For this week's DevBlog we have something very exciting to reveal - an all-new Day/Night cycle for CardLife!
Art Director Ric and Technical Artist / Resident Thunder God Thor have been working on a new lighting system for CardLife and today we can share with you the results. The aim of this new system was to give the game world more lighting depth, color and variation in order to improve the visuals without impacting performance. Plus we wanted to give anyone that wants to mod CardLife more control of the day/night cycle.
Now you might be thinking - 'Lighting? That's a tiny part of the game. Why aren't you adding more content?! ' Don't worry we are adding more content, that's absolutely the priority for us, this new lighting system is something that the art team has managed to fit in between coming up with new creature concepts, weapons etc.
Lighting governs absolutely everything to do with how CardLife looks and feels; from the way light rebounds off your freshly crafted Tungsten sword to creating that feeling of dread when the sun goes down and more monsters come out.
In CardLife currently, we use Unity Dynamic Sky System to handle the day/night cycle and lighting transitions. We used this early on to get the basic day/night functionality in there, but we soon found it massively limited us adding many of the subtle lighting techniques that can add vibrancy to a game world.
Now let's break down what is happening what we're adding one-by-one, but first let's take a look at a groovy gif of the new day/night cycle in action:
Look at the new emergence of stars, moon and the slowly rotating nebula in that original scene. That comes from the new Skydome, new animations and blending techniques we've used. We can now tweak these values to a crazy degree and even add in new components in-case we ever wanted to change the skydome for special events related to Halloween, Christmas or whatever. Basically, we now have the option to change skydome aspects quicker and easier than before.
Now this effect is really subtle but it grounds the full moon as being the lightest object in the sky during night time and it also adds depth to the scene. So what about the daytime?
New Sun Shafts
The sun at the moment in-game is a little flat from a visual perspective. It doesn't feel like a 4.6 billion-year-old burning ball in the sky, and these sun shafts are designed to create that effect. The cascade effect of the burning can also be interrupted by clouds as they pass over, again creating that impression that the player is a visitor of this world rather than being at its centre.
New Ambient Occlusion
We've also added ambient occlusion to the game which allows darkness to propagate in areas which wouldn't be properly lit in the context of other lighting sources. You can see this in action in the before and after shot above. The left shot is as lighting works now, the right shot is in the new system. Pay attention to the lighting space between the table and how much more nuanced it is in the right shot. This is a subtle grounding technique which is used to add depth and richness to scenes which otherwise would look a bit flat. Your house/castle/landboat will now look a bit cosier than before.
New Bloom Effects
We've also enhanced the bloom effects for the campfire you see as you load into the game and also for the campfires that players will soon be able to spawn into the world as the beginnings for our cooking system. Rich (Game Director) will give you more information about that in a future update.
And Everything Else
As part of this new lighting system we've also added heightened contrast and saturation disparity, delineated shadows for more detailed shapes and more fog tweaks so there's no longer a hard fog line when you look out from a mountain top. All of these are small tweaks but together they add up to a major visual upgrade for the game.
And it's also worth mentioning that players will be able to edit cloud height, cloud number, cloud speed and day/night length for their own hosted server just by editing .JSON files located in the CardLife game folder.
We don't have a date for when this new lighting system will launch in CardLife but it will arrive in a matter of weeks rather than months.
As always if you have any feedback, questions or comments about today's blog or anything else head to the CardLife Official Forums and talk to us.
Andy, Comms Manager