Earlier this month, the breathtaking trailer for Star Wars Redemption dropped. The project, focused on a female Jedi named Mevenn at the head of her own squad of troopers during the Clone Wars, shows off animation slick enough to pass as an official Lucasfilm effort. With would-be players grinding file-sharing services to a halt, and breaking their own PCs in an attempt to check out a playable demo, Redemption might have passed as a real Star Wars project. In reality, the entire thing was made by a tiny group of fans in their spare time.
Redemption's creator, artist Etienne Beschet, says that while they've dabbled with Star Wars games, the inspiration for Redemption's artistic style stemmed from The Clone Wars TV series and another, very different, video game source. "The Clone Wars had a big impact on how artistic a lot of things are. It's not like you're watching something generated automatically, you can really feel the artist behind each brush stroke, material, and shape. The clone trooper armour isn't just white with a little roughness, it's also painted, brushed, hand-worn, and I really love that."
The other major source of inspiration, however, didn't come from the Star Wars universe. Main character Mevenn herself started life as little more as a Photoshop doodle that Bechett put together during their student days at the Bellecour design school in Lyon, France. Beschet says they've never played classic Star Wars titles like Jedi Knight or Knights of the Old Republic, and that time spent making the demo meant they never got around to playing Jedi: Fallen Order.
While the cinematic nature of Star Wars: Battlefront 2's campaign appealed, but it was Overwatch that helped refine those initial character designs. Blizzard's FPS "helped bring in subtleness, efficient details and strong design logic," and the quality of its character inspired Beschet and Redemption's main animator, Thomas Chaumel, to try and emulate that quality from the very beginning of the project.
The response to Redemption's unveiling was almost too much to handle. At time of writing, the trailer has amassed more than 600,000 views on YouTube in less than a month. As enthusiastic fans attempted to download the demo, file-sharing services like DropBox and Google Drive couldn't keep up with demand. One player, so keen to play the game that they crashed their PC after ignoring the demo's hardware requirements, caused ArtStation to suppress access to Beschet's work. In spite of the complications, however, Beschet says that the response was "Incredible. And unexpected, really unexpected. How other fans love this project, which we created from ground zero, gives a really beautiful feeling."
The Dark Side
Of course, the difficulty of working as a fan within an established franchise was ever-present. Fan-made remakes of beloved classics or third-party modding tools for popular titles are at constant risk of being hit with Cease and Desist notices from the copyright holders, who see a need to protect their IP and have no obligation to help those infringing on it. Beschet says that those concerns were ever-present: "of course I was constantly stressed by 'What if Disney…', but I wanted to show them, and more importantly George Lucas and [The Mandlorian director and Clone Wars writer] Dave Filoni how much I loved their universe. Star Wars: Redemption is a fan game, but also a big love letter to what they built."
Unfortunately, Redemption probably won't go any further for now. Beschet says that the project "won't go further than a demo until it eventually gets a studio to develop a full game." As well as ducking out of Disney's legal reach, Beschet says that the time and sacrifice required to make a full game is something hard to provide in addition to a day job, and that there are many other worlds they want to explore, from Tolkein's Middle-Earth to entirely new ideas. When it comes to Star Wars, they're simply prepared to see what the galaxy far, far away has to offer next.
For something you can play in its entirety, here's our list of the best Star Wars games.