STAR GAZ ING
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.