A Slight Change of Plans
It has been a while since the last update of Sins: Remastered and we have been working away on a great many things in the mod. We had been hoping to release a fully complete v1.00 version that covers planet shaders and all the other bits of the rendering that could be addressed but completing the planet shaders and updates is taking longer than we initially though. The extra time is resulting in some pretty amazing developments, but time never stops ticking away either. There have been a lot of really significant and exciting changes to features in the mod besides the planet shaders though, and we have decided to do a staged release instead rather than keep everyone waiting on one massive update with no current estimated time of arrival.
So, having said that, let's talk about all the new features that are being released with v0.95b!
We've incorporated a change in the way shadows are handled in Sins that comes from an older version of the game and generally provides more accurate shadows on objects.
The ship shaders were already in a decent spot but there have been several exciting new features added that really put them on a whole new level.
We've added support for a fourth texture for objects using the ship shader that allows for full color self-illumination maps on ships. In the past this was done by incorporating the self-illumination data right into the diffuse and emissive maps and while that worked, it also changed the properties of the material it was applied to. This new, dedicated texture channel allows for full color light separate from the diffuse color of the surface and which is dynamic with the surface properties - meaning that it will maintain specularity, roughness and so on.
Advent Coronata with baked self-illumination
Iridescence is the phenomenon of certain surfaces that appear to gradually change color as the angle of view or the angle of illumination changes. It's typical on objects that spend time exposed in space. An iridescence for metals control has been enabled on a per-mesh basis so it can be customized for each individual ship with no extra cost in textures or memory.
Parallax Height Occlusion
The new optional fourth texture for the ship shader isn't just used for the baked self-illumination data, it also supports an optional height map. While the normal map works well for basic surface variations, the height map allows for much more dramatic effects applied in texture. In addition to the surface deformation, shadows are also implemented on the height data to complete the effect. This allows for some visual aspects on ships through textures that were simply not possible to achieve as convincingly before.
Height map demonstration. Image courtesy of Stargate Races
We've incorporated a change in the way shadows are handled in Sins that comes from an older version of the game and generally provides more accurate shadows on objects. While shadows in Sins will never be perfectly accurate, you should find that shadows in Sins: Re handled problematic objects a lot better.
The asteroid shader saw some small improvements as well. It benefits from the shadow improvements as mentioned for the ship shader but a new, optional detail tiler has been added as well. The tiler is configurable and can help add things like additional fine rocky details to an existing texture.
Skyboxes & Stars
A new skybox detail enhancement feature has been added to the skybox shader. This enhancement is configurable within the shader and adds micro distortions to the base skybox texture to create additional fine details in the skybox.
Stars have also been given some attention. The corona effect has been re-written and a new surface animation has been added.
The shield impact shader has been updated to include an animated effect on shield impact. Shields still retain all their previous properties such as customizable shape and color per ship but now have an added flair when being struck.
New custom animated shield effect.
Post Processing Effects
The Bloom and Post Processing shaders have seen major revisions. Nearly all the old effects have been modified or entirely re-written and their impact on the visuals of the game is now pretty remarkable.
Bloom & Anamorphic Flares
Bloom has been completely re-written and is both now much higher quality while also being more efficient. Micro bloom has been removed and replaced with specular bloom which allows light on the surface of the ship to bloom as well. Lastly, anamorphic flares have been added to the bloom process and can add a striking visual enhancement on top of the other bloom effects.
Resived Vasari Vorastra demonstrating bloom on specular highlights.
The tone-mapper has been completely rewritten as well. Previous complaints were that tone-mapping limited the white level on objects in order to allow headroom for effect stacking to build up to full white. The new tone-mapper works in a somewhat opposite manner and is set up to achieve full white now.
With the removal of micro bloom and the addition of specular bloom, the option to add an in-shader sharpening effect was available. The sharpening effect is subtle but can provide a nice little bit of detail enhancement to the final visual result now.
PBR Conversions & Custom Assets
A number of stock ship and object assets have been updated in this release.
We've added an optional PBR validation flag to the ship shader which will allow modders to check their texture data to see if it conforms within PBR. As such, we made a pass through all titans, capital ships and star bases to update their PBR conversions to fall within the PBR checks validation range. Iridescence was also applied to those assets as well as we saw fitting.
Lastly, several of the stock assets in the game have been completely redone with all new native PBR textures and in some cases revised models as well. The Vasari Loyalist titan saw a complete model rebuild and fresh PBR texture set. The Advent Radiance received an all new custom PBR texture set. The TEC Rebel titan saw some fixes for minor issues in its original mesh. And lastly, the Vasari capital ship line saw model updates as well as brand new custom textures on all but the Rankulus.
Updated mesh and custom textures on Vasari capital ships.
We hope you'll agree that there is plenty to be excited about in this new release even if it was not quite as encompassing as we had planned. There will definitely be more to come in the future as we complete the remaining work on planets. Those of you who have been watching the content posts should have some idea of the things yet in store in regards to planets that we're working on!
We're also very pleased to mention that during development of these new features a number of major modding teams have taken notice and are planning on taking advantage of what Sins: Remastered offers them to improve their own projects. Stargate Races and Star Wars: Interregnum will continue to offer Sins: Re but that list of mods may soon grow. Both Ages of the Federation and Sins of the Prophets have made announcements that they intend to incorporate the Remastered shaders in future releases and we look forward to seeing what they can achieve with the new tools. Other mods are also in the planning and implementation stages and more information on those will hopefully follow in time.
As always, we invite you to comment or leave feedback. You may also join us on our Discord if you have questions or are looking for some help.