Crytek’s Damian Stempniewski (The Climb and Robinson: The Journey) did a couple of amazing lighting exercises in the newest version of Cryengine.
Crytek’s Damian Stempniewski (The Climb and Robinson: The Journey) did a couple of amazing lighting exercises in the newest version of Cryengine. In this post he talks about the production of his scenes and how you can build similar lighting in your projects. NOTE: WIP screenshots come from older version of CRYENGINE; the final scene was converted to CRYENGINE V along with some small improvements
Hi! My name is Damian Stempniewski and I’m lighting/environment artist in games industry. I originally come from Poland. Over the years I worked moslty on AAA games – my recent titles include Dying Light at Techland and Gears of War Judgment at People Can Fly/Epic Games Poland. I currently work at Crytek as lighting artist on The Climb and Robinson: The Journey.
Building the Scene
My first scene started as a small testing ground. I wanted to check how the Voxel-based Global Illumination can handle scene with minimum ammount of directional lighting. While I was trying out some ideas, I found really interesting photo taken by Kilian Schonberger and decided to create something based on it.
Building the scene didn’t take long, I liked the idea of minimalism in the original photo; I used only assets made by badass Crytek team, which are provided with the engine, although I modified some of the materials for my own needs.
My test scenes are really small; I usually create something just to have enough space to experiment with lighting and take few screenshots, however, I always think of them as part of possible sandbox level, that’s why I don’t use additional fake lights and focus on global lighting – something that could work in game in reasonable framerate. One of the things that I’m looking forward doing in future is adding more depth and meaning to those environments, even though they are mostly just lighting playgrounds.
Most of the assets, which I used for creating the scene had great materials. I didn’t have to change too much in them, except for some level-specific changes. For example, most of the vegetation have more moisture than original, because I wanted to make use of environment probes in the scene and reduce overall flatness which is mostly the biggest issue in scene with this kind of lighting. For the lake in my first scene I used material with water shader that uses screenspace reflections. They are more accurate compared to local cubemaps, however thay can render reflections only from surfaces visible on screen, which sometimes creates some visual glitches. It’s common thing in games now and it’s a good tradeoff between performance and quality.
Lighting was obviously the main reason for creating this scene. First, I set the sky, which affects overall mood of the level, because it has influence on reflections, ambient lighting or the fog. Even though scene is illuminated mostly with the sky light, the sun wasn’t completely turned off. I wanted to have realistic feeling that sun isn’t completely covered by clouds and small ammount of sunlight was coming through. For me it was really important to have it there, sice it added a bit of extra directionality and helped creating some bounce lighting here and there. At the same time, I knew that I want to use SVOTI, so I had it in the level since the beginning; I was able to see how the light react with changing environment. After a while I knew that this technology can easily handle the lighting in my scene, however, SVOTI provides only diffuse information – for specular I still needed environment probes or screen space reflections; if I wouldn’t use them, scene might have looked a bit too flat. I put few of envprobes in areas of biggest contrast to create additional light directionality from brighter parts of the map. I was trying to match real world lighting settings, but in the end it’s still tweaking “until looks good”.
Yes, I’m planning to turn my scene into a level. Not sure about the size yet, but I would really like to share some of my techniques and ideas with other artists. Of course making a bigger level is different than just one shot vista, because it has to look good from every angle and every landmark and that’s what I’m going to focus on in my next scenes.