2014-04-23, 01:12 PM
Greetings all! It's been quite a while since I last posted any updates for the project because I've been both busy and lazy. I have however got some interesting stuff to showcase this time. Just like the previous update this one will not be particularly concise or focused on one area. I've still been getting distracted while working on the mod and often go off and experiment with various things so this will be another random one.
I do have a checklist but so far I've been getting the miscellaneous tasks out of the way and making more tasks to throw on that pile in the process. I am doing a little of the terrain work every so often, but frankly it's tedious which is why I keep going off on a tangent. But anyway lets get into it.
So firstly in terms of working on planets I've been working on Yavin 4 briefly. Yavin is one of those planets which is really underrated but a nice planet overall. It definitely needs a few tweaks to make it a little more unique as well as closer to how it is usually seen in Star Wars material. Currently it has some very unusual plants that just don't fit in with the whole thick forest feel it has. I haven't done a huge amount of texture work on it just yet but I have began replacing a lot of the plant life to make it feel thicker and more like jungle planet. I don't currently have anything ready to be shown but once I've finished tweaking the vegetation the actual texture work should be relatively easy. If I have the time Yavin 4 is likely to be completed by the next update.
The water in the game has never looked particularly great, so I decided to do some experimenting as it is a fairly big feature of most planets.
Due to being very unfamiliar with pixel and vertex shaders I am limited to very basic methods. In this case all of the "improvements" are purely texture based. I say "improvements" because in order to achieve this look I had to disable pixel and vertex shaders which effectively removes the normal mapping as well as a few other things. As such this is essentially a failed experiment and I will be continuing to play with water at some point in the future.
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As you can see the water appears more natural simply by making it appear more translucent and slightly more vibrant in coordination with the color of the sky. (NOTE: Corellia was just a testbed, this particular water texture is intended to be used on a planet with a blue sky gradient) It also appears to be more still due to normal maps being disabled. The default normal map made it look like it was moving far too much despite the fact that there is no actual flow as such.
Another asset seen prominently across every planet is the clouds. I decided to just get this out of the way and do them all at once as well as updating the sky gradients. A relatively simple task which made a big difference. I also made some changes to the datatables in order to give the clouds a lot more variety rather than share multiple cloudmaps between planets. This feature will be in the full mod but the cut down compatibility version probably won't get this.
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I apologize for the brief and rather disappointing video. When filming every planet decided to either rain or have very cloudy skies. As such you can see the clouds are different but you don't really get the full effect without the vibrance of the sky gradient shining through. This was also filmed before I finished the normal maps for the clouds so the final version has a feeling of much more depth as well. Hopefully in the future I can catch some decent weather and do a time-lapse video on various planets to show off just how much of a difference they actually make.
While I consider this part of the mod to be pretty much finished I'm not going to call it final just yet. There are always ways to improve and if I get the time I may add a few more new cloud variants into the mix as well.
Character Overhauls (Experimental)
This is one of many small experiments which has been diverting my attention from the bulk of the project. It did however turn out to be a very promising start to something potentially much bigger. I should make it clear this was never a feature of the mod and most likely won't be. It really depends on how far I can take it. For now I consider it a side project at best.
The tests I have done so far have been very basic and I consider them to be in the preliminary stages. If I were to release a proper overhaul of the characters it would have to include increased poly count on the models. My experiments so far have been purely texture based and because of this there is limits to what can be done without being able to manipulate the models to add more detail and correct some of the texture mapping issues that were either already there or created through edits.
So far I have modified the textures for the Trandoshan. It gives them a dramatic resolution increase, more detail and a much more scaly reptilian appearance like they are seen elsewhere in the franchise. It also includes a much more detailed normal map in conjunction with specular maps. I have had some rather bazaar problems getting some of the normal maps to function correctly on certain models but I was able to find a work around which isn't perfect but it works for the sake of a preview.
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I was concerned based on the scaly appearance I gave them that it would make some of the model joins more visible. This is something that is very difficult to get around. All of the default races have these joins, some are well hidden while others not so much. The Trandoshan's joins aren't too obvious but stand out when zoomed in. To my surprise the new texture doesn't hinder them much, in fact it actually helps hide some of them better. The textures shown in the game footage currently have too strong of a normal map especially on the body resulting in a loss of detail. This is something which will be fixed when I clean everything up and attempt to figure out why certain models act weird in regards to normal map effects.
I did also do some work on the Wookiees. I mean who doesn't love Wookiees? Unfortunately those tests are way too early on to show anything and frankly in their current state they look worse than what we're all used to. I may continue with that a little and see if I can do much to make their fur look more natural as well as the standard high resolution treatment. There are a lot more Wookiee textures than the Trandos have though, so it is a bit of a headache to deal with and frankly I think I would need a model import tool to really make a huge difference with them. All in all a decent start.
As usual I've gone off on a tangent. But truthfully the re-texturing of the planets is a very easy but tedious task. It will get done very quickly once things get rolling. However, I will no doubt continue finding side experiments to stop myself going mad.
So progress wise I've made some minor progress with water, Yavin 4 vegetation and I've more or less completed the new cloud maps. The character updates will remain a side project and if I make any significant progress with them or someone releases a reliable tool to deal with MGN files I may consider adding them to the project.
All in all not a bad update! I hope the new post layout was easier to follow. Leaving feedback on anything in the update is always appreciated. Also if you like seeing videos on this sort of thing let me know, and if you have any suggestions to improve video content let me know on that too. I promise I'll get some solid stuff on the actual planet textures in the next update but as always no estimate on when that will be.