Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB has rebuilt their award-winning VR experience, Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge. Coming soon in 2023, the Enhanced Edition sports new advancements in hardware for PlayStation VR2.
“Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge is pretty much your classic Star Wars adventure,” producer Alyssa Finley explained during a panel at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim earlier this year. The “wild adventure,” as she puts it, is set on the familiar planet Batuu when your character crash lands following an attack by the Guavian Death Gang. The ensuing events prove that anyone in the galaxy can be a hero.
The experience first originated “about halfway through making the three episodes of Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series,” as executive producer Mark S. Miller explained. Director Jose Perez III had been working on the lightsaber dojo elements of the series and began submitting ideas for a new VR story set on the outskirts of Black Spire Outpost, the area first introduced to theme park guests at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort.
“What I call Jose’s superpower is that he’s able to channel a young boy that is still present inside of him,” Miller said. “When he gets excited about something…he tends to spill ideas.” The ingenious concept was to begin the story in “a central place, and you could tell stories all across the Star Wars galaxy and all across the timeline.” Fittingly, the central locale became a starship converted into Seezelslak’s Cantina, what Miller called the “dive bar equivalent” of the popular Oga’s Cantina at the parks.
Tales allows you to visit locations at Black Spire Outpost outside the borders of the land explored by Disney Parks guests. As Finley elaborated, they had to “figure out where exactly [the cantina] was located so it would have a great overlook into the park itself. And then from some of the spaces as you walk out into the wilds, you can look back and see the park. You can see the spires…and pull those things together.” The ILMxLAB crew collaborated with the team at Walt Disney Imagineering to integrate these visions of Batuu.
While experiencing Tales, you’ll also encounter a number of familiar characters like R2-D2, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz), and Hondo Ohnaka (Jim Cummings). Many of the new characters have become fan-favorites like the boisterous barkeep Seezelslak (Bobby Moynihan), treasure hunter Lens Kamo (Karla Crome), Dok-Ondar (Cory Rouse), and Guavian Death Gang leader Tara Rashin (Debra Wilson).
The chance to work with original Yoda performer and voice artist Frank Oz was a particular highlight for the ILMxLAB team. ILMxLAB’s manager of quality assurance, Marissa Martinez-Hoadley, had the opportunity to give a demo of Tales for the beloved actor. “I was blown away because usually my position is very behind-the-scenes working with the development teams,” she recollected, “but I never really tend to meet the acting talent. To be there with Master Yoda…and to see him looking at a digital representation of Yoda moving around and acting around in front of him. And he was leaning in, looking at it from every angle, and [he was] really appreciative of how authentic we stayed to his expectations of what Yoda should be.”
Mubo, the proprietor of the droid repair shop who sends your character on missions, was voiced by none other than Matthew Wood, a longtime sound designer, editor, and re-recording mixer at Skywalker Sound with many Star Wars voices to his credit. “ILMxLAB is one of the most exciting divisions of our company right now,” Wood said. “It really takes the ingenuity of new technology and merges it with the creative and amazing writing skills to put you in the seat [and be] in Star Wars.”
Sound itself is a core element of this newly enhanced version of Tales. You can hear the elaborate soundscape in rich 3D audio, feeling even the smallest details with the haptics built into the PS VR2 Sense controllers and headset. This combines with high-fidelity visuals that includes headset-based controller tracking and eye tracking that ensures your own movements and gaze are reflected as you play.
Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge—Enhanced Edition takes advantage of what PS VR2 has to offer, pushing the boundary of what’s possible in the immersive experience of Star Wars VR created by ILMxLAB.