I recently attended a preview event for LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens (see my preview for more details!), and I’ve played a little of the demo version of the game. While I was there, I also had a chat with Graham Goring, who is the lead Story Designer at TT Games. He’s a very funny guy, so this interview is actually quite worth listening to. There’s lot’s of information there, and it’s quite funny and entertaining as well, so enjoy!
So Graham, for the benefit of our readers, can you tell me what a Story Designer is?
You know, I get that question so much, but mostly from the office. Basically, my job is to add dialogue to the game, write cutscenes where it’s appropriate; on this game it was the backstory levels, the new story levels, which I would do in co-operation with our cutscene department. Mostly, my job is to write the gameplay script, attend voiceover recordings to make sure I hit the right lines for it to make sense for a joke or for a gameplay purpose. And to get away with as little work as possible! No-one gets into writing because they like doing lots of work!
Regarding the development and the timescale of LEGO The Force Awakens, how early were the story details revealed to you during this process?
We started making the game early last year. I can’t speak to specifics of what we saw or what we were told, but we started making the game pretty early last year, and you know, Lucasfilm are great to work with and they gave us everything we needed to make the game.
It does put you in a very privileged position to have that knowledge.
It is – To know the fate of [SPOILER] and to have that information…Oh my gosh. It is dangerous, because I’m a blabbermouth!
Funnily enough, just playing the demo I already sort of have the answer to this question, but for LEGO The Force Awakens does the dialogue consist mostly of clips from the movie, or is there a lot of new dialogue?
All the cutscenes will be stems, apart from the backstory levels where we will use additional dialogue. Anything in the game, generally speaking. There’s a couple of bits, there’s an exchange where Finn gets his name on the TIE Fighter, we pulled stems because we were able to, and you know the time you have with actors is very limited, depending on what they’re doing. So, you don’t want to re-record stuff that you don’t need to, as a real clarity issue.
Are you able to say what actors you managed to get involved?
I can’t say the exact list, but I will say that players will be incredibly pleasantly surprised, I think it’s fair to say. We got Daisy Ridley, who’s the lead character.
Which is a pretty big deal!
It’s a really big deal, and she was the loveliest person as well to work with, so I think people will be slightly mindblown.
An obvious question to ask, is with working with Lucasfilm and of course, now Disney have entered the fold – Was there a lot of strict supervision in terms of what you could do with the story, in terms of messing around a bit?
Well, we’ve been making LEGO Star Wars games for eleven years now, so I think there’s a really great level of mutual respect there. They know that we love Star Wars and everyone who works on this project is a big fan of Star Wars, so they know that we’re not going to try and pitch something that’s unsuitable. It’s been really, really great: there’s never been a case where they’ve said “you can’t do that, that’s a terrible idea”. Because things like the level design will be hashed out first anyway and you get a lot of the little issues dealt with at that point anyway, so when it comes to the script stage it’s kind of like you have a very clear road plan as to what you’re doing, so in terms of sending the script back and forth, there’s been very little “maybe that’s not suitable” but that’s only when I’ve put in a joke that’s just a little too adult for a LEGO game in total, and I’ve been like: “Yeah, I knew”.
It’s interesting, because LEGO Star Wars was probably one of the first times officially where you could have fun with that content, and it’s an official parody in a way, and I think that’s why it works so well.
Looking at your own history (I did a bit of research)
So your first project, from what I understand was LEGO City Undercover.
That was the first one I really wrote the script for, I actually did LEGO Harry Potter on the handheld, but that was really just text-based stuff so that wasn’t really the same, but yes I did work on LEGO City Undercover on Wii U and 3DS. I only really did the cutscenes on 3DS.
I know that game had a lot of fans, because of the humour which you had a big part in of course. Would you like to see some more original LEGO games based around those traditional LEGO sets?
I’d love to do that, yeah. Absolutely.
There must be challenges in..
Adapting an IP?
Yeah, and then doing something different. I guess it’s very different.
Both have a lot of pressure for different reasons, but whatever they give me to do it’s an absolute honour. I can’t believe my job is to write silly jokes, it’s insane. It happened all by chance; a guy at the office saw me do standup and said “Let’s give him a go at the script” and that’s been it, ever since.
So if they could give you an IP, anything you want. What would you like to do a LEGO game on.
I’d love to do a full LEGO Doctor Who.
The LEGO Dimensions pack was very good, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t really like Doctor Who.
And I say that, just because I’ve done Star Wars now, so I’ve ticked that box already.
And where do you go from Star Wars?
Exactly! It’s the biggest, most beloved franchise in the world, I don’t know where you go from this. I think when this project ends, I will be a shell of a man, just stumbling around, because it’s….it’s Star Wars!
I imagine that there’s a desire to work on other IPs, not just Star Wars – I think there’s a lot of adult LEGO gamers out there, myself included – Especially things like LEGO Dimensions, which, as you say had this Doctor Who stuff, then there’s Ghostbusters and Wizard of Oz is in there as well, which when you think about it…
It does leap out, yeah.
Is there any desire to work on other things, like more adult-orientated stuff…Well, not THAT…
Yeah I know what you mean. Do you know what? I really like writing jokes for kids. I like writing really daft characters and that’s been lovely to fill out the hubs in this game with really daft characters and silly side missions that are really goofy. I love doing that. I don’t think I have the sophistication to write something properly adult, as I would just be trying to sneak daft jokes in there and undermining any kind of gravitas that it would have.
Are there any jokes in any of the games you’ve worked on that you’re really proud of?
There’s a joke in LEGO City Undercover about putting an apple up a horse’s bottom that I’m really proud of.
It’s possibly the greatest thing I’ve ever written.
I don’t recall that, but I’m going to have to research that and find that out right now, it’s been a while since I played that game.
“Chaaaaase. My horse is stuck in reverse! And it doesn’t have a head! And it has a really weird looking butt!”
“You’re sat facing backwards, Frank”
“Oooohhh, that would explain why he didn’t like it when I fed him that apple!”
I’m going to ask you one last question, which I’m almost contractually obligated to ask you. We ask this to everybody no matter where they’re from, around the world… this question gets asked.
You’re really making excuses, like it’s going to be something really bad.
When it comes to tomato ketchup, are you a fridge, or a cupboard man?
Fridge once it’s opened, cupboard before it’s opened.
I think you’re the first person to say that. That’s nicely in the middle.
Yeah, but it’s on a shelf in the store, right? It’s not refrigerated, but once it’s opened, it says keep refrigerated and use within 8 weeks. I follow the rules!
You’d be surprised how many fights that starts.
Also, “brand” ketchup. I’m not going to be buying cheap stuff.
Oh yeah, only the best.
Well the fact you called it tomato ketchup as opposed to tomato sauce would indicate that. I don’t want anything thinking I buy non…I don’t know I can say this….
You have to make that clear.
You know what? Graham Goring buys Heinz. I’m stating for the record!
*laughs* I think that’s really all the questions I have, you passed with flying colours.
Oh great, so there is a right answer?
It depends who’s asking the question, because I’m a fridge guy, but there’s a war in the GIAG office.
But otherwise it all separates and ergh no…horrible!
It’s a serious discussion.
Many thanks for Graham for taking the time to chat with us!