Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hint: Creating textures fitting in Skyrim

You have seen mods that either retexture items or add new ones in the game. And maybe you've noticed how some textures stand out like they come from outer space or whatever funky world that is NOT Tamriel. If you've never notice this then I suggest you to either look carefully the exemple or avoid doing any texturing job.

Textures are extremely important. You can screw the modeling, you can screw the level building, but do not screw the texturing! Textures are what you see all the time, if you screw them you screw the game. They are not the only thing that can screw the game of course, but we're talking about textures.

Skyrim was created with a graphic chart including a certain range of colors only to fit the rugged, cold, snowy place. It's not for nothing that we never see bright red big flowers. Even the crimson nirnroots aren't bright red:

So, which picture should be your reference for texturing a crimson nirnroot?

Skyrim uses mostly desaturated colors, almost grey for most of them. Now it's not always easy to figure if your desaturated colors will fit in the game. However note that you shouldn't just take screenshot of the game and use the colors of the screenshots as they are altered by the game engine's post process.
So how to do? Well, simple trick:
  1. Find items in the games that feature the colors you want to use
  2. Get their textures
  3. Pick the colors directly

If you can't find items with such colors, then maybe you shouldn't use them in the first place and go for other colors. If you want to extract textures from the game you will need a specific tool (see here for info and links).

Now if you want to expand a type of items already existing in the game, such as weapons and armors, to create maybe new variations within an existing set, or a new kind of weapon like staves in exemple. I cannot smith a staff in Vanilla Skyrim, it would be cool to smith some glass, elven or ebony staff!
...Okay... But before going wild, OBSERVE the existing weapons!
  1. Look their designs, see what are the smilarities between a dagger and a bow, between a sword and a mace, etc.
  2. Look if they have specific patterns in their textures, specific shapes in their modeling.
  3. When you're able to tell what are the graphic codes of a weapon set, you can start designing.
  4. Then submit your drawing on a forum to get feedback and advice.
  5. Eventually fix it before starting modeling and texturing.

It is very important to not neglect feedback. Unless you're doing a mod just for yourself you should get sure that your audience will like what you propose. Plus if people are aware of what you do you have more chances to get the audience you deserve!

Finally, here's a graphic review I made. I guess a concrete exemple speaks better.

You see the difference? Before and after?
(If not, maybe you shouldn't do any texturing for the moment)

You may also read this great post from Martigen on Bethsoft, gathering advice from Martigen and many other texturers who contributed to the thread. The main focus is texture compression and I found this post extremely interesting, both technical and professional.

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