Star Wars: Battlefront Delights, Raises Questions/Concern at E3

Star Wars Battlefront

Like last year, DICE, the developer behind one of the most hotly anticipated gaming titles of the Star Wars Universe, Star Wars: Battlefront, made use of E3 to add further hype to the product it’s currently working on and to showcase the progress that’s been made. The work-in-progress footage that was shown this time around was captured off a PS4 and – although impressive- it gave rise to some controversy and concern among fans in regards to a number of performance issues and game features.

Most of the “problems” which apparently surfaced in this year’s E3 showing could probably be attributed to the overly impressive footage released back in April, the one about the battle in Endor’s woods, which was in-engine footage indeed, but it wasn’t in-game footage and the differences are indeed quite significant. The Endor footage was set to a totally different tune: it was rendered at a resolution higher than 1080p, and then down-sampled for that added visual bang, it featured a movie-like 2.35:1 format and super-smooth frame rate. Compared to it, the current E3 in-game release was indeed a bit of a dud, though it was much more realistic in terms of what one can/should expect from the eventual PS4 version of the game.

It has to be noted though that the footage presented was from a pre-alpha version of the game, which obviously means that there’s plenty more work that will go into the title before release, fine-tuning as well as more radical changes. For now though, here’s what the E3 presentation told the information starved Star Wars: Battlefront fan: the differences between Battlefront and Battlefield 4 and Hardline are apparent in a couple of ways. First of all, environmental, physics-based damage isn’t exactly played up in Battlefront. Secondly, the cap for multi-player has been reduced from 64 to 40. The smaller number of potential players is probably a move aimed at helping out the frame-rate, which – like it or not – is currently struggling. Through the presentation, it stayed in the 40-50 FPS range, occasionally dipping into the 30s. Expectations bred on the superb visuals of the April presentation were let down by these issues, especially considering the fact that a number of other visual artifices have been cut as well: per-object motion blur is no longer part of the package and while the same was indeed the case for Battlefield 4’s multiplayer component, its campaign mode did feature this perk. With no campaign planned, Battlefront will have to do without this feature.

On the upside though, the game mechanics looked impressive and the visuals did too: it was obvious that the special technique of photogrammetry used by DICE was yielding results in terms of authenticity. DICE did indeed get access to Lucasfilm’s Cultural Arts Museum, where they got the chance to photograph all the original props used for the films, and to use those photos to create a high-resolution 3D-mesh through photogrammetry.

The bottom line: everything considered, the E3 footage shouldn’t really be viewed as more than just a herald of things to come. In its pre-alpha phase, the game has plenty of growing-up to do and the current code-base is indeed a solid starting point.