What's in a name? Well, the fact that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has the word "Jedi" in it at all is something of a miracle, as Lucasfilm was initially reluctant to let Respawn Entertainment make a game focused on the Jedi and Force powers at all.
On the latest episode of the Game Maker's Notebook podcast, director Stig Asmussen discusses the long journey it took to go from melee gameplay prototype to Fallen Order's lightsaber-centric final product. At around the 36-minute mark in the podcast, Asmussen starts discussing the first gameplay prototype his team at Respawn made long before they nailed down a deal with EA and Lucasfilm.
Asmussen says Respawn shopped the prototype around to several interested publishers and showed it off to to prospective members of the growing team, but that even once the Star Wars license was theirs, Lucasfilm wasn't sure that it wanted a game featuring lightsabers and Force abilities:
My background is melee-focused action[...] we had been on the game, unofficially, for months before I got my first visit to the Presidio, [Lucasfilm's] headquarters. I met with them, and they weren't super comfortable—I pitched, "Hey, what if we do a game about Jedi and Force powers?" They were not super comfortable with that. They kind of threw it back and were like, "What about blasters, and maybe, bounty hunters?" I was like, you know, that's not the background of the team that we built.
While the team's vision for an "intentional" melee-focused Jedi game ultimately won out, hearing that Lucasfilm wanted to steer Respawn away from the Force is both a bit unsurprising and yet intriguing. Prior to Electronic Arts signing a deal with Disney for the Star Wars license, LucasArts was working on the bounty hunter-focused Star Wars 1313; Kotaku reported that a lack of Jedi and Force iconography helped lead to the demise of Visceral's Project Ragtag; Star Wars Battlefront 2's campaign starred an Imperial commander. Perhaps the abandoned projects and lukewarm reception to Battlefront 2 helped convince Lucasfilm that leaning into the Force would be a boon for Respawn as opposed to a risk.
The entire episode's worth a listen, as Asmussen and host Ted Price—founder and CEO of Insomniac Games—both have fascinating things to say about their experiences stewarding massive games tied to Disney-protected IP.