The Art of Jedi Outcast


This blog is part of a more comprehensive article entitled A Star Wars Story: The making of Jedi Outcast. You can read the full article over at Patreon

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Concept artist Jeffrey Moy: Mark A. Nelson was the main character and vehicle concept artist for Jedi Outcast. He designed Desann and his female apprentice [Tavion], and the Raven’s Claw as well as the Doomgiver. I mainly did environments and props.

Mark A. Nelson: Nom Desann was a name given to me. I worked 5 different looks and the team leads took one for me to move to completion.

In the game, the Chistori (an alien species created for Jedi Outcast) Dark Jedi is just Desann.

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Desann, early design by Mark A. Nelson

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Desann, early design by Mark A. Nelson

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Desann, art by Mark A. Nelson

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Concept artist Jeffrey Moy: It was my first game that I worked on. And as a side note, I worked on the comic book adaptation of Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force published by Wildstorm back in the day before joining Raven for Jedi.

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Concept artist Jeffrey Moy: I was a Star Wars fan since I was a kid, seeing the original films in the theater and getting the toys and playing with them. I guess I’ve always been into art, first as a comic reader, enjoying all those Marvel and DC Comics and doodling in the margins of my notebooks in class. In school you start to get an idea of what sorts of careers are out there and what you might like to do. I decided I wanted to give art a go and to do storyboard for movies, but most of my education leaned towards comics and after getting my degree in Illustration, comics seemed easier to get into at the time. I think if I tried harder I could have maybe lined up a job doing commercial storyboarding, since I was around Chicago and that’s where a number of big advertising agencies were located. But I’m happy where my career has lead to.

As it turns out, Mark Nelson was one of my instructors at Northern Illinois University while I was earning my BFA in Illustration and we were friends after that. He left NIU to work at Raven and we would visit him every now and then in Madison, WI and would see what he was working on while getting a tour of the office, so I knew what Raven was developing. I wasn’t in gaming at all at the time and was still working freelance in comics. I worked for Wildstorm, helping their first book after obtaining the Star Trek license called Star Trek Voyager: False Colors. It was a one time gig, or so I thought, but about a year after looking for more work, Wildstorm called again and said they needed a rush job for a comic adaptation of some Star Trek Voyager game. What a lucky coincidence! I met with some of the designers and artists working on the game and they helped me match some of the designs for the uniform and environments that I would need to replicate in the comic.

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Kejim, art by Jeffrey Moy

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Concept artist Jeffrey Moy: As for joining the Jedi Outcast team, I was kinda struggling finding work in comics and in a visit to Mark and hanging out at Raven, I asked Brian Pelletier if they were looking for any artists. By this time I was a familiar quantity to them and if you have the art chops, they could teach you the technology and programs. Brian told me they weren’t looking for anyone at that time but a few months down the line they could use someone like me for concepting. So I waited a few months and Brain called asking if I was still interested in the position. I said yes, sent some more samples in and was hired as a concept and texture artist for Jedi Outcast. Drawing a lot of future comic stories and environments really prepared me for this, as well as being a big Star Wars fan.

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Art by Jeffrey Moy – a texture artist too:

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Concept artist Jeffrey Moy: Unlike character and things like the main ship designs, environments were pretty free to do whatever we wanted as long as it wasn’t too complicated for the game engine to handle. There were different ways to concept the environments. Sometimes you’re working with a designer and you are given an area to have a special purpose and then you get the information for what they’re looking for and you go to the board. I don’t think I ever really did more than a drawing or two for those kinda rooms. From there modelers can pick out objects that would need to be done to dress the room. Other times, you may just be given and area in a setting that is known like Bespin or the inside of an Imperial installation. There you’re trying to use familiar design elements and motifs from references we pull from the movies. Since the geometry of the world had to be fairly simplistic, a lot had to be done with textures to make it feel like there was something more there, if you catch my meaning. So as long as you’re pulling elements from the ships and environments of the movies and throw them on something that was never seen in the movies, it will still maintain that feel that you’re in that Star Wars universe.

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Art by Jeffrey Moy

Concept artist Jeffrey Moy: I think that Kejim was my first assignment and just getting into the working with designers and then drawing rooms that showed a process of using the crystals to create “Reborn” was pretty good.

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Concept artist Jeffrey Moy: Visiting Bespin and concepting areas in the Cloud City that the movie was never in was also fun. Carin and the Doomgiver were fun as well, working with more Imperial installations.

Concept artist Mark A. Nelson: The Doomgiver was a giant ship delivering the robot guard in containers. That was a lot of fun to work on large scale design. I did several different heads for the ship, and the final ray-like shape was the best.

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The Doomgiver, art by Mark A. Nelson

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Concept artist Jeffrey Moy: Concept art and Storyboard are pretty different. Concept art is used for building scenes and creating mood for whatever environment the game or movie will take place in. Storyboarding is focused on the storytelling and how the camera will be placed, shows us the characters or important objects are in the scene and is a breakdown of what shots are needed and what order they should go in to convey it. I would say that storyboarding and comics are very similar in that storytelling aspect. But comics probably focus more on composition and rendering as being just as important as camera angles in storyboarding.

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Storyboards by Jeffrey Moy

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You can see comparisons between the storyboards and the final scene for the opening and the Rogue Squadron attack.

Concept artist Jeffrey Moy: I would draw the panels, on paper, because we didn’t have tablets at the time and I can’t draw with a mouse, then I’d scan them in and then cut and paste them into a file while writing the description for it. I’d print them out to give to Robert Love so he can then use them for the animator and what camera moves he needed to program.

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Storyboards by Jeffrey Moy

Kevin Schmitt: This was before advanced video conferencing so I would fly up to the Raven offices and meeting with that team often. Sitting in the large meeting room and going over their progress was always very exciting. They always had all these new beautiful concept sketches on the table… You could tell they were all true fans and really excited and appreciative to work on the franchise, as I was.

It was the first time I had ever done anything like this, be Design Consultant for a franchise. I imagine it could have gone a lot worse, but like I said, they knew what they were doing and there wasn’t much we needed to correct or change at all.

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Art by Mark A. Nelson

Kevin Schmitt: I do remember that they had a toy store near their office and I would go over there after our meetings with a big group from Raven and we would buy a ton of SW stuff (this was peak prequel toy time!) and then we would all go to the steak place next door.

Concept artist Jeffrey Moy: The ingame cinematics were done in house with the animators working off the storyboards and creating animated snippets of what the characters were doing. Then that’s was put in by Robert Love who programmed the camera and snippets into the game to make them look right. I’m not sure if there was an easier way to do in game cinematics back in 2001, because you have limited space on a disc and anything prerendered would take up a lot of room. I’m trying to remember the Russian studio we outsourced the prerendered space shots for the ships, but I was pretty pleased with what they turned out.

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Storyboards by Jeffrey Moy

Concept artist Jeffrey Moy: Watching Rogue One I kinda had some flashbacks to some of the stuff I storyboarded with the X-Wings flying over the Doomgiver and the X-Wings flying over the shield door structure over Scariff. Good times…

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Rogue One (2016)

Jake Simpson: At the beginning of the project, I remember that all we had were the storm trooper models, and the marine from Soldier of Fortune (differently scaled too!) and I had a line of storm troopers all lined up in line, and the Marine character, holding the lightsaber, just spinning down the line, cutting the heads of each storm trooper, and them collapsing, blood spurting out their necks.

I remember marveling at how I was sitting there, playing in the Star Wars Universe, with an officially sanctioned product! It was a humbling and hugely exciting experience.

Originally, we did expect to have some blood spurts for removing arms and so on, and we did produce one demo where a lot of that was turned on, only we’d left the original massive blood splats from Soldier of Fortune in, instead of the much restrained spurts that were supposed to replace them. To say LucasArts was unimpressed was very understating it. They basically just said “No blood, anywhere” after that. We had to put in scorch marks when a light saber attacked anyone going forward, the idea being that the lightsaber itself cauterized as it cut.

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Concept artist Jeffrey Moy: I think the thing that impressed me the most was seeing how games are made on a studio level. Everyone working towards getting the game to be that final product that people will play and enjoy and delivering a memorable experience. I honestly don’t remember any specific instances sticking out (thanks crappy memory), so yeah, it was the whole experience of working in the studio and collaborating with other departments. Looking over and watching Mike Gummelt working on programming lightsaber combat, working with designers on giving them some sort of idea of what their areas could could like, and working with animators (and programmer at that time) for the cinematics. It was all a really pleasant experience.

Concept artist Mark A. Nelson: This was a great game to work on. The team worked well together and we produced the game in quick order and did a lot to add new elements. The team loved the Star Wars universe and it was grand to be part of it.

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Art by Mark A. Nelson

Art director Les Dorscheid: It felt that every new project, new game, we [at Raven] moved onto was bigger, more exciting, and intimidating. The budgets were larger, the expectations grander, the pressure and thrill dialed up. Yet with both Elite Force and Jedi Academy, I was confident that our team of artists, programmers, and designers were up to the task. That the experience we gained on previous projects had prepared us. We had a proven, talented team. Coming together as a team, to create quality fun, exciting games that were faithful to the big license was eminently rewarding. Those are the memories that I value most. Of course, we all were big fans of both Star Trek, and Star Wars. Both Paramount and LucasArts provided fantastic reference, insight, and swag. They gave us life-size cardboard cutouts of characters, numerous props, and countless reference books, toys, and figurines. We created Borg models, the Millennium Falcon, new Dark Jedi, Phasers, Lightsabers, wrote unique dialog, designed, modeled, and painted creatures, and aliens. The programmers gave the characters amazing abilities, the designers scripted fantastic story events. Yeah it was fun.

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Art by Jeffrey Moy

Co-project leader Kevin Schilder (Raven): In the end, I recall there was much less crunch time, very little wasted work, and generally a very positive experience for the people who worked on the project. The game turned out great. I believe all parties were very happy with it. I was not involved in the high-level meetings that made Jedi Academy a reality. I can’t recall how or when we knew we would be making another. I also am not sure why the project lead work was passed on to someone new. I never heard any reason why Steve and I shouldn’t be considered to do the next one as well. But there was also a mentality of shifting that role around to different people. Clearly though, Jedi Academy was a reality because Jedi Outcast was a success.

Jedi Academy came out in 2003, but that’s another story.

Finally, it’s always impressive to see how quickly these ambitious games were made, two decades ago.

Jeffrey Moy: I was hired in April of 2001 and it looks like the release date was in March of 2002, so maybe 8 months? Artists would become testers after most of the production was done unless they were moved to another project. I also was the storyboard artist for the pre rendered and in game cinematics, so my time was also spent doing those as well nearing the end of production.

Co-project leader Kevin Schilder (Raven): I seemed to be working on the project from November of 2000 through March of 2002.

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Jedi Outcast (Raven Software/LucasArts, February 2002 on PC)

Activision Producer – Graham Fuchs
LucasArts main producer – Brett Tosti

Raven Projects Leads – Kevin and Steve

Programmers – 8
Designers – 6
Artists – 5
Animators – 2
SFX – 1 (contracted by LucasArts)
Music – 1 (contracted by LucasArts)

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If you enjoyed this article, please join my Patreon (starting at 1 dollar) for more content like this! 🙏 Next ones: Y-wing, Alien’s Nostromo, Obi-Wan.

And if you like behind the scenes of video games, I invite you to read my Making of Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force or the portrait of Lorin Wood (Borderlands, Aliens: Colonial Marines). And my other deep dives.

Image credits: Raven Software/Activision/LucasArts/Lucasfilm Games/Mark A. Nelson/Jeffrey Moy

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