Among the planets you can visit in the Star Wars Battlefront game coming from DICE and Electronic Arts this fall, Sullust presented a unique challenge. Though the planet was briefly mentioned in Return of the Jedi, no context was given about its geography or culture. That meant that the creative team at DICE had to start from scratch.
The first look at Sullust came after various sketches from one of DICE’s concept artists, Anton Grandert. The result was a lava planet, “[w]ith black sharp rocks, huge land shifts, red lava, turquoise lakes, and white smoke…everything to make it really colorful yet imposing and threatening,” said Grandert.
Concept art by Anton Grandert
Once the overall look and feel of the planet was decided upon, DICE moved on to the “culture” of the planet. After doing some digging in the Lucasfilm archives and pulling from some Star Wars Legends material, they decided that Sullust would have a significant Imperial presence. The architecture, they also decided, would be based on the Death Star, “almost as if the same architect who designed the Death Star left their mark on the structures that stand across the surface of Sullust in Star Wars Battlefront,” the author of DICE’s original article on the creation of Sullust wrote.
A closeup of the Death Star’s interior
For familiar Star Wars planets like Hoth and Endor, it was easy to capture the footage that would be needed in the making of the virtual environments; they could simply make trips to the original film locations. But for Sullust, there was the added challenge of choosing a location that was brand new.
In the end, DICE decided on Iceland, which is close to Sweden and DICE’s studio. Lead Environment Artist, Andrew Hamilton, and others from DICE went to Iceland to get a feel for the location and capture the footage they would need. Of the environment, Hamilton said, “it’s very barren in a beautiful way. It hints at all the features in our concept and all the content we needed to gather…all the materials, rock shapes and even the lava.”
With reference footage in hand, Senior Level Artist, Petter Skold, took on the task of making Sullust not just a virtual reality, but also iconic. “We used the source material that we gathered from Iceland to shift and bend to the design detailed in our concepts, which was very fun and difficult process,” said Skold.
DICE Senior Level Artist Pontus Ryman in Iceland
Concept Artist Anton Grandert playing with his Stormtrooper action figure in Iceland
In the end, this entire process of getting finding just the right look and environment, obtaining reference footage, and then putting all of those elements together into a unique creation, was guided by the desire to make everything look and feel as real as possible. In Andrew Hamilton’s words, “it’s all about grounding in reality. Everything needs to look like something you could actually imagine existing. That’s what we wanted to do with Sullust…make it feel out of this world but like it could actually exist.” Perhaps in service of that desire, gamers can expect to be able to explore a variety of locations on Sullust, not just the severe lava-and-ice environment. “The overall look and feel for Sullust is very much Imperial and under construction, playing in locations within the planet such as a lava theme, sulfur theme, Death Star-inspired theme, and lastly a mine theme.”
At the end of the day, though, the important thing is that this game is a Star Wars game; DICE wants you to have fun with it. “Of the 12 multiplayer maps in Star Wars Battlefront (there are even more locations when you include the Star Wars Battlefront Missions), some feel immediately familiar — such as the lush forests of Endor or the tundra of Hoth. Some of the maps support our epic modes like Walker Assault, while others are tailored to more intimate, close quarters combat. Our goal is to bring a variety of battle fantasies to life, with map design catering to the modes that will play out on those maps.”
But, “[a]bove all, we want you to create new memories of your own in new places you’ve never seen before.”
Battlefront is shaping up to be the most immersive Star Wars video game experience in the history of Star Wars video games. Though I don’t own a game system and may not get many opportunities to play Battlefront, I’m looking forward to learning about all the new planets it will introduce, and if there are any canon stories guiding the gameplay. The fact that this game is enriching Star Wars lore and expanding its roster of locations is what truly interests me.
But there is no doubt in my mind that the gameplay itself will be tremendously fun, as well.
Head to the original article to download Sullust-themed Battlefront wallpapers for your computer.