Develop asks Geomerics director Chris Doran what it hopes to achieve with the latest update and the newest tool in its arsenal

Key Release: Enlighten 3 with Forge

Having positioned itself as one of the go-to lighting tools for games developers, Geomerics has just released Enlighten 3.

New features to the tech include more accurate indirect lighting, colour separated directional output, improved light map baking and richer material properties, all shown off in the startling Subway demo.

One of the key features of the latest update is the integration of a newly built lighting editor named Forge. The tool has full support for physically-based shading, and lets artists create real-time lighting for their games and quickly iterate on a scene.

Thanks to import functionality with Autodesk’s 3ds Max and Maya, as well as its modular design, the tool offers a customisable foundation to integrate Enlighten into the development pipeline.

Forging light

Speaking to Develop at GDC, Geomerics director and founder Chris Doran said the tool was designed to get the tech into the hands of artists as soon as possible.

“Sometimes we encourage them to evaluate Enlighten through Unreal Engine, because it’s easy to get hold of, but that can be awkward if they’re trying to test stuff out with their own project,” he says.

“We’ve also developed pure plug-ins for Max and Maya, which have been okay, but we decided we really wanted more control over the renderer ourselves. We didn’t want to be constrained by the Max and Maya viewports, we wanted our own tool that had a thin pipe between the DCC tool and was more representative of the type of tools that you would build into your own game pipeline.

“Forge serves two purposes, it gives artists immediate feedback on what their assets look like, but it can also go straight into your tools pipeline. So you can have a workflow where the assets are created in Max and Maya, they go through Forge and then they go into your engine.”

It’s that ease of integration into existing games development pipelines that Doran hopes will make the tool a more enticing prospect for developers, as he admits while some integrations have been quick and easy, some have been more difficult.

He goes on to say that Forge is more typically aimed at indie and mid-tier devs.

“We looked at what Unity has done with Enlighten and they’ve made it a lot simpler and easier to use, and we’ve taken inspiration from that,” says Doran.

“So Forge is certainly aimed more at the mid-tier and indie firms. A lot of the high-end guys are using Enlighten already, and most of them aren’t going to use it until they’ve seen it in their own engine.

“But for the mid-tier guys, or the guys who don’t have a polished pipeline, Forge makes a lot more sense.”

Lighting up

Another addition to the tech is Silicon Studio’s post-processing effects tool Yebis 3. This adds features such as depth of field, motion blur, customisable glare effects and bokeh to the tool and a scene.

Doran said the partnership came about after Geomerics was looking to add post-processing to Forge, and weighed up whether to build the tech itself or licence some in. He says it was important to have, as this isn’t the sort of thing that every developer has in their pipeline, so the team wanted to make sure artists had these tools available to them in Forge.

“As we’ve always sung the advantages of middleware, we thought well, we should obviously licence it in, it’s the whole point,” says Doran.

“So we looked around and Yebis is clearly leading there. It made a lot of sense. They were strong in a market we’re not so strong.”

He adds: “It solved a big problem for us. We got it all up-and-running pretty quickly. We only really started work on this in January. I think it’s the start of, hopefully, a longer-term relationship.”

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