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Felucia Transmission
No Match for a Good Blaster

Community Transmission — Visual Effects in Star Wars Battlefront II

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F8RGE
836 posts EA Community Manager
edited July 31


INCOMING TRANSMISSION

Explosions, blasters, smoke, steam, fire, rain, lightning. Odds are that you’ve encountered these, and many more, of the Visual Effects (VFX for short) during your time playing Star Wars™ Battlefront™ II. Today we take a look at how VFX fit into the game, as well as the process behind some of them.

Despite their ubiquitousness, it can be quite difficult to pin-point exactly what VFX are in a game. Senior VFX artist Anders Egleus reflects on this.

“Most people associate VFX with sprites, i.e. flat planes with transparent textures. But modern game engines like Frostbite have become so flexible and powerful that we can now use our VFX tools to create a lot of things that traditionally would have to be created by other parts of the game team, e.g. animation, lighting, technical art, even code. From birds and leaves on Naboo, to full scenes of background fighting with vehicles and hundreds of soldiers on Geonosis, a lot of people don’t even think of these elements as effects. Point being, our job is anything but repetitive, and because we dabble in many different areas of the game, we get to collaborate with a lot of talented artists, designers and coders too, which is super rewarding”.

One way of getting to grips with what VFX are in a game, is to categorize them based on the role they play.


This type of effects are there to communicate gameplay mechanics and give feedback to the player when you do something, or something happens. Examples are weapon impacts, muzzle flashes, blaster bolts, destruction elements, lightsabers, character/vehicle abilities and UI-like effects. These all have to work well in many different situations and lighting conditions. Since visual fidelity is such an important aspect of Star Wars, and by extension Battlefront II, they also need to stay true to the source material, look great, and feel “Star Wars-y.” Creating these types of effects often involves many iterations until all of the above requirements are satisfied.




Most Levels (maps) are embellished by different types of environment effects; Fog, fire, smoke, rain, snow, swirling leaves, and more all help the world come alive, but also give visual cues to help you understand your surroundings.



Cinematics—and many Battle Beyond scenes—often use the same types of effects as the other two categories, but the story telling aspect is the most important part, and the setup is more similar to traditional keyframe animation in that effects are triggered by a timed sequence rather than resulting from triggered events.

Capital Supremacy contains many cinematic and narrative elements


Needless to say, many effects fall into more than one—even all three categories—like the dust storm on Geonosis or the fires in the scene below. There’s a gameplay aspect in that they provide cover and sight reduction, risk/reward decisions (i.e. Do I take a shortcut and take some damage or do I go around?); they certainly enhance the environment art; and they tell a story about a battle that has been raging before you got there.

What all these types of effects also have in common is, of course, to help immerse the player into the world and support the artistic vision of the game.


Before starting work on an effect, it’s important to have a good reference of the desired end result. This helps identifying details that would otherwise be missed and facilitates communication with the art director, designers, and other stakeholders. Anders Egleus elaborated.

“The Star Wars franchise is extremely gratifying because you almost always have access to good reference material, and because the visual style is so distinct. There’s of course a flipside to that: You’re expected to nail the look of the movies with every effect. Other IPs might not come with the same baggage of what things should look like, but I prefer that any day to an unclear vision.

“Most of the time it’s easy to find the reference we need, like in the case of the Droideka’s shield which appears in full glory at the start of Episode I. Other times we take help from our in-house Star Wars gurus like CJ and Guillaume to dig up just the right scene from this or that episode of The Clone Wars.” 

The collaboration with Lucasfilm is also crucial to the result.

”They often suggest things we would never have thought of. They provide us with the needed reference material. They’ve even sent us raw footage from practical on-set explosions and other special effects, and we constantly rely on their expertise for feedback and advice.”

Another source of reference is the work of our talented concept art team

“The concept art establishes a clear vision and allows us to start thinking about potential challenges early on. We can look at a concept image and go ‘yeah, no, that’s never gonna fit into our performance budget’, but then you go back and start thinking about the challenge and eventually find a way to cram it all in there,” Andres stated.



So how are VFX made in a game like Star Wars Battlefront II? Unlike other artists who use programs like Photoshop and Maya to create their assets, the main tool of the VFX team is the game engine itself. The most common part of an effect is the particle system, or emitter. A particle is just a point in space with properties like size, rotation, color, and transparency. Unlike traditional keyframe animation, particles are then usually simulated, which (grossly oversimplified) could be described as the game engine applying basic physics to them as they evolve over time. The artist can then vary these physical properties (e.g. gravity, air resistance, etc.) to get the desired result. 

The final effect is typically made up of multiple emitters, lights, and other components. Often, many different effects are needed to make up a gameplay feature, environment. or cinematic event.



When it comes to making effects fit into the rest of the game world, there’s probably nothing more important than their interaction with lighting. For this to work, and be fast enough to calculate for all target platforms, the engine combines cheap per-vertex lighting with approximated texture based volumetric lighting. A simplified forward scattering model is also used to get nicely backlit particles.




To give the right look to fire and other self-illuminating materials, a so-called blackbody calculation converts grey scale images into believable fire colors and intensities.



In addition to the “standard” particles covered so far, Star Wars Battlefront II was the first Frostbite game to ship with a new GPU particle technology.

“We were thrilled when the Frostbite engineers approached us and asked us to collaborate in developing this new system., “ Andres recalled. “‘Happy to be your guinea pigs!’ we said. A lot of the effects in the game simply couldn’t have been made without it. GPU particles are much cheaper than their old CPU counter parts so you can have lots and lots more of them. Also they’re programmable, so that allows for much more complexity and control. The downside of that though is that they’re a lot harder to make because we have to build everything from scratch, so we only use them where the old system can’t deliver what we need (e.g. background crowds).”

Some other examples of effects created with the new GPU particle system are rain, snow, sparks, embers, pebbles, metal debris, leaves, insects (and Whisties!), lightning/electricity, birds, blaster bolts, and, of course, lightsaber blades.


Lightsabers, and specifically lightsaber blades, are some of the most iconic effects in the Star Wars universe. In Star Wars Battlefront, the shape and colors of the blade are procedural, which means that instead of using a texture to define the blade, different math functions are combined in a so-called “pixel shader” which gets called (i.e. activated) when the blade is drawn to the screen (i.e. ignited). This allows for visual tricks like making them look like they have a volume even though they’re drawn on flat planes.

Creating the blades for Star Wars Battlefront II wasn’t without its problems, however, according to Anders.

“We used basically the same technique in both games, but it turned out to be a lot harder to get it right in the sequel.”

One reason for this was simply time constraint. There were more lightsaber wielders in the second game (the first one had only Luke and Vader), and they were more diverse.

“We weren’t 100% happy with the look, but it kind of worked so we figured let’s move on and build all the other effects needed for the game”.

Another reason was that the differences between light settings were much bigger in the sequel, making it more difficult to keep consistency across all lighting conditions. Finally, stretch bloom (horizontal glow), which was introduced to mimic the look of The Force Awakens, became very exaggerated with very bright objects. As a result, the intensities of the blades had to be toned down a lot, since glow is applied equally to everything on screen based on the intensities of the pixels.

“Ironically, once we decided to remove stretch bloom in a post launch patch, it paved the way for a look that was more true to the movies,” Andres concluded.

As hard as it was getting the shape, colors, and intensities of the blades right, the characteristic motion fan posed its own challenges.


“Traditionally you would rely on the built-in motion blur of the game engine, which we tried during the early production of the first game.”

This proved problematic, however, as the blade would have to be a solid object (like Phasma’s staff) instead of the pulsing cylindrical volume we all know and love. Moreover, the framerate in a game is much higher than in a film and can be even higher on powerful PCs. Therefore, the amount of motion blur would be much less than expected and didn’t look right. The answer was to connect planes, which, much like an accordion, would stretch from the current position to a fixed time offset (say 1/60 seconds ago).


“An additional problem was that, before the June update, the back rotation was stored in world space,” Andres continued. “So sometimes you’d get a lot more motion blur than you’d expect, e.g. when rotating with your character. The blade didn’t move at all in camera space, but rotated quite a lot in world space. Now we store it in camera space which is closer to how real camera motion blur works.”




Anders finished, “It’s a bit painful that it’s taken so long—we tend to prioritize new content over polishing existing assets—but it’s nice to finally be at a point (no pun intended) were we’re happy with the lightsaber blades.”

We will of course continue to improve lightsabers and many other effects in future updates.

Additional VFX artists who contributed to the images/videos, and who have helped make the VFX in Star Wars Battlefront II what it is today;  Jonas Andersson, Tobias Ahlgren, Nadab Goksu, Daniel Kopp, Gustav Hagerling, Steven Huang, Keith Walters.

We hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look on the VFX in Star Wars Battlefront II. If you'd like us to explore further topics in this way, be sure to let us know in the comments below.

Post edited by T0TALfps on

Replies

  • Amazing  <3
  • Force lightnings of Palpatine need to be improve. They should look like Dooku's or like they were in the previous game.
  • DaiBenduMonk
    44 posts Member
    edited July 25
    Can you guys bring back the Visual and Audio Effects for Flash Grenade and Sonic Imploder how they were in Battlefront 2015. So the flash fades away slowly, rather than disappear out of nowhere.
    Post edited by DaiBenduMonk on
  • bfloo
    15713 posts Member
    When will we be able to redirect lightning with Yoda?
    The Knights of Gareth are Eternal

    Pirate of the Knights of Gareth

    h846398gb27k.png


  • I always love reading these, and thanks for going a bit more in-depth and touching on more technical subjects this time (your fluid simulation alternative is absolutely wonderful, by the way). 
    ==============================================================
    3ydnuscizll8.png
    Mygeeto CT thread + demo video!
    https://battlefront-forums.ea.com/discussion/133499/outer-rim-community-transmission-demo-video-idea/p1
  • I remember when i first played games on a pc 20 years ago. How far the visuals have come. Frostbite engine is a good looking engine. 
    ''The difference between a fall and a sacrifice is sometimes difficult, but I feel he understood that difference, more than anyone knew. The galaxy would have fallen if he had not gone to war. Perhaps he became the Dark Lord out of necessity to prevent a greater evil''
    9qkoakxcje0l.gif

  • unit900000
    3365 posts Member
    this is educational and all but I personally dont care about stuff like this I would rather have news on new content or the future of the game in general.
    Dont act a fool and you wont get called out. PSN: DarthOdium- old PSN:unit900000
  • I agree the visual effects for blaster fire are worse in this game, they need to use the blaster and some explosion effects from the last Battlefront game. (Battlefront 2015) In the last game they were brighter and easier to track where the fire was coming from.  This is my main gripe with this game, the new blaster effects are a step back in my opinion.  So devs, if your listening, take a poll from the community and see what they think.  


  • Unwarycoin
    5989 posts Member
    bfloo said:
    When will we be able to redirect lightning with Yoda?
    I was actually going to ask if Yoda could really send lightning back to his enemies, also I didn’t know video games used photoshop.
    #JoinTheBuzz
    8fqc6br4b0gm.jpeg
    Never forget
  • Enzyoo
    227 posts Member
    You'd think VFX would be the last on their priority list.

    I'm just a simple man trying to make my way in the universe.
    35l7lo44u7u1.gif
  • Impressive, most impressive.
  • Billkwando
    1926 posts Member
    That was really cool. Helps put into perspective how much work goes into this game.

    Have to admit I couldn't tell the difference between the 2 motion fans at all. ;)
    ZI7BNkU.gif
    ^Maximum the Hormone - Alien^
    (Sorta like an insane Japanese SOAD, but w/ 3 vocalists and slap bass)

    Gamertag: Billkwando PSN: Billkwando YouTube: Billkwando
    Find me in HvV, pushing people off of stuff and watching them fall, like a cat.
  • Devs, great work! The visual effects of this game are awesome.

    Continue improve them.

    1bfioawlu399.png
  • Cool , cool i like it but PLS DICE fix specialist E bug where most of the time enemy is not showing up on the mini map , and  when it happens my game crash to desktop.
  • Fantastic read. I always love behind-the-scenes articles like this. Especially when covering the technical side of meticulously detailed games like Battlefront II. You guys have done an outstanding job nailing pretty much everything that makes Star Wars look and feel like Star Wars. <3

    I do hope you guys will eventually take the time to address the VFX related issues in the future, though. There are some things need that could use your TLC:
    • Lightsaber blades flicker during gameplay and disappear when pausing the game on the Xbox One version (I don't know about the Xbox One X, PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 4 Pro versions, but these don't happen on the PC version).
    • Blaster impact VFX incorrectly occur on characters when they are killed by melee or Force based abilities (e.g. Luke's Push, Maul's Choke Hold, Han's Shoulder Charge, etc.).
    • All blaster bolts deflected by lightsabers are incorrectly deflected as red blaster bolts regardless of what color they were when fired.
    • The color of the blaster bolts for the AT-AT's Orbital Strike should be green on Hoth: Outpost Delta, and red on Endor: Research Station 9.
    • The neat out-of-focus effect for the pause screen as well as for the campaign's view ability screen doesn't work anymore.
    • When using the DF.9 Anti-Infantry Battery, the angle of it's blaster fire appears to come from the player's screen instead of the turret's blaster barrel.

    It'd also be a really nice touch if Hero abilities that do not require the use of the Hero's lightsaber as well as all Hero emotes did not automatically ignite their lightsabers when activated.

    The last thing I want to mention is that Battlefront had some awesome visual details that added a lot to the immersion, and made the gameplay that much more satisfying, but these visual details are strangely absent from Battlefront II. A game that's vastly superior to it's predecessor in every other respect:
    • Troopers drop their blasters when killed.
    • Jump packs explode after the wearer briefly flies wildly out of control when killed midair.
    • Com-scan displays and landing light domes shatter when blasted.
    • Cylinders and crates explode when blasted.
    • Trees explode/topple when blasted or rammed.
    • S-foils close when players exit their starfighters.
    • Troopers leave footprints in the ground.

    These were terrific little touches that I'd love to have in Battlefront II. Is it possible to implement them?

    "All wings report in."
  • OcDoc
    1827 posts Member
    That was some serious edumacation!
  • Hello!  Because Star Wars effects are so important I would like to take this opportunity to remind the devs that blue lasers are still being deflected red.  I believe this also goes for the green lasers shot by the cr-2.  I know this is a minor bug but this becomes a very annoying and persistent eye sore as I play the game.  Please, I really just would like to see lasers deflected as the same color as when they are fired like in the movies.  Thanks!  Y'all really do put a lot of time into this game for our entertainment and I respect and appreciate the effort y'all put into this game.  While I'm at it, Luke's Yavin ceremony jacket is a a sorely missed opportunity for a Luke skin as this appearance is a classic and a must have for Luke skins.
  • When improvements in the sound? When Dolby Atmos?

    1bfioawlu399.png
  • That's awesome. Speaking of pointy lightsabers (finally!) - Luke and Vader seem to have the old, round-ended sabers. Will that be fixed? Thank you so much for all the effort you still put in the game. 
  • VMP_666 said:
    That's awesome. Speaking of pointy lightsabers (finally!) - Luke and Vader seem to have the old, round-ended sabers. Will that be fixed? Thank you so much for all the effort you still put in the game. 
    They deliberately left theirs round out of respect as that's how they are in the movies
    "DEW IT."
    p1jlhhgtai3b.png
    "I am the Senate."
  • XAnakin93 said:
    The players : The game is broken, fix your game please. 

    Dice : Visual effects!
    Yep, spot on 
  • It was a really interesting reading. Understanding the strategy and problems around updating and maintaining a game.
    pija5nbcgaah.jpg
    "This is a mission of peace. I put my faith in diplomacy. We can't solve all of our problems by throwing troops at them."
    -Padmé Amidala
  • Fantastic post. Thanks to “the devs” (often referred to derogatorily) for this look into the amount of hard work and attention to detail that goes into this game.

    Gotta say, Kamino is my favorite map, in terms of VFX, that I’ve ever played in any game, ever. It has been since launch. The rain, the waves, the buildings and backgrounds... astonishing. 
  • SrawDawg
    909 posts Member
    Very informative, thanks for posting this!


    I still can't get over how good the lighting looks in this game.
  • SQJACKIE
    434 posts Member
    Now it will run worse on console great
    9wexqoicrpnu.png
  • If I’m not mistaken new maps a few new guns and easily made skins for characters          

    ALL PROVIDE VISUAL EFFECTS


  • F8RGE said:
    Really? It's interesting to know how the process works, but I don't see how it was important enough to make a CT about it. CT's are usually reserved for content updates and fixes.
    CTs can be about anything, not just new content updates or fixes. This might not be something you enjoy reading but a fair few others do. 

    Expect more of this type of thing as we move forward.
    I feel like a lot of people don't appreciate the work and effort put into a game as visually excellent as BFII so I consider posts like this to be insightful. Of course, receiving content is better. But it's nice to understand what exactly the team goes through when creating and updating things for this game. It's a shame BFII doesn't have a bigger team though.
    "DEW IT."
    p1jlhhgtai3b.png
    "I am the Senate."
  • This is literally the only game I play, I would really love more blasters, more maps on GA , and maybe another class, and more aliens ,can u please bring back the “the droid “ emo , thanks 
  • Well, that was educational.  It is quite amazing all that goes into just the look of the game, I think BFII has always stood out significantly over its predecessor visually.  The increase in all the lightsaber users, the look of it,  and the combat has been an awesome part of the game.  While the visuals and the thankless work that goes into all the details of the game are commendable, the decision-making of game direction and content is a completely different story....
  • Ben, could you guys enlighten us, and release a CT on what it's like working on a live-service game that is already released, compared to how it was to work building something from ground up towards a launch date?
    What kind of constrains do you face? What are the limitations, how much harder or easier is it to work on a game in both scenarios?
  • Defbored
    1546 posts Member
    this is freaken awesome. great read. 


    id love to read another one of these discussing the debugging process for either a major bug that was solved or one that is currently being worked on. 
  • CornellAKABCM
    350 posts Member
    edited July 26
    F8RGE said:
    Really? It's interesting to know how the process works, but I don't see how it was important enough to make a CT about it. CT's are usually reserved for content updates and fixes.
    CTs can be about anything, not just new content updates or fixes. This might not be something you enjoy reading but a fair few others do. 

    Expect more of this type of thing as we move forward.
    Maybe so, but there are also people who play this game for the game itself, and not for the work that goes into it. If you do more of these kinds of CT's, you're just gonna drive those people away. I know I'm already having trouble sticking around as it is.
  • F8RGE said:
    Really? It's interesting to know how the process works, but I don't see how it was important enough to make a CT about it. CT's are usually reserved for content updates and fixes.
    CTs can be about anything, not just new content updates or fixes. This might not be something you enjoy reading but a fair few others do. 

    Expect more of this type of thing as we move forward.
    When is the game going to work right? I mean can I expect bug fixes? 
    I will show you the dark side.
  • RC2074
    135 posts Member
    More offline/PVE maps and bigger please
  • vonVile
    338 posts Member
    edited July 27
    @F8RGE, you need to fix the lighting when it comes to the players seeing inside of outside of a location. All you are able to see is either all white or all black inside the area even when you're standing 5 meters next to the opening. How are players suppose to attack when they can't see the target? Its not just one map. Its just the way DICE designed the lighting engine. It doesn't work like the human eye and adjusts to how bright an area is to allow them to see. I've been collecting vidcaps of game play, which I post these weekend.
    Post edited by vonVile on
  • Lord_Tyrannus
    709 posts Member
    edited July 27

    Shame I've never actually seen this work in-game, looks cool as hell. They need to increase the window for it and include absorbing Palpatine's lightning as well so that we can see this more often. 
    Yoda can't deflect Palpetines lightning because his lightning is too powerful.It wouldn't make sense.Did you never see episode 3 or star wars the clone wars the last season when Yoda fought against him ?
  • Excellent thread. 
    #StarWars-y
  • @F8RGE A couple of questions if you have the time.
    Will Felucia have weather effects?  (Excellent storm effects on Geonosis.)
    Any chance we could get a twilight version of the Hoth GA map similar to what was done in SWBF 15?  Maybe a little more snowfall?
    Any chance that we will see interactive items like those found in the campaign meaning canisters/tanks that if shot would explode and release smoke/vapors/gasses?
    #StarWars-y
  • JMaster
    2197 posts Member
    Uh... this is very interesting, I guess.
    "I felt there was a large amount of human chauvinism... also I felt very bad that at the end the Wookie didn't get a medal also... oh, all the people got medals but the Wookie who had been in there fighting all the time, didn't get any medal, and I thought that was an example of Anti-Wookie discrimination." - Carl Sagan on the subject of Star Wars
    He knew.
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