Visual aesthetics are a big part of players being able to immerse themselves in the Crowfall® world and that requires the right lighting. So, we came up with a few bright ideas.
Typically to achieve great lighting, most games will bake their light information into the scene. This allows the scene to benefit from complex lighting calculations utilizing customized light setups, global illumination and light probes to cast color from bounced light onto objects and characters in the scene.
Ein einzigartige Herausforderung
Crowfall’s worlds are procedurally generated. Everything in the world— including the terrain itself—is dynamic, spawned in or destroyed by the players. This presents a unique challenge since we don’t know exactly where all of the terrain elements and props will end up. We could bake the terrain by itself, but all other objects such as trees, rocks, buildings and props would be considered dynamic and would not benefit from the baked lighting. They would need a different lighting solution to help illuminate them in the same way.
After carefully weighing our options, we decided that the best choice was a fully-dynamic solution. There would still be some challenges to resolve, but it was a good starting point.
A fully-dynamic solution can be expensive when you are trying to achieve the same look as baked lighting; however, our day/night cycle and seasons are a big part of the strategy game. We wanted to ensure we could accommodate those as well.
We started by looking at some of the plugin solutions available for Unity. Eventually, we landed on one that gave us the dials we wanted and included some interesting looks for different times of day, weather settings and the ability to trigger different conditions based on location.
This is an image taken from the game using only the single directional light. This is what you have been seeing in the game during pre-alpha.
Eine Lösung für die Belichtung
Through trial and experimentation, we found the right solution that met our goals. The new approach gave us a larger span of control over the changing dynamics around time of day and weather. It also provided the ability to control the color and intensities of things like the light, sky, scattering colors and fog over the course of the day and even the season(s), all of which are instrumental in bringing our game world to life for our players.
Additionally, we were able to add a second directional light to create depth and variation over the course of the day in tandem with the sun’s color and intensity. This approach gives our team more custom control in tuning the lighting than we had before while still maintaining good performance and delivering on the quality of experience we want to deliver for players.
Solving the lighting challenges and others like it are a standard part of developing a game. Design, tech and art teams all work together to build and deliver a holistic experience that hits the quality bar we are trying to achieve for players. I am elated by the path we have chosen and now that we have the tools solidified, I’m eager to see where we can take it once we start incorporating seasonal and biome changes to the environment.
This image is taken at the exact same time of day as the image above. Note the slight bit of rim lighting on the bottom of her body and the overall color and illumination boost from the ambient light.
Und immer weiter
This is not the finish line for our work with lighting. (Of course, the Art team is never content!) I will be making a pass to enhance the depth and visual fidelity by continuing to tune the camera post-processing to dial in on the color grading, bloom, depth of field, etc. I’ve also started working on integrating painted skyboxes painted up for me by our concept lead, Dave G!
As Todd, our creative director and co-founder, was looking over my shoulder reviewing the lighting at different times of day, he asked me to see how far we could push the darkest night visibility while still maintaining illumination on your character and immediate surroundings. It was pretty cool and I look forward to working on that element of the project next. You may see that pop up at some point as we continue to refine our game lighting.
Edited by Shiro