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Creating FX for the Mobile Space

Creating fx, or effects, for use in the mobile space is a bit different than in the social or the console worlds. As you’ve done throughout this chapter, you will need to make effects that will work within a mobile game engine, but aren’t so memory heavy that they stop the game. This is where art and tech meet. Most of these methods require a mixture of 2D and 3D work from the artist, followed by implementation by an engineer.

Using 3D Effects

3D effects replicate an event using the tools that exist in a 3D program or engine. They may consist of any number of 3D functions played together. For instance, an explosion effect might have a particle system running for the debris, another particle system running for the expanding light particles, and another for the smoke. All three of these particle systems coming together make what looks just like something blew up.

Particle systems tend to consist of an emitter, which acts as a nozzle that distributes the particles in a certain direction. In most 3D packages, it is represented by a square with a pointy bit in the middle.

The second piece of the particle system is a small bit of geometry that is replicated and given physical properties such as weight. It can also be textured and have lighting applied to it. 3D software packages usually include several premade shapes to choose from that have been proven to be low-poly-count friendly. But you can also substitute your own if you like.

The last element is the force applied to the particle, which includes parameters such as speed, strength, and turbulence.

Most 3D software and game engines have premade effects to replicate smoke, fire, explosions, and water. These effects are open, so if you wanted to alter the color of the fire or produce a bigger explosion, you could drag some sliders to make those changes.

Starting off with a premade particle effect is always easier than creating one from scratch. You can purchase a ton of very inexpensive effects libraries for this purpose. If you consider how long it could take you to make an effect on your own, premade effects are often cheaper.

Using 2D Effects

2D effects, often called sprites, are simply an animated sequence of images that are played when an effect event is triggered. This means you can illustrate them, or use a photo, or even create them in 3D and then render them as a movie sequence.

How does a 2D projected image sequence hold up in a 3D world? Not too bad. It is possible to always align the effect to the camera view so that no matter how you rotate around the object in the game, the effect is always seen from the perspective you intended. Do 2D effects look as good as a 3D-rendered particle system? No, they do not always look so great, but if your choice is a 2D effect or nothing (as is often the case in the memory-stingy mobile world), you take the 2D effect.

The problem is that 3D effects are just too memory expensive to use all over the place, so they are generally saved for the more important moments such as killing the end boss. The hundreds of disposable bad guys you shoot on your way through the level just get the 2D treatment.

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