Post feature RSS Ship Design Series #9- Texturing Ships

Our latest entry of Lord of Rigel's ship design series covers how ships in LoR are textured!

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The texturing process for any Lord of Rigel ship, station or fighter begins when the actual 3d model has been built and approved of internally, and then uvw-mapped (a process that tells the game engine where on the 3d model to apply which texture part).

The first thing I do is bake soft shadows (ambient occlusion) from a completely white model to a texture, and save these soft shadows to a separate file. Then I set up the base color layer – this serves as the texture’s background layer and determines the general color palette of the ship; for example, while the Tharrn are mostly green, Humans are blue, Katraxi orange with some earth tones, Ornithon are yellow, Yalkai purple, and so on.

Next, I put the soft shadows map I rendered earlier over everything and have it blend over so the whites become transparent. I also render out a uvw layout map in the 3d program, save that to a png and place it as the top layer of the texture – this is a layer that is turned off when saving the final maps, but it lets me easily identify separate parts on the texture map.

The last of the initial steps is to set up some kind of a paneling pattern and also put that in it’s layer or layers – depending on the species, this can be a simple aztecing pattern such as we’ve seen on Star Trek’s USS Enterprise (the humans wear a pattern like that well), it can be biological shapes (such as the Selach or Xantus), or it can have a more industrial looking pattern, like the Katraxi, Ornithon or Tharrn use. It all depends to which species the ship belongs to, and what kind of a species it is.
With this prep work out of the way it’s time to put in all the details the ship will have; the first things I draw are the escape pods and windows, as these are size sensitive details. When making a new ship class I always try to work out what kind of size and crew complement would this species' specific ship class have; for example, the Tharrn, being less sophisticated, high population lizards, have comparatively large crew counts to everyone else, while the Tulock, being giant rock monsters, have relatively massive ships with smaller crew counts. This determines things like window sizes and escape pods, which I find important to scale consistently across all ship classes, as they’re the ones that give us a sense of scale.

Of course, some species may not even use escape pods, and window styles can vary drastically depending on the species as well – some species will have classic window arrangements, others, like the shape shifting Xantus don’t have straight deck arrangements, therefore their windows can be long and curved.

Another scale sensitive detail is the paneling; depending on ship scale, the panels will be more numerous the larger the ship they’re on, to further assist us with the sense of scale. Once all of the details are painted in (such as engines, various greeble details, point defense batteries, main gun ports, missile launchers and so on) I paint on weathering, the strength of which depends on the species. Finally, glow maps are baked inside a 3d program by placing lights next to a textured model and rendering to texture. After this it’s only a matter of exporting all the map types (color/diffuse, specular, shine, normal and glow) and the ships are ready to shine in their full glory!

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