Behind the Magic: Displacement Vortex Real-Time VFX

Inspired by the wondrous magic of Hogwarts Legacy, our talented real-time VFX artists set out to create a magical effect that could match the majestic magic seen in the Wizarding World game. Rather than taking directly from Hogwarts Legacy’s real-time VFX, our artists wanted to explore their creativity within the realm of magical real-time VFX.

Read on to learn more about our process for creating the Displacement Vortex, a powerful magical ability that can remove even the most fearsome threats from challenging encounters!

Conceptualizing the Displacement Vortex

For the Displacement Vortex, we decided early on that we wanted it to be a more active ability with clear defensive and offensive properties, compared to the more passive abilities of Hogwarts Legacy that inspired it. For the initial pass at the scene, we used basic character models so we could test the shader we developed for the piece.

Though rather straightforward, the shader presented us with multiple options for manipulating the displacement effect. With our shader, we can change the offset of the displacement effect and make different curves along different axes of rotation. With these simple parameters, we could wildly change the composition of the displacement effect as we saw fit.

Though it was important for us to have characters involved in the scene to make it feel like a gameplay showcase, it was equally critical to pay particular attention to the urn itself and its movements. We decided to keep focus on the urn so that it feels like a character in and of itself. It was paramount to focus on the urn, as it’s a central part of the overall Displacement Vortex effect.

Building On the Displacement Vortex

Over time, we added further effects like lens flares to make the scene more visually compelling. The urn continued to be a central aspect of the piece throughout the displacement vortex’s development, but we wanted to add emphasis to the monster being trapped by it.

As the urn primarily uses yellows, we leveraged this to draw attention to the monsters by using contrasting purples. For the displacement effect itself, we used a mix of yellows, purples, and pink mid-tones to link the effect to both the urn itself and the monster being sucked into it.

Finalizing the Displacement Vortex

For the final version of the Displacement Vortex, we decided to manually change the timing of the effect from scratch. This is a risky, challenging, and time-consuming process that should only be carried out by the most experienced real-time VFX artists, but we had specific ideas in mind as to how each element should be given room to breathe and be introduced to the viewer.

We extended the monster’s initial spotlight at the beginning of the scene so that viewers could become accustomed to it before the effect kicked in. Additionally, we added more visually compelling elements to the urn. The urn now ingests some of the environment like the tiles below it as it traps the monster and it leaves behind some residual purple effects after the displacement effect completes. We also added a mesh to the urn so that when it falls and breaks, its distinct pieces have rigid bodies so we could simulate physics. It’s a small detail but helps the scene pop more and better immerse the viewer.

We made some interesting modifications to the color of the piece for its final version. We wanted it to feel light, something akin to a wind tunnel, so we changed the lens flares and reserved sharper lens flares for vital parts of the displacement effect, such as the circular shape spin when the effect begins. We also gave the effect a more chromatic appearance by adjusting the red and green color values. We used Substance Painter so that the urn could be used as a low poly model in Unity, and also textured it using Substance Painter.

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