I was modeling a 3D asset for a client and entered the uv unfolding stage, when I realized I could be wasting my own time.
Every 3D artist knows the importance of measuring your 3D model, so that it's constant with other assets in the scene and so that the texture doesn't stretch or blur. This is also the first step in texture tiling that allows the artist to reuse parts of the texture to better cover large 3D models.
why do I think this could be a waste of time?
If you look at the image you will see that I measured Tower A against the background, for Tower B I just unwrapped and left it as it was.
Now this quickly made model didn't need to be tiled, yet I could easily tile Tower A if it needs to be longer, Tower B corrected for stretching and the bottom half can no longer be tiled.
Now if you look at the towers side by side in Unreal 4 you will see that both have the correct pixel density.
Tower A uses a single material with 4096*2048 normal map and color map, Tower B uses two starter content materials with two normal maps 2048*2048. I know the textures are overkill, I was doing performance tests.
The Tower at the back is Tower B before I fixed the materials.
What is the conundrum?
For a long time Tower A was the best practice when making models, measuring textures and uv tiling gave better performance. Tower B use small textures and then tiles them inside of the material and has a lot of downsides.
Material tiling was very ineffective and mostly used for simple objects like walls, however Unreal can now address all of the problems. It has deferred decals for details and hiding the uv seam, edge detect for scratches and most importantly layered materials.
By my calculations a complex object like a gun could be realistic rendered, using as little as three to five materials. This is two or four more materials than using the normal way, however by moving the uv map you can allow each gun to have unique parts.
Performance can be regained by using material instancing and by sharing materials and decals with other objects. The wooden gun stock can also be a wooden chair, table, floor or door.
Theoretically when making a large game material tiling and sharing, will be better for performance than having a material for each object. Personally I think that allowing 3D artist to spend less time doing busy work, like measuring pixels and more time doing fun work with materials will be worth it.
What is your opinion on texture tiling?