Developer Update: Color Palette Upgrade in Game Update 2.3
Several months ago, our engineers added a new feature to our game engine that gives the artists complete control over the final color output of our renderer. The technology is very similar to digital color grading – which is a technique that directors in the motion picture industry use to add style and emotional impact to each shot in their films. You’ve all seen this effect in action in all of the most recent summer block-buster films. In our game, this new feature allows us to apply unique color effects to each area for each Planet, Flashpoint, Warzone, Operation, etc.
Here’s how the process works:
- We take screen shots of the area that we want to adjust and bring them into a photo editing program.
- We apply color adjustments to the screen shots including things like brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, etc, to make the images look exactly the way that we want them to appear in the game.
- The adjustments that we make to the screen shots get encoded in a small texture.
- In the game engine, we assign this texture to the area where we originally took the screen shots so that the engine knows what color adjustments to apply to that area.
- When the engine renders the area, it applies our color adjustments in real-time to the area.
The result is that we’re able make all kinds of adjustments to the final color output of the game – basically anything that can be done to color in a photo editing program, can then be applied to our real-time graphics.
Some examples of the range of effects that are possible to achieve with our new color grading technology.
In the months since the new feature went in, we’ve been hard at work doing a color polish pass through all of the areas of all of the Planets, Flashpoints, Warzones, Operations, Fleets, Player Ships, etc (over 600 unique areas!). We’ve used our new tech to enhance and upgrade the look of each area to bring out and accent the colors already in the levels. The effects of the change are sometimes very subtle, but sometimes quite stunning. Here are some examples of ways that we’ve used the new feature:
To support the story of the area
For example, the outdoor area on the planet Tython is a relatively safe area where Jedi are free to learn and grow in strength without fear of attack. We gave this area a slightly warmer tint to support that feeling of safety.
To accentuate the mood and emotional atmosphere of each area
The destroyed Jedi Temple on Coruscant is a somber and sacred location where calamitous events have taken place. To accentuate the feeling of quiet sadness, we desaturated the colors slightly.
To bring the visuals of the game closer to our original vision and make them appear more like our concept art
We went back and looked at our original concept images for several of the areas and edited the in-game colors to appear more vibrant so that they more closely match our original intent.
To accentuate changes in temperature between areas
On the planet Tatooine, the outdoor area has been given a slightly warmer color tone, and the indoor areas have been given a slightly cooler tone. When a player transitions from indoors to outdoors, there is a subtle shift from cool to warm that will accentuate the feeling of temperature change and help to make the desert feel hot.
To reinforce differences between The Galactic Republic and The Sith Empire
In many areas of the game that are specific to the Empire, cooler tones have been applied, while areas that are specific to the Republic have been shifted to be slightly warmer.
To create contrast between unique areas of each planet
On the planet Coruscant, each of the areas has a representative color tone. The senate area is warm. The Old Galactic market area has a slight teal tint. The Black Sun territory is shifted toward blue/green, while the Justicar area is shifted toward purple. These slight color shifts give each area its own unique feel and identity.
We’ve also used the technique to do some pretty surprising things. I won’t spoil it here, but be sure to check out the hyper-dimensional prison area on Belsavis, and the shadow realm on Voss. We’ve been able to make these areas feel “other worldly” using our new tech.
These are just a few examples. We applied these same techniques to every area of the game, so go out and explore and see what you can find! And we’ve got some interesting ideas for creative ways of using these techniques in new areas of the game that are currently under development. Stay tuned!
Senior Technical Artist