Hellion Texturing Overview

Concept by Kristian (INovaeSpace), Model by Eugene (INovaeGene), Textures by Andre (INovaeAndre) and Slobodan (Altfuture).

Being our first finished asset to go through the texturing process using PBR (physically based rendering), this first texturing pass serves more as an experiment than a final texture and will continue to evolve as new art tools are developed and more standardized techniques and methodology are established within our pipeline.

I’ll preface by stating it took some time to get used to our new material pipeline having used a more conventional texturing system for some years. I started by reading up on some material published by other industry professionals experience using a PBR pipeline.


Getting past my years of engrained methodology and tricks was the first hurdle to overcome when approaching the texturing process of the Hellion. My usual trial and error and more organic art style approach didn’t yield the results we were looking for, so I had to wrap my head around using different systems and our node based structure in the editor to our advantage.

Art Direction:
Our goal with the Hellion for look & feel was to portray it as a very industrial functional ship within our Starfold faction, one that has seen a lot of service with a good amount of wear & tear, all the while feeling solid, trustworthy and low maintenance. Sort of a function over form that needed to translate into the materials used as I approached the texturing process. Image material reference included Trains, cargo planes, older military helicopters and industrial equipment / machines, as well as my huge collection of sci-fi reference.

Texturing Process:
One of the pitfalls I was falling into was trying to get too much information and contrast into our diffuse texture. When I reduced the contrast of the diffuse albedo and made sure no lighting information was baked into the map and brightened about 25%, there was an immediate visual difference and jump in quality.

In our pipeline, if a material is pure metal, the diffuse albedo is pure black with the color information now residing in the specular map. Seeing pure black in a diffuse map was counter intuitive to me, and I initially held back on experimenting with this approach in favor of having most materials dielectrics (non-metals). The main hull (beige armor plaiting) on the Hellion is now mostly metal.

To help out with getting the correct albedo, specular and roughness values, INovaeJan (Stannum) created a Photoshop swatch of materials and corresponding values after some extensive testing, that not only greatly maximized my time management but yielded good results with some minor tweaking here and there.

It was a good way to get a base threshold of quality and plug in correct values on all maps for materials like rust / aluminum / paint, that I could then play with to get even more interesting results.

The roughness texture which dictates the ‘shininess and reflection’ of materials, provided the most opportunity to get some uniqueness out of the materials. Using Jan’s range of roughness value swatches, I could get interesting looking materials intersecting or side by side such as scratches / speckles / dents in multiple lighting conditions. There were a few seldom instances where I had to ‘cheat’ the values as the mathematically correct ones just seemed off.

I believe the Hellion is in a good place now, especially compared to our initial video, where at the time the artists didn’t have any experience whatsoever with this system. I continue to tinker on it almost daily and continue to learn from it. I’m also coming to grips with what this engine and material system has to offer and it’s a powerful tool that will bring our eventual virtual worlds to life.

Our current goal now is to create a solid database of high quality tileable texture packs as we believe they will yield the best results for our target Texel density. With a mix of unique and tileable textures and multiple UV sets to overlay information on, I believe the next ships coming down the pipeline will be of higher quality and I’m excited to see this process evolve and to bring these ships to life.

I’ll leave you with some work in progress shots of the Hellion in our editor viewer.


Screenshots! :smiley:

Looks like alot of progress is being made, I’m not a tech buff so all I can really say is good job so far, looks really good.

Gazing into the first screen shot makes me want to just watch the planet from afar as the ship orbits it… in first person…

Pff nice try, you won’t fool me, the fourth and fifth supposed screenshots are actual photos of a 3D printed model of the Hellion. Hehehe… he… he… … he… … emm… right? :open_mouth:

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That “diffuse albedo” texture. Is it still analogous to a traditional diffuse or is it something different? It seems more like a combination emit/specular map, except you already have a “specular” texture (which looks more like a diffuse than anything).


Now that’s one sexy looking ship. And it looks good regardless of lighting! Very, very impressive.

This is what I struggled with initially, understanding how to mix and match the different maps, as they don’t correspond to ‘traditional’ methods. Essentially, base what information to put in which map on what kind of material it is. If you have a metal material, the color information is put in the specular map, and is pure black in the diffuse albedo, hence the spec map looking a bit like a traditional diffuse map. Dielectrics or non metals color information stays in the diffuse, and gets subtle specular treatment.

Okay. Still a little confusing, but I think I get it. I can imagine modders and developers having a heck of a time when they finally get their hands on it, though.

There is a definite learning curve which is why it took me a while to get it to this point. That being said, as mentioned in the blog, we will probably be moving towards a hybrid system with tiling textures where all that information across the texture maps will be set and correct, and modders will be able to inspect some source files.

I recommend checking out some of the links I posted to where the whole PBR it is explained in some detail.

Wow, that looks really spectacular! The bits at the back that kind of looks like an early '80s fastback window shade really shows off the power of the materials system and rendering engine. Love that shot of the landing gear, too.

Looking really great there.

And as somebody who worked for a while doing physical-based rendering, I feel your pain.

Great work. I was going to make a joke about it being photos of the ship in the back yard of were I used to live but meh already done.

I like that you guys are using PBR (Physically Based Rendering).

@INovaeKeith - Have you read this book on PBR? It is an awesome read for both programmers and artists!
For those who do not know what PBR is it allow the computer to output photo real scenes.

Yeah I own both the 1st and 2nd editions =)


also named - PBS (Physically Based Shading) in games
and its Awesome xD
I guessed It by view of ship when I first time saw this screenshots and video
result is very good :3

Excellent job! very good all that you give feedback about the game design

Wow, those look amazing. Can’t wait to get a demo of this before Kickstart :smiley:


We didn’t quite pull off our special end of year content, but I’ll post a quick update on some of the things I’ve been working on texture related.

I’m taking older assets from a few years back we have rights to, and converting them to work with our PBL material system. The good news: it’s pretty easy to transition older assets, especially if they aren’t high detailed player controlled ships. This should give us a good number of npc ships to scatter into our world to add visual interest .

Some of you may remember the Skybear, here it is in our editor. I’ll also leave this render of the Hellion.


Gorgeous! So glad i just upgraded to an R9-270X so i can play IB with max graphics <3
Lock and loaded for Kickstarter.

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Amazing. That Helion is definitely Kickstarter Page Ready!

It looks great in IBL lighting with HDRI map, but how well does it look in the actual engine?

Even Unity3D looks amazing with IBL. If anyone is wondering - just google “Photorealistic humans in Unity3D” or download the famous 10 years old RTHDRIBL tech-demo.