There are several reasons we're looking into the HQ / support factory models, I'll list them here. Before I start: note that we'll also be tackling the UEF and Seraphim factories. We just didn't find the time to do them yet.
- (1) The old HQs have no upgrade animations
Simple as that, they use the upgrade animation of the support factory and the HQ-bits just pop into vision as the factory is finished. That breaks with what other structures do and it breaks immersion for those that notice it.
- (2) The old HQs are poorly made
A lot of the assets of the base game have baked in normals and baked in ambient occlusion. If you're unaware what these are, read through these articles:
Note that the game does not have dynamic ambient occlusion, it is baked into the albedo texture. If you're unaware of what that is, read through this article:
The HQs were made by improperly re-using bits of texture and mesh and as a result they look bad. We'll look closely at a few factories for a comparison.
As an example, note the light direction (in yellow) and the shadow. The light should fully lit the blue marked areas, but they're ... not quite fully lit. There's dark spots and specular lighting where it doesn't make any sense
The same applies to the side of the factory, see the blue marked areas. These should be equally lit, but there's all sorts of dark areas, light areas and again specular lighting where it doesn't make sense
The dark bits are skewed because the normals are
The reflection at the top is all skewed, because the normals are skewed too
Let alone the back of this mesh, which is stretched up
And the albedo / normals are skewed here
And we can't fix any of these issues because they re-use bits and pieces of the texture, fixing it here would make the model look bad at another location. All of the factories have issues such as these, which will be made a lot more prominent as we migrate towards PBR shaders.
- (3) The old HQs are not compatible with our intention to introduce PBR shaders
We've asked people, a lot has shown interest, not many turned up. And I'm not blaming them: you'd be working with old tech with no easy to understand workflow. This is an example of how a unit would look like with PBR shaders:
Left is current shaders, right is new shaders
I think that it looks a lot better, and this topic is the proof that people look at the game up close. The old HQs would outright prevent us from being able to push this as they'd look bad-bad, see also:
Where the same shading issues apply but they're a lot more noticeable using PBR shaders.
With all of that said - I'm not against better alternatives for factories that are compatible with PBR shaders. But it involves quite some work:
- (a) Make meshes for individual factories
- (b) Make textures for individual factories
- (c) Make build animations for individual factories
- (d) Make upgrade animations between the factories
Which can take up dozen(s) of hours to get right. Therefore we choose to take the 'normal' factory that ships with Steam FA and trim it down slightly. Not all factories have a lot to work with though. In my opinion the Cybran naval factory and all of the Aeon factories are quite good, people just need to get used to them.
And we're open to improvements. For example I agree that the Cybran air factory lost a bit too much on average. You're welcome to step up and see if you can do better.
The changes, as far as I could see, were barely communicated to the community. I found this in the change log:
"We're slowly but surely preparing the game for a significant visual improvement. [...] (#4456) Re-create the Cybran land factories. [...]
Only 16K people that looked at the topic. It was also promoted in the news hub and by Gyle.
We also have a separate discord section:
Where the forum has over a thousand posts at the moment.