Geomerics: Dynamic lighting will allow games to rival best-looking films in terms of visual impact

“The goal with Enlighten isn’t necessarily ‘realism’.”


Geomerics are a lighting technology provider to various games studios, and we recently asked a bunch of questions to Dr. Chris Doran, the COO of the company, who revealed a lot of interesting things.

Dynamic lighting is an area where the current generation consoles cannot pull off, and mostly we see pre-baked ones. However, some studios like Crytek have tried to do things like Global Illumination on consoles with Crysis 2, and while the implementation was solid, overall it still didn’t have a major impact.

Once next-gen consoles offer the ability to pull of dynamic lighting, developers can get more creative and create games that may rival the films. Remember some game developers talking about Avatar, Toy Story graphics? That could be possible.

“So for now let’s just assume that high-end PCs are representative of what might be available in a future console. Our view is quite simple. Fully dynamic global illumination is a nice-to-have on this console cycle, but in the future it will be a must-have,” Dr. Doran said.

“Dynamically computed lighting brings so much to the visuals of a game compared to the alternative of just baking everything into static ‘lightmaps’.

“Once artists can design game levels knowing that the lighting is fully dynamic we will see a real step-change in creativity. Level lighting artists will start to take on the responsibilities of a film cinematographer and I expect to see games that rival the best-looking films in terms of visual impact.”

The core goal of Enlighten is to not to provide a high level of realism, but that’s possible too, however, the main goal is allow flexible tools and technology to artists. Dr. Doran gave an example of how developers can create different games using Enlighten.

“The first thing to say is that the goal with Enlighten isn’t necessarily ‘realism’. We provide all sorts of handles into the technology that allow artists to mess with the laws of physics and create almost any look they want,” he said.

“So DICE and Danger Close, for example, were going for a very realistic look in Battlefield 3 and Medal of Honor: Warfighter; but Airtight went for something totally different in Quantum Conundrum, which has a deliberately ‘cartoony’ look.

“So the goal is not just to shoot for the greatest level of realism – the goal is to provide the most flexible tools and technology to enable artists to generate any type of look that they are after. This is a much wider, and more open-ended, goal. I don’t think we are close to saturation point in terms of chasing that target.

He also detailed the problems with lighting that are still unsolved, and why we are still behind the techniques used in films.

“In addition, there are vast numbers of open unsolved problems in lighting. If you look at how we model the interaction between light and atmospheric effects like smoke and fog, we are still some way off what is used in film. I don’t think we would draw the line until we could get much closer to using lighting the way the best cinematographers do.”

Sounds pretty exciting, hopefully the next-gen consoles will be here soon so that we can get an increased level of realism from developers who are encouraged to push visuals far.

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