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ARM subsidiary Geomerics, developers of the real-time game lighting technology Enlighten has shared a new whitepaper on the importance of lighting in VR. Immersion has always been one of the most important aspects of game development and when it comes to VR, immersion is crucial.
Geomerics discussed the challenges and opportunities of VR and the importance of lighting with Oculus Story Studio and nDreams to form a future plan for all developers.
I think the differences between Henry and Dear Angelica kind of demonstrate that trade o pretty well. In Dear Angelica, at any given time you have about five million triangles in an illustrated style.
Because of the more sophisticated lighting model in Henry, we could only afford to put up maybe one or two million triangles. That’s how carefully you have to weigh up the importance of lighting for whatever you are creating in VR.
You have to think about how much geometry you’re putting on screen. Lighting is a helpful way to constrain where you need all of that geometry.
In Lost we decided to set the experience within a moonlit forest so that we could hide low resolution areas that were a little further out from where the action takes place. Because it was so dark in those regions, you didn’t notice the low resolution, and we freed up resources to render more important detail. The user was tricked in a way – believing that because there was so much detail close up, that detail continued o into the distance.
Max Planck, the Technical Founder of Oculus Story Studio
General manager of Enlighten emphasized the difference that lighting makes stating that this element is all about immersion.
With virtual reality the big requirement is that sense of presence, that ability for the graphics to make the user truly believe they’re in an environment that doesn’t actually exist. Lighting plays a huge part in making that happen. If you don’t have good lighting you are compromising the entire experience.
A good example is a human’s reliance on lighting information for depth cues. Getting the lighting variation correct between distant and near objects makes a massive difference to how believable the world you are in actually is, as does the graduation of light on the surface of larger objects. From a lifetime of practice, humans have an innate understanding of how this area of lighting physics works and if the virtual world breaks our expectations then the sense of immersion and presence will su er. Even minor artefacts will make the entire scene seem odd and out of place, detracting from the intended immersion.
The challenge in achieving dynamic lighting effects in virtual reality is performance. Baked solutions are an easy fall-back option – yet with offline solutions studios compromise the interactive element of production and gameplay that make VR experiences really stand out.