Is VFX a special effect, or is it a simple animation? Everyone would probably agree that VFX is somehow related to graphics and explosions and other effects that most of us love in games. But what is actually behind this term, and how does designing VFX for games work? It’s important to know the correct answers to these questions when developing any kind of game: mobile, PC, VR, etc.

The good news is that we we've got all the information you need about making VFX for games, speaking from our broad experience in its creation. You’ll also learn about VFX for games and where you can get visual effects services.

What is VFX in Games?

VFX (visual effects) are animations that VFX artists design in order to make a game look more realistic and impress players, and they are not the same as special effects. We can also say that VFX is a process of creating lifelike actions and effects in game scenes using graphic tools and specific software. You can learn more about how VFX is used today to understand it better.

Usually, video game VFX are divided into two categories — gameplay effects and peripheral effects. For example, artists create stunning explosions, portals into different dimensions, and other impressive effects at the forefront of the player's attention. At the same time, peripheral effects are about the creation of more subtle things, like heavy rain, wind, dust, smog, and other natural phenomena.

The best gaming experience is usually delivered with real-time VFX, which means that an effect occurs as events are happening during active gameplay. We can determine that the VFX of a game takes place in real time when the whole process occurs in less than 1/60th of a second. This creates the effect of surprise and evokes an emotional response in a player.

What Kinds of Visual Effects are Used in Games?

VFX is a general name of a process that can also be called the VFX pipeline, and is divided into several types. Depending on what goal it’s necessary to achieve, the VFX team can perform just one or all of the kinds below together.

  • Morphing is a process of transforming one object into another. It’s like magic that can’t be performed in the real world, but totally possible in games. For example, some game characters use magic skills to transform themselves into fantastic animals, or when characters make a magic weapon appear in their hands.

  • Motion capture (MOCAP) is a process of recording real movements and transferring them into a game in digital form. In addition, recorded movements can be performed by a character/animal of any look. For example, the role of “Cyberpunk 2077”’s main character was assigned to Keanu Reeves. Accordingly, he performed all his character’s movements, and VFX artists recorded and transferred them into the game.

  • The computer-generated images (CGI) method is used to create additional features for game characters or some scenes. There's a great story of CGI advancement in gaming that has led to CGI being widely used in games now that might be interesting to you. The process works in much the same way as motion capture: the game actor is recorded in real life. Then VFX artists take the actor's topology as a basis, translate it into CGI, and add the necessary details to create a unique appearance for the game character.

VFX for Games on Different Platforms

Designing VFX for mobile games

The most significant visual effects feature in mobile games is that mobile devices have a smaller screen and lower performance than PCs and consoles. This means that the design of VFX for mobile games should be lightweight and less detailed. Its main task is to fulfill its basic functions. That is, to display the player's interactions with the game and create the necessary details of the gameplay and periphery.

Motion capture is not used for mobile games’ VFX since the characters are too small and have a limited range of movements, so it makes no sense. In addition, the budget for creating mobile games is usually smaller than for PC, VR, and console games, so there is no reason to spend it on acting and the MOCAP process.

Designing VFX for PCs, consoles, and other platforms

Quality VFX for gaming on PCs, consoles, VR headsets, etc., is a must. Compared to mobile games, other platforms have a larger screen and performance, allowing for more complex gameplay and detailed design. Particular attention should be paid to visual effects for VR games and games on consoles, as this hardware should provide the most immersive effect. When designing games for these platforms, VFX artists usually apply as many creative methods as possible in order to achieve realism and entertainment.

How to Make VFX for Games: Top Software

Video game VFX artists usually apply different software and tools for certain visual effect types. As each software has its benefits and strong sides, many VFX artists combine them to achieve the most stunning effect. So here is a list of top programs that can be helpful in visual effect development.

3Ds Max

In the event that you want more control over the intricacies of visual effectsl, 3Ds Max software is an excellent option. Its set of tools allows you to pay special attention to rendering, detailing, and quality design. In addition, you can animate assets created from scratch and transfer motion capture to digital format, and process scenes using CGI. In short, the program provides all the capabilities for full-fledged VFX development.

Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects has dedicated software for developing visual effects, animations, motion graphics, etc. The After Effects features and toolbar are great for designing stunning visuals for games in detail. In addition, the program is ideal for rotoscoping and motion tracking, which is why most VFX artists focus on these tasks when choosing Adobe After Effects.

Unreal Engine and Unity

Unreal Engine and Unity are both platforms for game development, so they provide many tools for creating visual effects for games. You can make basic gameplay and environment effects for games on any gaming platform.

The main advantage of this method is that you can develop a game and VFX for games in Unreal 4 or Unity using the same software and also use an in-editor to test the performance of visual effects. In addition, in such game engines, you can find ready-made assets that can be customized to suit your needs and save time.

How to Get Stunning VFX with Minimum Effort

As you can see, designing flawless visual effects for games is no piece of cake. Depending on the level of complexity and realism of the desired VFX, this process may require a team of experts to achieve the goal — starting from animators to composers and 3D artists.

So how do you make VFX for video games with minimum effort, if it’s so hard to achieve? The answer is simple — outsource! 3D-Ace is a professional studio focused on 2D/3D art, animation, and other design-related services. Our expertise is proven by our VFX development portfolio and dozens of completed projects. And most importantly, we are ready to save your time and effort for more important things that require your attention!

So contact us now, so that we can provide you with relevant development information and discuss your expectations!

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