Considering that the Vega pre-order version is getting very close to being done and released, I figure that it’s time to start sharing some of the finer points of the engine/game that I hope you will all get to experience for yourselves soon. One of these finer points is ambient occlusion.
What is ambient occlusion? Basically, it’s extra darkness along edges and in corners. Why does this occur normally? Since light tends to bounce off surfaces somewhat randomly, light is essentially scattering around a room in all different directions. So, while any point on a surface (like a wall or something) is mostly being hit by a dominant light source in a room (like a light bulb), it’s also being hit from every direction by scattered light. However, in a corner, roughly half of that scattered light is blocked by the wall at a right angle to it. The result? The corner is darker!
A lot of games do some fairly complex things to try to calculate this in real time. The results aren’t always all that great, and create extra work for your graphics card. Vega, however, builds all of this directly into the lightmap! The result? No CPU/GPU overhead, or additional memory usage! Plus, you get to tweak the settings to make the effect look as nice as you want it to.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Who cares! Just show us pretty pictures!” To which my response is: “Well that’s a little rude. :P” All joking aside, I have a couple of screenshots of Vega’s start room which demonstrate the effect perfectly.
Without ambient occlusion:
WITH ambient occlusion:
To really see the effect, it might be helpful to open both screenshots in separate tabs, and then switch between them.
Makes quite a difference, eh?