New Skybox and Lighting Bug in Church - September 29, 2015

As mentioned in my last blog entry I am presently working on improving the Church mission textures.

I have experimented with a new skybox that I am debating if it is appropriate enough to keep.   The orginal Swat 3 skyboxes consist of 6 images that are 256x256 pixels that are wrapped around to form a 360 degree view that exists outside the geometry of the map.   They are so low resolution that the original skyboxes are mostly just unfocused blobs of colour.

I am testing out a new skybox that consists of 6 images of 1024x1024 pixels. This makes a huge difference!   The skybox was downloaded from a site for map makers and it is almost a perfect replacement for the original.   The only problem is that mountains shown in the background have a lot more trees than do the hills of Los Angeles.  Everything else is perfect so it is hard to reject it.   The horizon line perfectly matches the original and the clouds are gorgeous.   You can partially see the skybox in the image below.

One thing that I noticed when working on the map is that there a slight shadow problem up on the breezeway (second floor) and is something overlooked by the Sierra developers.   If you look at the image below I artificially highlighted the shadow in question by marking where the portal is (it is more obvious when you see it in game).   The shadow is caused by the portal blocking the light and the result is that it creates a few inches of shadow on the top side of the window ledge.

A short explanation of portals:   The way Swat 3 works is you have to divide up rooms into cells and portals are invisible pieces of geometry that help divide up the different rooms.  You have to block all windows and doorways with these portals so that you don't have any leaks.   One benefit of this portal system is that you can control which rooms the light entities affect.  This also can be a problem if you forget to tell your lights to be able to shine into other rooms.  You end up with a hard shadow (like in the image below) of where the light is literally stopped from entering.

click to enlarge image

At first I thought I discovered the problem and how to fix it.  The Church map has a light entity called "sun" (of course it is the main light entity for outside) and in the section where it assigns what cells the light works in I noticed that it mistakenly said the cell "breezeway-low" instead of "breezeway".  That means that the light wouldn't shine in the "breezeway" since the cell "breezeway-low" didn't even exist.    Unfortunately this didn't fix the problem because of the angle of the light the sun entity didn't actually fall in the breezeway anyways.    It turns out that what the developers did to get some cool looking archway lighting on the breezeway is to have a second light entity that only falls inside the breezeway and the belltower.   It doesn't fall on the outside of the building since it would ruin the lighting on the exterior of the building.   This is what caused the shadow and isn't fixable unless the portals are tweaked.  This is not possible without the original .RMF map files unfortunately.

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