Creating the Lighting for Resistance: Fall of Man

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I started working on pre-production of R:FoM at some point in 2004. When I originally started, I was working with a couple of the programmers to develop what would later become the tool for creating our special effects. I also did a boatload of video captures from movies, TV and the interweb to build a huge effects reference library, with everything from explosions, squibs, shattering glass, smoke effects, fire, you name it.

But once the initial interface for the effects tool was created, it was at a point where we weren't quite ready to add effects yet, and as fate would have it, there was a company meeting where Ted mentioned that they were looking for lighting artists. I had done a lot of lighting in the past. My degree is in Photography, and not only had I done studio lighting in the real world (with real lights and everything), but had done all the lighting for my 3D cinematic work during my days at Westwood Studios.

So I decided to volunteer to help create the tools for our lighting pipeline. If I would have had any idea what I was getting myself into, I would have run screaming in the other direction, but fate sometimes has a way of placing us where we're needed most, and in a disturbing sort of way, I considered it a challenge.

Towards the end of the Resistance: Fall of Man project, I did some screen captures of "before and after" on a few of the levels, to illustrate the importance that lighting has. If you are an artist working in the games industry, you should ALWAYS grab images of what you've worked on…that way, if you get fired, you have something to add to your portfolio to show what your work looks like, and prove that you were doing more than playing solitaire and keeping a seat warm. (You do update your portfolio, right?)

Anyway, since I occasionally get emails from art students asking about lighting and working in the games industry, I thought I'd put this together and take advantage of those screen grabs I did. I'm going to keep this pretty straightforward, without going into too much detail on the technical aspects...this is more about lighting itself, both in games and the real world.

Despite the technical hurdles one invariably must deal with as far as changing toolsets and production in general, it's actually pretty rewarding watching the levels as the first lighting passes start to show up in the game. The level artists that have worked tirelessly to get these levels built would usually stop me in the kitchen while I was stuffing my face, and say "Dude! I saw the lighting in level 3…it looks awesome! It's starting to look like a real place!" Either that, or "What were you thinking when you lit 5?! That sucks!" Fortunately, most of the time they were happy. Some even suggested that "You made my crappy work look good!", and hey, there's no better compliment than that.

It should be noted however, that the lighting is ALL I did here. Without the long hours and massive effort of the level artists themselves, there would be nothing to light. All of the world geometry, objects, shaders and textures were created by them, and then I just tried to light it up the best I could. Also, the game is way too huge and complex for me to have lit the whole thing myself...I was one of three lighting artists at Insomniac.

For the clearest contrast, I've created rollover images here…hover the cursor over the image to see it with and without lighting.