By George Maciver

Perhaps the most important part of the whole Tomb Raider experience is the lighting. Without careful lighting, there is no atmosphere, and without atmosphere there is no Tomb Raider. It isn't about darkness nor is it about brightness. It's about atmosphere.

There are no 'rules' to lighting, and every room will be different. The textures you pick, the time of day you set your adventure and the location of your story will all affect your lighting. But the following method which I use will get you started.

First build your room and texture it. There is no lighting applied here at all. The room has the editor standard starting ambience of 128,128,128. In the editor and in game the room looks terrible. No one would enjoy Raiding in an atmosphere like this. Even Lara herself is bland and lifeless. We need to start work on the lighting!

The Sun Bulb
Like I said, the following method is not a rule. This is how I work and you will no doubt discover far better methods which are infinitely more effective. But for complete beginners just learning the editor, this will get you going building some reasonable rooms with a little atmosphere.

The first thing I do is turn the room ambience down to 32,32,32. Then I put a sun bulb in, adjust the X axis to 20 so the sun lights a part of the floor, the Y axis I spin round until I find the best effect, and I decrease the sun's intensity to around 0.37.

In game you can already see BIG improvements! The room has a little atmosphere and Lara has a lovely silky 3D sheen about her skin. Much better! Always, always, always put a sun bulb in every room so Lara has this gorgeous sheen about her.

But, to be honest, the room is a little plain. I use three basic methods to liven up a room or an area, and here they are.
The first is flame emitters. You can also use simple bulbs turned red with their radiance diameter reduced to around 2 from 5 and their intensity softened to give the flames more of a natural glow.

In game the room is much improved.

My second method is water. Adjust the water room to say 0,16,48 and it will look bluish, which is natural for water. A simple bulb plopped on the surface and turned blue will enhance the effect. And if you hit the R button, the dry room will cast a lovely reflection from the water. This is a perfect way to highlight the middle of a dull room!

Shafts of Daylight or Moonlight
My third main method is to open the roof and let some light in from the sky. This can be very dramatic, especially in darkish levels like caves or jungles. A bulb placed on the ceiling where the light object shines down and one on the floor to simulate light hitting the ground can produce some lovely effects. Not only that, but it brightens the room while keeping it dark! Perhaps now you begin to see how you can produce dark levels which are bright! This is an art, a field which I'm still very much a beginner in.

And, of course, you can mix all these effects to produce some incredibly atmospheric rooms, like this one which I actually used in The Imprisoned Spirits 3 (writing tutorials has its benefits!)

Now that you know my secrets, look at these two shots from Jungle Ruins 2. Here you can see all my lighting techniques used together. You can produce some startling environments using very basic tools!

Why not be bold to really bring your atmosphere to life!

The Scroll of Seti by D Ray

Adjusting Ambient Room Lighting
By George Maciver

When adjusting the lighting of rooms, you can adjust the colour settings incrementally all together without having to do them one at a time.

This is especially useful if you have the colour shading perfect, but it's too dark or too light and you don't want to lose the overall colour balance.

It is also very useful when starting with a brand new room which has the lighting fully up. You can lower all three colour tints simultaneously. Saves heaps of time and cuts the frustration factor considerably.

Simply hold down the Alt key while adjusting the light settings with your mouse.

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Last update: 15/08/2007