SImcity Blog: Image Filters

Hi – Ocean Quigley here to tell you about some of the final touches I’m adding to SimCity.

A big part of what makes a game look beautiful is the way that all of the colors work together. Usually, an artist does what’s called “color grading” to make everything look just right. You’ve probably seen examples of it in movies – think of the sepia tones of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” or the vivid greens and reds of “Amélie” or the teal and orange palette of pretty much any Michael Bay movie ever. In fact, it’s kind of startling to look at movie footage before it’s been color graded – it looks OK, but nothing like it does when it’s finished.

Instragram and Hipstamatic, among many others have turned that process into filters that you can apply to your snapshots. And what filter you chose makes a big impact on how the photo makes you feel. Different people respond to different filters, and people have their favorites (and ones that they hate!)

For SimCity, rather than chose for you, I figured it was best to let you make up your own mind. So I’ve come up with a bunch of different filters that give different sensibilities to the game. You can use whichever ones you like. Here’s the first batch, take a look:

Off is, well, off. You don’t have to have any filter on if you don’t want to. Soft is a slightly desaturated and bleached filter. It washes out some of the color. Juicy is modeled on slide film, it’s got a slight color cast, and is more vivid. Warmer is one of my favorites. It makes the colors less vivid, and brings out the warm tones in the image. It’s your typical hardcore FPS color palette. Film Noir is a black and white transform that increases contrast by making the blues and greens darker and the yellows and oranges brighter. Cooler is really nice. It’s modeled on mid-20th century print film.

Here are some more:

Neutral is basically the same as off, just with a little bit more contrast. Faded washes out the colors, and adds a little silvering to everything Green Tones is modeled on 1970’s era movies. Platinum is kind of a silly one, but I liked it. It’s evocative of Hollywood glamour photography from the golden age of cinema. Teal + Orange is your typical Hollywood blockbuster palette. It brings out the contrast in the game. Orange + Gray washes out all the colors except orange.

And the last set:

Bleached emulates a bleach bypass technique, like you see in fashion photography. Sepia Toned makes the game feel like it’s all old-timey. Black + Red is a super high-contrast palette, inspired by a movie that sounded a lot like SimCity. Desaturated is another hardcore FPS-style palette, with most of the colors stripped out. And Vintage is inspired by cross-processed film. It looks like the 1970’s to me.

In addition to filters that stylize the game with different color treatments, there are more functional ones. These filters apply various transforms to make the game more playable to people who are color blind.

There are a few other graphics options to make the game look the way that you want it to. You can turn the tilt-shift effect up or down.

And you can turn on the ultra lighting effects to get in-camera lens flare and blooming when you look at bright light sources. It makes the camera relate to lighting in a more realistic way.

SimCity is a game with a tremendous amount of player creativity. I wanted to extend those options to the way that you look at the game itself.