A Peek into Development
Greetings Heroes! Today, we’re going to give a little insight into the development world. It might help if you imagine Neil Degrasse Tyson’s voice reading all this to you. :)
Light affects the way we perceive the world, and the same is true for games. Currently, our 48 hour game jam build of the game is presented in Unity’s most basic settings. The lighting is default and characters don’t cast any shadows. With the success of the campaign, we can change all that.
On the left, our tree in default lighting. Not pretty. On the right, our tree with no direct lighting cast. Slightly better, but not what we’re shooting for.
With complex lighting and use of normal maps, we can create something closer to this.
Many of you may not know what normal maps are exactly, but if you've played a modern game, you've definitely seen them at work.
In order to be textured, a 3D model is “unwrapped”, like a peeled orange, and that model’s features are translated into 2D space. You know that all models are textured, but you may not have known that most models today have more than one image working in tandem to convey how it should look. Below, the image on the left describes the way our tree should look with respect to unlit color. This is known as a diffuse map, because in diffused light (or no direct, reflective light) this is how it would appear. The purplish image on the right describes how the tree should look when light sources are in play - different colors correspond to how light behaves from various directions. This is the normal map, and in the game, the model has both images applied at the same time. Pretty neat, right?
With normal maps, developers can take what is a flat surface, and through just a two dimensional image, present the illusion that there’s a lot of three dimensional detail. The surface is still flat, but it appears detailed! You can test this in any game with normal maps - look at a surface straight on, and compare it with how it looks from the side.
So why do developers use normal maps? Well, the more polygons a model has, the more detailed it can be. More polygons, however, means more power is being used, and games do have limits to how many polygons can be rendered on the screen at once. With normal maps, developers can keep polygon counts down without sacrificing detail. That’s the magic of normal maps!
Diffuse maps and normal maps aren't the only texture types used in games. There are texture maps that describe how reflective a surface should be, whether part of an object should be transparent, and more.
Again, if our campaign succeeds, we can provide a whole level of polish that our simple prototype just isn't conveying. We can bring little figurines to life with awesome detail.
We hope you enjoyed this little crash course in normal maps and maybe you’ll look at games a little differently as you play them ;)
That’s all for today! You know the drill - stay tuned and spread the word!