Jump to content

Interior Cell Names and Ambient Lighting


Recommended Posts

On one of the projects I'm helping with, there were numerous interior cells that had not been named. All interior cells must have a name for load doors to be labelled properly. Furthermore, a large number of interiors did not have any ambient lighting defined. If the interior lighting is set to black, which is the default, then you will need a larger number of light sources and it will lend an unnatural quality to the light.

Lighting Guidelines

As a general guideline, dungeons would have ambient lighting values between 20 and 25 for each red, green and blue component, fog lighting between 25 and 30, with near and far distances around 3000. You also need to set the near fog distance to at least 0.0001 to prevent the Nvidia black screen bug. If you are actually using fog in the cell, then you will set the Near Distance to an appropriate value.  It just has be greater than 0.

Arthmoor suggests the following for other interiors and I like to use these settings too:

  • 15/15/15 for occupied windowless interiors
  • 20/20/20 for occupied windowed interiors
  • 25/25/25 for shops, inns and guild halls

When red, green and blue are all the same number, that's grey. It's just a matter of how dark the grey is. So 15/15/15 is darker than 25/25/25. Once the ambient lighting has been fixed, the light sources will need to be redefined.

Adding Light Sources

I've also noticed a lot of light objects with no real light source nearby. This makes the interior look fake. It works ok for dungeons, but I always add a real light source, even in dungeons. And for dungeons, you can use glowing mushrooms to provide the light source too. It's possible to add several fake light sources and just place one light object. This will help with performance if needed. I also like to add one or two real light sources to give the room a nice ambience.

One interesting case that we ran into with Dark Brotherhood Chronicles was a unique interior. It has black walls, so I had to set the ambient lighting to 100/100/100. It was also a very large interior, so I found that using fog settings really helped carry the light throughout the area.

Thomas Kaira could probably offer some additional advice. He just finished cluttering the interior that I'm referring to and made some dramatic improvements to the lighting that I had originally used.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thomas Kaira

The best way to sell lighting to the player is to make sure the theme fits the interior. In regards to the lighting tweaks AndalayBay mentioned, what goes through my mind is this (WARNING: there is a lot of artistic stuff being explained here, so it is not my fault if your brain explodes):

1. Ambient light

I don't use ambient light to provide my lighting mood in this game, ever. It is flat, boring and doesn't allow for the normal-maps on the textures to stand out. The ambient light is my canvas, if you will, from which I then "paint" my colors on to get the scene looking just the way I want. (Artist speak? Am I going insane?)

In the case of the example Andalay mentioned: the ambient light started as a neutral gray and was very dim. That is good for an interior that is extremely large and underground. The general rule for me: the more exposed the interior is to direct sunlight, the brighter I set the ambient light to start, but I rarely ever go above 50, and almost always a neutral gray. There are some places where you will want to deviate, but they are few and far between, reserved only for very special cases. Ambient light is the combined glow of all the other light sources in your interior: the more brightly lit, the more ambient glow. And I can usually tell just how much ambient light I will need the moment I plop down the last chair.

Dungeons are different, though. For a dungeon, you want the ambient light to be REALLY low, almost nonexistent (but not flat zero, the engine doesn't like to deal with zeroes). The darkness gives the player that feeling of foreboding, as it is that much harder for him to see what he is up against. And the human brain instinctively reacts fearfully to unseen danger. Bethesda tends to ruin this feeling by making the dungeons way too bright. But seriously, the player needs some use for that pile of torches he's sitting on, right? Why not give him a nice dark dungeon to burn them in?

And make sure to set the fog to a reasonable distance, too. Dungeons need that fog, especially if they are complex, to keep the performance fluid. You don't want it too close, otherwise the player will be fighting a gigantic wall of nothing instead of the enemies, but not too far, either, or the performance will take a dive. This is more about striking a balance between visibility and performance. Unless you intend for visibility to be bad, but make sure that short fog distances are in your mind while designing the dungeon so it feel real.

2. Light sources.

For dungeon lighting, only light what the player needs to see. That pretty backdrop you created will be wasted if the player can't see it or get beckoned to it. I like to use light sources as a sort of bread-crumb trail for the player to follow, pointing out things that need pointing out like nasty enemies, holes in the ceiling, or a large central chamber (to give the player some decent light to fall back to if he gets into a fight in a dark zone). If you make something interesting in your dungeon, don't be afraid to give it some illumination to draw the player in and see what you did. Don't put torches every five feet, though. Not unless the cave is supposed to be recently lived in or is a high-traffic zone for one reason or another. Be frugal. If the player needs to see something, let him see it. If the player wants to see something, though, that's his problem.

For major themed dungeons, though (sorta like the example AndalayBay mentioned), that's when you really want to bust out with the artistry. For this, a picture can say a whole lot more. This is the scene being referred to:


Being a cathedral, the light needs to be well scaled and provide good illumination without being overwhelming. I accomplished this by placing a single large-radius, but soft light onto its emitter (the chandelier). Enough for you to see without needing a torch, but still dim so as not to disturb the worshippers.

Color is very important here, as well. As said previously, color provides the mood. In this case, the color was chosen to be warm, yet sinister.

The secondary light sources are more intense, but very small. This draws the eye without overwhelming the image. The windows, for instance, each received their own glow, just enough to draw the eye without overwhelming the scene. Same story with the altar (but there, those lights were already placed. They worked, though, so I left them) and the torch sconces showing you where the doors are inside.

The entire scene is very soft, because cathedrals are places of worship, so tend to be quiet and peaceful. in such a case, soft lighting is best. The eye is not being dazzled with bright flashy colors all over the place and we react to that by calming down.

Start with a theme, then match that theme to the appropriate ambience. That is what I try to do.

It's hard to explain, really. If anyone doesn't understand something, I'll be happy to clarify further.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • AndalayBay unpinned this topic

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now
  • Create New...