boy.

When the Playstation arrived, we started work on Ball Blazer Champions and Star Wars: Rebel Assault 2 for Lucas Arts. However, the 9-hour time difference be-tween California and Germany soon became a problem with CD-based projects. The Internet wasn't fast enough in the mid-1990s to transfer so much data in any practical fashion. We always had to burn versions to a CD and send them via courier.

This situation could only go on for so long until Lucas Arts asked us if we might consider moving the company to the U.S. They offered their help in legal matters, and in May 1996 the American chapter of Factor 5's history began.

After finishing Ball Blazer, we moved on to our best-known title before Star Wars: Rogue Leader, the original Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, released in 1998 for the Nintendo 64 and PC. With Episode I heading to movie theaters soon after, Star Wars: Battle for Naboo was next, followed by our final N64 game, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine.

Those who saw our Star Wars teaser trailer at Space World 2000 might think that Star Wars: Rogue Leader was in development continuously from then until shortly before the launch. In fact, most of the team was busy with Star Wars: Battle for Naboo and Indiana Jones until late 2000, so we didn't really get started with Star Wars: Rogue Leader until January 2001.

Hitting the Gamecube launch meant being done mid-September 2001 - roughly nine months for a 15-month project.

In-game screenshot of a scene during the Battle of Endor. The Death Star featured in the background is actually a big sprite and not a 3D model.

Fortunately, due to our work on the Space World demo and our involvement in the development of Gamecube's audio system, we already knew a lot of things about Nintendo's new platform. While this gained us the invaluable advantage of having a ready-to-use audio driver and some experience on the Flipper graphics chip, we still had many, many things to test and try out - and pretty much everything we did on the hardware was a first.

It wasn't long into the project before six- or seven-day weeks became the absolute norm for everybody on the team. And these were not cozy eight-hour days, either.

Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

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