Masahiro Sakurai's latest Famitsu column has been released, and it happens to be his last for 2019. In the article, titled "Draw light, not objects." Sakurai discusses various graphical development techniques and thoughts. We've gone ahead and translated the article for you. Please note, this is a general summary of the column. It's a long one, so be sure to settle in.
Sakurai says, during development meetings, he talks about dozens of things to be checked for supervised projects, usually with dozens of people. There is often a need to repeat the explanations from the beginning, regardless of whether the staff is new or old. Recently, Sakurai thought about his daily life as a director. Occasionally, items he points out in these meetings are where staff get caught up in development. He adds that writing every single point is a bit much, but if he were to write about his thoughts in a column once in a while, it may help other developers.
This time Sakurai wants to talk about backgrounds – the background of the stage and more. There is terrain and the distant background. There is an element of “drawing light, not drawing objects.” There is a lot of work to be done to make a background work. To explain in the simplest terms, the terrain where the character fights and navigates is composed of polygons. By pasting a texture on it, and applying light, it looks like the real thing. Most modellers can do a good job of getting polygonal shapes and textures at the object level. Trees are trees, grasses are grass, rocks are rocks, buildings are buildings, and so on. The texture is beautiful with the photo material alone, but it is not enough. Even if it is correct as an object, it does not improve the landscape. It's not as simple as putting it under the same light source or applying the same perspective for every object and texture.
Sakurai adds that game consoles are, surprisingly, often not as powerful as developers would perhaps want them to be. Tricks and techniques are used to make games look as good as absolutely possible and move realistically while pushing the capability of the console.
Regardless of the work that you want to do until ray tracing, you can modify the design through material composition, diffused reflected light, highlights, contour lighting, drop shadows and self-shadows, bump map, fog and more. These functions are combined to a singular point. Artwork first checked by each artist tends to be closely related to the object. Sakurai feels Japanese people tend to be slightly insensitive to subtle changes in light and dark because their eyes are typically darker than westerners.
Sakurai says when drawing trees and forests, instead of sticking solely to designing the colours and shapes of the leaves correctly, try drawing light as it interacts with the leaves. It is important not to see a tree as a singular entity, but instead as a group of individuals. He adds that it may be easy to understand if you imagine a white spray from the direction of the light source. Try increasing the priority of those elements. Sakurai thinks it is good to review it in monochrome; to check if there is a correct sense of volume from a bird's-eye view. If individual objects are created correctly, there is no reason to create a solid background. If the tone is satisfied, it won't be necessary. The background of the game should be a combination of many pieces. You have to create the illusion that there is something that is not there.
Sakurai ends saying it's always important to remember that you're drawing light reflected on an object, not an object, and wishes good luck to all video game developers.
What are your thoughts on Sakurai's views on graphic development? Do you want to see his thoughts on other elements of game development in the future? Be sure to let us know in the comments!