Creating VFX for games, artists have to consider various challenges. First, games have to run smoothly on a wide range of hardware. This means VFX artists have to create effects that look good and perform well on lower-end hardware, which can limit visual fidelity for owners of high-end hardware.
VFX can also significantly weight down the asset size, drastically increasing game storage requirements.
Echoes of Somewhere is a game that needs to run on both low and high-end PCs
According to one of the game creators, Jussi-Petteri Kemppainen, the initial approach to creating the desired smoke effect in Echoes of Somewhere involved using EmberGen, JangaFX real-time fluid simulation software.
The process required exporting pre-rendered flip-book animations.
However, flipbooks can be limiting in terms of fluid simulation duration. Additionally, as far as these textures are baked into the game, limited interaction between the fluid simulations and the 3D game environment was also a concern.
The developer turned to Zibra Smoke & Fire as a potential solution to these challenges. Zibra Smoke & Fire offers real-time, AI-powered smoke and fire simulation for Unity.
“My only concern was performance. I had experimented with Niagara fluids in Unreal 5, and they eat up quite a bit of performance. To the point of being unusable for now.
Luckily, I had a direct connection to the Zibra guys, and they showed me some demos of it running on the iPhone. It ran amazingly well! The quality was great, the frame rate butter smooth.”
The realization process was straightforward. Within the framework of Zibra Smoke & Fire, each manipulator has an SDF (Signed Distance Fields) component, which defines its shape.
This feature empowers users to create emitters in the form of static or skinned meshes. In a given scene, Zibra Smoke & Fire was utilized to add a cylinder emitter to a moving train for generating smoke.
To introduce motion to the smoke particles as the train moved, the “Use Object Velocity” parameter was enabled. This feature determines whether the velocity of the emitter GameObject should be applied to the emitted smoke or fuel particles.
When activated, the emission of smoke or fuel particles combines the velocity of the GameObject with the Initial Velocity settings.
Afterwards, the look of real-time simulated smoke was enhanced with a force field:
“I also created a ground collision shape and a force field that adds random forces & twirls to the smoke to make it look more interesting and natural.”
Fine-tuning the visuals:
Fine-tuning the visuals mainly involved matching the smoke color to the scene. Zibra Smoke & Fire has many built-in parameters that enable users to control the look and behavior of the simulation according to their needs.
The smoke's lighting was adjusted using a directional point light, a part of Zibra Smoke & Fire unique lighting system.
The end result was a realistic, full-screen smoke simulation with complex scene interactions that added only about 2 ms to the frame times, showcasing Zibra Smoke & Fire performance efficiency.