When the DICE team first set foot on the Icelandic surface, parts were bubbling, giving off short yet intense bursts of heat. The solid ground gently rumbled, reverberations felt from head to toe. They stood still, looking far and wide only to see eerie streams of smoke rolling across the horizon and over awkward arrangements of gigantic black rocks. The air was cool but surprisingly calm, as if life was non-existent. It was in this moment that they knew this was what players need to feel when trudging through the cold, dark, and unstable terrain of a previously unexplored planet and bringing this to Star Wars™ Battlefront™ would be one of their biggest challenges yet.
The team at DICE Stockholm began collaborating and ideating on the endless possibilities of environments that could exist in the Star Wars™ universe. Anton Grandert, Concept Artist at DICE, developed the initial look through various sketches. “We wanted to create a planet on our own, first trying out different ideas and then deciding on a lava planet,” said Grandert.
DICE Concept Artist Anton Grandert's early visual ideas of what might unfold on Sullust
When referring to the direction, the concept artist stated, “With black sharp rocks, huge land shifts, red lava, turquoise lakes, and white smoke…everything to make it really colorful yet imposing and threatening.” It took a while to nail down the specifics but once completed, the team presented the design and direction to Lucasfilm. Working in collaboration with the teams at Lucasfilm, it was decided that this visual design would be a perfect look for the planet Sullust, mentioned but not seen in Return of the Jedi.
A detail of the original Death Star taken at the Lucas archives
To build a dynamic and exciting world for our players, the team at DICE then visited the Lucasfilm archives for further research. We wanted to build on the existing lore that the planet Sullust had an Imperial presence. And this idea proved to become a major influence in the design of the planet for the game. We studied the Death Star's architecture and material to inspire ways in which we could incorporate the structures, almost as if the same architect who designed the Death Star left their mark on the structures that stand across the surface of Sullust in Star Wars Battlefront.
From the concepts, the next goal was to figure out how to create the lava filled world. To make things difficult, we needed to identify a location to capture the content for our photogrammetry process. This process for planets such as Endor and Hoth were easier as we traveled to the real locations where the films were shot to obtain reference imagery. In the case of Sullust, where on Earth could we find a location that looks like another planet? And this brings us back to that first moment in Iceland.
DICE Senior Level Artist Pontus Ryman traversing the other-worldly landscape of Iceland, which served as the teams’ inspiration for Sullust
Close to Sweden, Iceland proved to be a unique and ideal location which in multiple areas looked like another planet. Andrew Hamilton, Lead Environment Artist, and members from the team at DICE set out to study and capture the desolate Icelandic environment mentioning, “it’s very barren in a beautiful way. It hints at all the features in our concept and all the content we needed to gather…all the materials, rock shapes and even the lava.”
When the team returned to Stockholm with reference footage, Petter Skold, Senior Level Artist and Planet Owner of Sullust, set out to bring the planet to life. “We used the source material that we gathered from Iceland to shift and bend to the design detailed in our concepts, which was very fun and difficult process,” said the Senior Level Artist. While difficult, this process has paid off allowing Petter and the rest of the team to create an iconic planet we are very proud of. On the process, Skold stated, “this was different than content captured from locations of Endor, Hoth and Tatooine which could be used right away.”
DICE Concept Artist Anton Grandert having some fun while on location in Iceland
The goal with Sullust, as with every planet, is to deliver a variation that introduces new themes and areas for our players to explore. The overall look and feel for Sullust is very much Imperial and under construction, playing in locations within the planet such as a lava theme, sulfur theme, Death Star-inspired theme, and lastly a mine theme. According to Lead Environment Artist Andrew Hamilton, “it’s all about grounding in reality. Everything needs to look like something you could actually imagine existing. That’s what we wanted to do with Sullust…make it feel out of this world but like it could actually exist.”
Of the 12 multiplayer maps in Star Wars Battlefront (there are even more locations when you include the Star Wars Battlefront Missions), some feel immediately familiar — such as the lush forests of Endor or the tundra of Hoth. Some of the maps support our epic modes like Walker Assault, while others are tailored to more intimate, close quarters combat. Our goal is to bring a variety of battle fantasies to life, with map design catering to the modes that will play out on those maps. Above all, we want you to create new memories of your own in new places you've never seen before.
In celebration of Star Wars Day, here are two wallpapers of Sullust from Star Wars Battlefront you can download free today. We are looking forward to seeing and sharing your battle fantasies on November 17th and beyond.