Lighting GRID 2

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November 30, 2012

Welcome to our latest GRID 2 Developer Blog. GRID was pretty, GRID 2 is taking things to another level. So today we’ve ripped Technical Art Director Jorge Hernandez-Soria and Associate Art Director Daniel Oxford away from their desks and refused to release them until they spilled the beans on fancy new lighting advancements, the feel of the game’s overall aesthetic and how GRID 2 will put you in the race like never before.

How has the lighting technology improved from the original GRID?

Our lighting model is something that continues to evolve through the development of all of our racing titles, with each project highlighting specific, unique requirements that influence the lighting technology. The evolution of GRID2 has allowed us to concentrate on per-instance lightmaps, skymaps, real time shadows, improved layered fog and sky simulation; all of which combine to achieve a lighting direction that feels grounded in reality, and huge step forward from the original game. The single biggest visual achievement would have to be the development of our spherical harmonics system, which gives us accurate lighting calculations based on the car position within its surroundings. This means the car looks and feels fully integrated into the scene – Jorge Hernandez-Soria (Technical Art Director).

What’s the basic process for lighting an environment?

We begin by sourcing reference photography and imagery, from which we distil key values, and use this to inspire and inform the base lighting. Once the sun position for the track is locked down, we then define the right colour and contrast values for the sun, sky, ambient and all scenery (physically) placed light sources and values. These values are then baked into the lightmaps, from where the terrain and buildings derive their detailed ambient and bounced light information. These lightmaps include shadows, which allows us to have seamless, consistent shadows across not only the track (as in DiRT3), but also the buildings.

The technology that really defines the visual style of the game is the post-process system.

The technology that really defines the visual style of the game is the post-process system. This is yet another element to have been upgraded, with the inclusion of colour palettes facilitating the ability to change the look of the whole track instantly, whilst retaining the richness of the underlying lighting – similar to how you would grade film or photographic imagery. A simpler version of the colour palette system was utilised with great success in DiRT 3, but amongst other enhancement tweaks, we have improved them by including gradient maps in their creation process.

The application of these palettes is unlimited and can be easily shared between tracks to create a coherent look for the whole game – Jorge Hernandez-Soria (Technical Art Director).

grid2-lighting4

The original GRID game was renowned for being very cinematic & immersive. How have these values been carried across to GRID2?

GRID was obviously ahead of the game when it came to the sheer drama and emotion evoked by the lighting and presentation of the race and frontend scenarios. We’ve ensured we retain the highly effective ‘meta-real’ look that we pioneered in this genre, but cranked it up to the next level in our execution. Inspiration has been drawn from the best Hollywood has to offer, both in terms of cinematography styles and the pacing of the action.

The technology we utilise, as Jorge says, has advanced to the point where we can control the lighting and grading like a movie director – right through from unifying palettes to give each location a flavour, to selecting ‘hero’ tones to exaggerate, enabling car liveries to standout for example – Daniel Oxford (Associate Art Director).

How does lighting influence the player’s experience?

Having such a powerful suite of lighting controls means we can carefully light and grade each race and location. As the player will start out racing in more edgy small time events, we can emphasise the underground flavour of these races by setting them in a dramatic sunset scenario. This will evolve with the progress of the player, so when you move through the ranks into larger scale events, the lighting will alter to reflect the more glitzy, professional nature of the action. By the time you get to the top level of your career, it will be full on ‘prime time’ – fully illuminated night racing tracks, with the highest end flood lighting setups and race day pyrotechnics – Daniel Oxford (Associate Art Director).

What will make this stand out from other Codemasters titles?

GRID 2 is the blockbuster, “Hollywood-movie” title amongst the Codemasters Racing portfolio – we are at the cutting edge of all the technological advancements made in the DiRT and F1 games and GRID 2 harnesses this power through the lens of an action film director. We’re aiming at Total Race Day Immersion. It will be the most cinematic, intense, action packed game we’ve ever made, all centred on serving that core racing experience – if you’ve ever wanted to be a driving superstar, at the very pinnacle of the racing world, GRID 2 is the game that will take you there – Daniel Oxford (Associate Art Director).

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About Ben Walke

Community Manager at Codemasters, grumpy, fussy, and occasional wizard.

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