I'm catching up on some blog topics. First, I wanted to show you the final version of that musical sketch from the last post. This one has improved dynamics, an added bridge, and a couple of scoring changes that make it feel much more like something you'd hear from your favorite Tetrisphere-alike.
So, I've been wanting to do this since before going to DigiPen. I modeled the Arwing from Starfox 1 (the "high-poly" version seen at the title screen). It is to real-world scale and accurate within half-an-inch. It is also perfectly accurate to the original model (with a few caveats that I'll explain below). Please download your own copy of it if you'd like to sculpt on it or make your own textures.
3dsMax 2013 version. If anyone wants a different file format, please ask.
The goal was to be 1:1 with the original model in the game. There is a seven-year-old level editor out there that its developer never completed. While it could not output an OBJ as promised, it did allow me to get high-resolution orthographics and a vertex list. Those combined with the ability to tumble around the original model while I worked allowed me to get this as authentic as humanly possible.
There are some changes, however. The SuperFX model format allows for things that count as invalid geometry today. Where the original model had T-gons, I added vertices to allow those faces while remaining faithful to the source. Over all, this model has 8 more verts and 11 more faces than the original model. They do not contribute to the silhouette, however.
Regarding size, the original vertex list stepped conveniently into meters. A Google search for documents on the Arwing's design confirms the sizing, so the end result is a model perfectly to real-world scale.
This model is ready for UV mapping or sculpting. Please feel free to do so.
There's an interesting divide between those who paint with color and those who paint with value. Neither one is wrong. When it comes to CG, however, you're usually limited to the Blinn model of shading. Blinn paints with value, specifically adding black and white to surfaces depending on how much light falls on each plane based on its normal.
But what if you don't want make shadows with black? You can certainly change the shadow color of a light, but that doesn't affect the Gourand shadows produced by the Blinn shading. In other words, your cast shadow may be blue, but the object itself is still black. You can change the diffuse and ambient settings in the shader, come up with a color that gets close to the shadow you want, but this is inefficient and changes greatly when light moves across the normal.
Mental Ray users can add color back into the Gourand shadows through final gather, but this process takes several minutes per frame to calculate enough bounce light - and you're STILL fighting against the loss of value that comes by mixing with black.
My solution? Self illumination.
It's a technique usually reserved for making an object glow, but if you remove all "white-ness" from your self-illumination color it tends to only affect shadows. Bingo!
Here is my scene using both techniques back-to-back. The first uses only the default Blinn shading. The second has a self-illumination set to a darkened sky-blue.
Fake, efficient bounce light using self-illumination.
I want you to notice one other thing about the second image. On each pillar near the snowy ground is a touch of bounce light. Since the Quicksilver renderer does not yet support light exclusion (the ability to tell a light to not shine on specific objects), I could not achieve this by adding more lights. Taking what I learned from the color effect previously mentioned, I decided I could use self-illumination to solve this as well - if it could be controlled.
Turns out it can be. You can use a greyscale map, or in my case, a gradient. There is mottled black-to-white gradient controlling how much the pillar self-illuminates (without a set color) to fake light bouncing off the snow back onto the pillar. This is useful, as it adds nothing to render time and looks close enough to ray-traced options. I have yet to determine how to control the color of this bounce light, but I can look into that another day. (Adding color to the gradient ends up being crushed back to grayscale, reducing the effect and nullifying the color choice).
I have something for you today. A simpler, better way of rendering wireframes for classwork or portfolios.