Studying Lighting in Games

Studying Lighting in Games

Environment artist Baiquni Abdillah described the way he approaches lighting production in Unreal Engine 4.

Environment artist Baiquni Abdillah talked about his experiments with lighting in Unreal Engine 4, showed the kinds the lighting you can use in games and explained the way you can create various lighting setups for games.


My Name is Baiquni Abdillah. I’m originally from Cilacap, Central Java, but now I live in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I graduated as Bachelor of Computer Science from STMIK Amikom Yogyakarta. Although my background is computer science, I have always been interested in 3D environment art. I spend most of the time learning with game art forum, Facebook page and YouTube channel. I started my career as junior environment artist at MSV Pictures, a local studio in my town. We are working on 3D animated film and some short animations which are still in progress. And now I’m doing remote job, working on an openworld survival multiplayer game called “Stone Rage” by “Mountainwheel Games” in Austria, which will be released later this year.

As an environment artist, I love everything about nature, trees, foliage and landscape. I study and photograph a lot of nature for my references to do my personal artwork. I also love everything about lighting and rendering especially realtime rendering. I’ve also worked on conventional lighting and rendering for 3 years, such as Mentalray and Renderman. So, I know the feeling of spending time to create desired visual look. Still sometimes working on conventional render takes long time to complete, especially when we have no workstation, so I prefer Realtime rendering in game engines like Unreal Engine or Cryengine which provide nice features. I really enjoy spending time on making environment art from the beginning till the end; from modeling, texturing, shading, set dressing, lighting til rendering.


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My Swamp Forest Environment is my most recent personal artwork in UE4. The main goal is pushing the authenticity and cinematic quality of photorealistic environment as much as possible with different lighting condition; morning, day light, night & dawn.

Every lighting scene has exact same lighting components, except for the night scene. The only difference is the amount of the value on each lighting parameter. My method of lighting is actually pushing the capability of the engine to get good visual look, I used some tricky stuff and of course it will eat lots of frame rate(fps) and maybe almost unplayable according to the hardware capability. But in the end we were able achieve nice render result.

Breakdown of the Lighting Setup



On the morning scene, my first step was turning off precomputed lighting to avoid baking process, on World Setting. Then I turned on “Generate Mesh Distance Field” to activate the feature of DFAO and Raytraced Distance Field Soft Shadows on Project Setting. I also edited the ConsoleVariable.ini file.

My lighting component was pretty straightforward. There are the light source (sun), skylight, atmospheric fog, sphere reflection capture, exponential height fog, light mass importance volume and post process volume. The one thing I love about Unreal Engine is its ability to produce lighting pass or render passes like conventional rendering but in realtime.

Different Techniques

Dynamic lights is about making all lights to move freely without any baking process. The sun (light source) and the skylight actor must be set to movable instead of static or stationary, so we can make time of day lighting system.

-DFAO or Distance Field Ambient Occlusion and Raytraced Distance Field Soft Shadows, are the solution for achieving realistic shadows when sun hits the meshes. It will give nice raytraced soft shadow for our scene. These features are only available on epic quality and require the project setting ‘Generate Mesh Distance Fields’ (under Rendering) to be enabled.

You can get more info here and there.

HFGI or Height Field Global illumination is the feature I found on Unreal Forum. It’s used for indirect lighting from the landscape. So, if your landscape is colored green, then your mesh above has been influenced by green too. The Kite Demo uses this feature too.

Check out this info.

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For the foliage shading, I used Two-sided foliage shading model to achieve realistic translucency for my foliage meshes.

Dealing with Night Lighting


The only difference of night scene from the others is that I used two light sources for the scene: one for controlling the night atmosphere and the other one for controlling the moon light. The rest is just the same components with different parameters.

Importance of the Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important and influential elements in environments. It has the power to make or break the visuals, theme and atmosphere. Lighting is just as important as geometry, without lighting there is no environment, just a group of 3d objects. Lighting has the ability to bring a group of objects to life and take them to the next level of quality. Its purpose goes further than just giving the players the ability to see where they are going. It creates atmosphere. It makes places look scary or cozy, warm or cold. It augments the three dimensional feel of objects and it creates composition and balance to guide the player’s eyes.





Baiquni Abdillah, 3d artist

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    How to approach lighting production in games?