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I've been spending time recently enjoying Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed on my Xbox 360, as well as to wonderfully-gorgeous Unreal Tournament 3 on my PC.  One thing I've noticed, not only in these games but especially also in ones that are coming out, is the relatively-consistent overuse of High Dynamic Range, a technique for rendering photorealistic (or not, I suppose, in situations where the art requires) scenes with a higher contrast ratio in lighting.

glowy_fire

(Source: Games Radar, Battlefield: Bad Company)

The fire in this picture is amazingly bright.  I'll be honest - the ONLY time I've ever seen fire that bright was when I saw magnesium burning in junior high school.  I've seen lots of fires though - but never that made it difficult to look at the fire.  The ambient lighting in the rest of the scene suggests that the soldier shouldn't be so dark to me.  I recognize that in high lighting scenarios it's common for us to dim the rest of the scene; our pupils naturally dilate, and games simulate the effect by dimming the scene.  The real question is: why are we using high lighting in this scene?

Incidentally, as much as it hurts to say so, Mass Effect seems to be guilty of this as well on occasion, although I tend to attribute the incredibly glowy (and beautiful) lighting to artistic appearances.  The doors on the SSV Normandy just wouldn't be the same if they didn't glow the way that they do.

I think Half Life: Source and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion were the first widespread games to really incorporate HDR as a major feature (as it was only first really available with the Shader Model 2.0 video cards), and now that it has become commonplace, I think it's being hit too much.  HDR is beautiful.  Now it's time to allow it to be real.

Posted on Tuesday, December 4, 2007 11:25 AM | Back to top


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