Live for Speed, Graphics Progress Report: Blackwood
We have been working on graphics most of the time since early 2017 and we can now show you some of the results. You will instantly notice the new detailed shadows and shine on the road surfaces. Looking around, you will start to see that many more surfaces have some sort of shine level that looks a lot more realistic and gives you a feeling of what things are made of.
In this update we will show you some pictures of Blackwood. As a track that was recently updated, it didn't need many changes other than new textures and settings for the new lighting system. Some other tracks have had more extensive updates and we plan to show you some of those in a few weeks.
Because this is the first presentation, some readers may be interested in technical aspects of the shadows and lighting. For those people, we have made some notes in the following paragraphs between the blocks of screenshots.
The new shadows use shadow mapping methods described by many sources. Ours are called "stable cascaded exponential shadow maps". Stable means they don't jiggle around when the camera moves. Cascades are the separate shadow maps drawn over increasingly large areas (at lower resolution) as you move away from the view point. The correct cascade is selected for each pixel to decide if it is in shadow or lit by the sun. Exponential refers to the calculation used and allows for softened shadow edges.
Before the shadow updates we worked for quite a while on new material settings that allow a much wider range of specular effects. Eric, our artist, can now specify how shiny a material is and how rough the surface is. Rougher surfaces give wider highlights and a softer sky reflection so the observer gets a much better feeling for what the surface is made of or how it would feel if you could touch it. Also the shine level at any point on the surface can be controlled by the alpha channel of the texture map.
Another thing which is harder to notice, but simply makes the lighting look better and more realistic, is the use of gamma correct lighting. This means that the lighting from various sources is now calculated and added together in a linear colour space so the output is more realistic and visually pleasing. If you would like to know more about gamma correct rendering, there is plenty of information about it on the internet. In this sequence of images you can see the separate components of lighting that are added together to produce the final image.
The new updates can not simply be released in the new system. Eric needs to visit each of the tracks and carefully update textures and material settings. Some objects need to be updated so the shadows work properly. It is an opportunity to make further updates to the older tracks. Most of them have been done but there is still a way to go. We look forward to showing you some more images in a few weeks from now!
- LFS Developers
Further reading: Graphics Progress Report: Rockingham