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In a game we are telling a story. The difference between a game and film is the immersion in the narrative of the player. As with any story there is always a certain mood and look to it. One of the tools we have to get a certain look across in games is Ambient Occlusion. The idea in Ambient Occlusion, as you can see here on this model, is that adjacent objects cast darkness on each other or block bounced light. This scene doesn't have any lights. There is actually no lighting going on. It just looks like this building has well grunge or darkness up the sides and it really grounds the model.
The idea in Ambient Occlusion is that light bounces and at some point that light has bounced enough it is ambient. Ambient Occlusion then is the blocking of general bounce light by adjacent objects. For comparison I am going to switch this out for a raw diffuse texture. This is a straight texture on the building. Notice how everything kind of floats and it's very clean. We can also use Ambient Occlusion as a terrific foundation for dirt. Ambient Occlusion and dirt, grunge, darkness, and general brooding mood tend to cluster in the same places.
It's a fantastic tool for adding both a cinematic mood and realism. We can even model things in high- resolution and put Ambient Occlusion shaders on them, such as this one here, and when we render this image we'll see, well, realism clustering in the corners. We can then apply textures like this as part of a diffuse map or also as a light map in an engine, giving us what looks like extra lighting in detail, which really we're accomplishing with a simple texture. As part of this we'll use the Render to Texture dialog in 3ds Max, which allows us to use those UV sets we have so carefully set up and render different components into them, plus some careful Photoshop work.
We can make Ambient Occlusion enhanced renders.
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