Star Wars Outlaws is a scoundrel fantasy through and through – dev interview

Outlaws is “a dream come true” for Ubisoft Massive

Watching interviews with many of the creators behind the Star Wars shows that have come out on Disney+ over the last couple of years, there is always that feeling of awe they express in the face of playing around in George Lucas’ personal sandbox, alongside the enjoyment of wielding the franchise’s characters and planets like action-figures during their childhood days. 

It’s not just the showrunners that feel this way. Matthieu Delisle, lead systems designer on Star Wars Outlaws, and John Björling, associate narrative director, expressed similar feelings about working on a Star Wars title in a chat with me ahead of Ubisoft Forward, where Ubisoft Massive presented a deep dive into the open-world adventure game.

“This is honestly a dream come true,” Björling says. Like many of his generation, he grew up with the original trilogy and played with toys of the iconic characters and vehicles – but he never imagined that he’d one day get to leave his own footprint on the saga: “It’s absolutely surreal.”

Star Wars Outlaws screenshot of Kay and Nix approaching a wrecked cruiser.
Kay is the game's protagonist and Nix is her loyal and useful companion. / Ubisoft

“I think after that initial kind of shock and pleasure,” Björling adds, “it definitely became like ‘okay, we have a job to do here.’” Though the reality of the job set in for the team – and the weight of the expectations on its shoulders started to be noticed – that feeling of joy continued to drive it forward. As Björling put it: “Playing with those things, telling stories in that world, and expanding on what has come before has been such a privilege.”

“I think a lot of us were watching the original trilogy on VHS on repeat,” Matthieu Delisle adds. “As a kid, I always imagined what’s behind the curtain. Like, ‘What would it feel like to explore those worlds?’ Having the chance to do that today, to expand on this wonderful world-building, is just amazing.”

We were very intrigued by the scoundrel fantasy, the classic anti-hero type character.

John Björling

I’d argue that I’ve seen a little too much Star Wars in my life, so it’s somewhat difficult for it to offer anything fresh to me these days. How did the developers tackle the challenge of bringing players something new in a universe that has seemingly done everything?

“The one thing it boils down to is character,” Björling states. “We were very intrigued by the scoundrel fantasy, the classic anti-hero type character.” 

Star Wars Outlaws screenshot of a space battle.
The Trailblazer is Kay's trusty ship and seemingly as much a hunk of junk as the Millenium Falcon. / Ubisoft

Protagonist Kay Vess follows a proud Star Wars tradition in that regard, with classic examples like Han Solo and Lando Calrissian inspiring her. Kay is not in any way restricted by previous character designs, though. The team aimed for a mixture of “the familiar and the new” to tell Outlaws’ story, a mantra that’s been the backbone of most recent Star Wars media. In addition, the open-world formula allows for a variety of big and small stories to be told in the game, which Delisle emphasizes hasn’t really been done for Star Wars as a playable experience before.

“That’s why it still works. That’s why this place is always worth going back to over and over again, because there are a billion stories that can be told in this galaxy,” Björling adds. “We’ve really allowed ourselves to dream and go big, and aspire to make something that we can be really proud of.”

However, dreaming big while making an open-world game can have its problems – especially if we’re talking about Star Wars, which offers such a vast universe. You have to set limits at some point and for Ubisoft Massive it was that scoundrel fantasy that guided the team to those lines in the hot Tatooine sand. It’s this fantasy that informed the game’s systems. 

You have to roll with the punches and adapt to fight against the odds.

Matthieu Delisle

Delisle elaborates: “Kay is kind of a sub-archetype of the scoundrel – she’s a thief. That narrows down the fantasy a little bit as well. Where she’s more focused and where we go deep in terms of systems, the tools that she can use, and how she can grow her arsenal as a thief. So that’s where we bring the depth, I would say.”

In the gameplay I got to see ahead of the show, Kay is basically a Swiss army knife: She can slice into networks, has a grappling hook, is skilled at sneaking and hand-to-hand combat, and seems to be great at improvising. One thing you’ll notice when checking out gameplay is that while she has a varied toolkit handy, her only weapon is her trusty blaster pistol. She’ll pick up more firepower on the way, but they’re never a permanent addition to her arsenal.

“It’s a strong aspect of the scoundrel fantasy that you’re the underdog,” Delisle says. “You have to roll with the punches and adapt to fight against the odds. Kay is absolutely that type of character, so she will be flexible and use the tools around her. Something she always brings with her is her blaster, which is special in the sense that she can swap between modules that affect how it behaves. [...] Being tactical with that really brings a lot of depth in terms of combat and making each encounter feel unique.”

Star Wars Outlaws screenshot of Kay hiding.
Kay can hold her own in combat, but she's really more of a sneak. / Ubisoft

“Kay is ultimately human. She doesn’t have supernatural abilities and she’s taking fights that she’s definitely staked to lose. But her ingenuity, sometimes her recklessness, the fact that she has these tools, and her companion Nix, means that she can survive, overcome those odds, and ultimately win big,” Björling emphasizes.

I asked what Kay would do if she were put into Han Solo’s position in the cantina scene during A New Hope – Greedo coming at her with a drawn gun. Would she shoot first? “I don’t think she would even put herself in that position in the first place,” Björling chuckles. “But she’d probably steal Han’s blaster before he noticed.”

George Lucas himself always had an interest in the criminal underbelly of the galaxy and though he could never realize his dream of a TV show in this seedy setting, his successors have been heavily using the underworld on and off the screen. But game development is time-consuming like no other form of media production, and it’d be a shame to have picked some minor character from a comic book series for a cameo, only for them to be killed off before the game comes out.

In this regard, Björling praised Lucasfilm Games for its cooperation with the studio: “They have been there as our support pillar really, to make sure that we have everything that we need to do our job and to make the game as good as it possibly can be. That includes information that isn’t available anywhere else, talking to writers on other projects, and aligning a little bit on some things that are going on. So it hasn’t been hard at all, actually. If anything, it’s been inspiring to see all of these things that other creative voices are putting out there.”

Star Wars Outlaws screenshot of Kijimi.
Japan-inspired Kijimi is one of the worlds Kay visits in Outlaws. / Ubisoft

He wouldn’t outright say if Lucasfilm Games ever said “no” to any of Ubisoft Massive’s ideas, but it genuinely sounds like the license holder is trying its best to accommodate developers and their vision.

“I think overall when we’ve had crazy ideas,” Björling says, “what’s been so good about Lucasfilm is that they’re very open to finding a way, even if it’s something that technically doesn’t work because it’s being done by someone else already or it actually contradicts something that is fairly obscure that we didn’t know about. Everyone has this mentality of wanting to unlock creativity and find a way for the ideas to happen.”

Finding ways for ideas to happen, of course, is also a developer’s job. I wanted to know how it was to work with Star Wars’ janky, grounded 70s version of sci-fi tech, since it’s essentially the opposite of the sleek and shiny designs today’s sci-fi prefers – in fact, one of the criticisms of modern Star Wars media is that it's far too clean for the most part, with only outliers like Rogue One and Andor getting the look right.

“That’s part of the charm of the Star Wars franchise, right? The fact that it’s so grounded in this almost vintage aesthetic, it’s a visual language that is so identifiable and so strong,” Björling answers. “Trying to create new tools like the slice kit for example, or the comlink and electro binoculars and so on, making it fit into this era of Star Wars with that kind of visual language was something that we aspired to do and it’s been so much fun. It really feels like we’ve been given this opportunity to expand the visuals, in a way, and look at things that maybe haven’t been featured anywhere else.”

Star Wars Outlaws screenshot of Kay shooting at Stormtroopers.
Stormtroopers, naturally, make great cannon fodder for Kay. / Ubisoft

From the footage I’ve seen, the studio did a great job of it: Slicing into a network requires Kay to have physical access and play a mini-game that would feel right at home at an arcade. When Kay is detected doing something against imperial law, her wanted status can be cleared by flying to an imperial satellite and hacking it, clearing her from the list of subjects.

Delisle highlights that “two things that were really fun to design and explore with that 70s vintage style in mind were the ship – the Trailblazer – and Kay’s speeder. You can really see the influence from all sorts of famous pieces from the time and it’s been a real joy to bring those two vehicles to life and make them feel so connected to Kay as a character and as a package that works so well together visually.”

I think overall a lot of us on the team jumped into the deep end of Star Wars and have learned things that we never imagined we would learn.

John Björling

Speaking of visuals: Aurebesh, the most commonly used alphabet in the Star Wars galaxy, is a prominent feature in the game’s bustling streets and its slicing screens. Did the developers have to take a course to study it before getting to work?

“It’s absolutely not mandatory to know Aurebesh,” Björling laughs. “I pride myself on actually having learned about it. It’s not that complicated once you get the hang of it. I think overall a lot of us on the team jumped into the deep end of Star Wars and have learned things that we never imagined we would learn. It just has so much depth and so much width that you could spend a lifetime learning about it and it probably wouldn’t be enough. It is what ultimately makes the world really feel alive and lived in.”

Star Wars Outlaws, the first open-world game set in the galaxy far, far away, is headed for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S on August 30, 2024. Check out our Star Wars Outlaws hands-on preview to learn more.

Marco Wutz


Marco Wutz is a writer from Parkstetten, Germany. He has a degree in Ancient History and a particular love for real-time and turn-based strategy games like StarCraft, Age of Empires, Total War, Age of Wonders, Crusader Kings, and Civilization as well as a soft spot for Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail. He began covering StarCraft 2 as a writer in 2011 for the largest German community around the game and hosted a live tournament on a stage at gamescom 2014 before he went on to work for Bonjwa, one of the country's biggest Twitch channels. He branched out to write in English in 2015 by joining, the global center of the StarCraft scene run by Team Liquid, which was nominated as the Best Coverage Website of the Year at the Esports Industry Awards in 2017. He worked as a translator on The Crusader Stands Watch, a biography in memory of Dennis "INTERNETHULK" Hawelka, and provided live coverage of many StarCraft 2 events on the social channels of as well as DreamHack, the world's largest gaming festival. From there, he transitioned into writing about the games industry in general after his graduation, joining GLHF, a content agency specializing in video games coverage for media partners across the globe, in 2021. He has also written for NGL.ONE, kicker, ComputerBild, USA Today's ForTheWin, The Sun, Men's Journal, and Parade. Email: