Developer Update: Technical Changes in Game Update 1.5
As a tech artist, I create tools to help the artists get their work into the game, and I work with the programmers to make the game run more efficiently. One of my favorite things to do is write shaders. Shaders are small programs that run on the graphics chip that describe the appearance of surfaces. For example, shaders define if an object looks shiny or dull, reflective or matte, and they also help us define the visual style of the game in terms of how lighting works.
After we shipped the game last year, I started looking for ways to update the shaders to improve the appearance of the game without impacting performance. Several of these updates have already gone in, but one of my favorites is going live with Game Update 1.5 – translucency on foliage.
I really enjoy looking at nature and figuring out how to take the ideas that I observe in the natural world and imitate them with computer graphics. Over the summer I was really struck by the translucent properties of leaves and grass. When the sun is behind these thin membranes, it creates a really beautiful glowing light as it diffuses through the back. After studying this effect for awhile, I found a way to reproduce it in our game. And best of all, the effect does not reduce the frame rate at all.
So, new in Game Update 1.5, with Shader Complexity set to High in the Graphics Preferences, if you look toward the sun in outdoor environments such as Tython, Voss, Alderaan, etc, you’ll notice that the sun shines through the trees and the grass. Before Game Update 1.5, trees and grass would look really dark when looking toward the sun, but now that the sun is shining through them, they have that same type of beautiful diffused light that you see in the real world.
I hope that you like the improvement! And we have some even better improvements in the pipe for future updates – so stay tuned.
Senior Technical Artist