The Volumetric Galaxy Pack
It’s fun to see so much interest in our new Volumetric Galaxy Pack for Unity3D! We know it’s a bit of a niche product, of course, but it turns out a lot of people are interested in making space games that look good! Who would have thought?
So where do we go from here? Well, first of all the galaxies can get even better, and there are several ideas on what to address next. Some of which include:
Star clusters within the volume
Truth is, if you would be out there in space, several million light years away, looking back at the milky way, you would not see much with the naked eye. It would just be a very dim glow, much like the Andromeda galaxy can be seen with the naked eye from Earth, but it’s very, very dim. If you use a camera and expose for a bit longer, you’d start seeing something akin to what we see with our best space telescopes today.
If you google images on the Andromeda galaxy, you’ll notice that the image is full of stars. The thing is, though, that these stars are not within or around the Andromeda galaxy. They are mostly what happens to be in the line of sight of the Andromeda galaxy, i.e stars of the Milky Way. Fact is, even with our very best telescopes, what we see when we take pictures of other galaxies is just fuzzy light. This shining dust is actually not just cosmic dust, but stars as well. They are just so numerous and distance that we can’t see them as points of light anymore. At most we’ll catch some dense star cluster as a bright(ish) dot(ish). It takes for a star to go supernova for us to distinctly see it – at this point the light output of that star can outshine the rest of that entire galaxy for a short period of time.
So where does that leave us with this star cluster thing? Well, we all know that you can take shortcuts in game design, and that sometimes scientific accuracy is not necessarily what you’re going for. Perhaps it just looks a lot better with all those star clusters, the way that we’re all used to seeing satellite imagery. So who am I to stand in your way?
Satellite galaxies and star clusters outside the volume
Again, if we google some galaxy images, we’ll see some rather big and bright fluffy things around the main target of that image. Some of these look like galaxies, some more like fuzzy spots of light. These may not necessarily be stars or clusters in the Milky Way. They can actually be galaxies. Some of them are large and far away, behind the main target. Some are clusters or small galaxies, with a star count ranging in the millions to the low billions, orbiting the main target of the image. These are called satellite galaxies. I don’t yet know of the usefulness of such a feature, but I’m considering it.
If you’ve played around with the galaxy pack, the current implementation has a stochastic sampling model for various reasons. If scaled up a lot from a low enough resolution, this can show up as a quite noticeable noise in the volume. I’m going to address this pretty soon, it’s on the top of my list.
Streaks through the volume
Depending on your choice of scaling and exposure vs absorption parameters, the volume can show signs of vertical streaks when viewed directly from the side (along the galactic plane). This is due to a sampling artifact that shows up in some circumstances. This will also soon be addressed.
Close up/inside adaptive sampling
The dithering effect mentioned above becomes quite apparent if you start moving your camera inside the volume. Once the dithering issue has been addressed, this will be much less of a problem, but there are other things that will make it even better. Please note that right now, the shader is not designed to handle rendering from the inside of the volume! I will not claim this until a later update.
Exposure is currently constant in relation to distance, given only by the configurable shader parameters of the volume. I have some ideas on how to make this much more easy to use was the camera moves away from or towards the volume.
Fading between Frequencies
This one’s really tricky. More so than you might think. The idea is that you could set your camera to pick up different frequency bands and you’d be able to see different aspects of the galaxy. Low frequencies have higher penetration than high frequencies for example, causing absorption to sidle away. Higher frequencies also tend to be less prone to diffusion through the volume, causing the resulting image to look more distinct.
There is more stuff coming, but if you have any feature requests or additional questions on this package, please let us know by contacting us either as a comment below, directly through our contact form or best of all, on our support site! We’re looking forward to hearing from you!