In every one of my last articles I talked about shaders in some way. This time I decided to make it the main topic. So what is so special about them? In short: they are the algorithms that define how our game data is visualized. If you want some special effects or just a different than normal light calculation – there is no way around them.
I also mentioned render targets. Render targets can be described as a non-visible screen in the graphic card which you can render on. Those render targets can be stored in a texture and be reused in future rendering steps.
Both these tools enable not only total freedom of the visual appearance of the game but are also good tools to modify the game’s GPU needs. They are furthermore helpful to debug the behavior and data of the rendering.
To understand the power of these tools I’d like to present this collection of rendering clips. In most cases there is just one option, line or parameter out of the box.
The key to greater shading is to see your textures as more than a collection of data. A common use is bump mapping, where the properties of a surface are stored in a texture. Typically these methods are used to enhance realism, whereas we started to use them more and more to enhance fantasy …an example for this are our new trees in the red world, which have animated veins. Look out for them in our next Dev-Demo update!