InFAMOUS: Second Son Tech Art Lead Jason Connell definitely has a lot to say about the game’s visual technology, its lighting and effects, and he did so on a Q&A event on Facebook and on his personal Twitter.
First of all Connel addressed rumors of a visual downgrade since E3 2013, sparked by gameplay leaked today, mentioning that it was just a change in lighting due to the time of the day (pretty much confirming what Giuseppe wrote earlier today). Considering Connell’s role in the game’s development he’s definitely in the best place to answer that question:
Definitely no visual downgrade of graphics since then! We put that particular area in sunset instead of sunny time of day so that it matches the mood of narrative better.
He also described some of the most interesting effects we can expect to find in the final game:
Funny you mention that… at night, this is what we call ‘light pollution’. During the night time, in large cities… you will see the clouds turn an average light color from the city below. Especially in cities like Seattle…where we have extremely low cloud decks. I tried to put that into the games night time.
Well, when we moved to HDR and Physical Based Lighting… one of the benefits is having the world rendering look and feel like a cameras exposure. So, we just have to make sure that things look good in all time of days…but the system supports it fully.
We also learn about “physical based lighting,” that will add further realism to the game’s environments:
The lighting team spent a lot of time researching how bright it is outside during different times of day. We call this physical based lighting. This was done heavily in the pre production part of the project.
The most challenging part of moving to physical based lighting was establishing all of the rules of which an artist has to go by… and THEN figuring out how to break them artistically to get the exact look you want.
By the way, if you were wondering, there will be no difference in lighting between cutscenes and gameplay:
Virtually no difference. One is controlled by the player (by pressing the right buttons…) and one is controlled by how we script the fx into the cinematic. Same fx system and same lighting though.
One of the most interesting areas of the FX engine is definitely a feature that adds a degree of randomness to the brightness of the light:
Our FX engine allows for randomization of light brightness…it will look a bit different every time.
We also learn exactly how many different times of day there are, each with its own specific sky and hand-tailored lighting conditions:
Time flies… 8 Time of Days in the game, new hardware, physical based lighting, new fx. It was a fun project.
I really enjoyed working on the time of days. Each one has a specific sky and they are a lot of fun to make.
Connell went on to explain how the static time of day (that changes following the story and not dynamically with the passing of time) has been handled, and how he still made it look somehow dynamic.
I could talk for days about this. For story reasons we lately keep TODs static. There are a few exceptions.
but I spend a lot of time trying to make TODs feel dynamic and have movement in clouds.. But largely are tied with narrative.
One of the biggest challenges? According to Connell, it was making Seattle’s typical overcast sky look appealing despite its gloomy appearance.
Getting smoke fx to look and feel right was tough… As for me… Getting a gray overcast day to look miserable yet appealing.
Lastly, Connell shared some information on what the PS4 contributed to the development of the game:
Power. Seriously… without getting too techy… it’s just much more powerful. More lights, more reflections, more particles, lights in particles… really great stuff.
Sucker Punch has created their own proprietary engine. We’ve used it for all our games including this one. Although we’ve done a major upgrade to the visuals to take advantage of PS4.
There’s no doubt that inFAMOUS: Second Son is one of the most visually impressive games we’ve seen in a while. Soon we’ll be able to see the result of Connel’s efforts with our own eyes, as the game will be released both in the United States and in Europe on March 21st.