It thrilled us to see so much high-quality, cross-platform content on display at Unite Europe. Iestyn Lloyd and Adam Simonar were two speakers at our dev conference who talked about creating gorgeous graphics with an efficiency that was near-impossible before Unity 5.
“The distance to beautiful visuals is much shorter now”
Adam Simonar was onstage at Unite Europe to talk about Real-time Global Illumination (GI) (powered by Geomerics Enlighten), together with Jim Chaney, Engineering Manager at Geomerics, and Kasper Storm Engelstoft, a programmer at Unity.
He is a Studio Director and a Lead Level Designer at NVYVE Studios, a Canadian studio with a background in architectural visualization. Recently, his small team has branched out and are busy developing PAMELA, a sci-fi horror survival game coming soon for PC.
“Real-time GI enables us to create a world that would have been close to impossible in Unity 4,” he says. “We knew the kind of look and feel that we wanted to achieve, but the highly dynamic nature of the environment was a huge lighting challenge before Unity 5”.
The light tells the story
In PAMELA the action takes place in a vast, futuristic city, with sprawling areas for the player to explore. Adam says that showing the transition from day to night in the game is crucial to setting the mood. But day and night cycles are difficult to show in interiors because all the light is bounced. He points out the key detail of the glowing neon tubes in the scenes that change from a calm blue at day to an unsettling red-orange at night.
“We’ve been able to create dramatic light effects, all of it done in real-time with emissive material in Unity 5,” says Adam. “Working with emissive materials is great from a performance standpoint, as well as often being a faster way to create content. Lighting is now much more a part of the design process, as we’re able to iterate with different light setups very easily.”
“You can make your graphics look like anything you want in Unity 5”
Iestyn Lloyd, a BAFTA-winning developer gave two talks at Unite Europe. In his first session he explained how he took his Dropship diorama (featured in the Unity 5 trailer) from good to gorgeous with Unity 5. He used the Standard Shader, Real-time GI, Reflection Probes (“the most wonderful things because they make everything shiny”) and loads of Post-Processing Special Effects, together with a number of Asset Store items (see below).
A high-end toolset that anyone can jump into
“Unity 5 is now up there with the engines traditionally known for great graphics,” he says. He calls himself both a programmer and a self-taught technical artist, and says that “for too long there’s been a division between programmers and artists. I think the tools in Unity 5 and the available plugins will actually help to drive greater ‘graphics literacy’ because they’re so affordable yet so well made. They allow you to step out of your comfort zone, to actually develop your own style and iterate away on it.”
He told his audience that “it’s so important to cut loose during your spare time, when you’re not working to any constraints, and see what Unity 5 can do. It’s a chance to build up a portfolio, which is useful because it’s only going to be a few years until these effects can be used on multiple devices, even high-end mobile.”
A few of their favorite shiny things from the Asset Store
Not surprisingly both developers are Asset Store fans. Their top picks include: Allegorithmic Substances, Alloy Physical Shader Framework, Amplify Color, Andromeda Station, SE Natural Bloom and Dirty Lens and SpeedTree. Iestyn also points out that Substance Designer, Substance Painter and Quixel are good for learning how to work with physically-based shading.