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VFX Pipeline in Games? Guide with VFX Process and Tools

VFX Pipeline in Games? Guide with VFX Process and Tools

Invogames

Game Animation

|

October 11, 2023

|

3 min read

VFX Pipeline is the most critical process in the television, movies, and video game industry. It serves as the foundation for creating game characters, environments, art, and game assets. 

 

Famous games such as Grand Theft Auto V, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and The Last of Us Part II give a realistic look to the game by using the VFX pipeline for development. 

 

This blog will look at the complete workflow of visual effects and the technology it uses to achieve visual objectives in a game.

 

What is a VFX Pipeline?

 

VFX pipeline is a structured and organized workflow that maps the stages and procedures to create realistic visual effects for video games. For a VFX pipeline of any production, the stages might vary. However, there are three primary stages of creating game art, i.e., pre-production, production, and post-production. The process includes research and development, asset creation, animation, rendering, and compositing for producing the final product. 

 

The VFX Workflow for Game Development

 

The VFX workflow is a detailed process that consists of three stages. Let’s take a look at three main stages and the processes that come under them. 

 

VFX Workflow for Game Development

 

Pre-production

 

The pre-production phase includes the preliminary aspects of developing visual effects. In this stage, three processes are involved: research and development, storyboarding and animatics, and pre-visualization. 

 

Research and Development 

 

As the name suggests, all the resources, VFX supervisors, and technical directors discuss the project's requirements. They discuss the technical aspects and technical documentation of the visual effects in the game. During this process, the visual directors also ensure that all the files are compatible with the process and can work smoothly. Once all the requirements for storyboarding and workflow are completed, it's time to start storyboarding and animations. 

 

Storyboarding and Animatics

 

In this process, the VFX artists visually represent all the actions, characters, and animations to create a compelling storyline. It starts by making rough sketches of the game objects (environments, characters, props) and illustrates the frames shot-by-shot. The purpose of storyboarding and animations is to give a solid storyline to the designers and developers to start the development phase. 

 

Pre-visualization 

 

It is also known as Previs, in which game designers use storyboards to create high-fidelity models, low-poly game designs and objects, and scene representations. With particular reference to game development, pre-visualization works for creating game design and further refining the game characters and other drawings. 

 

Production

 

In the production stage, all the development of low poly models takes place, and the drawings are converted into realistic creatures. Under the production stage, 3D Modeling is done, which sets the foundation for all the following stages. Let's cover it in a brief detail. 

 

3D Modeling

 

3D Modeling

 

In this process, 3D modelers convert the low-poly models into high-poly models that are realistic and humanoid creatures. Let's take the example of a character in which first a character is drawn. The next step is to create the low-poly model and convert it into a high-poly model to make it as realistic as possible. However, 3D Modeling is not limited to humanoid faces; it includes buildings, vehicles, and other game assets. 

 

In the VFX pipeline, the role of 3D Modeling is to create an immersive and realistic look. Once 3D Modeling is completed, the following process is rigging and animating the model, which comes in the post-production stage.

 

Post-Production 

 

It is the last stage of the VFX pipeline in which the designers, VFX artists and specialists, modelers, and game artists work together to create compelling effects that take the digital world to a whole new level. 

 

Rigging and Animation

 

It is a technique in which the skeletons are made for 2D and 3D models to manipulate their movement to make them look realistic. Through rigging, the modelers or game artists define the deformation movements of a body or an object to make it real. For example, a hero may be able to bend their arms, twist their torso, or blink their eyes through the rigging technique. 

 

Once the 3D models are rigged, animators shoot the high-poly models to create actions. Animators use techniques like looping, easing, blend trees, and keyframes to develop smooth animations for compelling storytelling and immersion. 

 

VFX Simulation

 

Visual effects artists make sure that game animations and all effects are well-timed and perform in symmetry when a user plays them. The process of VFX simulation ensures that the special effects added to the digitally created environment are well-executed. Also, immersive and VR games work on the technical aspects that bring the game world to life. 

 

Texturing 

 

It is a technique for game objects, environments, and characters to give 2D and 3D models texture that provides a detailed and realistic look. The primary purpose of texturing is for the surface of the objects to enhance the overall appearance.

 

models texturing

 

There are five critical texturing elements, i.e., diffuse maps, normal maps, specular maps, bump maps, and materials. 

 

  • Diffuse Maps: Provide base color and texture information.
  • Normal Maps: Simulate surface details, enhancing lighting effects.
  • Specular Maps: Control the reflection of light on surfaces.
  • Bump Maps: Create the illusion of depth and surface imperfections.
  • Materials: Define how surfaces react to light and environmental factors.

 

Lighting and Rendering 

 

Lighting and Rendering

 

These are the last two steps of the VFX pipeline for game development. The lighting technique creates the final look with proper baking, lighting, and shadow. At the same time, rendering is a technique that converts images into frames that can be displayed on screen. It converts the information from a virtual three-dimensional world into a form that players can interact with. 

 

VFX Tools and Software

 

Game developers and artists need high-end tools or software for complex and high-quality visual effects productions. Here are the five top VFX tools and software: 

 

VFX Tools and Software

 

Autodesk

 

It is considered one of the best tools for developing visual effects in games, as it fulfills the requirements of modern production pipelines. It is one of the best software that seamlessly integrates CGI-generated effects with live-action shots. Many game developers use Autodesk for its features packed with multiple other tools, including Maya, 3ds Max, MotionBuilder, ShortGrid, Medbox, and Flame. 

 

Adobe After Effects

 

The tools add weather graphics, 3D animations, lens flare, drifting smoke rise, and control weather on screen in the animations. It uses explosive and motion graphic features to create realistic effects on the VFX production of the game. Another feature of using Adobe After Effects is that it removes the distraction and unwanted objects with its Content-Aware Fill feature. 

 

Houdini 

 

Houdini is another tool for producing visual effects, which is best for research and development. It also helps add customized effects, integrate game animations, effects rendering, and character modeling. Houdini is the best if you are looking for a holistic tool that gives VFX simulation modules. It works on the node-based workflow that helps add explosions, grains, destructions, and similar workflows. 

 

Blender

 

It is an open-source freeware tool used for VFX production in games. It is used for rigging, animation, Modeling, and composting. Moreover, it also has tutorials that help learners and beginners improve their concepts and gain knowledge to develop VFX from scratch and take it to final production. 

 

Add Visual Effects To Your Game 

 

Make your game look amazingly realistic with top-quality visual effects and renders that make your gameplay one-of-a-kind. Hire our expert visual effects artists and augment your team within no time that works exclusively for your project.

 

Reach out to us today, and let's discuss your project. 

 

VFX Pipeline is the most critical process in the television, movies, and video game industry. It serves as the foundation for creating game characters, environments, art, and game assets. 

 

Famous games such as Grand Theft Auto V, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and The Last of Us Part II give a realistic look to the game by using the VFX pipeline for development. 

 

This blog will look at the complete workflow of visual effects and the technology it uses to achieve visual objectives in a game.

 

What is a VFX Pipeline?

 

VFX pipeline is a structured and organized workflow that maps the stages and procedures to create realistic visual effects for video games. For a VFX pipeline of any production, the stages might vary. However, there are three primary stages of creating game art, i.e., pre-production, production, and post-production. The process includes research and development, asset creation, animation, rendering, and compositing for producing the final product. 

 

The VFX Workflow for Game Development

 

The VFX workflow is a detailed process that consists of three stages. Let’s take a look at three main stages and the processes that come under them. 

 

VFX Workflow for Game Development

 

Pre-production

 

The pre-production phase includes the preliminary aspects of developing visual effects. In this stage, three processes are involved: research and development, storyboarding and animatics, and pre-visualization. 

 

Research and Development 

 

As the name suggests, all the resources, VFX supervisors, and technical directors discuss the project's requirements. They discuss the technical aspects and technical documentation of the visual effects in the game. During this process, the visual directors also ensure that all the files are compatible with the process and can work smoothly. Once all the requirements for storyboarding and workflow are completed, it's time to start storyboarding and animations. 

 

Storyboarding and Animatics

 

In this process, the VFX artists visually represent all the actions, characters, and animations to create a compelling storyline. It starts by making rough sketches of the game objects (environments, characters, props) and illustrates the frames shot-by-shot. The purpose of storyboarding and animations is to give a solid storyline to the designers and developers to start the development phase. 

 

Pre-visualization 

 

It is also known as Previs, in which game designers use storyboards to create high-fidelity models, low-poly game designs and objects, and scene representations. With particular reference to game development, pre-visualization works for creating game design and further refining the game characters and other drawings. 

 

Production

 

In the production stage, all the development of low poly models takes place, and the drawings are converted into realistic creatures. Under the production stage, 3D Modeling is done, which sets the foundation for all the following stages. Let's cover it in a brief detail. 

 

3D Modeling

 

3D Modeling

 

In this process, 3D modelers convert the low-poly models into high-poly models that are realistic and humanoid creatures. Let's take the example of a character in which first a character is drawn. The next step is to create the low-poly model and convert it into a high-poly model to make it as realistic as possible. However, 3D Modeling is not limited to humanoid faces; it includes buildings, vehicles, and other game assets. 

 

In the VFX pipeline, the role of 3D Modeling is to create an immersive and realistic look. Once 3D Modeling is completed, the following process is rigging and animating the model, which comes in the post-production stage.

 

Post-Production 

 

It is the last stage of the VFX pipeline in which the designers, VFX artists and specialists, modelers, and game artists work together to create compelling effects that take the digital world to a whole new level. 

 

Rigging and Animation

 

It is a technique in which the skeletons are made for 2D and 3D models to manipulate their movement to make them look realistic. Through rigging, the modelers or game artists define the deformation movements of a body or an object to make it real. For example, a hero may be able to bend their arms, twist their torso, or blink their eyes through the rigging technique. 

 

Once the 3D models are rigged, animators shoot the high-poly models to create actions. Animators use techniques like looping, easing, blend trees, and keyframes to develop smooth animations for compelling storytelling and immersion. 

 

VFX Simulation

 

Visual effects artists make sure that game animations and all effects are well-timed and perform in symmetry when a user plays them. The process of VFX simulation ensures that the special effects added to the digitally created environment are well-executed. Also, immersive and VR games work on the technical aspects that bring the game world to life. 

 

Texturing 

 

It is a technique for game objects, environments, and characters to give 2D and 3D models texture that provides a detailed and realistic look. The primary purpose of texturing is for the surface of the objects to enhance the overall appearance.

 

models texturing

 

There are five critical texturing elements, i.e., diffuse maps, normal maps, specular maps, bump maps, and materials. 

 

  • Diffuse Maps: Provide base color and texture information.
  • Normal Maps: Simulate surface details, enhancing lighting effects.
  • Specular Maps: Control the reflection of light on surfaces.
  • Bump Maps: Create the illusion of depth and surface imperfections.
  • Materials: Define how surfaces react to light and environmental factors.

 

Lighting and Rendering 

 

Lighting and Rendering

 

These are the last two steps of the VFX pipeline for game development. The lighting technique creates the final look with proper baking, lighting, and shadow. At the same time, rendering is a technique that converts images into frames that can be displayed on screen. It converts the information from a virtual three-dimensional world into a form that players can interact with. 

 

VFX Tools and Software

 

Game developers and artists need high-end tools or software for complex and high-quality visual effects productions. Here are the five top VFX tools and software: 

 

VFX Tools and Software

 

Autodesk

 

It is considered one of the best tools for developing visual effects in games, as it fulfills the requirements of modern production pipelines. It is one of the best software that seamlessly integrates CGI-generated effects with live-action shots. Many game developers use Autodesk for its features packed with multiple other tools, including Maya, 3ds Max, MotionBuilder, ShortGrid, Medbox, and Flame. 

 

Adobe After Effects

 

The tools add weather graphics, 3D animations, lens flare, drifting smoke rise, and control weather on screen in the animations. It uses explosive and motion graphic features to create realistic effects on the VFX production of the game. Another feature of using Adobe After Effects is that it removes the distraction and unwanted objects with its Content-Aware Fill feature. 

 

Houdini 

 

Houdini is another tool for producing visual effects, which is best for research and development. It also helps add customized effects, integrate game animations, effects rendering, and character modeling. Houdini is the best if you are looking for a holistic tool that gives VFX simulation modules. It works on the node-based workflow that helps add explosions, grains, destructions, and similar workflows. 

 

Blender

 

It is an open-source freeware tool used for VFX production in games. It is used for rigging, animation, Modeling, and composting. Moreover, it also has tutorials that help learners and beginners improve their concepts and gain knowledge to develop VFX from scratch and take it to final production. 

 

Add Visual Effects To Your Game 

 

Make your game look amazingly realistic with top-quality visual effects and renders that make your gameplay one-of-a-kind. Hire our expert visual effects artists and augment your team within no time that works exclusively for your project.

 

Reach out to us today, and let's discuss your project. 

 

frequently asked questions

The primary role of VFX in games is to enhance the overall visual appearance of the game. The unique visual effects improve the storyline, bring immersion, character animation, and atmosphere, and optimize the overall gameplay.

VFX artist is responsible for creating immersive and realistic effects for the gameplay according to the game genre and storyline. A VFX artist is responsible for the following:

  • Effect Creation 
  • Asset integration
  • Optimization
  • Scalability 
  • Documentation
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