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Project Easy-Texture

PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 1:27 pm
by Smoking_Mirror
This is a new project, an attempt to provide high quality textures for a large number of mechs without spending a lot of time on each one.

I'll update this post as I go along.

For now just a quick description and mission statement.

"To provide a single or multiple set of generic high quality textures which can be UV mapped to any model for the project".

The idea is to create a single texture or a few similar versions which can be used for any mech. Each new mech would be UV unwrapped so that it's body parts line up with certain special objects o the sheet, such as vents, maintenance panels, arm or leg joints or whatever. I'll include a tutorial on how best to use the textures, and how they can be baked in Blender (A free to download and use open source 3d engine) to provide a further improvement in quality.

now to outline the steps of the project.

1. decide on how to layout the map.
I'm going to plan the map from the start, one area for each leg and arm. Another for the lower torso and another for the center torso. Finally a section of base metal that can be used for internal partitions and other areas of bare metal, such as the feet.

2. produce a test model.
This will be used to test the validity of the project. A high poly version (1400-1700 triangles) will be mapped at the same time as a low poly version (400-500 triangles).

3. Engineer the texture.
At this point there a few new techniques I want to try out, but mostly this is going to be a quite simple texture. The camo will be divided left and right by body section. Rust and wear will be added but in such a way as they can be increased or reduced for each section (legs, body, arms etc...) by enabling or disabling a layer prior to baking the texture. This means that you can create a very weathered mech or a brand new factory spec one.

4. bake the test texture.
With a normal map, a glow map and a shine map the end result should be quite pleasing with minimal expenditure of effort.

5. investigate the possibility of creating multiple maps.
Depending on how it urns out it would be good to create a map for different weight classes, to preserve an illusion of scale within the texture. Also a set of clan sheets and a set of IS sheets would be preferable.

So keep an eye on this space for updates on how this turns out.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 9:09 pm
by felderup
if i weren't truckin along with kpovmodeler i'd probably be able to offer something. i've been stumped by not finding an obj export module, and i haven't figured out how to do meshes and uv maps with it yet. yeh, good idea.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2007 3:33 am
by Smoking_Mirror
Well, I got half way through doing the basic texture sheet last night.
I think adding the structural details, vents panels etc... should be easy, but I'm not at all sure about decals yet. Things such as hazard tape, and warning labels.

I think I'll add a few bits in, just a minimal amount and then if the person doing the texture desires more, then can add them by themselves. Compared to adding rust or detailed paneling, hazard tape and logos are fairly simple to add by yourself.

We'll see how it goes this weekend. I have an extended holiday because it's some kind of Korean thanksgiving holiday. Every one will be busy with thier family, so I'll have plenty of time to myself.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 3:22 pm
by Smoking_Mirror

Well, here's the basic texture. If anyone wants to try out UV mapping one of the already created mechs to this pattern we can see how easy it is to use.

I'll be making a test mech tomorrow, but it would be handy to see if someone else is able to use it. (though first I have to decide which one I actually want to make).

The legs and arms take up quite a lot of space on the sheet compared to the body, I'd recommend using lots of the "dull metal" and "shiny metal" area on the body if there is not enough room on the section allocated for body.

If you have a mech with no arms, or a small arm, you can use some of that spare space to add more detail to the body, but be aware that the camo will be split left and right, so don't use the left arm on the right hand side of the body.

There are other ways the camo can be distributed, as the body and arms/legs each have their own section Derk should be able to split it quite evenly.

Tips for using the sheet;
1. The cockpit details are located on the "shiny metal section". this allows for an offset cockpit like in the Thor and Orion IIc, without messing with camo distribution.

2. Try to keep all the mapped sections the same scale. This will give a better appearance.

3. Use the dull metal for unseen sections like where the left torso meets the center torso. Feel free to scale them right down for this. Use the lined or paneled areas for leg knee and body joints and details. Plan to include lots of these in your mesh.

4. try to layout any polys so that the edges line up with any lines in the texture sheet. This will help to minimize the patchwork effect which will be inevitable with this technique.

5. Start with the body, then the head and lower torso,next do the legs and then the arms and any weapons pods, extra body parts. This will allow you to put the details where they are needed the most.

6. The large circular sections on the legs and arms and body are prime locations for logo placement. Keep them undistorted during unwrapping and keep them prominent.

I'll post some screens of how I do the UV Unwrap once I get in to it tomorrow.

PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 4:01 am
by Smoking_Mirror
Well, I decided to go with the Highlander as a test model. I know F_C has already done a model, but as I have to do a special matching Low poly version too, I thought I may as well start from scratch.

I really want to get started with the UV unwrap bit I have to make the low poly model first. :( I need to UV unwrap the at the same time, otherwise I will forget where to place the detailed sections.

Here's a preview of the Highlander, I've remodeled it only slightly, just to make polygon reduction easier and to make sure the Skeleton articulates at 90 degree angles (makes it easier to animate).


PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 12:40 pm
by Smoking_Mirror
Well, I've finished UV unwrapping the two models and my findings are as follows;

1. This method requires extra polys. The high poly version is about 1500 polys and the low poly one took more of a hit at nearly 600. You need to use the extras in adding detail to the texture, that's fine in the high poly version but in the low poly version it dramatically increases the number of triangles needed.

2. Although it requires no extra time to make the texture itself, it does require a great deal of time to unwrap the UV map. It also makes it more of a challenge. For anyone without experience matching the two meshes during Unwrapping is going to be difficult.

3. if you make make a mistake when unwrapping, like running out of space it's difficult to go back and fix things.

4. The eventual design is a little busy, perhaps too much in the way of little details and not enough general detail or paneling. Maybe a redesign of the layout can change this and also reduce the difficulty and long duration of UV mapping.

5. As you are often dealing with single quads or triangles it can be very difficult to keep the scale consistent. This will reduce the quality of the final design, meaning that special effects like rust, wear or dirt will not work as well.

Final conclusion. The UV map design requires a redesign. Less details, more space reserved for basic dark and shiny metal. All or most of the special details should be placed in the Null area. Each detail should be on a square mounting so that you can fit it closely on a single quad.

Here's a preview of the Highlander;


PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 3:17 pm
by felderup
maybe if many mechs use the same texture there could be a bigger one with more things in it. maybe if the affiliation skins were added as a separate layer at runtime there would be no need for separate left and right uv maps, which would allow a smaller one with just lines showing panels and vents, assuming the engine can handle runtime layering.

PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 5:05 pm
by Smoking_Mirror
I think Derk said that the Engine can do two layers, however one of the is the damage shading so there won't be any a layering solution.

I've looked at the map layout and I think if 2 thirds are devoted to legs arms and body the remaining part can be special details. That way you'd be able to change the colour of any bare metal just as easily as you change the camo colours. For example some units in Battletech use gold or black tinted metal as part of their scheme.

I'm going to give it one more go after the Highlander, try and create something much simpler and robust, something that even a noob could Unwrap. :)

I think the highlander is going to turn out looking OK(ish) but the map wouldn't work for a smaller mech. It only wroks for the highlander because it's such a big and rugged mech with lots of mechanical details.

PostPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 11:26 pm
by felderup
if it's possible to change tint levels in the layers a dark gray-white winter camo could be made into:
dark green-light green forest camo
dark red-light red volcanic area camo
brown-tan desert camo
then perhaps the panels and rust could be handled the same way, black with reddish rust, brightness turned way down on the red colour band, a faction or squad that doesn't take perfect care could have that layers red band raised. maybe white rust, which has all the colours, then it could be tinted to be copper rust, aluminum rust, titanium rust, dirt and dust on the transparent area even. that's assuming the layers could be tinted at runtime individually.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 12:05 am
by felderup
oop, well, that won't work if one of them is the damage layer, but maybe a module could be added that will do all that and realtime a texture mix. something that's fed the texture layers and spits out the finished texture, could mix perhaps 5 layers without a serious performance hit and all the mechs would look quite spiffy. hmm, clan affiliation skin with logo, aging texture(empty for brand new, burn marks and rust for old), panels and vents, subgroup additions(kurita's prancing frilly iconoclasts?, we'd need a logo), another layer that i can't think of now but could be useful. the code that checks to see if a texture exists can be set up to look for textures by number, like, 35b24c650f.png, it would instead call a program that would generate the texture and return an affirmative for existence after generating the texture, and naming it based on the desired extension. timeout for the existence check would need a small increase. the subtextures could be stuffed in directories for those textures, using hex there would be 256^5 possible textures.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 4:16 am
by Smoking_Mirror
A full texture generator would be very cool, being able to create a custom texture for each mech in the mission before play, but I think that would be a very low priority solution.

Right now all the mechs and vehicles are in separate folders in the Game directory. Each folder contains all the faction camo's for the mech as well as a gray scale preview image and the footprint template.

I want to create a method of making the mech which allows Derk to continue using this style of organization, but gives flexibility for future developments.

If the arms, legs, body and other details are located on specific areas of the sheet, it allows for good customization at a later date.

I think I've now got a better idea on how to handle the UV map mapping.

1. unwrap all the body parts as usual, only using the legs, arms and body sections of the map. They should be unwrapped so that where possible the sections stay linked together so that the paneling texture links across sections.

2. locate any quads on the design where you want extra details, such as vents, hatches, hinges or whatever.

3. Select only that quad on the model and re-un-wrap for only that quad, that should give you a flat square or rectangle without distortion.

4. Fit that quad on to the appropriate detail in the Details section of the map.

5. Try to find a corresponding quad on the low poly model and unwrap in the same way.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 5:38 am
by felderup
one can hope, and maybe this program can be used, perhaps included in the archive, with an option to not install it, or maybe add it to the requirements page. looks like magickwand might be a way to make things work really well. probably the hardest thing to do would be the interface to make the request for a texture by name translate into a command with file locations,

PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 6:18 am
by Smoking_Mirror
Yes, looks good, but for now the target is to create a basic texture for each new mech which has the potential to be further developed later on down the development pipeline.

Right now there's no need for fancy pre-generated textures, just enough to be able to tell one faction from another and make the mech look nice and pretty.

BTS is still only in demo form, once the campaign and everything else is working better it may be good to move on to stuff like that.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 11:31 am
by felderup
yes, i do suppose this isn't exactly the correct forum to barf the really out there ideas, but, just ideas, not screams for inclusion.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 2:07 pm
by Smoking_Mirror
That's OK.

All fan made games have a really long development time. Usually too long for them to actually find completion.

However, Derk does seem to be quite focused and practical and this is one of the few projects I've seen where they've actually got to a working demo. Especially as this has such a high level of functionality for a demo.

I'm using this project as a means to gain experience for future projects. It's nice to work on something with realistic goals (except of course for the idea that all 300+ mechs can be included in the game). :)