The hottest buzzword in 3D rendering and gaming at the moment is PBR, short for physically-based rendering. It’s a deep, highly wonky topic, but at a high level is basically an attempt to re-create how light plays over real-world surfaces using mathematical formulas and sets of texture maps. For any given material you could have, for instance, a base color map, a map representing how glossy each pixel of a surface is, one for the specular color of each pixel, and so forth. Wait, wake up! I swear, this is not only cool, it’s a sea change in how we create realistic looking things in a digital environment.
The older simulators like FSX and even Prepar3D don’t really speak this PBR language, but the newer crops of sims promise big advancements along these lines. X-Plane 11 is the first product out of the gate that uses PBR, but Lockheed Martin says P3D v4 will use something akin to PBR, and we can assume (read: hope) that Dovetail’s new simulator will follow suit.
For developers who like to stay on top of the latest trends, there are several amazing tools out there that help us author our objects using a PBR workflow. The one we’ve decided to invest in is called Substance Painter/Designer from Allegorithmic. For those who’ve done image editing, think of it like Photoshop on steroids, aimed exclusively at creating and applying advanced materials to 3D objects.
Best of all, while FSX and P3D don’t take advantage of all this new tech has to offer, objects can still be textured using PBR techniques and with a little combining and magic in the 3D program can look pretty darned amazing.
The first recipient of this tech is the tower at our Heron’s Nest scenery. Wait… tower? Damn straight. As one of our beta testers pointed out, when living on a small isolated island you’re gonna need a source for two things: water and power. So here you go, the crusty old water tower that just got installed into the Heron’s Nest 2.0, courtesy of a short stop in Substance Painter for texturing.
By the way, we’ve got the electricity covered, too. 😉