Immersing gamers in realistic 3D worlds.

SoftStar brings rich, textured 3D graphics to long-running game franchises with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Substance 3D Painter.

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Established

1988

Employees: 200
Taipei, Taiwan
http://www.softstar.com.tw/

50%

Faster 3D character creation

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Objectives

Create more immersive 3D graphics expected by modern gamers

Enhance efficiency throughout the creative process

Work closely with contractors and partners to shorten the production cycle

Add realistic, high-quality textures to 3D graphics

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Results

Halved the time needed to create 3D characters with Adobe Substance 3D workflow

Bring backgrounds to life by iterating on color filters and lighting

Accelerate 3D texturing process with real-time view of work in progress

Reduce game production costs by accelerating graphic development time

Gamers throughout Chinese markets have grown up playing the Xuan Yuan Sword series. Since the first entry in the series was released in 1990, this Chinese role-playing game has evolved into dozens of computer games, mobile games, television shows, comics, and more. SoftStar Entertainment is the innovative company behind Xuan Yuan Sword and other top Chinese-language entertainment properties, including the long-running Chinese Paladin and Richman series.

 

Xuan Yuan Sword VII, the newest game in the series, maintains many of the hallmarks that fans are looking for: exciting Wuxia action, references to Chinese mythology and history, and engaging characters and story. But one of the biggest changes over the years is the visuals. Gone are static portraits and pixelated sprites of 30 years ago. Modern SoftStar games feature stunning 3D graphics with realistic textures.

 

Designers at SoftStar work with Adobe Photoshop, part of Adobe Creative Cloud for teams, and Adobe Substance 3D Painter to create the high-fidelity visuals expected by today’s gamers. “As we move towards more realistic 3D designs, we need tools that will help us find inspiration and create visuals more efficiently,” says Stye Zhang, Producer, R&D Department at SoftStar. “Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Substance 3D Painter have become mainstays for our creative processes.”


“Adobe Photoshop isn’t just our favorite app; it’s the one app we can’t live without.”

 
Stye Zhang

Producer, R&D Department, SoftStar Entertainment


Iterating on designs of ancient China

One of the first steps in creating a new game involves building the visual language of the world through characters and scenery. SoftStar artists use Photoshop to draw 2D designs that display well on digital screens. Photoshop offers a wide range of brushes that help artists quickly find their inspiration. When creating characters, artists can easily switch between brushes to add details ranging from the wrapping on a sword to the stitching on a tunic. Artists can work quickly to bring the image out of their imaginations and onto the screen.

 

Digital artists also use Photoshop to create the right mood for backgrounds. The game engine adds lighting and color filters to the in-game environment but adjusting the game algorithms has traditionally been slow and inefficient. To address the challenge, artists can use Photoshop to quickly iterate on a scene. They might add filters to simulate different lighting or use brushes to quickly adjust backgrounds. After achieving the right look, artists use the parameters from Photoshop to adjust the in-game settings.

 

“We use Adobe Photoshop throughout our creative process to quickly transform images and make our visions a reality on digital screens,” says Zhang. “Adobe Photoshop isn’t just our favorite app; it’s the one app we can’t live without.”


“With Adobe Substance 3D Painter, what you see is what you get. It’s much more efficient, and we can experiment with textures to achieve the best look.”

 
Kate Ho

Enviorment Artist, SoftStar Entertainment


Textures that bring 3D objects to life

After artists finalize their 2D designs in Photoshop, the creations are passed on to 3D modelers who use Autodesk 3DS MAX to turn visuals into 3D characters and environments. 3D artists then use Adobe Substance 3D Painter to add textures that transform models into realistic figures and scenes. The protagonist of Xuan Yuan Sword VII comes from a rural area during the Xin dynasty. His humble background can be seen in his clothing, which combines leather, fur, and roughly hewn fabrics tied together with bold stitching. These surface details are brought to life through textures applied with Substance 3D Painter.

 

“Before working with Substance 3D Painter, we used Photoshop to create textures,” says Kate Ho,Enviorment Artist at SoftStar. “This caused a lot of back and forth, as we couldn’t see how the final texture would look until combining it with the model in the 3D engine. With the Adobe Substance 3D Painter viewport, we can see all our decisions in real time. It’s much more efficient, and we can experiment with textures to achieve the best look.”

To create advanced materials, artists use Smart Materials in Substance 3D Painter to add realism to textures with layered effects that make games more immersive. Backgrounds typically include natural finishes – stone, wood, and dirt – while artists often apply ceramic or bronze textures to smaller objects. Smart Materials adjust to any mesh, so artists can create a texture once and reuse it on multiple 3D objects.

 

They then use Smart Masks to create further variations, layering small inconsistencies that make objects and environments seem less uniform and more real. Physically based rendering (PBR) shaders in Substance 3D Painter also enable artists to add more real-life properties to materials.

 

“The PBR shaders in Adobe Substance 3D Painter are very easy to use, making it simple for us to change material properties quickly,” says Ho. “We can make any texture metallic or non-metallic, rough or smooth, to capture the smallest details of the Xin Dynasty.”


“For people developing games, I recommend working with Adobe Substance 3D Painter.”

 
Kate Ho

Enviorment Artist, SoftStar Entertainment


Faster 3D graphic creation

“We spend about 20% of our development time working on models for characters, including adding textures with Adobe Substance 3D Painter before we export these materials to the engine,” explains Zhang. “Anything we can do to work more efficiently helps us reduce costs and deliver better graphics faster.”

 

By working with Substance 3D Painter, SoftStar halved the time needed to create characters with this streamlined, more reliable method of adding textures. Working with Photoshop and Substance 3D Painter also makes it easier for SoftStar to collaborate with contractors and partners, as it gives them unified language to work with to help ensure quality.

 

“For people developing games, I recommend working with Adobe Substance 3D Painter,” says Ho. “Once an artist tries Substance, I’m sure they would not want to use anything else. Adobe allows us to add quality and efficiency to our creative workflows so that we can bring greater stories to our players.”

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