Plants are sexy, don't try and deny it. I've seen the way you look at geraniums. What's that? The basil plant you keep in the kitchen is just for cooking? Yeah, I've seen your tears when I've plucked a leaf from it. Look, accept it and then I can get to the good news. The plants in Star Wars: The Old Republic are about to get a wee bit lovelier.
PC Gamer saw this short blog post by Bioware's senior technical artist Ben Cloward. In it Ben talks about his work balancing the visual demands of artists and the performance of the game engine, he's been working behind the scenes to improve the shaders "to improve the appearance of the game without impacting performance".
Over the summer Ben saw "When the sun is behind [...] thin [plant] membranes, it creates a really beautiful glowing light as it diffuses through the back. After studying this effect for awhile, I found a way to reproduce it in our game. And best of all, the effect does not reduce the frame rate at all."
"So, new in Game Update 1.5, with Shader Complexity set to High in the Graphics Preferences, if you look toward the sun in outdoor environments such as Tython, Voss, Alderaan, etc, you’ll notice that the sun shines through the trees and the grass. Before Game Update 1.5, trees and grass would look really dark when looking toward the sun, but now that the sun is shining through them, they have that same type of beautiful diffused light that you see in the real world."
It's a seemingly small change but the images on the blog post really capture the shift. Here, take a look: