Battle among the Stars: day 8

About 11 month ago I bought some ship models for Bats, of which so far I have used one.
This model could first be seen in the screenshots of the day two post, but I’ve never been totally happy with it, not because it’s necessary bad –  I paid a hand full of euros for it, and the quality is probably worth more than I paid.


One of my main issues is the textures it came with, an issue I have with many space games out there:

If you build a warship to be used in space, why would you paint it brightly colored? There is no reason to make it the best reflector of light around, and make no mistake, there is a lot of light in space.

Also I found the original textures way to comic like.

After looking for options for a while, I decided to spend today to “fix”  that issue. While I keep telling myself “it’s just a placeholder” I just can’t look at it anymore.

Now, I’m not an graphics artist, all I know is the basic use of a hand full of tools, so creating a new texture is far away from my comfort zone.

The first step was to find the right tool, so I’ve been looking for those for a while.

A few month ago I looked at quixel, which basically is a hand full of extensions for Photoshop, and I figured knowing Photoshop basics that might be a good approach. Now quixel has some interesting tools and comes with a fantastic library of materials. But I hit a wall when I tried to use it – to foreign where the work flows to me, the resource hunger of Photoshop working with those high resolution images was enormous, and at some point, overwhelmed by the possibilities combined with my lack of knowledge about graphics design I gave up.

Today I decided to give allegorithmics substance suit a try.  With their live offer (comparable to creative cloud) it has become an affordable tool, there is an unreal engine substance plug in, and the tutorials seemed easy enough.

The suit consists of three tools:

Substance Painter: a tool that allows you to create complex pbr materials and paint them directly on your 3d models, including innovative generators for procedural effects (wear and tear, weathering, scratching etc), particlesystem-based brushes (this is one of the coolest features I’ve ever seen in an app like that, look it up on YouTube).

Substance Designer: a node based compositing tool to create materials, comparable to unreal engines own material editor, which even allows to expose variables in your material to be used in the engine (which for example allows to enable certain features of your material during runtime, like changing the opacity of a layer with damage features.. Pretty cool)

Substance B2M: a tool that allows you to create materials from photos (haven’t looked closer at it)

As you might have gotten by my enthusiastic choice of words, I’m enormously impressed by the capabilites of the tools, and the work flows all make sense to me.

However after spending about 7 hours with it, I have to mention a few downsides:

Substance Painter crashed several times on me, and I didn’t find an auto save feature, so I lost quite a bit of time redoing things that I lost to crashes.  (in 7 hours I had about 11 crashes, most when importing something, one when trying to save my work)

Substance Designer seems to have a year hard-coded somewhere as it would only start with my system clock set to 2015 (guys wtf are you doing there?)

The substance plug in for unreal engine works with materials from substance designer, and there is no tool that allows export from painter to designer, painter will only export bitmaps, so you either have to create a material based on those in designer – or if you don’t need the features of designer, you have to manually create an unreal material reading the 3 to 5 bitmaps (you don’t need the plug in then either) . This seems to be a bit wtf, as an import feature that creates a basic material should be a one day project for allegorithmics devs.


Once I got my result into UE and was satisfied I posted a few screens on Facebook and IRC, asking people for feedback, comparing the original (bright)  texture with my own one.

The feedback I got was pretty clear, the huge majority of people like the original textures more, most commenting on the bad visibility the dark ship might have. Now while “bad visibility” is actually something I aimed for, there was also suggestions like brightening it up a bit or adding a few highlights.


Now while I still prefer my own dark version, and think the visibility will improve once I start working on the ui, I’ll take this criticism to my heart and will put some more work into this, hoping to find a way to make it work not only for myself. (thanks in this place to all who commented).

A personal note: it’s weird to create something that you are convinced about, and then get a lot of  clear feedback that opposes your point of view. I think this was a lesson for me to learn.

PS: as this is my first post this year: happy new year.

Edit: I did some more work on the material:

  • changed the underlying steel-blue base to something more greyish, which brings out the details on the wear and tear alot more, brightening up the complete look.
  • made the red stripes emissive, thus adding some more light effects to the ship
  • changed the reflection behaviours
  • added more light to the scene itself


Edit: did a bit more work on it:


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