The term ‘Volumetric Lighting’ might sound unfamiliar to you, but I’m sure you’ve experienced it before in one game or another. One of the most famous examples would be the original Crysis, which is famed for the advanced graphics it had that are still hard to match.
It’s the type of lighting engine that produces beams of light from behind objects or clouds, dubbed ‘heavenly/god rays’ by fans for the resemblance to beams of light descending from the heavens.
Currently, it isn’t common in games, but it seems that it’s going to become the standard for many upcoming games now that we’re entering the eighth generation of gaming consoles.
The new hardware that is available means that console developers can do a lot more with their code, and program a lot more onto the disc. Volumetric lighting is going to be one of those major benefits, as it can really help to set a scene by giving it a unique kind of flare.
When implemented dynamically, it can work with just about any light source, giving the player an absolutely breathtaking view of scenery or just making running through parts of certain maps all that much better.
When you consider that bloom dominated lighting engines in many games at the start of the current-gen cycle, this kind of trend could mean that we’re moving away from such things in favor of even more photo-realistic maps and backdrops for all of our favorite game series, and many new upcoming ones.
Throw in stuff such as real-time reflections, and devs doing even more to do away with chromatic abberation, and we can expect to see some absolutely stunning games being developed in the next few years.
Effects such as lens flare could also be mostly replaced with volumetric lighting, making for a more pleasant experience overall in any game, without having to lose any of the intended effect.