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Lighting: Gaming's Unsung Hero

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Most Fine Art posts on Kotaku tend to show stuff like environment art and character design because they’re the best fit for a website. Sadly, this often ignores a lot of the great work done in other areas of games development that are just as important in determining how pretty a video game looks.

I’ve done some animation posts in the past, and those have been great, but again, a video is something you can watch and enjoy for what it is on a website. But what about lighting?


Lighting is so important to a game. It doesn’t just let you see where you’re going, it creates mood, it simulates weather, it can just make an otherwise unremarkable collection of textures look incredible. Ask anyone who’s played The Witcher 3 how crucial lighting is to that game and you’ll see where I’m going with this.


But it’s hard showcasing lighting because it’s something that’s in pretty much every screenshot you see, yet you either don’t notice it or wouldn’t understand the work that went into it unless it was explained by a pro in the field.

Some inspirational images paired with screenshots (note the Martian and Africa images)

So it was cool to see the other day that Blackbird’s Director of Photography Adam Myhill, one of the artists responsible for how gorgeous the new Homeworld game is, had written a post over on his studio site detailing the process that went into lighting Deserts of Kharak.


It’s so much more than just making sure there’s a sun shining down on the game world. They tried their hardest to match the colour palette set down by concept artists, while also drawing inspiration from real photos of real locations that shared a location or mood that they were shooting for.


The result gets you a game that, despite being set in the same desert across its entire campaign, manages to present an almost entirely new look every mission or two (as you can see in the image above).

If you want to read up on the whole thing, you can check it out here.


To see the larger pics in all their glory (or, if they’re big enough, so you can save them as wallpaper), click on the “expand” button in the top-left corner.

Fine Art is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios. If you’re in the business and have some concept, environment, promotional or character art you’d like to share, drop us a line!