Speaking of The Shining, I picked up “dr. Sleep” a few weeks ago, Stephen Kings official successor to The Shining. Little Danny becomes a big drunk Danny –like daddy-, and tries to make something useful of its life and unfortunate gift to see dead people. In the meanwhile, a cult of vampire like “human” is cruis’n through USA, feeding themselves. With paranormal kids.
About halfway the book now, and all in all it’s an amusing read. But scary… maybe I’m too lazy to get myself scared, but it just didn’t really happen so far. Dan’s fight against his visions and alcoholism is very convincing. The vampire family on the other hand may have been better in another book. Twilight or something.
Anyhow. Back to blood and intestines. One thing that annoys me in quite a lot of movies and games, is that –despite modern technology- they don’t always draw it in a convincing way. And I’m not talking about German games (in Germany, all organisms have green blood). You shoot a zombie, and instead of old dried brown chunky guts, it sprays pink juices. You blow up a bunch of soldiers, and all you get is some flying ragdolls and orange sticky “Gak!” flying around. You chainsaw a bear in half, and 4 seconds later the room looks clean again as all the mess was cleaned up by invisible Mexicans. If the blood doesn’t look disgusting, the whole “eeeww gross!” effect will be ruined in a split second.
Bicycle-kicking someone in the face would spawn some greyish sweat-stuff in MK1. Something with censoring. The second MK on the other hand opened Pandora’s box. A single uppercut could spawn three ears, six eyeballs, and more liters of blood than a human can actually carry. Excellent!
Three heads?! I'm not kidding, the very first shot I found on MK.
As I said, a movie or game doesn’t necessarily need blood to be scary, but if we do it, we’d better do it good. I liked how Doom3 or Silent Hill did it for example. Silent Hill didn’t forgot to hire invisible Mexican cleaners, the entire SH world looks like if God took a gigantic crap on it. Thin bloody splatter diarrhea to be more precise. Blood doesn’t automatically generate a scary setting, but in Silent Hill everything is so dark, foggy and dirty, that you almost can’t breathe. Literally. Discovering a clean, “normal” room in SH feels like a relief. The continuous overwhelming “filth” brings the player in an unreal, nightmarish, uncomfortable setting. Doom3 wasn’t that much of a shithole, but I found it really interesting to study the shiny specular lighting (quite new at that time) on the bloodpools and slimy intestines that penetrate the Mars base. Then looking at a modern game like Crysis 2 again, the blood effects look like Play-Doh.
Tower22 will become quite bloody here and there, though the focus is not on gore. Most of the environments won’t be decorated with pig stomachs, and neither will you decapitate a whole lot of monsters. But if the red magical fluid makes an appearance, we’ll do our best to make it look like Hell. Easier said than done though. And this is where the post becomes slightly more technical. Since realtime fluid dynamics are still far away from games, most blood effects are based on decals and flying particles. If not done carefully, particles quickly become like a simplistic MS-Paint Spraybrush of red pixels.
Decals might be a bit easier, but also have some special features. Like most liquids, blood is reflective. But not for too long, as it gets soaked by the surface, resulting in a dried, dark-red / brownish spot. To simulate such characteristics a bit, you’ll need to pick a good blending method. Standard transparency methods may result in a red pool that doesn’t blend very well with its underground. Multiplying seems to work much better, but I found the resulting colors still too reddish and bright in my test cases. So, I implemented a “Color Burn” blend method. It doesn’t always work out either, but on the majority of somewhat darker undergrounds in T22, you get a nasty, dark & rich fluid.
Another effect you rarely see (last time for me was in Duke Nukem 3D), are the fluid dynamics itself. Once a decal splats on a wall, it sticks there as if you shot a red paintball pellet. If the surface is smooth, the fluid would likely pour down though. Or how about shooting someone wearing a nice blue sweater? If games support decals on characters at all, they often show you a big reddish hole straight away. In reality, you may not see anything for a moment, then a darkish circle starts appearing and growing on that nice blue sweater. Not very relevant for T22 monsters, as most of them will be naked likely. But the point is, if engines would put just 0,1% of all their graphical artillery into making a bit more creative blood effects, the world would be a redder, uhm better, place. Since the majority of super-heavy-weight engines is made for shooters, it’s quite weird that they stick with 10 year old cheap tricks for gun wounds. Or maybe that has more to do with keeping the age limit below 18 for sales…
Used ingredients here: a projective decal with lots of red, some reflections, and a burn-blend modus. Bon apetit!