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Geometry, detail and lighting


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#1 jdude

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 05:16 AM

I've noticed a lot of maps coming out, even though great, don't use the lighting or patches in the Doom3 engine to the full extent they can. Even though most our mappers are likely old DromEd mappers that's no reason we should keep mapping like it's DromEd :) The Doom3 engine provides you with the ability to create gorgeous environments far FAR beyond anything you could ever do with DromEd or even the DS engine imo. To illustrate the creative process I go through when developing an area I have a series of pictures from the campaign I've been working on since Saintlucia. This is over the period of about 2 weeks, but keep in mind I only map in my spare time and I don't really have any of that ;)



So firstly, I had an idea. I wanted to have tunnels, far underground near an old place used by builders. So I thought up a rough idea in my mind of what it should look like. So to start out I spent two days or so (in my spare time) making a nice cave structure. The beginning result is shown here: (ignore that little guy in the middle he's no longer in the game, different topic for a different time :P )
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This isn't as complex as it may look, let me explain. Firstly the cave to structure area is very basic. Always start basic. It's essentially nothing more than a clean hallway, seen at the bottom of the pic, followed by 2 caulk brush hallways going left and right. From this point, I placed patches to cover the sides and textured the bottom and roof. To make it look more flowing I added the blending decals that we have to the edges so they don't contrast so much making it look a little more seamless. I used the same decals to make the lumps on the roof and floor. I then added the debris at the bottom of the image and a couple mushrooms for light. The ambient is far to high at this point but I wasn't sure how I'd do the lighting yet. Since it's underground there shouldn't be rooftop lights, since it's abandoned there wont be electrical or torch lights and I didn't like crystals because I don't like how they look tbh.

It still looked bleak though. Especially the roof and lighting. So I decided to experiment. I cut a hole in the roof and added a big tunnel going up into no where to make it look a little more interesting; (it also give a feeling of size) then I added some more lights to see what I got. (BTW: the lights are all noshadows, their so small there's no need for them to cast.)
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The rules I general use for criticism are:
- Don't ever get mad or offended at people providing it unless it's something blatantly mean like 'this sucks'
- If people don't get what your going for from the get go, you haven't done your job right.
- Encourage it, and make it thrive. Make sure people know how much you want it and how grateful you are for the results it presents.

I posted my progress on the forums and generally got the response of "this is too bland, it needs more architecture." I cannot emphasize the importance of posting your work and having others look at it. It's very important to get as much criticism as possible because often, if you're like me, you will have rose colored glasses on and not notice the faults of your work. You don't have to post spoiler images or even images of every section. Just getting one area such as this down helps you to replicate the theme and detail throughout the map. Plus any work you do in one area you can manipulate and copy in other areas.
So to address the 'needs more architecture' I came up with this:
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The complaint still existed however. It looks bland and boring. And to be honest, looking back on this picture it is, If you were a player running through this tunnel, it may looks detailed on the surface, but there's really no reason to pay attention to this area.

So with some creative work and some adjustments to lighting I came up with this new concept:
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With my post I posted 'thanks for the feedback, it now looks 10x better.' and it does! If it wasn't for the feedback I would have likely left it as it was, hence the importance of critics! :)

The next complaint to rise was the lighting. A basic summary of the area is that the lighting looked to bland, bright and saturated. So I tried reducing the light size and increasing the mushroom count:
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Okay, so now it has some more mushrooms but it still looks strange. The complaint arose that it doesn't look as interesting as it did before due to the lighting. The mushrooms give off so little light that it's almost pointless having them around. More adjustments are needed. I increased the light radius and used a shader with a shorter falloff to give it a more pronounced effect which were suggested to me by OrbWeaver. I also made sure that the lights have a structure to them. Notice the veining of the colors:
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At this point I'm happy with it, but it still needs tweaking, so for a final result i get end up with this:
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Someone also mentioned that they will be looking around every inch for loot, so I made sure to add lots of hard to find objects for the player. Gameplay matters too :)



Some quick notes about it:
Since I've used so little shadow casting lights I have the freedom of overlapping two on each side with no huge lag. I've also vis portaled the area very well so you will likely get a constant 60 FPS on a mediocre machine.
It was ALL done in Dark Radiant.
I switched to lighting rendering to get a small idea of what the lighting will be like when in-game, but usually I find you can just imagine it and almost 100% of the time it will look better ingame than you thought it would, which is nice.
The lighting will also be an obstacle for the player. There will be an AI patrolling this area and the lights are bright enough to illuminate you.

So hopefully I've showed you some of the nice thing the doom3 engine can do, I've been through this process many times before and I find it works good as a way of developing ideas and tweaking your maps to result in gorgeous results :) I've also done some nice large outdoor areas I may post later so prove that it can be done VERY efficiently ;)

#2 Diego

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 06:29 AM

I just wanted to congratulate you on the initiative! There isn't much of this kind of information, less technical and more esthetic for the mappers out there. :) And the final image looks really gorgeous..

Are there any dust particles effect in TDM? There are so many places they would fit in these wooden mansions, basements, caves (under those mushrooms of your scene, for example, would be a killer!)

#3 Melan

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 07:04 AM

(ignore that little guy in the middle he's no longer in the game, different topic for a different time :P )

Nooooooooo! :(

Seriously, good post.
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#4 grayman

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 12:54 PM

Very VERY nice post, jdude.

And timely, for me. I'm doing an abandoned mine and I'll try these techniques.

Thanks!

#5 Baal

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 05:06 AM

Great post. :)

The best example of the engines capabilities and how you use them for great effect is still Doom 3 itself (Quake 4 or Prey too of course). A lot of people don't like Doom 3 but it achieves a terrific atmosphere. Mappers should take a close look at it.

#6 jdude

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 11:37 PM

Are there any dust particles effect in TDM? There are so many places they would fit in these wooden mansions, basements, caves (under those mushrooms of your scene, for example, would be a killer!)


I'm not sure. To be honest I haven't spent the time looking around for particles to place in my maps yet because to do so you have to use the doom3 editor and scroll through what seems like a million particles. But I definitely see where your going and I'd love to get some floating gold / green dots in there to make it feel a little more alive. If such particles don't exist though, they could easily be made with the editor.

BTW: Thanks on the complements guys :)

#7 Mortem Desino

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 12:29 AM

You can try out the particles starting with tdm_dustfog. Those are various clouds of fog that you see in the forest of No Honor Among Thieves.

They're quite pretty. If the player sees motion on-screen while they're standing still, it creates the illusion of a living, breathing area. These fog particles gently float around for such an effect.
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#8 Tels

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 12:30 AM

I'm not sure. To be honest I haven't spent the time looking around for particles to place in my maps yet because to do so you have to use the doom3 editor and scroll through what seems like a million particles. But I definitely see where your going and I'd love to get some floating gold / green dots in there to make it feel a little more alive. If such particles don't exist though, they could easily be made with the editor.

BTW: Thanks on the complements guys :)


I also had success with just copied the definition of one particle (they are just textfiles) and then fudging the values until I got something else. All the latest campfire particles where done this way (the particle editor doesn't work under Linux).
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#9 OrbWeaver

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 04:07 AM

Particles are a good way to add ambience, but please keep the particle counts down. A few large particles look just as good as loads of small particles, but have a much smaller impact on performance. Even on my relatively-modern graphics card, I experience noticeable lag in Politics due to the particle effects in the courtyard and on some of the indoor lights.

#10 STiFU

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 05:34 AM

Very good article. You should add a link to it in a lighting related wiki article, so that it doesn't get lost in the depths of these forums for future mappers.

#11 Mortem Desino

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 11:02 AM

Particles are a good way to add ambience, but please keep the particle counts down. A few large particles look just as good as loads of small particles, but have a much smaller impact on performance. Even on my relatively-modern graphics card, I experience noticeable lag in Politics due to the particle effects in the courtyard and on some of the indoor lights.

Yeah. Some sloppy Doom 3 coder. And no access to that source code.
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#12 nbohr1more

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 11:07 AM

relatively-modern graphics card, I experience noticeable lag in Politics due to the particle effects



Graphics Card?

I thought particle effects are more CPU bound due to draw calls (but then again, I think everything is CPU bound :rolleyes:)...
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#13 Bikerdude

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 12:56 PM

Yeah. Some sloppy Doom 3 coder. And no access to that source code.

hence why I have had to go with glow-less flames on my candles and oil lights in my cathedral map. the tris count was just killing the fps. its a shame there isnt a way to get an approximate effect with much lower tris count.

#14 OrbWeaver

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 01:04 PM

Yeah. Some sloppy Doom 3 coder. And no access to that source code.


I'm not sure what it has to do with Doom 3 coders; using 1000 alpha-blended particles is going to be doing a lot more alpha-blending operations than 100 much larger ones, but won't necessarily look that much better (depending of course on the precise effect you want to achieve). I have used as few as 3 large particles to produce a passable "faint smoke" effect.

#15 Diego

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 01:09 PM

To be honest I haven't spent the time looking around for particles to place in my maps yet because to do so you have to use the doom3 editor and scroll through what seems like a million particles.


Ouch.. :wacko:

#16 Tels

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 01:28 PM

I'm not sure what it has to do with Doom 3 coders; using 1000 alpha-blended particles is going to be doing a lot more alpha-blending operations than 100 much larger ones, but won't necessarily look that much better (depending of course on the precise effect you want to achieve). I have used as few as 3 large particles to produce a passable "faint smoke" effect.


I think MD was refering to the fact that 1000 small alpha particles aren't much faster than 1000 huge ones - the GFX might not be the problem but the CPU doing-whatever-doom3-does with the particles.
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." -- George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)

"Remember: If the game lets you do it, it's not cheating." -- Xarax

#17 ocn

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Posted 16 January 2011 - 05:16 AM

Missed it the first time around, sadly. This is a great post, yeah! :)
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