5/14/2004

5-14-04 - 1

5-14-04

Half-Life 2 looks amazing. To me, Valve and Bungie and Id really represent what code-driven game production is all about. You decide on what is really important to you and you do that really well. All three are groups that do things right, they don't just hack and tweak, they get the lighting right, they do things the way the coders know is right (physically based lighting and physics in the motion engine), they don't just let the artists hack up the lighting or make physics that "feels good" but isn't based on reality. All three also have the wisdom to realize that in the end they're working on a game, so you make the experience fun and interactive, not tedious, you don't stick to any of your principles if they violate the all-overriding fun principle. Their engines are solid, but in all cases their engines seem difficult to work with at first. Our artists would have screamed and moaned about having to use CSG, or having to make your models water-tight, having to do high-poly models, etc. but the results make it all worth while, and once you start actually doing it it's not so painful. It's the kind of thing where they know it's worth it and they can make the artists try it, and once they try it, they like it.

The lighting in all 3 engines is different and all are good. Id is fully dynamic, with the core look driven by bump maps and stencil shadows. Valve is mainly baked-in, but they encode a precomputed light field so that dynamic objects can move around in that light field. Bungie is a mix; they do fully-dynamic first-bounce lighting, and add on precomputed more-bounces radiosity; they're also heavily driven by bump maps. Valve's technique is very cool, I'll put my notes about it in the 3d section...

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