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May. 27, 2020

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[Freelancer Mod News]Freeworlds: Tides of War - Imperial Star Destroyer Normal Map and other eye candy!
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Hey guys, we're trying to be a little more frequent with news posts than we've been for the last few months as we think it is very important to keep everyone updated on the progress we're making. The time it takes is negligible compared to the enjoyment you guys get out of it!

You've probably noticed the slew of what can only be qualified as "ship pr0n" that we've released in the past few days. I can assure you this just the beginning. Thanks to w0dk4's latest magic trick, normal mapping is now enabled throughout the game. As such, we are in the process of creating normal maps for all existing models, be they ships, bases or (yes) planets. We have great plans for the latter, actually, although it is too early to speak about it very much. Stay tuned.

We therefore have two new models to show off for the time being. The first one is a new masterpiece by experts Sizer (model) and Bouma (texture): the I-7 Howlrunner. An Incom design mainly in use by the Galactic Empire as fighter crafts, they were recognized for their speed and agility. Superior in resilience to the TIE/in starfighter, in large part thanks to its onboard deflector shield generator, the I-7 was mainly used in remote outposts and older fleets due to cold relations between Incom and the Empire. Meticulously recreated and textured, the model possesses its own normal map, making it one of the first few models designed with this in mind.
I-7 Howlrunner
I-7 Howlrunner ingame
I-7 Howlrunner
I-7 Howlrunner ingame


Then, we have the backbone of the imperial fleet, the bane and symbol of the mod: the Imperial Star Destroyer. The ship's iconic status dispenses it from introduction, and it is far from a new addition to the Freeworlds ship roster. What makes this re-release special is that the model has been vastly improved through the past few weeks. Thanks to a new collision mesh exporter (SURs, as they are called) by Schmackbolzen, the Freeworlds team (Sushi in particular) has been able to dramatically improve game performance, both on the client and the server. This has highlighted a large problem with the ISD: at over 180,000 polygons, it was a beast and a performance killer. Through much sweat and work, Sushi was able to trim down this number to a much more reasonable 40,000. What was lost had to be regained, however! This is where the normal map comes in.
Imperial Star Destroyer Normal Map
Imperial Star Destroyer Normal Map
Imperial Star Destroyer Normal Map

(Link to Ultra High Resolution Images - WARNING OVER 5 MBs minimum for each image)
Image 1, Image 2, Image 3

As w0dk4 explained, a normal map allows us to take information from a much more detailed mesh and apply it onto a simplified one, thus giving the illusion of lavish details without any significant impact on performance. Normal mapping is ubiquitous in current games and so it was only logical for us to implement this. In this specific case, however, the high-resolution mesh was unsuitable. Its usage would have been very complex and likely would have ended up giving subpar results. Thus, I have decided to manually create the normal maps (there are 8 normal mapped textures on the model, 10 in total, most 1024x1024) in order to extract as much details and fidelity as possible. The results can be seen above and, I think, speak by themselves. But how will this fare in game, you ask?


(You can see me turning off and on the normal map to show you the effect it has on the model.)

We hope you have enjoyed these glimpses into the future of Freelancer modding. As you may already be aware, we are planning on releasing all of our graphical improvement technology some time after the mod's official release as a way of saying thanks to the rest of the community. While the value of such modifications might have been unclear in the past, the results now speak for themselves.

Until next time, folks!


As always any comments, suggestions or questions are always welcomed!
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Posted on: 2011/2/26 16:24
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Re: [Freelancer Mod News]Imperial Star Destroyer Normal Map and other eye candy!
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well, it is a great job indeed. on some smaller corvets or fighters this will increase the eye-candy factor massively. though on ships like the imperial star destroyer or other carriers and large battleship classes i'd still prefer somewhat more mesh-based detail. ofc this takes performance, and ofc a mesh of approx. 160k polys for a ship that will appear again and again onscreen of a large amount of players is a good bit too much, still an amount of lets say 30k-50k with about 10k being the shape and the rest making up detail is just okay.
imo, on some faces the maps do a fantastic job, like the plating of the upper and downside of the spaceship, but on other, where there are greebles, it just looks like a map and that's not what a normal map is good for, is it? imo the relation of map and true detail should be balanced for the player to have the illusion of real details, all the time.
maybe the relation factor shall be different depending on LODs, what'd you say? so on the highest level the player sees at least major greebles, while when he is further off, the map would replace them - he wouldn't recognise anyway.

Posted on: 2011/2/26 6:40
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Re: [Freelancer Mod News]Imperial Star Destroyer Normal Map and other eye candy!
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the video isnt accessible in germany cause it includes Sony Music Entertainment. -.- can you upload it somewhere else?

Posted on: 2011/2/26 11:11
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Re: [Freelancer Mod News]Imperial Star Destroyer Normal Map and other eye candy!
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Quote:

viper wrote:
the video isnt accessible in germany cause it includes Sony Music Entertainment


The same in Slovakia.

Posted on: 2011/2/26 12:35
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Re: [Freelancer Mod News]Imperial Star Destroyer Normal Map and other eye candy!
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Posted on: 2011/2/26 14:18
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Re: [Freelancer Mod News]Freeworlds: Tides of War - Imperial Star Destroyer Normal Map and other eye candy!
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yes thank you and nice work

Posted on: 2011/2/26 20:34
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Re: [Freelancer Mod News]Freeworlds: Tides of War - Imperial Star Destroyer Normal Map and other eye candy!
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Beautiful! You guys just keep cranking it out..... Much Respect.

Posted on: 2011/2/28 4:40
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Re: [Freelancer Mod News]Freeworlds: Tides of War - Imperial Star Destroyer Normal Map and other eye candy!
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Good to see, this is what FL is sorely needing. Great work BTW!

Posted on: 2011/2/28 11:31
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Re: [Freelancer Mod News]Freeworlds: Tides of War - Imperial Star Destroyer Normal Map and other eye candy!
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First off, amazing work, you obviously have a talented team. I'd love to hear more about how in the world you got normal mapping and specularity working in-engine, but I imagine it was no small feat.

I was just recently thinking about how exciting it would be to update Freelancer with a new engine, but it looks as though you're team chose a much better idea. Just build it into the already existing one.

I'd like to talk with you more and learn more about what you're up to. I'll be sending you a PM shortly.

Posted on: 2011/3/11 3:37
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Re: [Freelancer Mod News]Freeworlds: Tides of War - Imperial Star Destroyer Normal Map and other eye candy!
Anonymous-Anonymous
WOW! Is that still Freelancer??????
Its better then anything I ever saw in any game!!! I would never believe it runs on Freelancer's engine unless you showed me...

Posted on: 2011/3/11 8:01
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