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How to design skylight/starlight for 2d top-down with no skybox?

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So, I have a real problem I'm pondering about and could really need to fresh ideas for how to implement, here goes:

 

1) The Problem - No Skybox!

The game I'm working on is a 2d top-down ARPG. I've started to get my procedual world generation to get progressively better to the point that at least some of the environments look quite nice. However, one of the largest problems I've come across in designing a pure top-down game is the lack of a skybox. Normally the feeling of a sunlit day, beautiful sunset or starlit night can be really striking giving a modest skybox. However, in a pure top-down game there is no sky-view and thus a night (for example) tends to become quite bland and not really varying with moonlight, shimmering stars etc. So I have to come up with some way to emulate the view of the startlight by top down graphics

 

2) Current ideas

Well, thats just it, I could really need some inspiration for this, I'm currently thinging about something light lightrays moving around to create the feel of sun shining though the clouds or a high level parallaxing starlight field for overhead stars, but I'm not really sure how to implement it (design wise)?

 

Does anyone have some ideas for how this could be implemented or some reference to any game where this is done? I've tried to find some resources on the topic but so far I've come up nil

 

Whats your thoughts guys? :mellow:

 

 

I add a few images of how the game looks right now to give you some idea what I'm dealing with

 

MixScreens_0220.jpg

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Here's how one Zelda-esqe game (Hyper Light Drifter) did indoor skylights:

http://www.heart-machine.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/HLD_Screenshot_01_robot_1080.png

 

(looks better when zoomed out, IMO)

 

And here's something I was playing around with for my own game:

http://puu.sh/ob70Z/c87ba54619.png

Edited by Servant of the Lord

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I was looking at this sort of thing for my top down game and ended up just doing an alpha blend kind of thing that went from no effect to a dark blue to orange blended kinda thing which looked kinda like the way Servent went. No dynamic shadows though which isn't great. I think you have better lighting capabilities though.

Maybe you need some reflecting pools or lakes that will reflect the sky. Anything that'd be on the ground facing up that reflects light in some way (solar panels maybe?)

Could you do some sort of thing where moonlight has variations in colour and that's projected at anything from above? If your game doesn't have to be set on Earth, maybe neighboring astrological phenomena provide interesting lighting effects visible only at night.

Could you do some kind of aurora borealis that occasionally streaks through the sky?
 

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Servant, thanks for the links, definitely in the direction i would like to go for

Kseh, yes reflections would add some nice touch and could help a lot, I would have to think if it would be doable in my game though (with reasonable effort) since im writing game eng myself and sofar unfortunately have no support for reflections. But it might be a way to go!

The borealis advice is definitely something to go for which would be really cool

Kryzon, yes a bit but it might not completely hit the mark as its a bit more focused on the lightning rather than the skybox itself and being side style it has the advantage of at least being able to show the sky. Thanks for the link though!

I really want to try to get this right, as I think (in my own opinion) that one of the biggest drawbacks of pure top-down is the restrictive feel created by having no visible horizon, so any way to emulate this could potentially increase help a lot!

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Could you maybe add some benign nocturnal creatures or are you just looking at sky effects at this time? Glowing fish and fireflies come to mind. Perhaps miscellaneous night life, people having fun after hours.

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RE# Kesh

I must say I really like the idea with fireflies+similar, this is definitely something I'm going to try!

 

I have now implemented made colored shadows+sunlight overlay which vary during the day, with darkblue shadows and yellow glow during the sunrise and a more reddish hue during the sunset as well a a bit more blue hue during the night. It actually turned out quite well in the end after a lot of tuning of the color parameters, I will post a short clip of the current state here shortly, didn't have time to make one today unfortunately -_-

 

 

RE# hydropulse17

Yeah, reflections would be really good as kesh pointed out previously, I have some ideas for implementing specular maps, at least for basic map blocks to try to be able to add this as it, as you say, could add a good bit as well, I'm not quite done with ironing out the details for how I will implement it in a cost efficient way quite yet but that could definitely work. Cloud hues are another good idea, currently my clouds are only scaled in greyscale (white going to black) but I think you're right, with some addition of cloud density that could help deciding when sun/moon rays should peek through, I'll add that to the list as well (yikes, I have some points to work on now.. ^_^ )

 

 

 

Thanks for more tips, please keep them coming and I'll try to get it all in place, will post a update vid clip shortly!

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Ok here's a small clip on the current state, it's getting better but I'm not fully pleased yet as there are some things I want to add further

 

The points mentioned in the previous post are still to be included :wink:

 

[media]https://youtu.be/WX2vn96so4o[/media]

 

 

The current light/shadow/clouds are weather dependant so unfortunately I did not catch all forms of weather permutations in the clip but hopefully it shows somewhat the current state at least

 

 

Please feel free to criticize! I would have got so far yet without your suggestions so  ^_^

 

 

What I've done so far to create a more dynamic feel is the following (in broad strokes)

 

1) Shadow coloration, shadows have color depending on time of day, cloud coverage as well as sun & moon position. Might tweak the color palettes a bit though

2) Sky coloration, sky is colored, especially during sunrise/sunset as a function of the current cloud coverage, to small extent the temperature as well as the suns height in the sky. I've also included a "haze" curve to have slightly denser light during the sunset. During night there is a blueish coloration which is affected by the moon-cycle, moon height and cloud coverage

3) Stars, stars come out at night depending on the cloud coverage

4) Cloud Linings, tried to include some cloud highlining when relative weak cloud coverage and strong sun/moon

 

I'll keep you update with further progress!

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Ok this is the last update for this post unless any of you guys want to give feedback to the post below if there are some things in particular you would recommend changing
 
I have now finalized the update to the ambience for now, I am not sure I am fully satisfied yet but at least it is a LOT better than before i started this post, thank you guys for your ideas, I've really tried to implement most of them! ^_^
 
I post a example video of a full (although shortened in time) day/night cycle to show how it panned out, the main things added since the last post would be the following:
 
5) Dynamic bird flocks with 20+ species of birds which depends on the current biome
6) Butterflies and Buzzer
7) Lightningbugs
8) Dynamic sunrays
9) Some general tweaking of the prior settings with a bit more gradient of light/shadow during dawn/dusk

 

Here's some of the suggestions from you guys I tried to implement

 

kseh/Servent) Alpha gradient to light color as well as different coloration to moonlight, also added the fireflies you suggested! You can see them in the video at 3:30 and 4:00 ^_^  Unfortunately i had to hold off on the specular light maps for now, since I need to work on other gameplay elements so reflections have to wait, I would really like it though and I think I know how to add it unfortunately I don't have enough time right now  :unsure: 

 

So lastly, yes I had to cut short on reflections for now, due to time constraints but If i revisit this part of the game it should definately be at the top of the list

 

Again, thanks for helping out guys! ^_^
 
 
The Video:

[media]https://youtu.be/tfpPIk81f4M[/media]

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