Tutorials & Guides / Lightmapping

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Wolf
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Posted: 15th Jan 2018 21:53 Edited at: 3rd Jan 2020 09:15


Hi!

First of all, I don't claim my lightmapping to be particularly great. However, I was one of the first to dabble into GG's stubborn lightmapper and am sad to see that so little have yet dared to experiment with it.
Those of you familiar with my work might remember that I wrote a similar tutorial back in 2011 for FPSCreator. However, a lot has changed with how GG handles its lightmaps and GG users around the web are amazingly inept when it comes to this crucial, if not vital, part of level design that I think its time that someone writes a tutorial on how to do it.

Okay, now that I have successfully alienated the majority of my audience, lets get this puppy started:

Introduction


Now lets read what uncle Wiki says about lightmaps: "A lightmap is a data structure used in lightmapping, a form of surface caching in which the brightness of surfaces in a virtual scene is pre-calculated and stored in texture maps for later use. Lightmaps are most commonly applied to static objects in realtime 3d graphics applications, such as video games, in order to provide lighting effects such as global illumination at a relatively low computational cost."
Now for all you shrimp with a short attention span out there, this just means that lightmapping is a process that saves illumination data in a picture and later puts it over the static geometry of your map. Like a warm and cozy blanket. Here is an example of what that looks like:


Example of a lightmap texture



GG Level without textures and only lightmaps.


Now everyone who has ever worked in traditional art, photography or film nows how crucial lighting is and if you are just starting out in game development you might have never thought about it. Visually a level is made up in 3 equally important parts.

How it looks and the story it tells (this includes the quality of the assets, how they are arranged and how much the player can immersive himself)
How it functions, how its navigated and how clear that is communicated to the player (this is where all things gameplay fit in. Nobody likes an impressive level where you can only go straight)
And how its lit. (lighting can dramatically change the mood of the level and determines what the player sees and what he does not see.)


Since everything is constantly changing so does the hobbyist or how its now called "indie" game development scene. When I started out, people where very interested in learning new things and honing their skills but that has certainly been distorted in time. Now that Game Guru has brought in a whole new crowd we still get people who like to get to the meat of things and learn but you also get a whole new bunch who are more interested in pretending that they are a "game studio" and announce their first project right away as a work in progress blockbuster on IndieDB, social media and Steam. This type of crowd usually deflects inquiries about their skills or technical background of games and claims to add features in later or do it in post processing. One bloke even told me that he was in the process of modding the engine to incorporate state of the art lighting effects (I'm well aware that this is impossible). People that are new seem to think that they lose face when they admit that they are new and thus naturally inexperienced. The opposite is the truth. Now more serious developers told me that they had issues and then opted to use dynamic lights. Thats okay for exterior maps but can be a serious problem when working with interior levels. I'll address some problems those folks might have encountered too but first I want to rant more about horrible poser-developers:
Now this type of developer has multiplied over the last few years and they have contributed to sites like IndieDB being mostly a graveyard of concepts and ideas and there being a fatigue for no- to low-budget indie games manifesting in the gaming crowd. There is also the steam witch hunt for asset flips.
Oh well! I suppose there is little one can do to keep this sort of thing to happen. A lot of you probably remember the individual that makes money releasing stock GG demos on steam.

I don't quite understand this mindset but this thread is about lighting and lightmapping... so:

Long story short: I made a picture using some great work by other artists in the unreal engine to show how crucial lighting is to a map and that its indeed not a skill that can be postponed if you are at least somewhat serious at designing levels.



How to lightmap (the tutorial)


Its good practice that after you conceived a level ( be it on paper or in your head) that you start with outlining the general architecture.
Follow this up with a bit of detail and then start a first lighting pass. Now you can experiment with the colours and the mood you aim to realize in your level. This can be quite fun. Once you settle on a colour scheme (there is a lot you can read up on binary contrasts...just keep in mind that every other movie is already toned in oranges and blues so you might as well do something different. Just see what works! ) you can keep that in mind and start with the detail passes.

Before I get into the meat of things, I am always surprised how many game designers end up having light sources (or other objects) awkwardly float a few inches away from the wall they are supposed to be mounted on or terribly mounted on a wall texture. Please don't add to this.



The basics for lightmapping are this:

Add a light marker and make sure that its static ( press the "y" button or adjust it in its setting. It should now be displayed with a red tint. The ring around it indicates the radius the light will have. Be sure to be generous with this, its better to have too much than too little as light in real life tends to reflect from surfaces. ) As game guru does not support directional lights (altough if you absolutely must have this feature you can easily do it by hand by adding invisible meshes to direct the light.) its best to keep the light a bit away from the light source. (i.e. lamp or fire) This will make sure that the shadows will look more natural and don't generate any harsh black spots.

I'll use the sewer map from my game Acythian as a sample in this tutorial:


Light placed below a handmade fluorescent lamp.


Colour is an essential component for lightmapping. There are very few rules here. Use what suits the tone and style of your project just remember this:
Never use plain white, even for bright neon lamps. A greyish, blueish or yellowish tint will look a lot more naturalistic.
Fire does not emit red light. Go with a orange/yellowish tint.


Colour is selected on the left side of the screen.


These are now shots from my previous tutorial in the FPSC engine. However, the principal here is almost identical.


Select light colour


I rarely opt for the default suggestions. Click "other" to define your very own scheme.


A lot of you are working on grunge/military style or horror games. The lower part of colour intensities is best suited for these genres.


You can adjust the brightness of your light source with the slider on the right. Don't be afraid of experimenting with dark colours. I recommend mixing them with brighter ones to simulate naturalistic light reflection.


Now all you have to do is hit F3. (F2 and F4 are also valid options. However the F2 option produces a lesser result and the F4 option is supposed to end up rendering better, sharper lightmaps however apart from it taking significantly longer I have never noticed much of a difference myself.)
After a lengthy rendering process ( this is the right moment to grab a cup of tea and check your mail.) you should be able to see your first results.

Your first results are terrible and there are tons of issues


Haha! You didn't expect it to be that easy, did you? I know that Game Guru is the easy game maker but the truth is, making video games is just never easy. This is also the part where I've seen some developers try to stick to dynamic lights and disregard lightmapping entirely. This works for games that are almost entirely set in outdoor areas but its a really poor design decision if you have interiors.

Lets go over the typical mistakes that new users make:

1. I don't even see my lightmaps.


In order to see your lightmapping you will have to adjust a few sliders in the TAB menu. The sliders make your life really easy compared to some earlier engines. The gist is, in order to see the lightmaps your ambience setting will have to be low and your surface level setting rather high. Make sure that the RGB values of both the ambience and surface level settings complement each other. You'll end up with better results.
Since I know that people can do the weirdest things with these sliders I saw it fit to add the settings for the sewer levels as a template:



2. Some of my entities are not lit or too bright


Hehe! I know it comes across a bit like an elitist statment but it holds true that you only make about 20 to 30% of your game in the GG editor. Scripts, Models, Textures and their adjustment are done outside of the convenient GG drag and drop interface. The thing is that a lot of models don't use the proper shader. The default choice by the time I am writing this is "effectbank\reloaded\entity_basic.fx". You will need to make sure that this is a part of the .fpe files of your models (a .fpe file can be modified with the standard windows notepad.) If you know the basics of texturing (and if you are at least somewhat serious about the whole game making thing...you'll have to get this down.) you can also add normal and specular maps if missing. However, this is not part of the scope of this tutorial.
Note that a lot of models from the steam dlc's are also missing the shader line.

3. I get a weird plastic like glisten on models in dark areas.


Special thanks to Avenging Eagle for this screenshot!


These are normalmaps reacting to the default sun. (which can not be turned off to my knowledge. At least not at the time I am writing this). In order to rectify this you can either flatten or at least weaken the normalmap intensity or you will have to add near by lights. Adding dynamic lights in the mix with your static lights can also lessen the effect. This is something that will need some practice but I'm sure that you will quickly get the hang of hiding this problem.

The setup.ini

The setup.ini can be found in your game guru install folder. It holds a lot of settings that you can edit manually. Make sure that GG is closed when you are doing this. Here are my settings (feel free to experiment with them)


lightmappingquality=1024
The resolution of the lightmaps (see above) You can go as low as 64 and as hight as 2048. However I dont recommend using 4096 for now.
lightmappingblurlevel=100
What I assume to regulate the sharpness of the lightmaps.
lightmappingsizeterrain=2048
The resolution on the terrain plane.
lightmappingsizeentity=1024
The resolution on entities (hallways, buildings and rooms are also entities)
lightmappingexcludeterrain=1
Use this setting if your game does not use the terrain. It speeds up lightmapping and saves memory.

Be creative


Despite what the marketing of several engines out there will make you think, you can get a lot of advanced engine effects down with trickery (after all, what else are video game graphics?)




These are screenshots from the game dark messiah of might and magic. It uses plain simple textured planes to simulate volumetric light. This can be done the same way in game guru and does barely impact the performance.

This is a terribly clumsy copy of an effect rolfy used a few years ago in his game eldora. You can use illuminationmapped, transparent planes to simulate stained glass windows shining in:



These are just examples! I think its important to have a mindset that allows you to at least try to find a solution for what you wish to accomplish rather than immediately halt production and wait for Lee to implement a new feature for you.

Notes from a previous thread:

If you have models glitch out, rescale or distort:

Open them in fragmotion, uu3d or a toaster for all I care and remove all the bones. Static objects don't need them anyway.
Remove all .dbo files in the entitybank.
(untested) Someone mentioned that adding "resetlimbmatrix = 1" to the fpe helps in some cases. I can not verify this.

If you get models that reflect oddly or look like they are covered in wax or wet plastic

The lightmapper can react oddly to normalmaps in its current state, your normalmap might be too strong. replace it with a less intense version.

If you get bad results

Mess with the surface level settings and lower the ambience (depending on scene).
Increase settings in the setup.ini (advanced users only)
Check if the lights that are supposed the be static are static.

Lightmapping examples:


Here be tons of screenshots from my games.




Sewer area







Examples from my "flagship" project:















Links


Previous topic on lightmapping by me

Bolt Action gamings lightmapping tutorial series

Bugsy's thread on mixing dynamic with static lights

Thank you for reading



-Wolf

2020 ADDENDUM

To use Lightmapper in Newer GG Versions and in case you get pitch black levels after a bake.



* You will still have to block off your interior level from the sun light by using large walls or the dome prop you find in the "galaxy seed" folder.
* You will have to largely increase the surface level and perhaps the brightness level value with the sliders depending on what look you want to achieve. Use tinted fog to unity your scene, this can be crucial for the look. Play with all the sliders, this isn't WYSIWYG and you have to tweak everything after a build.
* Its crucial that once you baked the lightmaps you exit test game mode, SAVE, shut off GG completely, reboot it and then get back in game to see the lightmaps displayed properly. If you don't do this, all you see is black tar and some faulty rendered objects. This is why I assumed it was broken originally. Just going back to editor and then test game again won't cut it in most cases.
* You will want to use PBROVERRIDE = 1. Some of your props will need editing to look right but if you stick to the old render pipeline, you will have specular maps boosted to a ridicoulus level, objects randomly glowing and missing shadows.
Pirate Myke
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Posted: 15th Jan 2018 22:55
Thank you for posting.
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Posted: 15th Jan 2018 23:08
Very cool Wolf,thank you.

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Posted: 15th Jan 2018 23:56
Nice write up Mr Wolf
thank you for taking the time to do this I think it should be a sticky
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Posted: 16th Jan 2018 11:44
Impressive screen shots .. Very High Quality work there
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Posted: 16th Jan 2018 17:18
Thanks Wolf!
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Wolf
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Posted: 18th Jan 2018 21:55
Thank you all! I'm glad this found some readers.

Quote: "Impressive screen shots .. Very High Quality work there"


Hehe! Thanks! I was worried that people might think that I was gonna show us. ...maybe a little but I also think its important to show that GG does not need to have this particular look you see in a large quantity of GG steam games.



-Wolf
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Posted: 19th Jan 2018 04:52
Now this is awesome information, thank you Wolf. Great stuff!
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Posted: 19th Jan 2018 06:51
Seeing a fair bit of my models being put to good use. Two thumbs up from me !!!
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Posted: 19th Jan 2018 16:10
Thanks for the linkthru. I can appreciate the settings given here as well as the simplified approach to getting people started with static mapping. I'm interested in your thoughts on F1-F4 as well as the lightmapping quality settings. I'm currently sitting on a half-finished tutorial on my blog for 'Lighting, Part 5' or what not.

Now I've noticed a significant number of times where the engine crashes with the lightmapper or eats too many resources to be functional(I've had it finish lightmapping successfully and then kill the engine). ; I am wondering now if this can be avoided with lower quality settings in the ini file to reduce resource cost. I also wonder if you would be willing to do some side-by sides of the various lightmapper quality settings (say the same room, done 4 times) to see what results you get. I'm not sure but I suspect the various F1-F3 settings actually use different quality levels and as such using F1 on a larger level might make more sense to avoid resource consumption since Lightmapping is an absolute PIG on resources. I don't even understand what F4 is supposed to do or why it includes 'occlusion so I just avoid it, as do you. If you have additional info on that I'd really appreciate it.

Honestly though this is a super informative article. I really appreciate lines like this:
"Haha! You didn't expect it to be that easy, did you? I know that Game Guru is the easy game maker but the truth is, making video games is just never easy. This is also the part where I've seen some developers try to stick to dynamic lights and disregard lightmapping entirely. This works for games that are almost entirely set in outdoor areas but its a really poor design decision if you have interiors."

or

"Despite what the marketing of several engines out there will make you think, you can get a lot of advanced engine effects down with trickery (after all, what else are video game graphics?) "

Great stuff. I'll be sure to reference it on my upcoming lighting tutorial "Super Advanced lighting, aka lighting pt 5". I think you'll really appreciate some of the stuff in it, in particular.
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Posted: 19th Jan 2018 18:41
seriously impressive tutorial wolf, thanks.

those screenshots are AAA quality. amazing.
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Posted: 20th Jan 2018 13:25 Edited at: 20th Jan 2018 14:04
[MOD EDIT - swearing is not allowed in any form] WOLF, WHY are you so good?

AHhhhh!!!

Those screenshots...

Honestly I didnt read the thread but I am sure it helps

BUT isnt this thread obsolete now? gg currently doesnt support lightmapping or am I wrong?
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Wolf
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Posted: 23rd Jan 2018 00:18 Edited at: 23rd Jan 2018 00:19
Hello!

Happy to see this is useful to you and thanks for your feedback!

@Bolt Action Gaming:

Quote: "I am wondering now if this can be avoided with lower quality settings in the ini file to reduce resource cost."


Yes, especially resolution and quality of the lightmaps.

Quote: " I also wonder if you would be willing to do some side-by sides of the various lightmapper quality settings (say the same room, done 4 times) to see what results you get."


Sure! That can take me a while however as I still run rather low-end hardware and the process takes me a whole while. Maybe next weekend.

Quote: "If you have additional info on that I'd really appreciate it."


The F4 mode? I don't. I speculate that it offers better results with shadows from transparent textures (such as overlays) but I don't know for sure.

Quote: " I really appreciate lines like this:"


Haha! Thanks. I can be an elitist prick when it comes to these things but I feel like its important to reiterate how much work really goes into a video game and what to expect when one is starting to make them.

Quote: " I think you'll really appreciate some of the stuff in it, in particular."


I bet others would too!! You should advertise your blog a bit more! I really like it.

@Duchenkuke:
Quote: "WOLF, WHY are you so good? "



Haha! Joking aside: Thanks for the compliment! I had a few more years than most here to wrestle with the vices and virtues of TGC products so I have a bit of experience in circumnavigating their short comings. Experience I try to share in tutorials like this.

Quote: "gg currently doesnt support lightmapping or am I wrong?"


You mean because of the memory issue? Well, there are still problems but it certainly supports lightmapping. All three leves of Redacted² where lightmapped and worked for most people.



-Wolf
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Posted: 2nd Feb 2018 14:42 Edited at: 15th Feb 2018 12:35
Quote: "You mean because of the memory issue? Well, there are still problems but it certainly supports lightmapping. All three leves of Redacted² where lightmapped and worked for most people. "


No, I mean the public preview.

Lightmapping doesnt work there.


- DOES WORK NOW
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Posted: 2nd Feb 2018 16:03
As reported on the beta forum by a few people, lightmapping just doesn't do anything at the moment in the preview (unless it's changed since i last checked), it runs through the process, then when it's finished half your models go invisible, which means no static lighting etc.

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@Wolf
Yeah.. I'm a terrible advertiser of my blog if you have any suggestions on that, PM them to me.

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Posted: 14th Feb 2018 13:28
Good Tutorial Wolf will be refering to this thanks M8
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Posted: 4th Jun 2018 13:36
DK made a video on the same topic and I find it skillfully done:





-Wolf
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Posted: 5th Jun 2018 00:53 Edited at: 5th Jun 2018 00:54
Brilliant … Such a valuable resource of information here ..
The only person ever to get all his work done by "Friday" was Robinson Crusoe..
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excellent video, enjoyable watch
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Wolf
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Posted: 19th Jun 2018 12:27
Quote: "excellent video, enjoyable watch"


I thought so too. It makes this whole thing more accessible as well. I'm glad he made it.

Quote: "Brilliant … Such a valuable resource of information here .."


Thank you!
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Posted: 17th Sep 2018 10:57
Mr wolf
as far as i know you are far far the dude who must understand , at least here, how light work in 3d space ,ad game engines, i love the way you overlap the GG limitations and make great scenarios .
You are a great inspirations for all of us in here.
Keep up the good pace , and thanks for the tips
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Posted: 25th Sep 2018 18:21
Thanks maiacoimbra. That is very kind of you!
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Posted: 28th Sep 2018 16:47 Edited at: 28th Sep 2018 16:47
I remember there being a user here who had a few errors and questions but its gone now?
It was Shahin3D, I just wanted to reply.
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Posted: 29th Sep 2018 18:56
Hi
My problem relates to the following issues:
(Lightmapping Issues # 261 & 264 & 311)

amir
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Posted: 29th Sep 2018 20:27 Edited at: 29th Sep 2018 20:29
Quote: "(Lightmapping Issues # 261 & 264 & 311)"

Lee has listed 2 as bugs and one as an enhancement ..
Nothing Wolf can do for you I fear
Your just going to have to sit tight till Lee or Preben get on it ..
The only person ever to get all his work done by "Friday" was Robinson Crusoe..
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Posted: 1st Oct 2018 11:35 Edited at: 1st Oct 2018 11:35
Synchromesh is correct, the lightmapper is currently being overhauled for the X11 update and thus in a transitory state.
I will look through it and update the tutorial once its completed.



-Wolf
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Posted: 16th Oct 2018 21:19
i think im done.. I can't make a darker game where Lighting is all
Wolf
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Posted: 27th Oct 2018 15:34
Quote: "i think im done.. I can't make a darker game where Lighting is all"


Sure you can, why wouldn't you?
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Posted: 3rd Jan 2020 09:14
In 2020 I tried to figure out how to work the lightmapper after the X11 migration. You will find that some things have changed. I have added this to the top post as well. See thread about it here.

* You will still have to block off your interior level from the sun light by using large walls or the dome prop you find in the "galaxy seed" folder.
* You will have to largely increase the surface level and perhaps the brightness level value with the sliders depending on what look you want to achieve. Use tinted fog to unity your scene, this can be crucial for the look. Play with all the sliders, this isn't WYSIWYG and you have to tweak everything after a build.
* Its crucial that once you baked the lightmaps you exit test game mode, SAVE, shut off GG completely, reboot it and then get back in game to see the lightmaps displayed properly. If you don't do this, all you see is black tar and some faulty rendered objects. This is why I assumed it was broken originally. Just going back to editor and then test game again won't cut it in most cases.
* You will want to use PBROVERRIDE = 1. Some of your props will need editing to look right but if you stick to the old render pipeline, you will have specular maps boosted to a ridicoulus level, objects randomly glowing and missing shadows.




-Wolf
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Posted: 11th Jan 2020 15:53
Very good tutorials here!

Though I'd like to point out a GG Bug where the RPG color code is mixed up

https://github.com/TheGameCreators/GameGuruRepo/issues/608
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Posted: 13th Feb 2020 10:39
I was advised in response to my question regarding posting to this forum that I should attach my question to a sub-thread.
I chose yours Wolf. I hope that doesn't annoy you.
Here's my request:-

Can one, (maybe more) of the talented video tutorial creators have a bash at making focused, scripted remakes of the twitch broadcasts which, while they contain a ton of useful info and guidance tend to wander somewhat?
You can't teach an old dog.
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Joined: 8th Nov 2007
Location: Luxemburg
Posted: 13th Feb 2020 10:58
@Benjiboy: Hey man! I am not a very decent video editor. However, as this is a tutorial about using GG's lightmapper, you probably get a better response if you just make a thread about it on the product chat board



-Wolf

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