So i have always wondered

In video games, how do artist create the particle effects in the game?

Lets say dota 2 for example, the characters have glow/flame effects on the heros, Or just the spells in general. How are all these made and placed on the characters?

Are the spells separate models created inside the 3D software, or are they made inside the engine. I haven't really been able to find any video tutorials explaining and demonstrating this. Could someone clarify.

Heres some examples: 

Thanks! Jerry


  • Eric Chadwick
    Usually effects are made inside the engine, using tools specific to that tech. But the fundamentals are fairly universal. The links here should help illuminate things.

    Also, terrible thread title. Should be descriptive of what's inside, otherwise most people just pass you by.
  • Melvic
    Thanks for the reply Eric! So i've read through most of those links and got a fair understanding. But still can't really find anyone showing this in action.

    Can you use mayas fluid systems on characters and import them to the engine and they keep the fluid animation?

    Or should i be learning the particle systems inside the game engines?
  • Tzur_H
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    Tzur_H polycounter lvl 3
    Yeah this field is a bit of a mystery :pensive:  I want to learn more about if and can't find much. 
    I think there are some programs, that you can use to create FX, like PopcornFX which has a support to Unity and UE via plugin.  But I think most of it is made within the engine particle system.
  • StormyBA
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    StormyBA polycounter lvl 3
    Yep - most particals systems for games are in engines so grab the latest unreal or unity and just mess around. Its pretty simple stuff once you get going to just get some cool looking stuff. Much harder to make GOOD OPTIMIZED vfx. 

    Tons of learning resources around for both as well. 
  • WarmHotTea
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    WarmHotTea vertex
    Hello Melvic,

    I'm no expert in Game Particle Simulations but I can tell that sometimes what you see as particles are just mere polygons with alpha image data on it. A tornado of leaf can be achieved with basic plane geometry primitive applied a leaf texture on it. They of course multiply the leaf by numbers, cascade it, mix it with blending modes and add some motion depending on the subject/matter. This simulation and dynamic behaviour require some experience though. Because factors like particle life and death comes in. How much will a fire pop will stay on the screen before it fades away for example. What I've seen was mostly node-based on game engines. About the placing issue, I could move, rotate & scale the particles in Unreal Engine 4. This could give an idea may be. So Unreal Engine 4 is really good for explorations as STORMYBA has mentioned. It is free too.

    As far as I know, particles can be created in-game engine or in a 3d app with export. Alembic and vertex cache data are becoming quite popular in game engines, so we may see more advanced particle simulations in the future.

    Hope this helps.
  • moof
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    moof polycounter lvl 7
    Best way to learn what particle animations are is to do a tutorial, or at least watch one ;)

    This one makes a basic fire fx for a game, and covers all the basics you're need to know to understand.

    Also this one is not as pretty, but covers the basics of how to add geometry to your particle systems to make an effect

    If you're just looking for information, FX in games is generally a mix of particle systems generated by the engine, and 3d geometry animated, along with animated materials. The result is a mixture of blending images and 3d geometry that looks like something cool. Since it is a lot of fakery to get the result, FX artists tend to have a good head for technology as well as art, since it's a very much a guessing game how to get an FX to look exactly as you want it in game.  

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