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(DISCUSSION) Modified Stock Textures for Use With Texture Replacer's Reflection Plugin


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Greetings all

So...

I think many of us would admit to having done the '@PART

[*]' trick to experiment with Texture Replacer's Reflection Plugin, right? For those of you who haven't, I can tell you this: the results are mixed especially with the stock textures (we'll talk about mods in a second). The reflection shader it self looks amazing, but all the parts look like they've been shrink-wrapped in shiny shiny plastic - not a good look! The reason for this is that the alpha channel in the stock textures (which the reflection plugin uses as a mask to determine reflection strength) was not optimized to be used in this way. Indeed, in many cases there isn't an alpha channel at all, thus, shiny plastic wrap death.

Out of sheer curiosity, I started experimenting with a few textures to see what it would take to get the reflections looking like they actually originated from the surface of a part and weren't painted over the top of it. It turns out, that's quite a lot of work:P. It's not very skilled work, it's just tedious, repetitive and time consuming. But the results are promising so far.

At this stage I would simply like to show you the fruits of my labour in the form of an Imgur album and share what I have learned. Because I am modifying stock textures and not creating new ones, I'm sure I would not be allowed to setup a link to anything downloadable as I would be redistributing copyrighted material. Clarification on that subject would be much appreciated please. I'll return to this subject in a moment but for now, I'll move on.

The Results Of My Efforts

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What I have Discovered

Like I said, it's all very experimental at present so please, no slagging off my artistic abilities just yet.

I discovered that even once you've redrawn the alpha channel, the life like appearance of the reflections sits a little oddly with the cartoonish style of the stock textures. I ended up overlaying a fine metal texture from real life and factoring that into the alpha channel too. This can be seen most clearly on the Mk1 Lander Can and the Mk 1-2 Pod in the images above. I probably went too far with the grunginess but it was just to see what effect it would have at this stage.

Flat surfaces look mirror like no matter what you do to the alpha channel short of adding mountains of noise. Altering the normal map (by adding noise perhaps) could help here but due to the low resolution of the existing normal maps I have yet to find a way of doing this that doesn't look totally pants :). Furthermore, altering an existing normal map (or creating a new one) without the original Photoshop file is very very fiddly indeed. Perhaps a subtle application of a layer of the same pre-rendered, hi-passed noise on both the diffuse and normal map might remedy the issue but I have yet to try this.

Ultimately, the best solution to mirror like flat surfaces would be a configurable parameter for the plugin itself that scatters the reflection (or something to that effect). Ideally, this should be controllable on a per part basis in addition to the already existing configurable parameters (Shaw, are you reading??? :D).

Some Mods fare much better without any alterations to their textures' alpha channels. KW Rocketry is an example: All that is needed is a config file for the KW parts and they'll look decent enough. But even here the alpha channels could be further optimised for getting convincing reflections.

Conclusion

So there you go - sorry for the text slab. In short, making parts reflective is possible if extremely fiddly, but well worth the effort (IMHO).

Depending on the level of people's interest (please make it known below) and, subject to licencing, I'd like to develop things into something my fellow kerbanaughts can download and use (I'd be hesitant to call it a mod because it'd really just be a load of textures and a config file... but there you go). If I can't do that with stock textures then perhaps a mod like Ven's Stock Part Revamp, or KW, or... something else??? Suggestions? All subject to Licence of course.

Now, I shall continue my experimentation and report back further.

Laterz

Rexable x

Edited by rextable
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  • 5 months later...

Hello there! Unfortunate to see that no one has replied to this post. This is quite a good amount of research put in, do you still have any of the config files?

While I think some of those things are too shiny, the solar panels look beautiful! And I love the Apollo feel from the reflective command pod.

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Heh :D  

 

It didn't take long to realise why no one else has released a mod that modifies the stock textures in this way - it's very tedious work and - as you say - will likely become redundant with Unity 5 anyway. However, if Squad do need a Photoshop monkey to fettle the alpha on there entire part list, I'm the man :)  

Never mind, onward and upwards. Here endeth the experiment  

 

R x 

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