Star Wars Outlaws interview: “You can become co-owner of a moisture farm [on Tatooine]”

Ubisoft devs detail how they’re building the ultimate Star Wars sandbox
Star Wars Outlaws
Star Wars Outlaws / Ubisoft

Ubisoft dubs Star Wars Outlaws the first ever truly open-world Star Wars game. But how open is it? 

We chat to the game’s associate world director Cloé Hammoud, and associate art director Marthe Jonkers, on the challenges of letting players off the leash in their own unique Star Wars adventure. From co-owning a Tatooine moisture farm to customizing your pet sidekick Nix, here’s exactly what you’ll be doing in a galaxy far, far away.  

GLHF: The thing I’m really curious about is how big the open-world bits are. So, how many open-world areas are there that you can explore on the bike, and how big are they? 

Cloé Hammoud: It’s a very specific question. I don’t have the number on top of my head, but the idea when we started to work on this project was really to craft different environments. So we wanted to offer diversity, whether it was in terms of biomes, in terms of locations, in terms of wildlife, inhabitants, different cities, different settlements. So this is why we landed on Akiva, which is a humid jungle environment. Toshara, which is our own planet that we crafted with Lucasfilm Games. It’s a moon, actually. Of course, everyone knows Tatooine. I’m not going to describe it. Canto Bight, and the frozen planet Kijimi. 

So we landed on this after having done some research, discussed with Lucasfilm Games as well, and we also wanted to provide players, of course, a good mix between urban environments. So cities, you need. We wanted to provide players opportunities within urban environments. So sneaking, stealth, stealing some stuff, going to cantinas, conversations, all of this. And also, of course, the open world. 

So we needed wide landscapes, vistas, landmarks, things you can discover by yourself and explore. So every planet is going to have different topography. For example, Toshara is going to be very interesting because you’re going to have sandstone mounds as well as ambering, which is the exotic element we added to the savannah, and you can perform jumps, stunts. You’re going to have the thrill of driving on this planet. So I think, all in all, we crafted very different environments that all provide something different for players to enjoy. 

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

Are there other types of ways you can navigate the world apart from a bike? 

Marthe Jonkers: So you’re going to have your speeder, which is a very specific speeder… It’s very interesting to talk a little bit about the speeder, because its design is very unique and it’s very much how we designed all the new vehicles and creatures and everything actually for Star Wars Outlaws, because it’s very much inspired by the ’60s and ’70s. 

We tried to design new things by using the same inspiration as George Lucas for the original trilogy, because this game is set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, so this is the era that we want to reference, but we want to make our own new design, so what we do is just design it in the same way. 

So there will be a lot of this sort of retro-futuristic design. The speeder is, for example, motocross-bike-inspired, but, of course, with a little bit of alienness to it because it hovers above the ground. But this is to explore the planet. And then she has the trailblazer to actually go into space, where you also have a lot of room to explore and get into fights. You’ll have a lot to do in space as well. 

Cloé Hammoud: And you will be able to upgrade these vehicles. That’s important. Some areas might open up as you upgrade your speeder, for example. 

That’s exciting. Maybe jumps, charge attacks, smashing through things? I like the design of it. It’s very chunky and tactile. 

Cloé Hammoud: Everything we designed, we had that in mind… We always thought if you had to go to a shop and take different pieces, how would you build your vehicles, with which pieces to make it, like you said, a bit tangible, tactile. All of this is a bit more grounded as well. What you would use, basically.

Marthe Jonkers: Yeah, the materials are very important as well, and you see that on the speeder, we have a lot of different materials going on there, and we see it on the frame, for example. And I think the fact that it looks so cool in real life is a testament to how well it was designed with that in mind, that it needs to be something real and tangible, and it fits right into the universe.

Star Wars Outlaws' Kay Vess firing a blaster as she runs
Kay Vess is Star Wars Outlaws' scoundrel protagonist / Ubisoft

Did you have a big Star Wars bible that you had to follow? How free were you to make your own things? 

Cloé Hammoud: We were, honestly, really, really free, and I think all of the diversity, whether it’s planets, whether it’s also locations, but in terms of play styles as well, because Kay has many different tools. She can sneak, she can also use her blaster if she wants to. So all of this freedom that we give to players is also a translation of the freedom that Lucasfilm Games gave us. We were, I mean, able to craft our own planet. So I think that’s really a testimony of their trust. We have weekly calls with them. They answered all of our questions. A lot of support from their side. 

Marthe Jonkers: But I think the interesting thing about Star Wars design is that it just has a few pillars and if you follow those you can make something that’s Star Wars. And those pillars are, for example, there’s a lot of simplicity in the design. The silhouettes are really recognizable, for example. So if you go with that when you’re designing your characters or vehicles or even the planets, then you already get into that Star Wars feel. And then there’s the groundedness of it. You know it’s in a galaxy far away, but it’s still quite recognizable. The planets and the biomes in the Star Wars movies are not, per se, 100% alien. It’s actually something you recognize. 

It has a percentage of alienness. 

Marthe Jonkers: Yeah, there’s just a little percentage of this alienness that you need to add to it to really get this sort of interesting design going on. And this is how we approach the design as well. So, in that sense, in collaboration with Lucasfilm and with their support, yeah, there was a lot of freedom, but we also managed to create something that feels like Star Wars. 

Regarding the factions, what happens when you increase and decrease your standing with the factions? 

Cloé Hammoud: As an outlaw, your reputation is very important, and Kay knows this, and you have played the demo, right? The third quest is about infiltrating a Crimson Dawn-owned territory to retrieve something for the Ashiga clan, which is a different syndicate. So you will need to be very careful with how you approach these things, because if you are helping one syndicate, that might not be in favor of the other one, that will have some consequences for you. 

They might become hostile, or maybe you won’t have access anymore to certain shops that were related to this syndicate. So it’s really about maneuvering that world of syndicates and trying to make the right friends and the right enemies, because you can’t be friends with everyone. So that will be a big part of the story of Kay and Nix.

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

Does that mean you could potentially lock yourself out of certain faction rewards, and then you want to go back in a different playthrough and try different choices with different factions? 

Cloé Hammoud: It’s a very, again, a very specific question. What we wanted to do and to translate again in regards to the scoundrel fantasy was to give that opportunity to players to feel the threats as well as the opportunities that all of these different crime syndicates offer. 

So I think it was more about showing different facets of the underworld through the different planets, through the different crime syndicates and crime bosses. It has also a narrative layer to it. We wanted to not only show different archetypes in a visual sense, but we also wanted to reveal different aspects of this on a narrative level and make sure players understand the lines of conflict, what their activities are about, how they interact as well with Imperials. 

One of the highlights of the demo for me was exiting the third mission and seeing shops, and a blacksmith and a clothing shop and all of that. What are some of the ways you can customize your character’s look? 

Marthe Jonkers: She does have her own style, so she has a way of dressing. But there will be different gear sets. Actually, you’ll have a top part, the holster, and a bottom part, and then you can mix and match. And these gear sets will also have an impact on your statistics. We also have transmogrification, which means that if you want to look a certain way but you want to have the stats of that set, you can actually pick your look and then have the gameplay benefits of a certain gear set. So there’s actually a lot of freedom in that. But Kay does have her own style, so you know she always pops up the collar of her jacket, so she will do that on the gear sets as well. 

Cloé Hammoud: There are certain rules in Star Wars. They don’t necessarily have jeans, for example. You would not see any zippers. That’s not a thing, never. So there are a couple of things that we learned as well to navigate. We were like, ‘OK, no zippers,’ So how do you solve it? I think it shows the freedom that we had. We still integrated a few new things, slightly a bit more modern yeah, like her sneaker boots. 

Marthe Jonkers: That’s something that wasn’t seen before in Star Wars but for Kay it made a lot of sense because she’s young, so that’s kind of her style, but she’s also a thief, so having this kind of shoes that she’d sneak around with, literally sneakers that just fit very well and we were able to have that style for her, for example. 

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

There’s kind of an ’80s vibe, like Return of the Jedi-esque, with the sneakers and the curly hair. Can you change your hairstyle in the game? 

Marthe Jonkers: I think we’re not gonna spoil too much about the extent of customization, but for sure, you will have clothing, and you will have that kind of customization. 

Can you both give me one highlight of the game. Like what’s your favorite element of the game? 

Marthe Jonkers: What I’m always super happy about when I play the game is the relationship between Kay and Nix, and I really really love Nix. I mean we based him on our pets. We looked at our pets and we were like, OK, we want to create a creature like that. He’s actually a new creature that we designed at Massive in collaboration with Lucasfilm Games, but he’s a new species to the Star Wars galaxy and their interactions for me is just such a highlight. How he walks around, or you can pet him, or he’s helping you out by distracting enemies, and he’s, like you know, using his tentacles to kind of get the attention.

Was the weasel an inspiration for Nix?

Marthe Jonkers: Nix is a mix of different animals. He’s a merqaal from this jungle planet that’s somewhere in an unknown location, so we wanted to design him with that in mind, that he needed to be strong enough. So he has these scales on his back, which are more inspired for example by a pangolin creature. 

But then he has the soft fur on the bottom to kind of have the soft side on him as well, and there we looked a lot at lion fur, for example. So he is a mix of different creatures, definitely also a macaque, a type of monkey with the tail, and he has sort of dexterous hands. So there’s a lot of different inspirations that we brought together to create Nix. 

Cloé Hammoud: First off, I must say that honestly, as a world director, it was such a joy to be able to work in so many different environments and not have just one biome to create, because even within biomes, we managed to create some environmental progression, and I think players will be able to see that. 

But I think what I like the most is all of the tiny micro-stories that Kay and Nix will be able to discover across the world when they meet new characters. We added a new layer of narrative that tells really a lot about the world and about the inhabitants, the culture, all of the local things. And there is something that I really like, I think about Tatooine. I mean, for Tatooine we had the chance to create many different things, but you can become a co-owner of a moisture farm.

Star Wars Outlaws screenshot of Kay using her grapple hook
Star Wars Outlaws / Ubisoft

I’m into that. 

If you help someone that has gambled and lost his moisture farm, you can finally have a reward. So, if you have that dream, it’s possible. 

Yeah, I do. Can you earn money from it as well? Like passive income?

Yeah. That’s the tiny detail that we wanted to integrate, to give it a bit of flavor. That’s just one example. 

Star Wars Outlaws will aunch on August 30,2024, for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S on August 30, 2024. For more on the game, check out our Star Wars Outlaws hands-on preview and inteview with devs Matthieu Delisle and John Björling.

Griff Griffin


Griff Griffin is a writer and YouTube content creator based in London, UK.