Developed by Harebrained Schemes
Published by Paradox Interactive
Platforms: PC, Xbox Series
Release date: October, 2023
With my third Unity title, Unity finally reached a point where I no longer needed to write custom lighting systems and instead provided us with the High Definition Rendering Pipeline. This was an entirely open source pipeline which meant that instead of having to write systems to awkwardly hand off of various built in callbacks the entire pipeline was laid bare and ready for modification. Early on in production of the project I made a fork of the pipeline and began to work, modifying systems to better suit our art direction and building and hooking up new modules. This even included altering the “master” nodes of the Shadergraph system and the output nodes of the VFXGraph, Unity’s GPU-based particle system. I managed this pipeline for the entire lifecycle of the project and through doing so gained an even deeper understanding of rendering techniques and optimizations than I had before. I implemented many features such as end-to-end color space management and full HDR output support, analytic capsule shadows for actors, weather overlays and a visibility system for fading out environmental geometry that was occluding gameplay.
The most meaningful addition was a custom rendering system for global illumination. Unity had an experimental Probe Volume feature but it was incomplete. Leveraging the fact that our game was based on regular tiles, I created my own probe system that provided automatic probe placement based on a regular grid synced to our combat spaces. This then encoded lighting information from valid probes into a texture sheet along with depth information encoded as octahedral variance shadow maps. This was augmented by adding “indirect only” lights that could be used for lightweight runtime effects, such as transient fires which were injected into their own texture sheet. Finally, this system was tied into the volumetric fog and was able to inject indirect information directly into the light scattering. The game’s use case did not require runtime lighting generation but it was capable of saving multiple sets of data for different lighting setups and loading the required one. As in previous projects at Harebrained Schemes, I was also the primary user of this system and was responsible for implementing lighting across the entirety of our alternate 1930’s game world from lush jungles to moldy libraries and noir city streets all the way to the tower at the end of the world.
This was the first game the studio sim shipped on console with a planned October, 2023 release on both PC and Xbox Series. As such my technical expertise was instrumental in bringing the game’s performance and memory footprint under control using a variety of tools including extensive usage of PIX on Xbox.
I was the primary contributor to all lighting, shader and rendering systems work on all content on this page.