Welcome to our latest Weekly Update!
This week, we figured we would take a trip down memory lane. A Flashback Friday, if you will.
Sure enough, the Ghostly spirits have decided to help us out by opening a portal for us to peer back into the development of MIDNIGHT GHOST HUNT!
Let’s talk with Kite, lead developer, a bit about how the game has evolved since the project started in late 2017!
Hey all! Kite here!
Thought it would be fun to look at some old screenshots I had lying around of the game’s early development.
For this Flashback Friday, I’m gonna focus on how I arrived at the “look” of the game. There might be some technical terms thrown about, but I hope to make it understandable!
Be warned, these are not pretty! This stuff is from when I was working on the project completely solo - and was still working in Hollywood by day. That is to say, I had no idea what I was doing.
One of our earliest challenges was finding the right visual style - what would the game look like?
By default, Unreal Engine uses a static lighting system that allows you to gain performance by baking lighting and shadows into texture information. Essentially, that means you can get realistic lighting (including bounced light, ambient occlusion) without killing your frames per second, because it only needs to calculate it once.
Building lighting was a pretty slow and painful process, as was optimizing every mesh to have enough lightmap UV resolution to make it not look awful. Though it usually still looked pretty bad.
It was a little bit tricky to try to get the look I was going for - and it would seriously take hours to even see if I used the right settings. I was pretty new to UE4 at that point so I just chalk it up to inexperience really. There’s definitely ways to do baked lighting right, I just couldn’t hit it.
The worst problem was that contact shadows would get baked in — if you possessed and moved anything, the contact shadow would remain! That doesn’t really seem like a good idea when the whole point of this game is that almost everything in the level can be moved and thrown about.
So, I recklessly decided to just completely disable all the light baking and go fully dynamic.
This started looking closer to what I had in mind - a dark, atmospheric haunted house vibe. This gives me greater control over creative choices on how to light a room. Also, don’t have to wait hours for the lighting to build anymore, so that’s a bonus!
However, this comes with a trade-off. Dynamic lighting is harder on your GPU.
I mostly solved this issue by ensuring most of my lights did not cast shadows, and restricted their range to the bare minimum. The only lights that actually cast shadows in the game are limited to the moonlight pouring in through the windows, the fireplace, and the Hunter’s flashlight.
Those that played the alpha might recognize this location! At this point I was really starting to nail our look. Though with more of a sickly blue/green…
The gun visible there is actually the default Unreal Engine gun - not some new sci-fi Ghostcatcher! If you look up any UE4 tutorial on YouTube you’ll recognize it immediately.
Once we decided on this vibe, it was just a matter of adjusting the settings on our Post Process Volume to get exactly where I wanted to go. This was the fun part.
This is the present day look. It could still evolve as we continue development! Perhaps in a future Flashback Friday we’ll continue down this path.
Before we wrap up this week, we have a poll available HERE!
This poll is to gauge interest on new map ideas that have been thrown around in the community lately. This list will certainly help the developers decide which map ideas are most popular when they start working on new maps in the coming months.
THAT’S IT FOR THIS WEEK, GHOST HUNTERS!
We hope you enjoyed this weeks Flashback Friday, thanks so much to the devs for sharing all these great screenshots and showing us how the game has come so far!
Make sure to check out our post next week! Stay cool, Ghost Hunters.