I've been experimenting with shading ships by using depth maps and "light rays and shadows". For now the shader simply uses the colors of the ship as the depth (maximum of red/green/blue).
I think the ships/shading effect would look better with real depth maps. Unfortunately these are missing from current sprites as far as I know.
There could be three solutions to add depth information to sprites: Either the alpha channel is used (which is usually used for transparency) or a new picture format could be created with more channels, or a seperate picture could function as depth map. For now perhaps it's easiest to create a seperate picture. But perhaps in future I'll make new picture format with more channels.
An "emission" channel would also be nice, then these "emission" pixels could cast light for future functionality. So a new pixel format seems best solution.
I would be interested in working together with some sprite/pixel artists to see if we can work together to create some nice depth maps/sprites and tools to try and shade ships better. I could create special tools for you guys and then you guys and gals draw the sprites/depth maps and such...
I saw this nice ship on this forum and wondered how it would look like with the custom shading so here are the results. (Shader still under development).
To give you a sense what is going on there are three pictures: The depth map, the color map, and the final result/output map.
On the output map there are circles which represent the lights which were used, the brightness of the color is the light power, the size of the light is the depth (bigger is further away from ship/closer to viewer).
Here are the 3 pictures:
DepthMap.png [ 100.1 KiB | Viewed 1488 times ]
Color map (simply collection of sprites rendered by shipmaker I guess):
ColorMap.png [ 134.83 KiB | Viewed 1488 times ]
Pixel/output/shaded map (with randomly generated lights):
PixelMap.png [ 150.25 KiB | Viewed 1488 times ]
The depth map actually contains a lot of detail, pretty amazing, but it's just the r,g,b maxed. The question is:
Could you artists create a more realistic/better depth map ?
Also if you are interested in creating a new ship with a new depth map I would also be interested in that... then I can stick it into my shading engine and sees what pops out of it... ofcourse I will sent you back the results.
Bye for now,