I have little connection to videogames as close as the one I have to Star Wars: Dark Forces. Firstly, the game was released only a few months before I was born. Secondly, I spent several months playing and replaying every level, and cataloguing my efforts with “The Diaries of a Jedi Knight”, a retelling of the game in the form of personal logs written by the protagonist, Kyle Katarn. It doesn’t take more than a glance to recognise the opening level, a solo raid into an Imperial base in search of the plans for the Death Star. Recently released films may have sidestepped Katarn’s lore, but one developer is looking to update the game’s graphics and keep Kyle’s story in memory.
This project is the brainchild of Jason Lewis, who is a Senior Environment Artist at Obsidian Entertainment, and has been in development for two years. I say “been in development” loosely as Lewis naturally has a full time job, and this is very much a side project. In the last two years Lewis’ ArtStation profile has seen six updates, all of them about this project, and it has given a fascinating look into the level of detail present in both the original and Lewis’ remaster.
The first post showed just a general layout of the main building of the imperial base. This layout was untextured, just flat shaded geometry made up from a series of panels and a few embellishments that modern tech allows for - such as some rather nifty looking turbo-lazer cannons.
The second post built out the rest of the level, completing the outside geometry and adding detail to the inside, which while previously built was mostly just statically lit. This update showed off a mostly-untextured level, but now the level had lightmaps completed and it already looked incredible. Lewis pairs shots from his updated level with comparison images taken from the original, showing off details that would have been impossible in the original - such as windows into TIE fighter bays and a new landing spot for the Moldy Crow.
Speaking of The Crow, the next update Lewis showed off the models for an updated Crow and an ATST. These were untextured, but the detail in their models rivals that of the recent films. The machinery and moving parts of the two, though particularly in the ATST, is incredible.
Lewis’ next update saw the final blocking of the first level completed, with the level being completely traversable. The new landing spot for the Crow featured some rocky topography, a touch of foliage and some assorted junk assets from a previous Star Wars fan project Lewis was involved with three years ago. That project was Docking Bay 94, and can be downloaded here - though you’ll need a reasonably powerful PC to fully enjoy it.
The fifth update was the first one in a long time, and that time showed. Almost all of the internal parts of the Imperial base have textures and the still shots look incredible. From the console props, to the holographic interfaces, to how the lights reflect off of the floor. These screenshots show off a lot of the scale that you’d expect something like this to have, but the mid-90s tech couldn’t pull off. My personal favourite new detail is the huge turbine ring window - I think it gives so much more depth to what is otherwise a focused experience.
Finally, the most recent update has given a texture pass to the Moldy Crow and the ATST, which found a new home on the newly built landing zone. I think the Moldy Crow in particular is an excellent example of Lewis’ work: at a glance it’s completely recognisable, but any real inspection shows so much detail. From the previously mentioned geometry details, to the newly added paint work and the dirt, it’s clear that Lewis’ knows exactly what this was meant to look like. The Crow isn’t a new ship, and you can see the years of mercenary work in its textures.
You can see the full selection of images from this project, as well as other projects such as the aforementioned Docking Bay 94, on Lewis’ ArtStation. Let us know in the comments what you think of Lewis’ work, and what other game you’d like to see receive this kind of treatment.