Senior Environment Artist Pontus Ryman spills development secrets
When the Star Wars Battlefront beta fell into the hands of eager players, the heat of battle was a striking contrast to the freezing landscapes of Hoth. Ever since the planet was first shown in the original film trilogy, Hoth’s barren landscapes and the secluded Echo Base has been truly iconic and unmistakably Star Wars.
Senior Environment Artist Pontus Ryman has spent a lot of time with the digital snow of Hoth, and after the beta ended he was pleased by the community’s verdict of their experiences and his extensive work put into it.
Let’s ask Pontus some questions, and you can also experience all the planets of Star Wars Battlefront in the new Star Wars Battlefront Planets Experience.
What were the community reactions on Hoth after trying out Walker Assault in the beta?
Pontus Ryman: We were quite overwhelmed by all the positive reactions to how our recreation of Hoth turned out. Our goal was to have players immersed in the gameplay and environment through the visual and audio aspects of the Hoth environment, and the fans really took this to heart. It’s been great to see players praising the fantasy of fighting in a real, snowy environment, feeling the chilly winds of Hoth.
We’ve really been pushing for player interaction and immersion, with the harsh environment affecting all senses of the player in all the Star Wars Battlefront planets. We want to make the player feel connected to the planets, and I think this really comes through in the other Hoth map variations at launch, along with the other immersive planets.
What was it like to capture the real world environment for Hoth?
Pontus Ryman: Hoth has always been about an epic battle within a vast, barren environment. I think we’ve captured both aspects quite well; you can traverse the huge landscape while it feels dangerously cold and barren, but when you hit the trenches or interiors you’ll witness chaos, sparks, and explosions.
We’ve worked hard to portray what we felt and experienced during our research trip to the original filming location at Finse in Norway. The trips were incredibly tough physically, trudging through waist-high snow and extreme blizzards with tripods and equipment, with the icy temperatures taking its toll on both us and our cameras.
What tools have been essential for creating Hoth?
Pontus Ryman: We’ve used the coincidentally named Frostbite engine for this, along with several other different tools and systems. One component we have developed is the ability to affect the world with weathering specific to each planet. This is used in a way to have the environment affect the player’s clothes, weapons, and props.
For instance, the longer a player moves through a snowy environment, snow will gradually build up on the characters and their weapons, while the snow then starts to dissolve as they enter an interior. If an explosion goes off nearby the player their weapon and clothes will be covered in snow. This system extends through all of our environments, with other examples such as mud splashing up on characters in the Endor forest, only to be washed away when they run around in the river.
This is just one example of new tools or techniques used to fully immerse the player in the environment.
How did you tailor the planet to fit all Star Wars Battlefront game modes?
Pontus Ryman:Hoth, as we see it in Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back offers a great range of indoor and outdoor environments that play very well to our gameplay needs, but we also expanded on this to introduce other interesting locations for different gameplay modes. A close-quarter game mode like Blast or Cargo makes perfect sense in the tighter Hoth caves and Rebel Base, while the larger prominently outdoor environments designed to portray a more chaotic battle like Walker Assault and Supremacy is a great fit for the classic vast landscapes of Hoth.
You can expect to experience a lot of variety when playing on all the Hoth maps across the various game modes Star Wars Battlefront has to offer. Pack a blaster and your warmest Rebel or Imperial uniform and we’ll see you on this frozen battlefront starting on 17th November.