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The Haunted: Hells Reach

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Hello to all friends of The Haunted Games, despite our efforts, we have not been able to complete the DLC before Xmas. So, at KTX, we are somewhat disappointed.
However, Cedric today has especially important notes for the production, perhaps the most important so far at all, because dealing with light and shadow is an overwhelming task in the visual arts:

Hey guys, time to talk a bit about of one of the most important aspects of a game: lighting.

Nature never looks boring because of the unlimited amount of detail it contains - you'll never find two similar rocks or two similar blades of grass.

If we simulate nature in games, then we are limited by some facts like:
- the average power of game computers, which we can not expand,
- the experience of the artist to deal with complicated circumstances,
- the extra time the artist is willing to spend to realize his own ideas, which he wants to see in the final version and
- the money of the investors, since time is money.

As a result, we have to be creative and so lighting in games accomplishes a lot of things:
- it defines 90% of the mood of the level (eg. adding an iceberg will not cause a cold feeling, but a good pale blue lighting will do it)
- it is used to break the repetitive look of objects and textures
- it can provide subtle visual hints for the gamer (eg. where it goes on or what he has to do next)
- it can be used to enhance the look of hero pieces in the level and hide pieces that are not so good

Unfortunately I wasn’t an expert at it from the beginning, though I learned a few things from my colleagues over the course of the years which also depends on the projects you are working on - as you may see here.


Since we can’t have the extremely subtles variations that make nature look unique, we have to increase the contrasts between lights and shadows and use colors that look unnatural but make things look more dramatic.


One of the main feature of the DLC level is that there is a day and a night side to the level. In the night side there is a lighthouse which is casting light in 8 directions.


I designed the lighthouse to make sure that the light from the lighthouse is going to create interesting situations. As you can see here, it is highlighting a path on the cathedral's roof and a fraction of the light inside is shining trough the windows in a specific way. In some case, I had to alter the gameplay slightly to make sure that interesting highlights and shadows would always fall on interesting parts of the level.


This part is my little reference to one of my favorite games: Final Fantasy 10. This area was designed as a reference to the arrival to Zanarkand, when you start seeing the rooftops of the destroyed city in the horizon, which really blew my mind back then.


So, I gave the DLC that kind of breathtaking sight that gives mystery, excitement and a clue as to what's coming…by the way, in case you did not notice, I did exactly the same thing with Irithyll from Dark Souls.


To sum it up for today, a bad lighting can break a level made out of the most beautiful assets, but a good lighting can make average looking assets look really awesome. Lighting itself is far more important than the subject that is being lit, lighting is what brings life to a level.

On the other hand and invisible for the gamer - the biggest problem with complex but mostly impressive lighting is: it takes a lot of time to check it out and finish. At that point where we are right now I made a little screenshot to bring you in the position to get a clue of what I am talking about…


Now you can imagine that something else invisible, especially for Indie's, is also very important while these things always lead to the time schedule being disregarded, and that is the understanding of the CEO and the amount of humor and ideas he has to keep the investors in a good mood - since there are many games that have never been finished and/or released because the studio ran out of money for production or marketing or both.
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