Hello everyone! Andrew here. Today i will cover up some environments changes made in last few months. Peter already wrote about environments from level designer/gameplay point of view. As you might know i working mostly with lights, visual effects, particles and other good stuff.
So let’s get straight to the point. I try to lit our environments as not boring as i can so two rooms won’t be lit exactly the same. First i add some dynamic point lights, spot lights just to play with shadows and stuff. When i’m satisfied with it i make them static and bake prototype lightmaps. When the bake is ready i’m examining work done and try to detect some artifacts and some washed out shadows. Then I place my view close to ingame view and optimizing lights by lowering shadow resolution on far background objects and objects that not entirely visible as well as objects in dark corners and what not. I increase resolution on closer objects or objects that has noticeably bad/washed out shadows or has visible artifacts because of lacking resolution. That way i optimize RAM used by shadows. Right now shadows using about 320 mb. 2-3 bakes ago it was 350 mb. I just optimized shadows and lights now look actually even better because important stuff became more detailed lit and not important stuff no longer using aditional RAM.
Right now our entire world using like 500+ light sources (about 95% static light and 5% dynamic) and baking it requires about one hour to calculate. So i try to do really as much posible positive changes as i can in one sit before baking the lights.
I try not to overuse dynamic lights but in some places it is a must have thing. Moving shadows makes a static environment that more interesting and alive. But i want to older computers to run it so i spend some time optimizing it by lowering resolution of dynamic lights to minimum before its noticeable.
In Unreal Engine 3 i never use lightmass. It’s really just my personal preference but i think Lightmass makes lights too blended, washed out and not that interesting. As just one person i can’t make lights that realistic so why not make lights interesting and artistic?
I can talk hours and hours just about lights because it’s a real pleasure making lighting with UE3 but sometimes a bit of frustration. I think i will go into it more detailed when we will polish our project. For now stay tuned and check our developer blog for more information.