What would the world be without it? Besides "dark", obviously.
The point is, light is a big deal when it comes to real life, AND all forms of entertainment. So why would you slack on it? Surprisingly, lighting can make one area either scary, peaceful, serene, or even funny. Light is the key to making a campaign 100% complete. And sadly, more than a few campaigns don't grasp the concept of light, so much, that I'm here to help you out on it. This is NOT a tutorial, I am merely showing you the effects of taking care on lighting an area JUST right and hopefully inspire you to get creative. Don't be afraid to experiment!
~Comparison screenshots can be found at the end of the article.~
First off... Let's go over the types of lights given in the HPL2..
Boxlights consume every angle and crevice of an area in light and will end abruptly at the boxlight's edges. It is HIGHLY suggested that you try to keep the boxlight dark, even when covering an exterior area in mid-daylight. This will set a base for shadows when you make a large spotlight, otherwise, shadows will produce a pitch-black silhouette that will make the player lose his sanity... It's daylight out, a shadow shouldn't make him cripple (excluding Sciophobia).
A boxlight that is too bright will also look unnatural. I see this mistake being put into way too many campaigns as a shortcut to putting pointlights. Don't get lazy! Trust me, it will be worth the effort in the end!
I almost never use boxlights, but when I do, it covers an area with a light with settings as:
Side-Tip: The player loses sanity in dark colors under 0.15... If you would like the player NOT to lose anity, but don't want the room to be lighter, you will have to script: SetSanityDrainDisabled(bool abX);
Which makes it hardly visible. Again, a base for shadows. Colors can be SLIGHTLY altered for matching environment light. For example, a Boxlight at night would have the same settings but blue would be set to something like 0.14, giving an EVER-SO-SLIGHT hue to it. This trick was used in "Oh Silent Night".
Remember, boxlights are more for setting a BASE lighting, otherwise the game will run in pitch-darkness. Blackness such as that should ONLY be used in areas with absolutely NO source of light. Imagine boxlights as the color for all your shadows.
Now, let's move to the next one...
Pointlights are the step up from boxlights, setting standards for lighting. They produce light at a center point and spread out in all directions, consuming most edges and areas in light, but not ALL like its Grandfather, boxlights. But this doesn't mean this is the best you can do! I personally, use pointlights around spotlights to make the light fade smoother, this trick was also used in "Oh Silent Night" for spotlights around candles and the fireplace. It CAN be used on candles to make the light range larger, but I suggest only using it in areas with no objects around it. Such as an empty hallway.
These sources are great, but again, not the BEST for complete immersion. It can actually make a place look worse than being completely dark. Use it wisely!
Let's meet the best-man of light.
Spotlights are the best sources of light, in my opinion. I use these more than the other two sources of light, as they can be increased in range AND field of view. A great trait! The biggest reason I love these is because they cast shadows in real-time and can turn a mood from poor to great. Everything in the world produces a shadow when a source of light is present, so this is why I refrain from pointlights as much as necessary.
"But Statyk! Spotlights don't spread out in all directions like pointlights, having these on a candle would look terrible!"
Not exactly my friend! To fix this, increase the field of view of the spotlight and duplicate it, keeping it in the same position, but simply rotating it so it fits alongside the other spotlights. Duplicate and repeat! This trick was used in almost every candle in "Oh Silent Night" as well as the Theater Room in "Sciophobia".
So remember, don't be afraid to experiment! Spotlights as well as correct lighting are your keystone to CS-making. Without it, the campaign will fall!
Let's get to some examples through "Oh Silent Night"...
This is in comparison from pointlights to spotlights. I actually have the spotlights flicker a VERY small change in color to represent candle flicker. As well as moonlight spotlights to fade the candle light and show how light bleeds through.
Another comparison between point and spotlights.
The kitchen was my favorite scene in Oh Silent Night. The kitchen island and counters are actually made of primitives, and primitives don't like to cast shadows, even when spotlights say so. To fix this, I actually hid a black technical plane inside of the island countertop, giving the shadow you see below it. Go above and beyond!
The last one got cut off, it just showed the amount of arrays. =\ But this is the theater boxroom in Sciophobia. See how spotlights give subtle, but BIG differences, like the banner and sofas?
Errors and bugs of lighting:
Here, you can see the pointlights in the kitchen from the demonstration above bleed through the walls and into the bathroom. This is a common issue that sometimes seems unavoidable! But not if you have Spotlights!
In Oh Silent Night, the floors and ceilings were made with primitives. Which, described earlier, do not produce shadows, even when "cast shadows" is selected. So when using spotlights, the light still bled through the ceiling, into the 2nd floor. It was an ugly sight. Placing a large Technical Black Plane (static_objects) in between the floor of the second floor and the ceiling of the first cleaned it all up instantly. You get can an image/understanding by saying the mouse is where the kitchen island is and I flipped the viewpoint of the editor upside-down, so I am looking through the floor, to the ceiling. Again, think outside of the box!
Lastly, here's an outside environment with a sunset. A boxlight surrounds the entire area in the color shown in the dark side of the trees. The bright color is actually the VERY large spotlight up at the top of the shot. It's size is actually so large, the shadows of the trees dropped quality BIGTIME... Unfortunately. But I think it still looks decent.
So what to take from this?
- Boxlights are helpful, but DO NOT USE THEM FOR SOURCES OF LIGHT.
- Pointlights are best for smoothing out lights or in areas with no objects around, such as an empty hallway.
- Spotlights are your best friend. They cast shadows and can make a room go from a laugh, to horrifying.
- Don't be afraid to tweak the rules and place technical black planes to block light from bleeding into nasty areas.