Aspyr is the Video Game Publisher Bringing New Life to Your Favorite Old Star Wars Games
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If you want to play some of your old favorite Star Wars video games on modern consoles, PCs, and even smartphones, then you should check out what the folks at Aspyr (pronounced "aspire" for the curious) are up to.
After the Austin-based Aspyr had initial successes porting PC games to the Mac in the 2000s, it has changed direction in recent years, releasing titles such as Layers of Fear and Observer. But lately the studio has seen a slight surge in popularity by re-releasing some of the best Star Wars titles of the 2000s for a modern audience.
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What began as the two Jedi Knight games for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch soon included the classic Episode I: Racer. But perhaps Aspyr's most notable addition is the surprisingly smooth launch of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords for iOS and Android smartphones. It follows their port of the first game in 2013, effectively cementing Aspyr as a go-to place for reworking older Star Wars titles at a time when everyone seems to be looking for remasters and reboots of old series.
Of course, Aspyr, which has worked on bringing Civilization, Borderlands, Sims, and SimCity games to new platforms, among other things, hasn't thrown in the towel on its own games just because lightsabers and podracing helped pay the bills. The team's recent release of co-op puzzler Mørkredd brings a unique twist, where the gameplay focuses on using a glowing orb to stay out of deadly shadows as you move from one task to the next.
Aspyr Co-Founder and Executive Vice President Ted Staloch sat down with SPIN to talk more about reviving old Star Wars titles and making new games of their own.
SPIN: Given how fondly many people look back on them, what was it like breathing new life into those older Star Wars games?
Ted Staloch: On the Aspyr team, we're all big Star Wars fans and love bringing Star Wars games to new audiences. For us, it's all about the games we think players are most passionate about and would like to bring to new platforms. When the demand is there, we are on board.
Is there any added weight, emphasis, nerve or anything like that in bringing these Star Wars games to new platforms as they are part of such a beloved universe?
It's a big responsibility to bring classic games to new platforms. Our goal is to get back to the moment when you first started the game. Nostalgia is huge for our team and there are loads of passionate people working together to bring these games back to life.
Given the tremendous increase in the performance of video game consoles and even smartphone technology since many of these games were released, what are the challenges of moving to modern standards?
The control systems are probably the biggest challenge. From touchscreens to control pads or mixtures of both, controllers have changed significantly in a very short time. You need to have the feel that the original developers intended, whether it is a 5 "or 85" screen. This can be difficult if the games were developed with a different setup.
How different is it to work on a project where everyone has pre-existing expectations - like upgrading a Star Wars game to a new platform - rather than creating or releasing a new game that people may not be much about knowledge?
In classic games, everyone always has a story about what the game meant to them. The game takes people 10 or 20 years back to a completely different time in their lives. And it's just so cool to learn about the history of our team in the same way that we learn about the history of the game.
From a creative point of view, what is the process of updating an older game? How do you balance keeping things more or less the same while improving them for a modern audience at the same time?
Aspyr is known for the high quality design and engineering that goes into every game we touch. It's about maximizing the potential of each game, which for us means tailoring the experience to the platform.
While 2020 wasn't really the year anyone expected, you still managed to get a slew of new projects off the ground. What's on your radar for 2021?
2020 has been huge for Aspyr and we will continue that momentum into 2021. Whichever console, platform, controller, or location you prefer, expect more from Aspyr in the coming year.
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