Light Probes vs. Screen Space Reflections in Unity

In real life, most all objects have at least a small amount of reflective properties. This makes having reflections in your game scene all the more important when it comes to a real feel and player immersion. In this article, I cover two different ways to get reflections, and when you should use one or the other.

The starting scene here only has information from the skybox relaying onto the floor here, but no actual reflections from the objects in the room. Let’s take care of that.

In the Hierarchy, I create a new Light > Reflection Probe.

You should see this after creating the reflection probe.

A closer view shows a reflective sphere, picking up information from the scene to reflect.

The reflection can be seen better at the bottom of the inspector.

I press the edit button to begin editing the reflection probe.

A bounding box appears that can be dragged out in 6 directions to conform to the desired scale and size of the designer.

Simply drag and drop the yellow points to scale the bounding box.

I reposition the orb to be closer to the floor.

When I turn the reflection probe on, you can see the skybox reflections become blocked out by in room reflections, as it should be. Note that while there are now reflections in the room from objects in the game scene, they aren’t very accurate. The main thing to note here is that reflection probes are very inexpensive. If you are developing a mobile game that needs the extra overhead space, reflection probes will do just fine.

On the other hand, if you are developing for console or PC and can afford the expensive call for Screen Space Reflections, it is well worth the upgrade in visuals! Screen Space Reflections run on the post-processing stack, which is going to be on the main camera.

This project already has a post-processing profile setup for immediate use. All I have to do is enable it.

While there are many options in the post-processing profile, here lies the details for the Screen Space Reflection.

In this clip, you can see a drastic improvement when the screen space reflections are enabled. The objects in the room suddenly cast accurate and gorgeous reflections across the floor.

I hope you join me in my next article where I start to put together cut scenes for this new game. Thanks for reading!

I am an artist and musician, that is currently diving headfirst into game development with C# and Unity3D.