We knew from the moment on when we redesigned our Kilrathi warships that we were going to need to do the same for the Confed counterparts to maintain coherence in our visual style. In early concepts we wanted to stay away from a traditional military look, so we started off with a worn down metal texture. We were still learning the tech at that point, so we weren't solid on what could and could not be pulled off easily so we went with something a little on the safe side.
We went forward with this concept, getting it modeled, skinned, and in game. But, as often happens, we can’t often see existing problems until you get an asset in the game. We realized that the worn down look wasn't working. So we made some adjustments and variations to the base map which made a marked improvement. In a twist irony, as time went by and the texture work began to get more fleshed out, the product became more and more military looking (which we were originally avoiding).
At that point in time we also added sophisticated armor plating. We actually had a good foundation to build upon thanks to the work done on the Kilrathi textures. We wrote a simple Photoshop script that creates armor plates in a matter of minutes (thus saving us a lot of time).
Finally, we added specular, glow, and normal maps. Normal maps are one of my personal favorites. Basically, normal maps are used to greatly enhance the appearance of our low poly models without using more polygons. This technique allows us to create highly detailed, impressive models with very small impact on performance, allowing Saga to look and play great on a wide variety of machines.
This is a great example of not knowing until we needed to know it. In developing a project like Saga, assets are going to have to change as the game evolves, grows, and changes. As such, any assets we made at the beginning often times just don't quite fit when we get to the end. So we have to keep ourselves flexible. After all, in the end, it's about what's best for the game and the player.