Star Trek Timelines Dev Diary #2
Designing Star Trek Timelines
Jason Booth & Noah Berkley
The Genesis Device
Today, we get to premiere something never before seen online – the first in-game preview of Star Trek Timelines. Keep in mind that this is still in early stages, and things change, but we wanted to show you how we build planets. We sat down with programmer Jason Booth and artist Noah Berkley to learn more.
“We realized early on that we were going to need a rich and diverse variety of planets for the game. Building these all by hand would take an incredible amount of time, so we decided to build a tool set which can allow an artist to quickly build planets, or even generate them automatically. To me, the important thing was to allow Noah to have complete control over how the planets look, but without him needing to manually model and texture every thing you see in the game.“
“We started by looking at early concept art and a tone we wanted for the game. In Timelines we wanted to make you feel like you are at the actual control console of the ship. We decided on a surreal, exaggerated tone and palette: not cartoony, but also not hyper-realistic”.
“Once we understood the look we were going for, we explored a number of ways to generate planets. What we eventually settled on was an approach where Noah creates various images that describe the height and angles of the planets surface. These get blended together by the graphics hardware to create the planet’s terrain, and then rendered using palettes of colors that Noah defines for the various features of the surface.”
“The colors of the water, terrain and atmosphere need to be carefully balanced to create a pleasing result.”
We start with several textures that describe the height and angles of a planet’s surface.
We project this information onto the planet. This is the height information; black is low, white is high.
We colorize the heights with a gradient, which Noah provides.
We can then light it in the graphics engine.
We then add water and shorelines, and darken the water based on how deep it is.
Next we layer on some of the inhabitants’ features, such as buildings and lights.
We add clouds and atmosphere to produce a final result.
These textures, palettes, and settings can be varied to produce an infinite number of results.