Dynamic Lighting Explorer

Lights On: Dynamic Lighting and Shadows are Here

No more previews, contests, or prototype videos. Today, we officially flipped the switch on dynamic lighting–and we can’t wait to see what our builders do with it. Dynamic lighting is a smart voxel solution that not only lets builders control the ambient light and resulting shadows in the worlds they create, but place customizable light sources for aesthetic and gameplay purposes. Torches, flashlights, lamps–the future is a bright one. 

We’ve covered the development and testing of this massive undertaking in several blog articles, so with the actual release we decided to walk you through the impact of dynamic lighting, and the new, dynamically lit ROBLOX. To do this, we tapped Client Engineer Arseny Kapoulkine, who was a pivotal cog in this project, and asked him, “what now?” He explains:

Welcome to the new, dynamically lit ROBLOX. We imagine, based on the curious and excited feedback we’ve received on the forums and on the blog, that you’ve got some questions. With this article, I’ll walk you through the basics of implementing lights in a new or existing place or game. Before we get into that, allow me to officially answer two of the most-asked questions about dynamic lighting.

Now that the lights are on, are my indoor places going to go dark?

With this release, none of your existing places or creations on ROBLOX will change at all, unless you choose to change them (which we encourage you to do). To enable lighting in one of your current places, open the place in ROBLOX Studio, and click on “Lighting” in the explorer pane. Check the “Global Shadows” box to gain access to new variables that we’ll discuss later in the article.

Soon, any new place that you create in ROBLOX will have realistic shadows enabled by default. For now, these settings only auto-apply when you create a new project within Studio (as opposed to the “Build New” button on Roblox.com’s Build page). We’re working on a fix for this now.

Will my computer be able to handle dynamic lighting?

One of the most important aspects of developing ROBLOX’s dynamic lighting system was scaling it to all the hardware we currently support. 95% of computers should be able to handle the inclusion of lights with no problem whatsoever. Though dynamic lighting is supported across platform (Mac & PC), we’re currently working on our implementation of OpenGL ES, which will allow us to enable dynamic lighting on ROBLOX Mobile without a serious performance drop.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about experimenting with dynamic lighting.

Turning the Lights Off

This is actually a good place to start, as a completely dark place drastically changes once you start adding lights. There are two components to dynamic lighting: lighting, and shadows. Before we get to lights, let’s talk about how shadows will be different, and how to completely darken your virtual world.

Shadows are controlled by three parameters in our new lighting service (as opposed to just the sun). There has always been an object in your Explorer window called “Lighting”–this object now has two new properties. Before we get to those, make sure the “Global Shadows” box is checked to enable both properties.

Whereas before, “Ambient” settings let you choose the darkest color you can see in your virtual world, there’s now another component called “Outdoor Ambient.” Setting the color in “Outdoor Ambient” will choose the darkest color you can see outside, while setting the “Ambient” color will set the darkest colors you can see inside.

By default, “Ambient” is set to black in any new place you create. This means that the insides of caves and indoor structures will be black. The “Outdoor Ambient” parameter will be middle-gray by default. These default settings will provide you with the most realistic shading system upfront, though they can be tweaked to any color you’d like. Here’s a before-and-after look at one of our test places. Default settings are on the left, and on the right we’ve made the “Outdoor Ambient” color bright red.

Pretty dramatic difference, right?

There are a few additional steps you’ll need to take to fully darken your world. First, set the brightness of the sun to zero (as opposed to switching to night time–the moon still emits light, just not as much). Second, set “Ambient” and “Outdoor Ambient” colors to black.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to completely darken your world to leverage dynamic lighting.  Doing so will simply show you the most dramatic environmental effect. Regardless of the light coming from the sky–be it from the sun or the moon–you can still integrate dynamic lights, as described in the next section.

Turning New Lights On

We’ve provided you with two different types of lights to experiment with: point lights, which emit from one specific point in the shape of a sphere, and spotlights that take the shape of a cone. Both of these lights are now objects that you can place in Studio. To find them, click Insert > Basic Objects and find either the SpotLight or PointLight objects. Each light must be parented to a part in order to work. Similar to our fire, smoke, and particle systems in general, dynamic light takes its position from the part that parents it. A great first experiment would be to take a model of a lamp (or a car, or anything that emits light really), insert the model into your world, then insert the lighting object into the model.

If you want to add lights with no objects or parts whatsoever, make the part invisible. You’ll have full control of the color, brightness and range of the lights. Point lights, for example, allow you to control the maximum distance of influence from a single light. Spotlights not only allow you to control the range of the light, but also the angle of the cone.

Looking Ahead

As with any new feature, we’ll be working to enhance our dynamic lighting system as we go along. We were awestruck by the amount of creativity and invention we received when we asked our users to create videos showing off dynamic lighting. We were equally blown away by the amount of feedback we received from our builders–you deserve credit for helping to shape the foundation of our new look.

Looking ahead, we want our dynamic lighting system to be able to create realistic shadows based on the angle and size of the lights, on any part imaginable. This is a huge undertaking that we’re currently developing. As mentioned before, we’re also working on porting this system to ROBLOX Mobile, and estimate (but don’t promise!) that we’ll have that out mid to late June. For now, builders should share feedback in the I Made That Forum. If you want to talk game design around dynamic lighting, check out the Game Design Forum. If you want to talk about specific building techniques and see how others are leveraging dynamic lighting, check out the ROBLOX Studio Forum. Lastly, keep an eye out for this week’s gear, which will have a dynamic lighting theme.

523 thoughts on “Lights On: Dynamic Lighting and Shadows are Here

  1. serirus2

    guys please help when i go to a dynamic lighting game the shadows dont come it just comes darker with no shadows and the lights dont apear :(

    1. spanish1000

      Hi Serirus2! when you go into a dynamic lighting game, try turning up the graphics setting. to do this push the ESC key on the keyboard, then click on “game settings” then turn up the graphic slider. Hope this helps!

      – spanish1000


    I can’t find PointLight or SpotLight in basic objects, while selecting a part or not

  3. JINXMinecraft

    Wait…So Dynamic Lightning is going to stay forver?If it is,THEN IM SU HAPPY :D.If not,IM GONNA CRY TILL I DIE! D;

    Please Message me,JINXMinecraft

  4. Tcell

    My friend darkblueraven2000 can see the dynamic lighting for some reason please help help her roblox!

    1. Crystalpaw45

      I may not be ROBLOX, but your friend probably has her Graphics Quality on 2. To improve it, go to Menu>Game Settings and then slide it up all to 10.

  5. Squids117

    To all the people who can’t find the point/spotlights when they go to Basic Objects, you have to have the block you want you light in selected. So click the block then find your light.

    1. Tiarana

      This looks epic! But Im on the roblox studio. May 2013. And for some reason. When I click on ‘lighing’ it only says Sky. Below it? Where does it say Global?

  6. Aperture98

    How can I change the color of the PointLight in a script? I’m having trouble with that…

    1. Dialga347

      You don’t really have to script it, you just have to open up Properties and then click Explorer>’Insert Brickname here’>Spotlight or Pointlight> and then click on Color in the Pointlight or Spotlight property. Hope this helps!

    1. Awesome, It Really Helps

      Thanks, this really helped me with my new game that I am building.

    1. Timepiece

      Insert>Basic objects. Make sure “Workspace” is selected or another directory that would allow pointlight and spotlight to be inserted.

    2. Boogle

      Me neither! I’m so annoyed because I am making a cool place and one temple I’m building is way too dark, but I can’t find the lights! :(

  7. Killerpuppie123

    When I open insert> then Basic Objects I can’t find the Point light or pointlights.

  8. LateName

    Well done ROBLOX, you did a great job creating Dynamic Lighting. It looks really good, a good finishing off touch in you’re place to make it interesting.

  9. halogod5000

    I dislike how dynamic lighting isn’t really good during the day, I think they should update where it looks good at night, but as daylight comes the light begins to turn itself off, until night again.

      1. bobpokeninja

        It does look good at day. You just have to find creative ways to change it around. Then again, the sun casts most of the light during daytime. Or, you can just keep the place at night without the time changing. The lights never turn off, they just become less visible.

  10. WickedRaya

    I love this new effect. I’ve already begun to use dynamic lighting and shadows with my very first game I made. Dynamic lighting is the best update I think ROBLOX has ever had, it makes everything look modern and awesome, too.

    1. PKyler2001

      Agreed, I believe it’s made ROBLOX look completely different than it used to be, which is a good thing believe me! I am about to implement the features into my game, and I’m going to test to see if it’ll work properly on firework particles! :D

      1. 1121123

        Mirrors would be AWESOME! Imagine all the possibilities along with lighting………….. that would be epic. but first lets make sure lighting gets to its maximum state of awesomeness on roblox first.

  11. LD3000

    Well…. I don’t have PointLight or SpotLight…. So what do I do when It’s dark? & it’s about time.

  12. revengekratos

    I just made my place have dynamic lightning… but it’s on progress.

  13. xXAwesomeNinjaGirlXx

    Wow… impressive… impressive indeed! I didn’t know anything about dynamic lightning until I read this :3 Now this is very awesome. Im so adding this to my place! :D

  14. Wildstorm1

    Add moon phases. Depending on the phase of the moon, different amounts of light can be emitted into the environment.

    1. bobpokeninja

      That would be quite an amazing update, you can do that right now though. You just need to learn how to script.

  15. Yay111

    This is good but I wish you could extend the distance at which you can see the effects because my place is huge

    1. cooldude1921

      You can change it! In studio mode,change your caracters render distance to about 75, then change the shading option to black (or whatever color you used

  16. Agentcamtho

    A lot of ROBLOX admins updates have a habit of making things slower, or making exploiting easier, or fixing a couple of exploits, but this… this is pretty darn amazing. Nice one.

  17. Mutent1234

    Dynamic lightning is the coolest update ever. It makes everything look awesome.

  18. Sam B

    Every since I started playing ROBLOX, I wanted lighting like that. MY WISH CAME TRUE! THANK YOU ROBLOX!!

    1. Nevan101

      The dynamic lighting is epic and i am going to put it in my place tonight hopefully!

  19. Jeffrevin

    Epic. Just wow, I’m making my R160 right now and it looks so awesome against the night sky.

  20. brandon881534ROBLOX

    Nice I like the dynamic lights. I think I will use it on my newest places!

  21. SantiagoandRoblox

    Great job guys. Now I can make streetlights and torches and flashlights… Thank you so much!

    1. Leman5842

      The reason why you don’t see dynamic lighting is because your computer may not handle its epicness

  22. Exclusivethomas320

    Great Job ROBLOX! I love the effect, it makes ROBLOX come true and turns it from blocks to 3D Blocks!

  23. NightCh4os

    How do I enable this so I could see it work on other games that I play? Or is it just not out yet?

  24. Alyx(x0shadowninja0x)

    Pretty nice, but won’t the inside of buildings be pitch black? That wouldn’t work too well for group bases.


  25. Epic

    I especially like the dynamic lighting. Roblox keep doing your best to make it ROBLOX better.

    And also can you make more like… meshes? of town or city stuff?

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