When Ken Brown, DICE’s Technical Art Director on Star Wars™ Battlefront™, got the news, his feelings were somewhat mixed. DICE had been given the honor of developing Star Wars Battlefront - but how on Hoth could you do justice to such a complex, stylistic universe? However, when DICE revealed that their main ambition was to replicate this universe as close to the original materials as possible, the doubts vanished.
“Doing it true to the source was the only way. Being respectful to Star Wars™ and doing it right was something I wanted to be a part of,” Brown says.
For Brown and his team, doing it right meant making Star Wars Battlefront look as good as possible - to be a true representation of the Star Wars universe. In his particular field of expertise, part of that entailed nailing the rendering of in-game assets – anything from Stormtrooper armor to the roots of trees on Endor. The road there was paved with passion for the universe – and a little help from a technology called Physical Based Rendering, or PBR.
“From a rendering and a technical perspective, PBR refers to a way of rendering that takes into account certain physical properties and laws,” explains Ken. “That could be energy conservation of a material, how we handle reflection, and how we render lighting”. The result is a stunningly realistic look.
Also, the fact that the materials have the correct physical properties from the get-go, and that the DICE artists have these guidelines to rely on, makes the tweaking of objects and levels much faster.
Not only PBR is used to create believable environments in Star Wars Battlefront.
Area lights, image-based lightning spheres, distant reflections, sub-surface scattering, and more are part of the palette.
“Say you have some Stormtrooper armor. If you take the time to set that up correctly based on the rough physical values it should have, suddenly you have a Stormtrooper that will work in any environment it’s put in. Then we don’t need to worry about tweaking every single environment and texture depending on the context,” he explains.
As Brown emphasizes though, PBR needs people to master it. “PBR is a tool, and tools mean nothing if they’re not tied to the philosophy we’ve had for the project: the authentic craftsmanship of the Star Wars universe.”
So what does this mean to the player? It boosts immersion, for one. Players that like to explore and really take in the iconic environments are catered for by this methodology in the best possible way. As Brown puts it, “We want you to feel like you’re in the actual Star Wars universe, not just someone’s reimagining of it.“
To achieve this - to really add an extra layer of connectivity to the planets - a lot of work has also been done on the so-called weathering of the materials. Say you’re battling amongst the lava fields of Sullust. The armor will be affected by ash and soot as you’re playing. When you’re on Hoth, the snow and frost will build up over time. Weathering is also contextual, so if you’ve stepped in mud on Endor and then walk in the water, the mud will wash away.
Staying true to the source material of Star Wars to do the universe justice was the only way to approach a project like Star Wars Battlefront, says Technical Art Director Ken Brown.
At the heart of all things graphical is the Frostbite engine, more powerful than ever thanks to new additions which will create a lot of eye candy for the player – both subtle and in-your-face. For instance, running around in game will be smoother and more seamless. When flying around Tatooine, the depth of the extremely expansive vistas will be great. On Hoth, advanced lighting techniques will make sunshine passing through snow look just right.
All in all, fans of both Star Wars and high fidelity visuals have a lot to look forward to. Laying the final touches before November 17th, Ken Brown is thrilled of the thought of everyone experiencing the ultimate fantasy: being inside the Star Wars universe.
“Right now, people’s anticipation to hold Star Wars Battlefront in their own hands is very exciting. Fans are expecting a lot, and we really want to prove we can do what we say we want to do.“
Get ready to live out your Star Wars battle fantasies with Star Wars Battlefront for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC starting November 17, 2015. Want to get the latest and greatest news on Star Wars Battlefront? Then follow the official EA Star Wars social channels and stay up to date.