If I were to pre-bake Global Illumination into light maps using a high quality renderer like Mental Ray or PRman, and loaded it into two different engines such as Unity and Unreal, would there be a noticeable difference in quality?

If there is a difference, could you give me a few examples of engines that are better at it than others?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Global illumination for games is typically "don't factor in lighting", so a lot of engines don't even bother. If you want something mental-ray would give, you are better off baking that into the texture. \$\endgroup\$ – Kirbinator Oct 13 '13 at 23:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ For a minimal lightmap the only difference could be gamma, but this is what Half-Life 1 looks like (diffuse only). --- Use the engines built-in lighting so you can have dynamic objects efficient and pretty, as well as effects like specular and lens-flare. --- Maybe consider CryEngine if you want it oozing with eye candy. \$\endgroup\$ – MickLH Oct 13 '13 at 23:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirbinator So baking directly into the textures is better than lightmaps when looking for high quality GI? \$\endgroup\$ – Simon Oct 13 '13 at 23:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MickLH Ah so the trick is to put as much static detail into the bake render, and then let the engine handle things that are dynamic, whether they're dependent on camera movement or object movement? \$\endgroup\$ – Simon Oct 13 '13 at 23:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Simon Usually the engine can even do the bake render for you. All lights are dynamic with camera movement because of the way real light works. Even a piece of paper has a significant specular component. \$\endgroup\$ – MickLH Oct 14 '13 at 0:02

As long as color space is handled properly in each engine and you do not use any of the engines lighting effects, they will be the same.

Dynamic effects such as SSAO will cause there to be a noticeable difference if you use the engines to their fullest.

  • \$\begingroup\$ thank you so much @MickLH. Question answered AND I learned essentials about integrating GI. \$\endgroup\$ – Simon Oct 14 '13 at 0:28

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