A retrospective on the making of Tie Fighter

Writing for PCGamer, Alex Kane takes a long look at the creation of the video game Tie Fighter, where the player becomes an ace in the Imperial Navy between the Battle of Hoth and Battle of Endor. Supposedly, this was Lucas's reaction when he saw the copy on the package:

As the story goes, George Lucas was shown the packaging for TIE Fighter in a board meeting shortly after the game had come out and had started performing well financially and earning acclaim. Lucas picked up the box, examined the cover, and then turned it over to read the copy on the back. "'Imperial Navy'?" he said. "There's no navy in Star Wars." A moment later: "Well, I guess it doesn't matter."

A key moment in the marketing of the game came when a deal was reached to co-promote the game along the Dodge Neon:

"I think what really helped the game is that we were approached by Dodge, the car company," Gleason says. "I wasn't in much of a bargaining position; I didn't have a whole lot to give in return, other than they get to use Star Wars in their advertising. For the Dodge Neon, which was nothing like a sci-fi or futuristic car. It was from Michigan. There was nothing sexy about it; it looked like a family car. But it was a big win, because we couldn't afford to distribute 400,000 demos on our own, or do a TV commercial."

With an unlikely marketing companion in Dodge, Gleason got a TIE Fighter demo onto the PCs of thousands of gamers. In early 1994, Computer Gaming World magazine released a single-mission demo of the game on a pair of 3.5-inch floppy disks. After clicking their way through an ad for the then-brand-new Neon compact, players were rewarded with an early, rough build of the game.

You can see that demo in this video:

My personal favorite mission was Battle 12, Mission 6: Recon Military Summit, which takes place just before the Battle of Endor. You're given two tasks. Jump into the system where the rebel fleet is amassed, scan the capital ships, and jump back out before being destroyed. Along the way, locate and assassinate a Bothan who has grown suspicious the rebels might be walking into a trap. Just make sure you don't destroy so many fighters that the rebels might abandon the assault on Endor! Here's a no commentary playthrough: