Celestial Spheres

The world of Starfarer has lovely 3d planets which roll beneath whatever chaos you are sure to wreak out in space. It is only right, for what good is space without planets to fight over?

Below: Flying an absurdly over-armed frigate past a jungle-covered planet.

From a graphics standpoint, the planets’ surfaces are flat textures mapped to spheres. To draw these, I assemble the rough textures out of aerial photos, satellite images, planetary images (thanks again NASA!), and sundry other textures. From there I go over the entire surface in detail to touch everything up by hand with a more painterly touch.

Granted, it is a different aesthetic than the pixel-art style ships, but this serves to remove the planets from the main area of action — they are background elements, though they do have an effect on gameplay both in-combat and, surely, at higher rpg/strategic levels.

Photoshop CS4+ has a lovely 3d-painting tool that allows me to map a planets texture to a sphere in Photoshop and paint onto the 3d model directly. This ability has been invaluable for creating and previewing Starfarer’s planets – and, I admit, it was the first thing I thought to do when I saw the feature announced by Adobe, pre-Starfarer.

Hah; I suppose this is just another case of a solution (me wanting to paint on 3d planets) finding a problem that needed it (Starfarer). This game has been great for such things.

Below: The flat texture from the jungle planet.

Alex has made some vague implications about using the flat planet maps to do something in-game, so feel free to speculate wildly about what this might mean for the future of Starfarer’s higher-level gameplay. I am merely the artist, so don’t mind me!

There are stars too. They’re rather bright, as you can well imagine. Don’t get too close because you can’t actually slingshot back in time to save the whales.

Below: Where not to park your assault-cruiser.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 at 5:31 pm and is filed under Art, Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. I think the difference in graphics (the pixelart ships vs. more realistic planets/backgrounds) is epic.

    by Mike
  2. […] Read the rest of this post on the Starfarer development blog […]

    by Starfarer: Celestial Spheres « Artscum
  3. Will there also be weather visible from space?
    I mean like cloud systems and such. A visible atmosphere is easily represented by adding another slightly larger sphere to it with cloud textures, which moves slightly different then the planet sphere…

    by Edo
  4. Edo: I neglected to mention it in the post but we do indeed have clouds exactly as you describe.

    by dgbaumgart
  5. Are they static images, or do they change in order to make the planets appear to rotate?

    by Memphis-Ahn
  6. Planets are spheres with a texture, and they do rotate.

    by Alex
  7. Thanks for this blog entry…
    Beautiful pictures!
    Cant wait for the alpha / beta start!

    by munit
  8. WOW!!!
    this is what caught my attention.
    I. BUY. NOW!!!
    *runs off and checks his email for the email to get starfarer with for the fifth time in a minute

    by Glen