You may not have heard of Kashyyyk, but you certainly know some of its denizens. Kashyyyk is the famed planet of the wookiees in the Star Wars universe, the homeworld of Chewbacca. We'll finally get a chance to see Kashyyyk in the upcoming movie Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, and we'll also get a chance to actually explore Kashyyyk in Star Wars Galaxies: Episode III Rage of the Wookiees, the upcoming expansion pack to the Star Wars online role-playing game. The developers at Sony Online Entertainment have been hard at work on the expansion, and concept artist Arnie Jourgenson was kind enough to write this edition of our designer diaries to explain just how they're translating the wookiee planet we'll see on the movie screen to a 3D world we can explore on our computers. He even shared some concept art from Episode III.
Creating Kashyyykby Arnie Jourgenson
Concept artist, Sony Online Entertainment
Before setting out to design Kashyyyk for Star Wars Galaxies, we were lucky enough to get an advanced screening of a rough cut of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (my personal favorite of the prequels) at Industrial Light & Magic. Much of what we needed was already well envisioned by such awesome concept artists as Ryan Church and Iain McCaig. For me, the most powerful visuals were the shots of the wookiee planet Kashyyyk. Huge trees containing whole communities of wookiee huts towered above a landscape of endless forest encircling vast oceans. The giant humanoids were as ants to the enormous foliage they walked among. These were truly inspiring scenes, and we knew we were going to have a real job of it getting this effect across in a video game.
We started the designs for Kashyyyk with an area called Rryatt Trail, an ancient rite of passage for young wookiees to attain adulthood, which has been long unused due to the high loss of life incurred there. It's a long path that begins at the top of a massive tree and winds its way down through treacherous canopied caverns to end at the floor of the forest far below. Along the way, players will encounter a myriad of bloodthirsty creatures, like the massive pack-hunting mynstyngar and the swift but deadly walluga, which have both kept the trail unconquered for many generations. We tried many different visual ideas until we settled on the final look. The uppermost level floods players in sunlight as they look down upon the roof of the forest below them. It's a level of bright yellows and greens, where the sounds of footfalls are lost in the deep foliage floor. As the player descends, the levels become darker, and the leafy green gives way to long vine tendrils. Each successive level of the trail is darker and more dangerous than the one above, with a completely different look and feel. Needless to say, only the most "über" of parties will be able to reach the end of the Rryatt Trail!
The creatures that inhabit this trail and the other areas of Kashyyyk had to be the most vicious monsters in the Star Wars Galaxies universe to date. We were creating an area for high-level content and didn't want to let down those players who were expecting a seriously difficult challenge. No cute bunnies here; these beasts will rip a wookiee's arm off, and more. Every design we did had to look deadly. Every design had to instill fear into the minds of the players. Every creature design had to be worthy of defending its turf on Kashyyyk, home of the wookiees!
Another prominent point of interest in the Episode III movie was an area called the Kachirho Tree City. It's a huge tree with a village of huts built into the sides of it. Ryan Church, the concept artist from the movie, already fleshed this area out very well. All that was left for the Star Wars Galaxies team to do was detail certain areas to give the 3D modelers a bit more information to work from. Those that enjoy these scenes in the movie will love seeing Kachirho Tree City for themselves in the game. We spent a great deal of time and effort making sure the look and feel of Kashyyyk would create an experience to remember.