How a RPG Changed the Star Wars' Universe
  • How a RPG Changed the Star Wars Universe


    The unstoppable franchise that is Star Wars is back in the headlines thanks to the blockbuster success of Rogue One, a film that delves into the sci-fi epic's detailed backstory. It's easy to forget that when Disney acquired the Star Wars license and redefined what was canon, the company declared that the tabletop role-playing game was an integral part of defining the universe.


    The Legacy of the Star Wars RPG

    When Disney took over the Star Wars license from George Lucas, fans were curious as to what would be considered canon. Right out of the gate, Disney made it clear that the role-playing game was part of the official universe:

    In order to give maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe. While the universe that readers knew is changing, it is not being discarded. Creators of new Star Wars entertainment have full access to the rich content of the Expanded Universe. For example, elements of the EU are included in Star Wars Rebels. The Inquisitor, the Imperial Security Bureau, and Sienar Fleet Systems are story elements in the new animated series, and all these ideas find their origins in roleplaying game material published in the 1980s.

    How did a tabletop role-playing game come to define one of the most beloved franchises in sci-fi history? To understand that, we have to understand the state of Star Wars in the 1980s.

    "Star Wars Was Dead"

    Rob Wieland explains the state of the franchise in the late 80s on Geek & Sundry:

    Star Wars was dead in 1987. It’s hard to imagine a time without a constant release of books, comics, and other media set in that far, far away galaxy. But the last movie was a few years old and kids were getting tired of playing with the same toys. The Marvel Comics series wrapped up. A few tie-in books had been released but the stories set in that universe had been told. So it seemed like a fairly small risk to license Star Wars to a small RPG company based out of Honesdale, PA. West End Games had a hit on their hands with their Ghostbusters RPG and used the same system for the basis of their new Star Wars game. Despite the lull in the fandom, the game was a massive hit, and the company started producing supplements that expanded the universe beyond what was seen in the movies.

    Shannon Appelcline picks up the thread in Designers & Dragons - the 80s:

    West End’s experience with the licensed Ghostbusters has been listed as one reason for their successful bid. However, West End Games had another advantage not enjoyed by most RPG companies: it, Bucci Imports, and a variety of other companies were wholly owned by the Palter family who freely transferred money among them. Bucci had helped West End when times were lean — getting a tax write-off in the process — and now they offered to advance $100,000 to Lucasfilm, which may well have been the highest advance for a roleplaying property to that date.

    Chris Baker explains on Glixel how West End Games picked up the license:

    Greg Costikyan, a co-creator of Paranoia, was one of the people tasked with securing the Star Wars license. “We flew out to California to meet with Lucasfilm,” he says. “We made a bid of $100k. We later learned that TSR had tried to get the license too, but they only bid $70k.” Costikyan says that the people at Lucasfilm didn’t seem to think that the franchise was dead at that point – Lucas’ original vision had called for nine films, after all. But they were fully aware that Star Wars was essentially in hibernation, as if frozen in carbonite. “They felt it was clearly going to be a long time before there was another Star Wars movie,” says Costikyan. “Lucasfilm thought that an RPG could help keep Star Wars active in the minds of geeks, which was why the licensing deal had some value to them.”

    Costikyan left West End Games in 1987 before the game was ready for release, which is when Bill Slavicsek entered the picture. Slavicsek created the Star Wars Sourcebook, which would flesh out everything from how Star Wars' technology worked to the various creatures and aliens populating the galaxy. It didn't hurt that Slavicsek was a huge fan, having watched the movies nearly 40 times:

    “It so enthralled me that I wanted to go again and again and watch the reaction of my friends and family members to it,” he says. “It was unlike anything I’d seen before. It wasn’t a clean, sterile sci-fi universe – it was lived-in and visceral.” Slavicsek says that, to his mind, there are fundamental similarities between the universe that George Lucas created and the ones that RPG designers create. “Star Wars and D&D aren’t just telling stories – they’re opening up the imagination,” he says...But there were huge holes in the canon that Slavicsek and his co-writer Curtis Smith would have to fill in themselves. Movies simply don’t require the level of exhaustive detail that a game would. The West End designers had to create all that, getting signoff from Lucasfilm on major additions. “We didn’t want to add anything that didn’t fit the milieu, like any tech that seemed too Star Trek,” says Slavicsek.

    Fortunately, Lucasfilm didn't have strong opinions about the universe at the time -- a level of freedom unthinkable today with a popular franchise:

    “Lucasfilm was fairly hands off,” says Costikyan. “They would have the occasional directive, like, 'you can’t show a stormtrooper with their helmets off,’ I guess because they thought that a property based on the Clone Wars was going to come out eventually. They didn’t want us to kill off the main characters, but we didn’t want to kill them off anyway. We thought players would want to create their own characters in this world.” Slavicsek was like Adam in the Garden of Eden, giving names to all of the creatures in God’s creation.

    It was the role-playing game that came up with names for ithorians (originally known as "Hammerheads") and twi'leks. Slavicsek didn't know it then, but he was creating a setting bible for all of Star Wars.

    The Word of God

    Creating a role-playing game requires enough tools so that the game master can adapt on the fly, which means systemizing the universe in a way similar to setting bibles for television and movies. The Game Narrative Toolbox explains the importance of these bibles:

    The Game Bible (also referred to as a Universe Bible or Story Bible) is one of the most important documents a development team uses. As a narrative designer, you'll be responsible for overseeing a game bible's production, or you may write it yourself. The bible serves as a reference for the entire team, including level designers, systems designers, artists, sound designers, and game writers. It documents all of a game's worldbuilding and lore, and may include information covering character development, storylines, and missions/quests.

    Of particular import is the possibility of transmedia spinoffs, which was not as common in the 80s as it is today. The importance of a game bible would be a turning point for Star Wars when Timothy Zahn wrote Heir to the Empire, which picked up where Return of the Jedi left off:

    Zahn was actually given the RPG sourcebook material to use as reference when he wrote his novel. “The way I heard it, Zahn was insulted by this at first,” says Slavicsek. “But then he figured that it was better to use our material as a resource rather than have to create a bunch off stuff from scratch.”

    Zahn later said in an interview, as quoted in Designers & Dragons - the 80s:

    “The Star Wars movies themselves are always my basic source of ‘real’ knowledge. Supplementing that is a tremendous body of background material put together by West End Games over the years for their Star Wars role playing game. The WEG source books saved me from having to reinvent the wheel many times in writing Heir [to the Empire].”

    Things progressed from there:

    Lucasfilm was emboldened by Zahn’s success. The computer game wing, LucasArts, was gaining a reputation for making quality games in the early 90’s and finally turned its attention to Star Wars with the classics X-Wing and TIE Fighter. Several of the ships in this game series, like the Assault Shuttle, first appeared in the pages of the Star Wars RPG. A close scan of the credits for TIE Fighter even shows a thank you to West End for supplying materials. West End took a page from LucasArts and offered an opportunity to play Imperial characters in its Heroes and Rogues supplement.

    The impact of West End Games' work reverberates even in other role-playing games:

    The influence of the RPG was felt even after the game moved from West End to Wizards of the Coast. One of the most popular Star Wars comics during this time was Knights of the Old Republic. Wizards of the Coast got the author of the comic, John Jackson Miller, to work on the sourcebook for the Star Wars Saga Edition RPG. Saga Edition detailed many of the different eras of the Star Wars Expanded Universe since the first series of Zahn novels, even offering a starship sourcebook that authors used to describe the interiors of favorite ships like the Imperial shuttle.

    Going Rogue

    Which brings us back to the fateful decision when Disney decided what was canon in the new universe. It turns out the Story Group that oversees Star Wars canon includes Pablo Hidalgo, who wrote several sourcebooks for West End Games before joining Lucasfilm. The influence of the tabletop role-playing game continues even today, and it echoes in the plot of Rogue One. As Matt Burnett, writer for Cartoon Network's Steven Universe, put it on Twitter:

    Rogue One looks like a West End Games Star Wars RPG session brought to life. I am reborn.

    Gamers everywhere can take comfort in knowing that the Star Wars we know today is a descendant of the efforts of tabletop game designers.

    Mike "Talien" Tresca is a freelance game columnist, author, communicator, and a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to http://amazon.com. You can follow him at Patreon.
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    Comments 92 Comments
    1. Grainger's Avatar
      Grainger -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      I absolutely hated 'The Force Awakens', despite never having been a fan of the extended universe, because of the way it shat on the characters of the original trilogy and because of the way it rebooted the series back to square one and made the original trilogy meaningless. I despise 'The Force Awakens' worse than Jar Jar Binks. I was disappointed by the prequel trilogy, but the 'The Force Awakens' made me actually angry.
      I totally agree with the above part of your post. You're the first (other) person I've seen express this sentiment. If someone had actively wanted to make a film with just about the most depressing possible postscript for the original SW characters, then its starting point wouldn't be too far away from the premise of The Force Awakens.

      For better or worse, too, your post has made it much more likely that I'll go and see Rogue One, but part of me still doesn't want to encourage them...
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Grainger View Post
      I totally agree with the above part of your post. You're the first (other) person I've seen express this sentiment.
      Really? Most of my friends are so angry about TFA, they are ready to join the Rebel Alliance and storm Disney. Those that aren't actually livid about the movie are taking the same 'wait and see' approach that you saw with TPM - "Maybe the next two movies will redeem it."

      If someone had actively wanted to make a film with just about the most depressing possible postscript for the original SW characters, then its starting point wouldn't be too far away from the premise of The Force Awakens.
      If someone wanted to pull out the negatives to the original trilogy, stomp on them, urinate on them, throw kerosene on them and fling a match at them, they couldn't have done a better job displaying their hatred of Star Wars than they did in making TFA. TFA was an act of literary and cultural vandalism, like taking spray paint to the Mona Lisa, or a hammer to the Pieta of Michelangelo, blowing up the giant Buddha's of Afghanistan. I deny the canonicity of TFA. I will never buy TFA merchandise. I won't rent TFA. It isn't a Star Wars movie; it's a $Tar Warts movie. And I will try hard not to spit on the writer or director if they come into my presence, but I would tell them what an awful piece of crap that they made.

      It's one thing to not have the talent to realize a vision. That's what happened with Lucas and the prequels. He had an idea and he couldn't pull it off. Happens to everyone who writes. No one bats 100%. It's another thing to actually vandalize someone else's work in an arrogant and hateful manner, and write so slapdash lazy piece of crap purely for the money, and just mail it in while deliberately - and it can only be deliberate - shredding a beloved masterpiece.

      For better or worse, too, your post has made it much more likely that I'll go and see Rogue One, but part of me still doesn't want to encourage them...
      I wasn't going to see Rogue One for much the same reason. But my wife got excited and dragged me to it. I was more than pleasantly surprised. It was the most passionate love letter to the Star Wars universe that I'd seen on a movie screen since that discussion in Clerks as to whether destroying the second death star was a morally clean victory. I think you'd like it.
    1. Grainger's Avatar
      Grainger -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      Really? Most of my friends are so angry about TFA, they are ready to join the Rebel Alliance and storm Disney. Those that aren't actually livid about the movie are taking the same 'wait and see' approach that you saw with TPM - "Maybe the next two movies will redeem it."
      Good for your friends - I haven't heard anyone express this sentiment in real life, or online. (Actually, come to think of it, I did find one or two people complaining about it online, who were quickly shot down by TFA fans, who seemed to argue that a bleak conclusion to the OT is more "realistic"). However, I haven't looked since around the time TFA came out, so maybe people are starting to reassess it.

      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      If someone wanted to pull out the negatives to the original trilogy, stomp on them, urinate on them, throw kerosene on them and fling a match at them, they couldn't have done a better job displaying their hatred of Star Wars than they did in making TFA. TFA was an act of literary and cultural vandalism, like taking spray paint to the Mona Lisa, or a hammer to the Pieta of Michelangelo, blowing up the giant Buddha's of Afghanistan. I deny the canonicity of TFA. I will never buy TFA merchandise. I won't rent TFA. It isn't a Star Wars movie; it's a $Tar Warts movie. And I will try hard not to spit on the writer or director if they come into my presence, but I would tell them what an awful piece of crap that they made.

      It's one thing to not have the talent to realize a vision. That's what happened with Lucas and the prequels. He had an idea and he couldn't pull it off. Happens to everyone who writes. No one bats 100%. It's another thing to actually vandalize someone else's work in an arrogant and hateful manner, and write so slapdash lazy piece of crap purely for the money, and just mail it in while deliberately - and it can only be deliberate - shredding a beloved masterpiece.
      I wouldn't go nearly so far as that. I am no Abrams fan, but I believe him when he said he's a huge OT fan. I don't think he meant to damage the story of the OT, and I suspect a great many SW fans (perhaps including him) will still be able to enjoy the OT much as they did before. I'm not one of them, if I accept the set-up of TFA into my head-canon.

      Personally, I don't even think it's an issue primarily with the content or execution of TFA. By its very nature, a sequel to the OT was bound to reverse what the heroes achieved. It didn't have to make it quite as wretched a future for them as TFA did, but it did need to have a big threat coming in order to create drama; probably something like the Empire coming back, or never having been defeated in the first place.

      So, as I see it, the problem is with making a direct sequel at all (at least set within the life-times of the original characters). It was always going to be pretty bleak, in stark contrast to the fairy-tale "good overcomes evil" story of the OT (of course, good will presumably overcome evil at the end of the new trilogy, but that doesn't change the fact that the set-up of TFA pissed all over the idea of good triumphing in the OT).

      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      I wasn't going to see Rogue One for much the same reason. But my wife got excited and dragged me to it. I was more than pleasantly surprised. It was the most passionate love letter to the Star Wars universe that I'd seen on a movie screen since that discussion in Clerks as to whether destroying the second death star was a morally clean victory. I think you'd like it.
      Cool - looking forward to it!
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Grainger View Post
      I wouldn't go nearly so far as that. I am no Abrams fan, but I believe him when he said he's a huge OT fan. I don't think he meant to damage the story of the OT, and I suspect a great many SW fans (perhaps including him) will still be able to enjoy the OT much as they did before. I'm not one of them, if I accept the set-up of TFA into my head-canon.

      Personally, I don't even think it's an issue primarily with the content or execution of TFA. By its very nature, a sequel to the OT was bound to reverse what the heroes achieved.
      You are being far to generous here. These movies were discussed in detail for hours before they decided on a direction for the script, and lots of people got input. If you think at some point the implications we are discussing here won't discussed, I feel that's incredibly naïve. No, I can tell you the sorts of conversations that were had. People sitting at that table said things like:

      "We don't want to be laden down with a lot of canon."
      "I need to have complete artistic freedom."
      "It needs to have elements that are familiar to the fans. The reason they didn't like The Phantom Menace is that it had too many new elements."
      "Fundamentally, the really good story, the story that people want to hear has already been done. The only way to recapture the magic is reboot everything from scratch. That way, we can then redo the core narrative of Star Wars - but in a new way."
      "This has to be the story of a new generation of heroes. We can't have the old generation of heroes in the way or solving their problems. The best way to do that is if the old generation of heroes has failed. That tidies up everything. It explains why we need new heroes. It explains why there is a problem."
      "By its very nature, a sequel to the OT was bound to reverse what the heroes achieved."
      "Kids these days, they don't want things to be black and white. These movies have to be dark and gritty. Complex. Morally complex. With flawed characters."

      Or course, all that is hogswill, but that or something like it is how the conversations had to go, or you'd never end up with TFA. Four people worked on that script. A dozen people signed off on it. Probably none of them actually said, "I'm going to burn down the originally trilogy and assassinate the beloved character's character. I'm going to murder them far more thoroughly than just sticking a lightsaber through them. I'm going to render them failed, pathetic, moral degenerates, bereft of hope or honor." But while they never came right out and said it, that's exactly what they plotted to do and worked at doing with great fervor. TFA is no 'ooopsy'. It's not the work of one amateur kid in the basement somewhere thoughtless writing up a script, and then going, "You know, I never thought of it like that." This was a deliberate slate cleaning.

      And someone involved was acting with deliberate malice. There is Sith work in this.

      So, as I see it, the problem is with making a direct sequel at all (at least set within the life-times of the original characters). It was always going to be pretty bleak...
      I totally reject that. It's possible to make a movie be entirely bleak without being mean-spirited, without having bad deaths, and without having the opposite of redemption. Characters can die, people can be mourned, battles can be lost, but without compromising honor and without telling a nihilistic story of evil's eternal triumph. Whether something is bleak is not a matter of its physical reality, but a matter of its spiritual reality. This is true in all stories, but its especially true in a fantasy where you reifying the symbols into tangible things.

      At the end of 'Return of the Jedi', the rebels had made a great triumph over the Emperor. But, the galaxy was still divided, the Empire largely undefeated, the whorl wasted from 50 years of civil war and conflict and mismanagement, and more importantly the light had gone out of the universe. All the problems at the end of the prequels that allowed the Sith to take over were still there. People lacked hope. The galaxy was filled with corruption and nepotism. Slavery was tolerated. The guardians of the light had failed in their wisdom, becoming almost morally indistinguishable from the Sith. The Jedi are all but gone from the universe. There are still extraordinary challenges to overcome that are ahead that don't involve destroying all resemblance of forward progress. Most of the extended universe stories are really bad, and they focus far too much on super-weapons as if there was only one fantasy plot and it always involved a dragon, and they never really developed new characters the way that they should have, and they stayed way too stuck on family matters - as if there is only one sort of twist you can have in a plot and it involves someone being secretly related to someone else. But... TPA had all those problems anyway, and on top of that didn't even manage to understand that you can have problems without destroying progress. Things can stay saved for a while. It's a big galaxy.

      I never much liked the extended universe because it was mostly poorly written, but TPA was so badly written it would never have been accepted for publication. It wouldn't even have been a particularly popular EU fanfic.
    1. Water Bob's Avatar
      Water Bob -
      Quote Originally Posted by Von Ether View Post
      It's fantastic to finally see WEG get its due when it comes to the EU.
      Absolutely! I second this!

      I've often said that the D6 Star Wars game is not only the best Star Wars RPG ever created, it's the best set of rule mechanics married to a specific universe. Rolling those D6 dice makes you feel the swashbuckling action of a Star Wars movie.

      It is easily one of the best RPGs ever made.
    1. Lord Twig's Avatar
      Lord Twig -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      It's one thing to not have the talent to realize a vision. That's what happened with Lucas and the prequels. He had an idea and he couldn't pull it off. Happens to everyone who writes. No one bats 100%. It's another thing to actually vandalize someone else's work in an arrogant and hateful manner, and write so slapdash lazy piece of crap purely for the money, and just mail it in while deliberately - and it can only be deliberate - shredding a beloved masterpiece.
      What an excellent real world example of my previous point.

      Thank you.

    1. Grainger's Avatar
      Grainger -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post

      I totally reject that. It's possible to make a movie be entirely bleak without being mean-spirited, without having bad deaths, and without having the opposite of redemption. Characters can die, people can be mourned, battles can be lost, but without compromising honor and without telling a nihilistic story of evil's eternal triumph. Whether something is bleak is not a matter of its physical reality, but a matter of its spiritual reality. This is true in all stories, but its especially true in a fantasy where you reifying the symbols into tangible things.

      At the end of 'Return of the Jedi', the rebels had made a great triumph over the Emperor. But, the galaxy was still divided, the Empire largely undefeated, the whorl wasted from 50 years of civil war and conflict and mismanagement, and more importantly the light had gone out of the universe. All the problems at the end of the prequels that allowed the Sith to take over were still there. People lacked hope. The galaxy was filled with corruption and nepotism. Slavery was tolerated. The guardians of the light had failed in their wisdom, becoming almost morally indistinguishable from the Sith. The Jedi are all but gone from the universe. There are still extraordinary challenges to overcome that are ahead that don't involve destroying all resemblance of forward progress. Most of the extended universe stories are really bad, and they focus far too much on super-weapons as if there was only one fantasy plot and it always involved a dragon, and they never really developed new characters the way that they should have, and they stayed way too stuck on family matters - as if there is only one sort of twist you can have in a plot and it involves someone being secretly related to someone else. But... TPA had all those problems anyway, and on top of that didn't even manage to understand that you can have problems without destroying progress. Things can stay saved for a while. It's a big galaxy.

      I never much liked the extended universe because it was mostly poorly written, but TPA was so badly written it would never have been accepted for publication. It wouldn't even have been a particularly popular EU fanfic.
      By "bleak", I meant the situation where they undid everything the heroes achieved. The sequel had to have drama on the same or greater scale than that of the OT. Blockbuster movies always have to be about stupidly huge threats (see also the Trek films, where the world or universe always has to be in danger), and there was no way they were going to have a scenario that didn't destroy, or at least threaten to destroy, the New Republic. OK, they didn't have to go so far, like killing off Luke's trainees or the examples you give above, but it was always going to be devastating to the legacy of the OT heroes, because the film-makers had to go for events on a large scale. And it was always going to seem nihilistic to someone who ponders the impact on the OT.

      Sure, it would have been physically possible to make a film featuring a new threat that wasn't as big as the epochal events of the OT, and hence didn't invalidate the work of the OT heroes. Realistically, however, that was never going to happen, due to decision processes like the one you sketched out above. They were always going to reset things to one extent or other - the set-up was always going to be "by the end of this movie, if not the start of it, the heroes of the OT have had their work undone". Hence my point that the problem lies in making a sequel (set within a generation of the OT) - because it's obvious that any sequel made is always going to be a studio-led affair (as opposed to the lone director's vision of the original movie). I also think that rehashing the events of the OT was probably inevitable to some extent (again, yes, they didn't have to do this, but it's not really a surprise that they did, given that it was the path with the fewest risks).

      They could have made a sequel set a couple of generations later (or perhaps far later), and avoided damage to the OT characters, but I guess they felt they had to have the cameos from the OT cast, so that was out (if it was ever considered).
    1. GreyLord's Avatar
      GreyLord -
      Quote Originally Posted by Grainger View Post
      By "bleak", I meant the situation where they undid everything the heroes achieved. The sequel had to have drama on the same or greater scale than that of the OT. Blockbuster movies always have to be about stupidly huge threats (see also the Trek films, where the world or universe always has to be in danger), and there was no way they were going to have a scenario that didn't destroy, or at least threaten to destroy, the New Republic. OK, they didn't have to go so far, like killing off Luke's trainees or the examples you give above, but it was always going to be devastating to the legacy of the OT heroes, because the film-makers had to go for events on a large scale. And it was always going to seem nihilistic to someone who ponders the impact on the OT.

      Sure, it would have been physically possible to make a film featuring a new threat that wasn't as big as the epochal events of the OT, and hence didn't invalidate the work of the OT heroes. Realistically, however, that was never going to happen, due to decision processes like the one you sketched out above. They were always going to reset things to one extent or other - the set-up was always going to be "by the end of this movie, if not the start of it, the heroes of the OT have had their work undone". Hence my point that the problem lies in making a sequel (set within a generation of the OT) - because it's obvious that any sequel made is always going to be a studio-led affair (as opposed to the lone director's vision of the original movie). I also think that rehashing the events of the OT was probably inevitable to some extent (again, yes, they didn't have to do this, but it's not really a surprise that they did, given that it was the path with the fewest risks).

      They could have made a sequel set a couple of generations later (or perhaps far later), and avoided damage to the OT characters, but I guess they felt they had to have the cameos from the OT cast, so that was out (if it was ever considered).
      ACTUALLY, since you mention Trek, only ONE Trek film erased all progress from those before it. All other Treks built on what had happened before. Sure, there may be a new threat, but it didn't erase everything before it. It merely presented a new problem for the Cast to solve. When the Next Generation came, they didn't resurrect Kahn and say that the Earth was destroyed because the Whales died. They didn't say the Klingons now had a new Moon and were on an absolute warpath with the Federation again.

      No, the Next Generation Movies had their own plots and own villains (like the Borg).

      ONLY ONE movie tried to do away with the past. Interestingly enough, that was also by Abrahms. Paramount in their wisdom decided that...NO...they were not going to let him simply erase the past and ignore the canon of the prior films...if he wanted to do something without the constraints of the past...he would do it by creating an alternate timeline or an alternate idea. This way, they wouldn't upset every fan out there (they still managed to upset some fans, but the consolation is the original movies are still canon and even if the new Abrahmverse contradicts them, it's only because it's a different universe in essense).

      Unfortunately, Lucasfilm didn't have the cajones to do that when Abrahms wanted to do the same thing with Star Wars. In essence, Abrahms has this thing that he can be the ONLY ONE to write the canon and wants to ignore anything anyone else has written before. He likes to pick and choose, but overall, even if he says he's a fan, wants to do what Abrahm wants, and most of the time that means ignoring what he doesn't want to pay heed to in previous films in that universe and only pick and choose from those films what he liked or wants. It's an Abrahms thing. He makes nice movies, but if you want your old movies to stand on their own and not have his new movies try to kill them off, you don't want to hire Abrahms for anything.

      Hopefully they don't hire him for the MCU after this, it seems to be doing fine right now and doesn't need that sort treatment.

      I'll hope (Even though he's the producer) they clean up this mess with VIII, but I think they'll continue to basically destroy the OT even further, probably something similar to what he did with ST: Into Darkness with Kahn, but with worse writing (probably better music though if it's by Williams).
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lord Twig View Post
      What an excellent real world example of my previous point.

      Thank you.

      Sure, anytime.

      But I'm still right, and you are still wrong.

      We have had the same director twice be asked to helm a reboot of a series, and both time he drastically changed the tone of the story, and both times completely rebooted the series back to square one. That's not accidental. You don't accidentally erase two beloved series and put your own completely new spin on things unintentionally. There is no 'whoops, I never foresaw the consequences of that decision' here. This is intentional work by a person who does not want to be fettered by any thing anyone else has written. And you don't do those things if you love the work you are adapting more than you love your own work, or if you respect what you are adapting more than you respect yourself.

      The original series partially accidentally stumbled on a really deep story with all sorts of mythic elements in it, that partly by art and partly by luck ended up a coherent philosophical whole telling - or retelling - some of the great stories of the Western literary tradition in an evocative new setting. And its really by accident that the setting worked, because if you watch ANH closely you can tell he's really muddling his way through this at first. And it's I think fully appropriate in this thread to honor WEG for really beginning to think through the setting and try to make it coherent.

      'The Force Awakens' is the anti-story of the original trilogy, and in making TFA the author rendered the original false, meaningless and hollow. It debases the original story. That's not a opinion. Opinions are things like, "I like the color blue." Opinions are things like, "The framing of this scene really works." That TFA destroys the original trilogy and its characters is not an opinion. We can demonstrate that point by point. Now you can enjoy that TFA debases the original story, and you can say, "I really like that the characters and themes of the original story were nihilified and overturned.", and that would be an opinion and you could defend it. But if you argue that they weren't, then you are just wrong.
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lord Twig View Post
      Honestly both the new movie and the books start with the same premise.
      So, before I go into this at any length, you recognize don't you that the statement I just quoted is not a statement of opinion. It's not an opinion whether two stories start with the same premise. It's a statement of fact. Either it is true that they start with the same premise, or they don't. If you want to say, "In my opinion, they start with the same premise", you are really not using 'opinion' to merely mean a personal preference. When you use 'opinion' in that context, you mean "I believe this to be a fact, but I understand that you are not yet convinced." But in that case, unlike the case of a personal preference, your 'opinion' could turn out to be wrong.

      So, do you get that much? Is it even worth arguing with you over as small of a matter as that one sentence, or all you going to claim everything is relative when it suits you and everything is absolute when it doesn't?
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Grainger View Post
      By "bleak", I meant the situation where they undid everything the heroes achieved.
      Yes. They not only undid everything the heroes achieved, but they showed that the character growth the characters had apparently undergone was as transitory and fleeting as their victory. Not only did they undo all the character growth that the characters had apparently undergone, but they undid the philosophies that those characters had championed and risked their lives for. They had shown in fact that they had been and always had been wrong. What we had thought was personal and public victories, were actually defeats. What we actually learned from TFA was that we had no basis for hope, that hope had been meaningless. We learned that love was meaningless. We learned that we were just stuck in a meaningless cycle of violence which could not be won even for a moment. The republic had 1000 years of peace and prosperity before it collapsed into stasis and neglect. Our heroes couldn't manage even 10 years, and our Yoda style guru says, "Oh well. That's what its all about really. There never is peace. Only the conflict. Just to be fighting is what we are fighting for."

      Bah.

      It makes me want to puke even thinking about it.

      But worst of all was the irrevocable and horrifically disrespectful treatment of the character of Leia. It's abhorrent what they did to her.
    1. aramis erak's Avatar
      aramis erak -
      TFA is quite literally the WEG canon writ large... the Alliance has become the central government, but can't bring the whole galaxy under one rule, while various factions of the Empire have created mini-empires in the edges.

      The only thing that's an issue for me is DS III is firing through hyperspace. JJ Lensflare has no concept of just how freaking big space is, and it shows even more badly in TFA than it did in Star Trek.

      Worse, his movies are all excellent movies on their own merits, just not good portions of the franchises they supposedly represent. Not because JJ doesn't love the subject material... but because he's incompetent as a space writer. Excellent director, excellent cinematographer, but no grasp of the size of space.
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by aramis erak View Post
      Worse, his movies are all excellent movies on their own merits...
      Well, it depends on what you are judging them on.

      Excellent director, excellent cinematographer...
      Absolutely. He's much better behind the camera or as a director than Lucas is. Lucas is a bit of a bumbler and really it's his improvisational work - dealing with the limitations of his technology and imagining solutions - that actually invokes what we perceive as creativity in shot composition and structure. Abrams actually knows what he's doing. TFA is much better directed and much better composed than the prequel trilogy. His shots are dynamic, and terse, and well-composed, and often beautiful. TFA is well done movie from that standpoint.

      ....just not good portions of the franchises they supposedly represent.
      That's one of his problems. Abrams puts his own stamp on everything he touches, and really he'd be much better off with original material and doing work along the lines of someone like Luc Besson. He's goofy - in some ways even worse than Lucas. Worse, he repetitive. Like if you watch the Star Trek reboot, count how many times he nearly throws Kirk off a high place and has a shot of him clutching a ledge by his fingers. Worse yet, he sees movies entirely in scenes and has no grasp of plotting. His movies are always incoherent and suffer badly from fridge logic. You do not dare think about a JJ Abrams movie, because if you do, you'll start going nuts. And the problem with having JJ Abrams directing beloved series is that Star Wars and Star Trek fans are entirely about being super obsessive about every little detail of the story and trying to make it real. That's what we do, and that doing that is rewarding was a very part of why these movies became so culturally important. TFA openly abandons that, even going so far as to lampshade obsessing over the details and just hand-waving that away as not important. The plot is a mess that makes no sense and has so many holes in that you need hundreds of pages just to try to pretend it makes some sense in context. Compare with the deft strokes that the context of a New Hope uses to tell all of that in just a few lines. "You served my father in the clone wars" We don't have to know the details about that to understand the story, but it sure sounds cool. It's not a plot hole that we don't know the major elements of the clone wars. You could enjoy the story without them. And so on and so forth.

      Not because JJ doesn't love the subject material... but because he's incompetent as a space writer.
      Honestly, I don't think you can blame JJ Abrams for all the problems with the writing. There are at least four writers on the project, and probably a couple uncredited story fixers. I don't know who did what. On the small scale, some of the writing is pretty good. It's much better written on a scene by scene basis than say TPM. The dialogue is a lot less clunky, especially in the first half of the movie. It's got some good one-liners, which is something TPM lacked. You aren't going to cringe listening to it unless you start thinking about it - again 'fridge logic'. But it starts falling apart in the second half because what they've been building is so vacuous. And I think that gets to the heart of what I think is the real destructive influence of JJ Abrams on the story, and that's what I call 'X-Files Syndrome'.

      'X-Files Syndrome' is a repeated problem we've seen over the last 20-25 years in science fiction media. It plagued the X-Files, the 4200, Lost, and tons and tons of other stuff. In fact, there are probably more shows that have been killed by this concept than not over the last few decades. "The Truth is Out There". What we see is a repeated impulse by writers of science fiction to just offer up a bunch of mysteries to hook the audience in with no regard really to whether the story needs a mystery or how the mystery relates to the story or even how they are going to resolve the mystery. They know that they can hook audience though and create a fanbase that is waiting for the payoff, and that they don't ever need to give the payoff. And TFA just reeks of this technique - all the flashbacks, and the mysterious references, and so forth. It's all garbage. They'll eventually come up with some quasi-explanation for everything, maybe, but it's clear that there is not a lot going on. Even the title suggests that - "The Force Awakens". Well, in no real meaningful sense did the force awaken in the story. None of the 'twists' in TFA ever really were big pay offs, because we'd seen secret revealed family members before and we had to be expecting that. And heck, we'd seen the wise old mentor die 2/3rds of the way into the movie as well. Instead of seeming like a really cool story was going on, it just seemed like a lot of unnecessary head games were being played with the audience by writers that hadn't yet really decided on what they were going to do, and needed to pretend they had a big reveal to keep you interested.

      Compare the way the Vadar/Luke twist was handled. Heck, compare how solidly a skilled story plotter like JK Rawlings handles her mysteries.

      TFA was just plan bad writing in the big picture, never mind the huge plot holes and lapses of internal logic.

      And that doesn't even get into the thematic elements that are really the worst part of the movie.
    1. Lord Twig's Avatar
      Lord Twig -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      Sure, anytime.

      But I'm still right, and you are still wrong.

      We have had the same director twice be asked to helm a reboot of a series, and both time he drastically changed the tone of the story, and both times completely rebooted the series back to square one. That's not accidental. You don't accidentally erase two beloved series and put your own completely new spin on things unintentionally. There is no 'whoops, I never foresaw the consequences of that decision' here. This is intentional work by a person who does not want to be fettered by any thing anyone else has written. And you don't do those things if you love the work you are adapting more than you love your own work, or if you respect what you are adapting more than you respect yourself.

      The original series partially accidentally stumbled on a really deep story with all sorts of mythic elements in it, that partly by art and partly by luck ended up a coherent philosophical whole telling - or retelling - some of the great stories of the Western literary tradition in an evocative new setting. And its really by accident that the setting worked, because if you watch ANH closely you can tell he's really muddling his way through this at first. And it's I think fully appropriate in this thread to honor WEG for really beginning to think through the setting and try to make it coherent.

      'The Force Awakens' is the anti-story of the original trilogy, and in making TFA the author rendered the original false, meaningless and hollow. It debases the original story. That's not a opinion. Opinions are things like, "I like the color blue." Opinions are things like, "The framing of this scene really works." That TFA destroys the original trilogy and its characters is not an opinion. We can demonstrate that point by point. Now you can enjoy that TFA debases the original story, and you can say, "I really like that the characters and themes of the original story were nihilified and overturned.", and that would be an opinion and you could defend it. But if you argue that they weren't, then you are just wrong.
      Isn't a reboot by definition taking a story back to square one?

      But regardless TFA is not a reboot. It is a continuation of the previous story, the OT (Original Trilogy).

      It seems to be your claim that all previous victories by the rebels in the OT are somehow nullified because they suffered a defeat in TFA. I dispute that assertion. The Empire is still gone, the Emperor and Darth Vader are both dead, and they are down two Death Stars and a lot of capital ships.

      In the time between the two series it seems that the Empire has fractured, but the First Order has stared pulling some of that back together. A Resistance has sprung up in their territory (led by Leia). Finally Luke created a Jedi school which fell apart when it was betrayed by Kylo Ren.

      At the end of TFA the fledgling New Republic has lost its core worlds and most of its fleet. The First Order has lost Star Killer base. Overall I will call that a win for the First Order, but it was a costly one.

      So now there is still the Resistance, led by Leia, and whatever is left of the republic, plus they have Luke back and a new force sensitive (Rey). While the First Order still has their fleet ships and Kylo Ren is back in training with Snoke.

      Looking at all this the only thing that was lost by either side were things they didn't even have at the end of the OT. There was no Republic and there was no Jedi school. On the Empire side there was no Star Killer base. So both sides are essentially where they were at the end of Return of the Jedi. So the only things that were invalidated were things that the OT never achieved in the first place.

      All of this is indisputable fact.
    1. Lord Twig's Avatar
      Lord Twig -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      So, before I go into this at any length, you recognize don't you that the statement I just quoted is not a statement of opinion. It's not an opinion whether two stories start with the same premise. It's a statement of fact. Either it is true that they start with the same premise, or they don't. If you want to say, "In my opinion, they start with the same premise", you are really not using 'opinion' to merely mean a personal preference. When you use 'opinion' in that context, you mean "I believe this to be a fact, but I understand that you are not yet convinced." But in that case, unlike the case of a personal preference, your 'opinion' could turn out to be wrong.

      So, do you get that much? Is it even worth arguing with you over as small of a matter as that one sentence, or all you going to claim everything is relative when it suits you and everything is absolute when it doesn't?
      Just because I don't use the word "opinion" doesn't mean it's not an opinion. So yes, "In my opinion, they start with the same premise" would be an accurate statement. I think it is a pretty well supported opinion, but I would be more than happy to listen to someone who thinks otherwise and can support their assertion.
    1. Lord Twig's Avatar
      Lord Twig -
      Quote Originally Posted by aramis erak View Post
      TFA is quite literally the WEG canon writ large... the Alliance has become the central government, but can't bring the whole galaxy under one rule, while various factions of the Empire have created mini-empires in the edges.

      The only thing that's an issue for me is DS III is firing through hyperspace. JJ Lensflare has no concept of just how freaking big space is, and it shows even more badly in TFA than it did in Star Trek.

      Worse, his movies are all excellent movies on their own merits, just not good portions of the franchises they supposedly represent. Not because JJ doesn't love the subject material... but because he's incompetent as a space writer. Excellent director, excellent cinematographer, but no grasp of the size of space.
      The weapon firing its beam through hyperspace is fine, that explains how it can get to the target so fast. Exactly how it manages to fire through hyperspace is because of "star wars tech magic". So that is fine.

      The problem is that no one would see it. The light from the beam would take hundreds of years to reach whatever planets could see it. Unless maybe the light was transmitted through hyperspace along with the beam? Or something? Ok no. He should have just left out seeing the beam up in the sky. It was unnecessary.

      But as far as Star Wars crimes go, it is not as bad as having a fourteen-year-old girl elected Queen, midichlorian and Jar Jar Binks.
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lord Twig View Post
      Just because I don't use the word "opinion" doesn't mean it's not an opinion. So yes, "In my opinion, they start with the same premise" would be an accurate statement.
      I don't believe it is subjective whether two stories have the same premise. It is a statement of objective value, otherwise you wouldn't bother saying it. We don't argue over whether or not pickles taste better than boiled eggs, because while we might have different preferences and judgments and we might be able to explain or reasons, we know that ultimately a matter of taste. I'm not going to argue with you over a matter of taste. You are free to enjoy movies I don't like. But the statement, "They have the same premise", is not an opinion or you wouldn't have asserted as evidence. Such an assertion implies the belief that as a matter of fact, two other books or movies might not have the same premise.

      I would just like to know before I get into an argument with you, whether you are the sort of person who is going to say stupid things like, "Well that's just your opinion.", because if you are it's going to be pretty darn pointless to argue over it. But, if it is just your opinion that the two books have the same premise - if it is a wholly subjective matter - I will say you are rather foolish for offering it is evidence of your thesis.

      Isn't a reboot by definition taking a story back to square one?
      Well, yes. That's what I meant when I used the word.

      It seems to be your claim that all previous victories by the rebels in the OT are somehow nullified because they suffered a defeat in TFA.
      No, that's not my claim.
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lord Twig View Post
      But as far as Star Wars crimes go, it is not as bad as having a fourteen-year-old girl elected Queen...
      Elected 14 year old Queens make perfect sense. I can even explain to you the cultural circumstances that would lead to that sort of government arising. I don't know if or how it is explained in the backstory, but I had an explanation in my head within a fraction of a second of seeing that they had an elected Queen. It's actually an incredibly cool and powerful idea, and I should certainly steal or borrow the idea for my own RPG campaign at some point.
    1. Grainger's Avatar
      Grainger -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lord Twig View Post
      So the only things that were invalidated were things that the OT never achieved in the first place.
      Star Wars was always a fairy tale, good versus evil, where good triumphs. The ending of Jedi is euphoric: "We won". Not "we won this battle, but we'll be fighting them forever in a war of attrition". While the latter interpretation may be more "realistic" (and much more fashionable in recent years), it is deaf to the tone of the OT's ending. Star Wars was done. The story was wrapped up. The Rebels won. At the time, Lucas was tired of it, and wanted done with the whole series. He (hastily) wrapped it up with the happy ending it was always going to get, just earlier than he had been planning.

      While it's possible to argue that the Rebels didn't actually win outright (and if that's your preferred interpretation, there's nothing wrong with that), it's absurd to argue that this was the intention or common interpretation at the time Jedi was made. It was a big, broad mass-market movie with a simple, "all-lived happily-ever-after" ending, a fitting conclusion to a series that was a feel-good reaction against the more cynical movies of the 1970s.

      It's a matter of taste as to whether it's an improvement to darken the tone of the OT by adding a record scratch sound and an "actually, we haven't actually won, because the Empire is still overwhelmingly powerful" postscript to Jedi. Personally, I don't feel that way.
    1. Lord Twig's Avatar
      Lord Twig -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      No, that's not my claim.
      So please enlighten me. You have said that TFA craps all over the original trilogy. How is that so?

      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      Yes. They not only undid everything the heroes achieved, but they showed that the character growth the characters had apparently undergone was as transitory and fleeting as their victory. Not only did they undo all the character growth that the characters had apparently undergone, but they undid the philosophies that those characters had championed and risked their lives for. They had shown in fact that they had been and always had been wrong. What we had thought was personal and public victories, were actually defeats. What we actually learned from TFA was that we had no basis for hope, that hope had been meaningless. We learned that love was meaningless. We learned that we were just stuck in a meaningless cycle of violence which could not be won even for a moment. The republic had 1000 years of peace and prosperity before it collapsed into stasis and neglect. Our heroes couldn't manage even 10 years, and our Yoda style guru says, "Oh well. That's what its all about really. There never is peace. Only the conflict. Just to be fighting is what we are fighting for."
      So how was everything the heroes achieved undone? I have just shown how they have not been, at least not the achievements from the OT.

      How was the character growth Fleeting? It seems like the characters have still grown a lot.

      How did they undo their very philosophies? How are they wrong? How were their victories actually defeats?

      You say these things (and lots more) but never explain why or how they are true.

      I will say that the victory at the end of RotJ was not a complete victory. It was a good one, an important one, but it wasn't an absolute victory. So the story goes on...
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