Dev Blog of Madness

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Let there be light!-

God's lucky, all he had to do is wave his tentacled arm to magically create light. We game developers have to go through our levels, methodically placing light sources and tweak numerous settings in order to light the world's that we create.


Of course I could just do it "god's way" and just stick a single sun/light source there to light the entire game, but that would make the whole thing look very flat lit and dull; the kind of thing that most gamers and critics would consider "bad looking". The standards of modern 3D video games are higher than that and, as has been pointed out before, what works for real-life doesn't always make for good game content. In fact, games are often expected to look more interesting than real life; that's arguably part of their appeal. And this especially applies to a heavily stylized game like Twisty's Asylum Escapades.

One of the big reasons why we're remastering Twisty's Asylum Escapades is to improve the game's graphics, and lighting is a major part of this. And so this is what I've been working on lately. There are two basic kinds of lighting being used to light the levels and create the general eerie atmosphere in TAE. The first type and probably the easiest to understand are the point lights. These act more or less like a standard real-life light source. They provide light to a given area of the game (I'm able to change the size of the area that they affect around them), and the light radiates from a single, easily recognizable source the way that it does from a light bulb in the real world.

Normally we use point lights in the game to represent the light emitting from objects in the game that are obviously supposed to have light coming from them (such as things like a lamps or the common light sconces on the walls of the basement and things like that). But keep in mind that game lights don't always act exactly like lights in the real world. They're virtual, and therefore have some advantages and disadvantages when compared to real world lighting.

So for example, the lighting that you see in the game isn't actually being created by the wall sconces that may appear to be emitting the light. The light is actually coming from a separate, virtual object that will be invisible to the player in the final game, and that light is brightly reflecting off the sconce right next to it in order to make it look like it's the sconce itself that is emitting the light. When playing the game, the lights themselves are invisible and players can only see the effects of the light; the other objects that the lights are hitting. For my purposes as the developer, I can view the game in developer mode and see these virtual light objects which are represented as yellow light bulb icons, which is what allows me to move them around and tweak their settings.


As the artist and creative designer for the game, it's my job to place all of the lighting around and that means that for every light you see in the game, I had to put one of those virtual lights there and modified its settings so that it looks good. I'm able to change a lot of things about that such as the color of the light, the brightness or intensity of it, as well as the radius or distance of what will be affected by the light. Because the lighting is such an important part of the game, I make it a point to go through and customize each one of these things in order to try to create the best overall effect possible.

The second kind of a lighting that we have in the game is the overall ambient lighting created by a virtual "sun" (but unlike the real sun it can affect everything, even indoors). Basically this kind of lighting lights everything evenly, and all objects in the level or area get the same treatment. This comes in handy for filling in the gaps between point lights so that everything isn't completely pitch black in areas where those lights aren't present. However, if you only rely on this kind of light then it tends to make the level look very flat and bland, and this is why it's important to use the two types of a lighting intelligently and with each other. Like the point lights, this type of ambient lighting also has a variety of settings, including color and intensity and we can set it to effect different general areas of the game differently.

But since Twisty's Asylum Escapades is a horror parody kind of game, darkness is just as important as lighting and having a creepy atmosphere, plenty of shadows and dark areas are very important to the overall feel of the game. This is why it's such a priority to light the game properly. It has to have the right atmosphere, hopefully look cool and aesthetically interesting, but also still be light enough for players to be able to see and thus allow the game to be playable. This is something I take very seriously and I redid the lighting in the game several times in the last version of TAE. And so you can be sure that I'm putting at least as much care into trying to make this remastered version look as good as it possibly can.

I hope this developer blog chronicling the remastering Twisty's Asylum Escapades has been illuminating. Please follow along as we continue to spotlight different aspects of the game's development with our radiant insights and blinding enthusiasm about this shadowy little project.

- False Prophet