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To bake or not to bake?

polycounter lvl 7
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yaschan polycounter lvl 7
This is really stupid question, but is baking normals necessary for all assets in games? To bake, for example handrails and such would be a very time consuming.
I have seen a lot of tangent basis discrepancy in triple-A games and some of them don't even bother with baking for other than weapons and key NPCs and maybe some key assets.

Are non -baked props worth of anything for game designers?

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  • Fansub
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    Fansub sublime tool
    Depends on the game's pipeline.I know many games that didn't used that much of baked assets,like Alien Isolation for instance.

    Basicaly,this technique uses more geo on you props to give them details that had to be made with a Normal Map.All other small details are added with a tilling Normal Map created specificaly to have details that can be populated on a wide range of assets within a game project/environment.

    Obscura has a great thread about this workflow.

    Now for creating a handrails,i wouldn't go with a normal map at all,and from what I've seen in most games they just slap a color+some scratches on it,mostly shader based stuff.It's a very simple material so no need to add custom baked map,unless specified.
  • yaschan
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    yaschan polycounter lvl 7
    Thank you for excellent reply. The custom vertex normals thread is absolutely great. I have somehow missed this.

    Indeed this workflow has really great benefits as we can build asset library which is not connected to meshes.

    I created these handrails today. Simple smoothing groups in Max.
  • Fansub
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    Fansub sublime tool
    The rust on your handrails isn't smartly placed from a realistic standpoint.

    testprop.jpg


    This is an old piece from Snefer,and as you can see everything is smartly placed,from the scratches to the over/underpaint details,etc...

    Having a Normal Map helps a lot to get these results,but if you choose to work without one just try to reduce the rust and locate it on some specific places in your UVs.
  • EarthQuake
    Yeah, this sort of asset doesn't necessarily need a normal map baked from a highpoly source, but you should try to create textures that are more specific to each part. Make a sheet of trims that you can tile in different areas rather than applying the same generic rusty yellow texture to multiple meshes.
  • yaschan
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    yaschan polycounter lvl 7
    Thank you for replies, and really good advice. I am trying to figure out how to smartly place and pack my UVs so that this will all come together.

    I also get the sense that my models could use a bit more geometry.

    I will post my results of the revision tonight.
  • yaschan
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    yaschan polycounter lvl 7
    I have really dumb question. How do you guys lay out UVs in this type of asset? Simply place them top of each other in areas that are meant to tile?
  • Obscura
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    Obscura grand marshal polycounter
    Sometimes, but that would require a lot of unnecessary UV splits so also a lot of unnecessary extra verts. It depends on if you are using atlas texture or not. If so, then you'd need the splits if you don't have a specific shader, and then you'd do as you described. But if you use atlas texture, but you have a specific shader, that can tile parts of the atlas, then you can do it without the splits, and use the usual method. The usual method is... Lets say you have a wall mesh and the texture would be tiled horizontally 4 times. Then you don't need 4 polygons, and they don't have to overlap each other on the uvmap. Instead you can use a continuous uv map, one tile would be inside uv space 0-1, and the others would spread out. This is when we are talking about continuous meshes, like walls, or the floor or the handrail or your mesh.
  • yaschan
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    yaschan polycounter lvl 7
    Thank you for your reply. Indeed this is what I generally think too.

    Sorry for my a bit confusing question. Actually what I meant was that if you were in my shoes, making modular staircase pieces, would you give each poly (for example individual steps) it's own unique UV space or would you overlap them to save space? Benefits of each are of course obvious, unique UV space would allow more freedom for texturing but texture space would be lost.
  • yaschan
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    yaschan polycounter lvl 7
    I decided to improve the geometry of the modular pieces to allow more different usages and to improve the connection between them.
    This whole staircase is now about 4000 quads. Is it a bit much for a game engine?
  • Fansub
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    Fansub sublime tool
    4000 quads is not a big deal at all for a modern game engine :)
  • Obscura
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    Obscura grand marshal polycounter
    This would go with a tiling material right? Then you can give them unique space or overlap them, it won't make a difference.

    4000 quads isn't much but actually I can't really imagine how you could spend this amount of geo on this object. Could we see wires?
  • WarrenM
    It's all the rounded railing pieces and how they connect to each other. I'm doing something similar and it adds up really quick.
  • yaschan
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    yaschan polycounter lvl 7
    I decided to remake the staircase parts as I totally screwed up grid scale. Then if I change the steepness of the stairs I have to redo everything.
  • yaschan
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    yaschan polycounter lvl 7
    I was able to come up with this by using one map only for all assets.
  • yaschan
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    yaschan polycounter lvl 7
    the uvs overlap like there is no tomorrow but I guess its ok.
  • Fingus
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    Fingus polycounter lvl 11
    That looks much better! You definitely got the gist of it. You could do a bit better job of hiding the seams though. But honestly, that is often obscured by lighting or other assets. It's rarely noticeable, but a good habit to have.

    Overlapping UV's is no problem. Stack those foo's.
  • yaschan
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    yaschan polycounter lvl 7
    Big thanks! Yes, I could probably fine tune the UVs in order to hide some of the seams. But presently I am having issue with Max regarding UVs. I made another thread about it.
  • ZacD
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    ZacD ngon master
    One trick to avoid obvious seams is to have a natural looking seam in the texture and add extra splits in the geometry. You can then match up the split on the texture with the UVs.
  • yaschan
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    yaschan polycounter lvl 7
    ZacD wrote: »
    One trick to avoid obvious seams is to have a natural looking seam in the texture and add extra splits in the geometry. You can then match up the split on the texture with the UVs.

    That's great trick! We could make it look like its really actually built from modules. Put a trim there, yeah! Actually bridges and almost all such elements are modular, so its matter or research.
  • yaschan
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