Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dark areas

Reading this blog post from Kamal made me realise something. I always liked dark areas too, and have my preferred interior lighting to give the desired effect. Dungeons and caves should be dark and shadowy, to be atmospheric and tense places to visit. Most of the creatures have darkvision, so other than roasting hobbits, won't need lots of lit fires. But then along comes the PC. Chances are they will have a torch, but chances are they'll also have a mage. Who can cast Light. Or maybe a race with darkvision. And then all sense of atmosphere is lost. It's something that has always bugged me, but I hadn't quite put my finger on it. The Light and darkvision VFX makes things too washed-out bright - now everything is too stark, the murky cave walls look grainy - all that effort with carefully place lights lerping between phosphorescent colors is wasted. Yes, these effects should make things more visible, but it'd be nice if there was some murkiness left. Maybe having light create an effect like carrying a torch would be a better bet... or tweaking the bloom in these areas so the don't light things up as much (but then would need placed lights being tweaked)...

It's less of an issue in exteriors. In the OD&D campaign I play in, I've always liked the idea that the thief scouts ahead just at the edge of the light source held by the rest of the party, looking for traps in the gloom, but hopefully hidden to suprise the goblins that run down the passage after the main party.


Amraphael said...

Tell me about the dark :) Pitch black should be... pitch black. But it comes with a price. The Obsidian torches is really a Friday car. They loses their light in a intermittent way. It's also a really hard job to make dark areas interesting as the player don't see so much of it and the tiles aren't so narrow as one would wish.

Nice screenies!

Jclef said...

I hear that - Dark vision, the Light Spell, those rings (cyan, jade, etc)... they all screw the feeling!

That second screen shot of the exterior area - you do that?

Wyrin said...

ZORK worked well by limiting lighting to torches so the atmosphere wasn't lost. Speaking if which shouldn't you be releasing something...? ;)

jclef - thanks. The second screenie is a (heavily modified) prefab actually

Raith Veldrin said...

I love dark areas too. Although I had quite a few complaints about the Undermill in the first mod because I left it so dark that a torch/spell/magic item/racial ability was required.

I think there are the type of casual gamers who want things bright enough to see without effort (possibly the same crowd that doesn't mind the highlight key much at all). Then there's the other side who really enjoys the "true" dungeon effect of darkness and keeping the party in strategic formation with the lightsource(s).

It is a real chore to strike a balance that can be enjoyed by both mindsets without giving them the overall impression that it didn't go far enough (one way or the other).

The Highlight (Z/Tab/etc) can also ruin the exploration of some areas since with a quickglance, a player can see which items to gravitate toward. All of that time spent on filling an area can be lost in the darkness and not scene because the looking around aspect isn't required).

SoU changed most of that (at least that's about the time I remember it) with the introduction of more trigger based events. These forced a player to physically occupy a part of the walkmesh and things couldn't be cheated with a keystroke, forcing them to really explore and area.

Again though, you will have varied reactions to these sorts of challenges depending on the type of player it is presented to.

Anonymous said...

dark should be dark.
but not being left in the dark.

that grue over there looks hungry....