One of the most crucial parts to any game, no matter the style, is how the game is lit up. Now that may seem like an obvious statement. A game with no lighting would be very dull to play if not unplayable without some other twist. But lighting effects are a whole lot more than just simply allowing the player to see what is happening in the game they are playing. Lighting effects, along with how your game is being rendered, can drastically change how your game looks. You can do cool different things with lighting from making a game go from very dull to a photo realistic environment, assuming your assets match that style. Many AAA and indie games do this to enhance the realistic look to them on top of detailed models because it can enhance the look of the game without much additional development time and cost.
In the Unity engine, you have access to four main different types of lighting: spot light, directional light, area light and point light . The most natural looking light is the area light. This is great for lighting up environments that are outside in 3-D games. The other three types of light give you different amounts of concentrated light you can specify on a location. This can be great for indoor light fixtures. Although, most of the time you are wanting to use all of these in various combinations and orientations to get that perfect lighting. You can further customize these light objects to cause lens flares when looked at, have different color of light, and changing how objects appear in shadows. To show you what the Unity engine is capable of with lighting in realtime, here is the 2018 Unity demo:
Another example, albeit less visually stunning, is how you can also make things glow in darkness to get a cool neon look. Here is an example of what I mean from a demo I put together with some geometric shapes:
Now let’s view how it looks in the editor without all of that fancy lighting magic:
Pretty lame, right? The lighting effects alone make a really simple 2-D, geometric shapes level into a visually interesting, neon platformer. (The player is the white block, by the way) Now this is just another example of what you can do with lighting effects in Unity. The big takeaway from this is to realize that even though you may not have the ability or the time to make realistic assets for your game, you can still make a game look incredibly cool looking with lighting effects. In addition, there are hundreds of different ways you can go with lighting but the best way to discover those ways is just to start playing with the tools in Unity once you have yourself a game to apply those effects to.
If you are curious as to how you can get started with some 3-D lighting effects in your game, check out the from Brackeys. It’s a great tutorial on how to do some basic lighting in Unity as well as get some knowledge on what exactly goes on in the engine when it calculates where the light goes from your emitter.