Hello all, this tutorial will touch on the basics of lighting in Emergency 4, an essential part of a mod that can make the difference between a great mod and a mediocre mod. First off I'll touch on the different things you'll encounter in the editor.
This is the most basic part of a light and can be placed wherever you want to see the glow. There's many options for colours, which can come stock, or designed through photo editing programs.
Here you can see the drop down menu letting you select the types of coronas. They're generally pretty basically named, so it shouldn't be too hard to figure out what one you'd like. If you're lighting a unit that has different colour/shades of lights than you see here, you can make a corona file and name it your own, as seen with my corona4_nfk_red.tga.
Files are saved :
Mod:Textures\Coronas and saved as targa files, 32x32 for best results.
Generally speaking again, less is more however more coronas is not the most damaging thing you can do
This is a very controversial part among modders. Too much will ruin your lights, your unit and possibly the game experience. The modders I spoke with on this had divided opinions on how much to use and why.
No radiation, period: While this will certainly increase the overall performance of your units, and prevent any radiation related issues, it's the most extreme and not really necessary.
Basic Radiation Only: This means only placing subtle radiation on brake and headlights. This means that you have at least the basics, but doesn't give you a glowing effect or the ground effects you associate with emergency vehicles in real life.
Heavy Radiation: Putting a radiation box for every flash does provide a realistic lighting effect, which looks great in youtube videos and show cases but it is hard on the old engine that runs this game. Although a unit or two on a map may work well with heavy radiation, when combined with the high poly models that are commonplace now as well as the effects happening in the game, FPS will drop and the mod will become virtually unplayable.
Strategic radiation: As you can tell, this is my preference, so I am biased on this, but where the game is older, even maximized systems will struggle without optimization of every part of the game, including lighting effects. Generally speaking, vehicles will have a main light system, maybe a full sized light bar, or interior lighting systems. The trick is to find the main system functioning and place radiation around it in a way that looks close.
Placing a radiation block near the light will work. For Ambulances where they have perimeter lighting, flash patterns can be emulated following a similar method, just moving the radiation to the lighthead.
A standard LED Lightbar is likely to have a 1-2 pattern, where sides flash opposite to each other. This is particularly common in ambulances and police vehicles. By placing radiation on one light for each flash on each side will help produce a realistic ground effect without being too heavy on resources. While it will not emulate ground effects for perimeter lights or other area lighting, it gives enough detail for bird eye view, like in this game. This type of radiation works best on patterns such as seen on this lightbar:
For vehicles such as fire trucks or vehicles with one rotating light can achieve ground effects that are not taxing, but still can look aesthetically pleasing. Fire Trucks have a weird lighting layout many times, such as the Ladder in Hoppah's LA Mod. The trick lies in placing radiation on sides where lightbars would shine in real life, but by placing them in alternating time flashes as well as slight location differences. When activated, the ground effects will show a flashing effect. It differs from unit to unit, but can be achieve with some playing around and timing.
I complied some images in an album here to show you what I'm talking about.
How to make realistic lights
LED Lights: As vehicles get newer, agencies have been shifting to LED for their superior performance in many areas including brightness, visibility, cost and maintenance. These are pretty easy in comparison to halogen lights, especially the way this game was designed.
Start by placing the corona in the area you want, switch to polygon mode and begin drawing by clicking to place corners. You should try to create a box around the lighthead. What this does is puts a glowing area that is supposedly lit up by the light when it flashes.
Back to light mode, you can set flash frequency and intensity. The former is of course how fast the light blinks and the latter is how quick it turns off. A higher intensity will mean a shorter, quicker blink. When you feel as if you're ready, you can copy and paste the light, changing the flash offset value, which will change timing. Depending on the speed at which your light flashes and the pattern you're trying to emulate, you will range anywhere between. A 1 is on when 0 is off.
For reference, for a standard alternating strobe type pattern, I set speed of 4.00, two lights on either light head, 0.00 and 0.50 offset for the first light, and 1.00 and 1.5 for the other light, all with a 0.95 intensity. Play around with it, see what works for you.
Rotating Lights: This is something that everyone has a totally different way of doing, and you'll probably change your method a dozen times before you find something you like. There's a bunch of methods, so I'll outline some that I've used and been told about.
Single corona: This is the first one that was very popular seen in mods. It's featured in the LA mod and based off of the idea that you see a blink when the light flashes. It's the way the base game started. It's light, but it doesn't look all that great. Don't do it, you're better than that if you're taking the time to read this.
4 alternating coronas in a square pattern: So this is the first way I learned, and it's by placing them in a tight square, with a high intensity, speed and an offset of 0.25 each. This creates a spinning type effect when zoomed out a little bit. The problem is, this means 4 lights for every effect. Not only that but there is also the lack of a "blink" that you see when looking at a light in real life.
4 alternating coronas in a square pattern with flash: I've seen some mods with this lately, it's meant to address the blink you see in real life. You still get a rotating effect and the flash. This addresses one issue, but adds another when it puts in an additional light. The blink is usually timed with one of the other lights' offset
2 coronas with flash: So this is the one I personally use now, as well as many other people coming up. The method is placing two coronas, usually 0.50 offset apart. On models with clear lenses, it's easier to do this. I recommend trying it on this type first as it's easier to place them. Hoppah has a pack in his LA mod to practice on. I place the coronas on either side of the rotator beacon. In the middle then, I place a larger corona, at half way between the offsets (0.00, 0.50 = 0.25) at full intensity to create that blink. I personally also change the corona type to a different one. I may use 5_red for either side and _redlight for the flash. That works for me and my units, but you need to do what works for you and more importantly the units you're representing.
Hopefully this provides a brief overview of the basics, some methods on how to get you started and explains some choices. If you have any questions, comments or your own thoughts to add, please let me know in the comments section