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Once we've decided to use Ambient Occlusion and we've unwrapped our objects thoroughly, it's time to actually bake the occlusion and part of that is really considering the cinematic mood that it provides. I have two examples here: Warehouse slight and Warehouse moody. It's the same diffuse texture, the brick and the rusty door, but they have different qualities to the Ambient Occlusion. Right now with Warehouse moody applied, I have dark doors, dark corners, and kind of a spreading grunge in the lower part of the wall. When I apply Warehouse slight, that occlusion is much lighter.
The scene is brighter and the big deal is that this affects the mood of the player and the overall feel of the game. What we need to think of then is not only do we have occlusion but what color is it and how are we using it? In this case, I have two very different outcomes, all with the slight change in Ambient Occlusion parameters. Again, with Warehouse moody my scene is darker, the brick is muted, the windows are heavier, the door almost disappears in the darkness. If the scene is supposed to be dark, such as an alley at night, or the game is supposed to be dark, we're running around a dark city waiting for a hero to save us, we may want a darker scene.
If you think in terms of film, we may be looking at film noir or similarly dark genres. If we are dealing in a lighthearted game or maybe brightly lit and out in a city where the sunlight really permeates everything, we may want a far lighter occlusion such as the slight. In both of these, we can achieve this very easily through the Render to Texture dialog. The big deal is actually the artistic planning in advance. Where do we want the occlusion to sit and how deep should it be, because that really affects the overall mood of the texture.
This scene doesn't have any lights in it. I'm just switching from texture to texture and that really affects how it feels as we run around. Typically, what I'll do is bake the occlusion, temporarily stick it in a texture, like I've got where right now those textures are basically merged down or all the layers are combined. If I view the image, we can actually see the diffuse texture and the occlusion laid right over. As an example, this is the garage door and we can see that shadow baked right in.
On the Slight texture I've done the same thing, placing the occlusion into the diffuse texture. Viewing that image produces a different result. If we zoom in we can see that the door is much clearer, the rust is much more colorful, and we can read the brick much better. As with everything we are doing, this is an artistic choice. The big deal is to plan it out, and think of really what is the mood in here. What are we shooting for or what we'd like the game to look like and how do we want the player to feel when they enter our world.
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