Acerola shared a new comprehensive breakdown exploring Lethal Company's rendering pipeline and shedding some light on how the game's unique visual style was achieved.
Image Credit: Zeekerss, Lethal Company
While 2023 brought a wave of exceptional video games, it's hard to argue that solo-developed Lethal Company was one of the most influential titles, both indie and AAA, of the past year. With its simple yet captivating gameplay and charming pixelated graphics, the game won the hearts of thousands of gamers worldwide and continues to attract new players to this day, reportedly achieving a milestone of 10 million sales not that long ago.
One of the game's most notable features is, without a doubt, its unusual visual style, which blends together old-school pixel art and low-poly aesthetics with modern-day effects, resulting in a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Recently, YouTuber and Technical Artist Acerola, widely known for his insightful videos on all things game development, addressed Lethal Company's graphics in a new comprehensive breakdown, explaining how they were achieved with Unity's High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP).
For context, Unity's HDRP is a high-fidelity Scriptable Render Pipeline especially designed to target modern platforms compatible with Compute Shaders. It employs physically based lighting techniques, linear and HDR lighting, and a configurable hybrid Tile/Cluster deferred/Forward lighting architecture. These features provide developers with the essential tools to create applications such as games, technical demonstrations, and animations at a high graphical standard.
Using one frame from the game as an example, Acerola showed just how the engine's built-in tools were leveraged to set up the graphics and provided an overview of the shaders Lethal Company uses to achieve its unique visual style, delving deep into such topics as frame capturing, fixed resolution rendering, edge detection, posterization, depth of field, bloom, and many others.
In his breakdown, the artist explained how, despite opting for a rather demanding rendering pipeline, the game runs at 100+ FPS even on mid-tier software, revealing that LC accomplished that by rendering the image at a low resolution, explored how the game cleverly employs volumetrics for both lighting and gameplay purposes, and even unveiled some unexpected facts about LC, such as the existence of a separate 3D model for the visor seen by the player on the screen. You can watch the full breakdown attached above or by visiting Acerola's incredible YouTube channel.
Image Credit: Acerola/Zeekerss, Lethal Company
And if you'd like to learn about Unity's HDRP, here are some great tutorials that might help you out: