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What is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge? How the “Immersive World” Theme Park Will Work

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will combine virtual reality with an "immersive world" that works a lot like an MMO.

Paul Tamburroby Paul Tamburro

A detailed model of Star Wars Land, now officially titled Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, has been unveiled by Disney at the D23 Expo, revealing more of what Star Wars fans should expect to see from the two huge upcoming theme parks.

The theme parks, currently being built in Disney World Florida and Disneyland in California, will span an area of 14 acres at a rumored cost of around $1 billion each. They are set to be Disney’s most bank-busting and impressive park expansions yet, but there are still multiple question marks surrounding what will actually be inside of them.

Disney has referred to the parks as “immersive new worlds,” with them being filled with folks dressed up as characters from both the new and old Star Wars movies, along with a bunch of interactive attractions that have mostly remained unannounced. However, judging from investments Disney has made in interactive entertainment in recent years, we have a good idea of what we should expect to see at the parks when they eventually open in 2019.

 

ILMxLAB and virtual reality

The two Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge parks aren’t theme parks in the traditional sense, with them featuring no rollercoasters or other assorted rides you’d expect to see in an offshoot of Disney World. Instead, the entire park is laid out like a real planet from the Star Wars universe (Galaxy’s Edge is located in a brand new world made specifically for Disney, so don’t expect to wander through Tatooine or Naboo). So without these traditional rides, what exactly will there be to do in the upcoming Star Wars lands?

It’s imaginable that one of the biggest players in helping Disney create this “immersive world” for Star Wars will be ILMxLAB, a studio featuring the combined forces (pun intended) of Industrial Light and Magic and LucasFilm. ILMxLAB has been busy plugging away at virtual reality experiences for Disney since its inception, including the cool lightsaber experience Trials on Tatooine, which was made available on Steam back in July 2016.

Take a look at the launch video for the studio below:

During GDC 2016, Epic Games co-founder Tim Sweeney revealed that Disney was working on bringing VR to its Star Wars theme parks (via UploadVR). It’s almost certain that this will involve ILMxLAB, and that the output we’ve seen from them thus far is likely in preparation of what they’ll bring to the table at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

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A scale model of Millennium Falcon ride. (Image Credit: Disney)

There are two attractions confirmed for the theme parks. The first takes place inside the Millennium Falcon, which was displayed in the model recreation of the park, with players piloting Han Solo’s iconic ship through a dangerous mission. The second is described as a battle between the new trilogy’s First Order and the Resistance, with little known of it other than it takes players inside the interior of a Star Destroyer located outside of the planet the theme park is set in. There was also concept art unveiled during the D23 Expo presentation which depicted a ride in which attendees battle two AT-AT walkers, which is likely a part of this mysterious second attraction (via The Verge).

So, how does Disney plan to recreate these action environments for the park’s guests? Though virtual reality will play its part, it’s still questionable exactly how this will be pulled off. Each VR attraction could well see attendees simply sitting in a stationary ride with headsets strapped on, but there’s also the strong possibility that ILMxLAB’s Holo-Cinema will be involved in some capacity. The Holo-Cinema displays stereoscopic 3D images onto a pair of walls using high-quality projectors, while reflective balls mounted on the user’s 3D glasses work to create the illusion of a hologram. The technology made its way to Sundance Festival in 2016 with two demos, one set in Jurassic World and the other in the Star Wars universe, with attendees able to get up close with C-3PO and BB-8.

Take a look at the Holo-Cinema in action below:

It could well be that part of the “immersive world” of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will feature the Holo-Cinema, allowing guests to step foot in a 3D recreation of various locations and featuring attractions that make use of the CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) system.

 

Immersive worlds and a real-world MMORPG

With virtual reality and stereoscopic 3D likely set to bring Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to life, the rest of the theme park will be far more organic. Alongside the aforementioned Star Wars characters wandering the parks, those who stay in the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge hotel will apparently become a part of its story from the minute they step foot in it, to the moment they leave. Though the story has yet to be revealed, examples that have been given from those at the D23 Expo in regards to how storytelling will be handled in Galaxy’s Edge make the entire experience sound oddly similar to an MMORPG.

Here’s an example given by Gizmodo:

“For example, you may see Chewbacca around talking to Hondo. They’re up to no good and could be recruiting a group of people to go on a mission. So then you’d go on the Millennium Falcon ride, one of two in the park. Based on how you and your crew does on that ride (the ride will allow each individual person to have their own job aboard the Falcon), you could get some extra republic credits afterward, or maybe a stern talking-to. If you’re really, really bad though, bounty hunters might hunt you throughout the park, like a new one named Harcos.”

Though it’s certainly an incredibly ambitious endeavor to have every guest at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge feel like they’re a big part of the park’s story, it seems that Disney is looking to achieve this by way of essentially having them embark upon RPG-esque quests; attendees will talk to a character, be given an objective and then head on their way in pursuit of monetary rewards. Very cool.

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The design of the park itself looks to follow in the same vein as Pandora: World of Avatar, a similar “immersive world” theme park based upon James Cameron’s Avatar that opened at Walt Disney World Resort’s Animal Kingdom earlier this year. That also featured recreations of settings featured in the film, along with various unconventional attractions such as a 3D motion simulator. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge looks to be a more elaborate take on this concept.

There’s no word yet on when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is expected to open in 2019, with it having been in construction since August 2016. You can check out a behind the scenes video of the model of the park in the below video from Jace Diehl: