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Is Video Game Lighting Actually Important?

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While there are many different elements to the creation of a game, many new artists overlook the importance of lighting. Video game lighting is about more than just ensuring that the player can see in a scene. In this article, you’ll learn about the importance of lighting, how video game artists create the worlds we see today, and the best way to develop your skills as a new artist. 


The Importance of Lighting for Games 

The end goal of video game development is to create a world that the player becomes immersed in. While the characters and scene are important for setting the mood, it’s important to remember that lighting has a great impact on the mood, as well. It has one of the most influential roles within the world, and incorrect lighting can make or break the visuals. 

Since games are interactive, the lighting will also need to change based on the character’s actions. For example, a player’s ability to shoot out a light and whether or not they will make that decision will change each scenario within the world. Lighting also changes based on the player’s position, perspective, and movement within the game. This is why lighting in games versus movies is drastically different. 


Lighting in Games VS. Movies

Achieving ideal lighting in games requires skill from more intermediate to experienced artists. In movies, the amount of light in a scene is often determined by the camera angle, and it’s designed to look perfect for that particular situation. In a movie, the viewer doesn’t have the option to move the camera and get a different angle, but in video games, they do. 

Light has a major impact on how the player perceives the game, so it is typically more complex to perfect than in movies. Lighting is also responsible for stirring emotion within the player. For example, horror games typically have many different deep shadows for hiding. If the lights suddenly came on, then it would drastically change the emotion within the game. Lighting is about more than just having an illuminating source. 


What Video Game Lighting Artists Do

By now, you know that video game lighting is more important than what most people think. A lighting artist is responsible for the overall look and feel of the entire game (within their field). They are also responsible for ensuring that the player can see. 

These artists create “man-made” lights such as light bulbs and candles, but they are also responsible for creating “natural light” that comes from the sun, sky, clouds, and more. They also may add some color grading and image effects to achieve the desired look. 

While creating light sources sounds simple, you also must keep in mind that artists have the knowledge of the technical aspects of lighting since the game is interactive and moving. The artist will not only create the light sources, but also will work with render tech engineers to solve any frame-rate-related problems. 

Many artists prefer to take lighting in phases – primary and secondary. With the primary lighting, the artists will address general visibility and natural light. These are also the “big shapes” within the frame. The secondary lights are smaller shapes, such as candles and flashlights. After general lighting is complete, the artist will look into color grading, bug fixing, and scene optimization. 


Learning More About Video Game Lighting

Many artists who enter the video game lighting field begin their journey in other careers, such as photography. It’s the interest in composition, color, and light that tends to draw creatives toward this field. Learning how real-world light behaves is essential for being able to transition this realism into video games. 

Key Skills for Video Game Lighting 

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in lighting for games, then there are some key skills that you will need to enhance. The main trait you’ll need to focus on is expanding your visual library, or developing an “eye” for light and ideal contrast ratios. This “eye” for what is aesthetically pleasing and what isn’t working is essential to this career. 

One of the best ways that you can start building your visual library is simply by being observant. Seeing how light behaves in the real world can help you better understand how to manipulate it and recreate it in a video game. If you’ve taken a serious interest in honing this skill, then one of the best options will be to seek education from a professional. 


Video Game Lighting Education 

Learning how to apply realistic lighting scenarios to video games is often something that is difficult for self-teaching. Having an experienced professional walk you through the science of optimizing light and achieving a realistic aesthetic will improve your skills quickly. An affordable option of top quality education is Lighting for Games Bootcamp

This Bootcamp teaches you everything you need to know, and it covers the full process of designing lighting scenarios for 3D games. From breaking down the science into easy-to-understand language to how to utilize different software, you’ll find it almost like a professional is helping you in your own home. 

By the end of the course, you’ll: 

  • Understand how lighting can both serve the work as well as function as a visual element
  • Understand how to design lighting for different scenarios
  • Have mastered your way through the lighting workflow
  • Have developed an understanding for how to design different lighting styles 

To have the benefit of having a professional in the industry break down these extensive topics while making it accessible, this course is available 100% online. You can access the pre-recorded videos from anywhere, and you can watch them at your own pace. To further assist you with any questions you may have, you will have access to experienced Teacher’s Assistants throughout the duration of the course. 

Interested in learning more? Get more information about the course here.

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