Thursday, July 22, 2010

Alternate Route Ideas

We've always wanted to introduce more camera depth movement into our level to break the straight linear path. This is one aspect and in the future we want to also have paths that bend around corners and have turns which will give a more organic feel.

This video was made a while ago, but I thought I should post it to show a section that has had an alternate path added in to collect coins or power-ups for example.

Here's the link: 2010-05-19 10-16-00-98.avi

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

BA Graphical Tweaks...

I've decided to share some of my more recent graphical tests and tweaks that I did on Bounty Arms. Since we didn't do any new demo updates or anything like that in recent months, this is just a way to share something with people who are interested in such things. Again it's just a bunch of my own thoughts about some various things that I've been playing around with.

So, in my search for a good balance between dynamic and static lighting, I've done a bunch more lighting tests to see what can work, what looks good, etc. I've also started to look more into some newer UDK features like the Tone Mapping feature which I'll admit after messing with it for a while, I quite like it.

For the lighting in my current "test" version I've gone with much more dynamic lights and shadows than in the v0.11 version of the demo. The basic idea is to have the major lights cast both dynamic light and proper dynamic shadows. The way the level is constructed means that the light sources are fairly decently spaced and doesn't have much overlap going on there so the overall impact is not too bad. And this is something that can be controlled in levels to keep using the same kind of methods or theories to get more dynamic interactions. The level is still mostly lit by static lights so it still runs at a good speed with regards to having fairly complex lighting. So, generally floor models are hit by 2 or maybe 3 dynamic lights and other models less in most cases. In some cases there are more for the sake of having moving lights or lights that can switch on and off.. etc. In small cases like this, it's not a big deal.

I've also completely gotten rid of the fake modulated shadow in this version and the dominant light that is the main light source for the level now also casts a proper "normal" shadow. So, running past other light sources will behave a bit more naturally since that shadow will be overpowered by the light as it should. Overall this works much better and feels much more natural even though there's still a lot of fake stuff going on since not every light casts a character shadow. Of course none of the rigid bodies casts shadows because this is just too expensive and really the AO takes care of that to some degree.

I've also done a bunch of changes on Goober's material to make it seem less "plastic" and to get the material to work better under basically any lighting conditions. Originally the material was very much tweaked based on the current demo level created in UT3 in fact and with regards to specularity and the way the rim lighting worked and just the overall brightness of it. So, since I've been doing much more tests based on various other lighting conditions and level designs I had to completely re-adjust the material to work more globally. This might sound stupid but Goober's materials were amongst the first we created still based on the UT3 version of the demo and it did work out for what we needed even up to the v0.11 of the UDK demo considering some tweaks here and there were made but I've learned a lot about materials since then and I've been thinking about it in a bigger scope than just this demo level, so changes are inevitable there. So, I'm quite happy with the current shader and especially the rim shading is quite nice now running past the big spot lights etc.

With the tone mapping I've also gone back and implemented a kind of first pass of that for all our post processing volumes. Basically to replace the old color processing done on various sections of the level. From my tests it seems like you can have much better control over what you do with color and brightness and contrast. You essentially do the tweaks inside Photoshop and can use standard Brightness/Contrast to tweak that and also Levels and of course color manipulation. It's basically explained in the UDK documentation how to achieve this. I think it's a pretty nice feature and I like the result you can get. The old color tweaker worked quite well but was very tedious and I don't think nearly as flexible.

Also more with regards to the June release of the UDK now Epic have added in the new type of SSAO. Something I could never really achieve with the old methods was a really solid looking AO. This new version seems to be extremely good at giving you a pretty dark AO and also seems to be more "focused" it seems to have less bleeding. With the old method I always had some trouble with bleeding if I push it a bit to get something more solid. It was a hard thing to balance and even in the current v0.11 demo, there is some of that happening where AO will show up in places it shouldn't.

Another thing I only made use of very recently is the dof bloom feature which I think possibly is a feature added 2 or more versions back. I just never really thought to look at that. Basically what it does is allow you to have wider blooms. With the standard bloom it's kind of small and limited and you couldn't get that kind of glaring look that you might associate with a more foggy or atmospheric environment. It's a nice feature and something I always wanted to be able to do since the start of this project.

So, anyway, this might all just sound like a bunch of random thoughts, which they are.. :) but I thought to post something new about BA and actually it's more about the UDK than directly related to BA and also it's very focused about graphical things and nothing about game play. The graphics is my area so that's what I focus on.

I've recorded a little video that shows the look of the current version with all the above mentioned features implemented. Currently it's very different from the previous look and with the tone mapping and how that works it creates a pretty strong contrast which.. this week.. I kind of like. Who knows about next week.. :D also on this version I enabled the vignette overlay that Epic has part of their processing chain. Again, I thought it completely alters the look and I have it in there currently although I do think it's probably a bit strong but can work even as is or maybe 50% less or maybe based on a per level kind of solution where it can be either stronger or less so, based on the level design. But, anyway, before I analyse that to death, here's a link to the video.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Updated UDK Demo V0.11

Hi Everyone,

Just letting you know that we have released an updated 0.11 version of the UDK demo.

It is basically the same as the previous demo, but it has weapon tweaks, menu additions, new music by Sean Beeson, and various general tweaks. The most noticeable addition is Lightmass which has a huge graphical impact on the level.

Grab it here:

Bounty Arms UDK demo v0.11

Alternatively you can get it from here:

Hope you Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Some Thoughts About Lighting...

I thought since this is our dev blog and even though I don't really post here frequently.. or at all so far that I would kick off my first post here with some of my thoughts about our level's lighting and lightmass and why we did not use any baked lighting for the UT3 mod and of course that lead to the UDK version of the demo also only utilizing dynamic lighting.

I really prefer the look of dynamic lighting in games. To create a truly cohesive or unified look, this is the only way. This really comes down to how surfaces are shaded and how moving through lights and shadows for any object will look part of the same world in stead of moving objects cut out from the static objects. Granted that UT3 was capable of being quite convincing with regards to this mix, it's still something that really stood out in my eyes. Ultimately it's about the visual quality.

Initially my thoughts were to go fully dynamic because of these reasons and also because of space saving reasons. To really create good looking shadow maps you need resolution on them and of course that means more space is taken up. I generally am against anything that just end up taking loads of space for no good reason. Casting bad looking low res shadows was not an option and casting good looking shadows takes lots of extra space because of the resolutions needed to create them. Using sometimes high and sometimes low res is another option but also not good because it's just more inconsistency on top of the existing inconsistencies.

So those are the major reasons about the dynamic lights used in the demo and considering the engine really does not like dynamic lights to be used too much, it actually turned out fairly decent with rendering speed. With regards to shadows however, I had to lose them completely for the simple reason that they are too expensive to use. A trade off I chose and accepted. I really had to end up pulling out every trick available to make lights work and the fact is that it's always gonna be slower than baked lighting. Because of this and the amount of massaging to make it work I decided that dynamic lighting is probably gonna be out of the question for future development of this game. Too many hoops to jump through to get a decent result rendering at acceptable speeds and going against the grain of the engine with regards to the lighting system is just not gonna work that well.

Now, about the Lightmass system in the UDK. This turns out to be just the perfect middle ground with regards to baked lighting and shadows. It is capable of generating shadow maps at a fraction of the resolution needed compared to the old shadow maps and render them back sharp and clean. This means that low res shadow maps can be used without really losing quality in their final look and in fact is of much higher quality than before even at this low res. Of course there are limits to this as can be expected but it is hugely more efficient than before.

On top of this (which is not directly related to lightmass) there is the ability to cast on to dynamic abjects only, a dynamic shadow from static objects. So this means that you can run through shadows and your character will receive the correct shadow as well compared to what's on the ground as a static shadow. This is actually kind of important.. or rather it is to me. Objects reacting more real towards shadow and light just plain looks better. Of course the fact that you can also render out lighting that incorporates global illumination is just pure bonus.

I'll give credit where it's due for Epic to have this in the UDK. I think maybe sometimes, this kind of thing is probably overlooked or possibly taken for granted by most people but I appreciate a well implemented lighting system in a game engine. Basically being forced to deal with shadow maps, this is not a bad way to go about it.

So currently the level is just about fully converted over to utilize all this. I am quite happy with the results and the trade off in surface shading and 100% cohesive look vs ease of use and getting good looking shadows and of course getting GI is well worth it. It actually ends up looking pretty good with regards to uniformity so I'm also quite happy about that. It also means a fairly decent speed bump in rendering the level so I'm really happy about that.

So, there it is and I think I've rambled on long enough about lights now... :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lightmass Level Conversion

We're in the process now of converting the demo level over to the Lightmass lighting system.

Obi-Wan is just doing some R&D for the best settings to use on our level. We're also busy messing around with tweaking the current lighting look and feel to accommodate for the GI feel.

Oooh...GI :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

We Were Added To The The UDK Showcase Page!

Hi everyone,

We're proud to announce, that Epic have put Bounty Arms onto their showcase page!

It is a great honour to have been selected and we are greatful to Epic for their help and support towards our game.

Check it out here: