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A group of 17 volunteers contributed to a project by Obsidian Entertainment's senior environment artist, Jason Lewis, in an attempt to make the most realistic Star Wars scene possible. The project consisted of recreating Mos Eisley from Star Wars in the Unreal Engine 4, using advanced rendering techniques to make the most realistic looking Mos Eisley within the confines of interactive entertainment. The best part about it, though? You can download and play around in the map for free.
The article explaining the building process was posted up over on 80 Level. Lewis and a few of the artists talk about how they made some of the assets and what was required to make the Mos Eisley map as detailed as possible.
It all started with Lewis wanting to make the Millennium Falcon using the Unreal Engine 4. The idea was to make the most realistic and advanced Millennium Falcon ever. While working on the Falcon, Lewis began expanding and growing the project, adding in more details to the Mos Eisley hangar and then wanting to work on the Cantina, the place infamously known for Han Solo and the Geedo shootout.
As the project grew in scope, Lewis began asking if some of his fellow cohorts at Obsidian would be willing to pitch in to make some objects, structures, and ships. That's how 17 people ended up working on the project in their free time, headed up by Lewis.
The amazing part about it is that despite being free and despite being done as a pastime project, it's more engaging, more immersive and more visually dense than any AAA game on the market right now.
One of the most impressive shots from the scene, for me, is an overhead shot of the Falcon in the hangar where you get a nice good view of the dirty smog coming out of the top exhaust panels. What's so impressive about it? Because the smog is volumetric.
We don't often get to see particle-oriented smoke or fog effects due to how intensive it is on GPUs and because current day consoles can't handle that sort of thing. But seeing the dirt on the falcon from where the expelled smoke was exhausted helps give weight to the depiction of the scene.
This is a great showcase of the Unreal Engine 4 because it shows just how underutilized it is this generation. Seeing what artists can do and what they're being limited to due to the home consoles is disheartening.
Now I'll say this: the scene doesn't look real, there's still too much of that smooth CG look and the colors aren't washed out enough to make it look like real life. However, it is one of the best-looking renders for a Star Wars scene I've ever seen and it has the best-looking visuals for an interactive Star Wars piece. If a full game was made to look like that then it would easily become the eighth-gen's rendition of Crysis. Heck, I can already imagine the hardcore fanboys dumping thousands into upgrading their rigs to benchmark the project.
These days we don't have anything remotely as good looking as this Star Wars fan piece in today's gaming. Most of the visuals are standardized for the PS4 and Xbox One, which are utilizing tech that's several generations old compared to today's PCs.
If this little homage to Star Wars has you wanting to see and experience more, you can download an interactive runtime of the scene from the 80 Level website. Be warned, though, the scene requires an extremely powerful rig. You will need 16GB of system RAM and a GPU with 4GB of VRAM if you're looking for good frame-rates. That means at the very least a GTX 760 but they recommend a GTX 970 for decent performance. There are also plans to implement VR support for the HTC and Oculus Rift, so you'll be able to experience this awesome fan project in virtual reality.