STAR GAZ ING

EDGE - - EMPIRE BUILDING -

DICE de­sign di­rec­tor Nik­las

Fe­graeus is a Star Wars su­per­fan. Here, he talks us through the process and chal­lenges of mak­ing

Bat­tle­front as evoca­tive and faith­ful as pos­si­ble.

Was it a chal­lenge bal­anc­ing the look of the orig­i­nal tril­ogy films with what you can do with Frost­bite 3?

One of the things that we dis­cov­ered quite early on was that in or­der to re­ally make it work and come to­gether with all the props, char­ac­ters and weapons, we needed a ren­der­ing tech­nique that could al­low for en­vi­ron­ments that shift quite pro­foundly. The ref­er­ence ma­te­rial is the orig­i­nal props, and we needed them to work in both bright snowy en­vi­ron­ments and then if it sud­denly be­comes black and dark. Usu­ally, you can’t do that ef­fec­tively – you have to tweak a bunch of things, preload and do tech­ni­cal stuff like that. So we com­bined a phys­i­cally based ren­der­ing sys­tem with pho­togram­me­try to get the fidelity we needed.

As a fan, what was it like to get your hands on the orig­i­nal props?

A bit of an emo­tional roller­coaster! The Lu­cas Cul­tural Arts Mu­seum isn’t a very fan­cy­look­ing place, just a house. It doesn’t have any big signs, there’s no neon, just this lit­tle el­e­va­tor and a big door in­side – noth­ing spe­cial. Then that door opens, you step in, and all over the place is all this mag­i­cal stuff. I couldn’t re­ally grasp it at that mo­ment. I just thought, ‘I have to be pro­fes­sional,’ so I im­me­di­ately just ran over to some­thing I knew was im­por­tant and started work­ing. Af­ter five min­utes, I just had to stop as I couldn’t fo­cus on any work – I just started geek­ing out com­pletely and had to get that out of my sys­tem. It was weird, and fan­tas­tic.

You vis­ited the orig­i­nal movie lo­ca­tions, too, right?

Yeah. The [US] gov­ern­ment shut­down [of Oc­to­ber 2013] was in ef­fect at the time, and one of the things that hap­pens dur­ing those is that the peo­ple who take care of the Na­tional Parks don’t work, so they were closed. That meant we were de­nied ac­cess to some of the lo­ca­tions, so we had to… find other ways. Like proper Rebels.

Did you en­counter any prob­lems in adapt­ing the orig­i­nal props for the game?

Not all the props look good close up. Take a Snow Speeder model as an ex­am­ple – it’s used at a cer­tain dis­tance from the cam­era when they do the films, and it has a bunch of mo­tion blur and it just goes by quickly. They didn’t need to have a bunch of de­tail [for that]. Some of the props are mar­vel­lously de­tailed, oth­ers less so, but they’ve been adapted for where they need to be used, which is very smart. But in game, every­thing can be viewed from any an­gle, so it’s been quite a job for our artists.

How did you turn the orig­i­nal films’ sound ef­fects into ver­sions that are suit­able for a videogame?

That’s re­ally one of those things that I think hasn’t been men­tioned enough when talk­ing about the game. It’s true that we were granted ac­cess to the orig­i­nal sound stems, and it was incredible to see the sound guys geek out on those. But, of course, they’re not enough to pro­vide a sound­scape to an en­tire videogame. So tons of work has gone into fill­ing in the gaps, so to speak. The sound guys have done some re­ally splen­did work that com­ple­ments the work by Ben Burtt, John Wil­liams and all of the leg­ends that did the orig­i­nal stuff. It re­ally sounds Star Wars to me – some­times it’s kind of hard to tell when Wil­liams stops and our com­poser takes over.

Pre­sum­ably you and the team had a few Star Wars film nights in the course of de­vel­op­ing the game?

[Laughs] How did you guess? Since we used them as ref­er­ence, we watched them count­less times. But when it comes to me just per­son­ally watch­ing the films for my own en­joy­ment, I think I’ve seen them maybe, I don’t know, two or three hun­dred times. I in­clude my child­hood in that num­ber.

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