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Making rocket trails more realistic

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Hey all, I have a fully working particle system in my Bomberman clone now, but I find the explosions somewhat cartoon-like in appearance and would love to work on making things look better. I wonder though, what can be done to improve the look of my explosions? I just recently saw the video for Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, and the rocket trail in the video is unbelievable really.. it looks amazing! Is this really the result purely of a nice looking particle system, or are their other tricks used to make it that bit more impressive such as some kind of shader effects or special types of particles? I also wonder if making particles have a few frames of animation (by adjusting texcoords over time to display multiple animation frames) would help make them more attractive, or if it would really go practically unnoticed? So how would you advance the basic particle system to make more impressive effects such as (but not limited to) the rocket trails. Cheers, Steve [Edited by - Mephs on May 20, 2005 9:43:11 AM]

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Well baring in mind that you are making a bomberman clone I don't think you want something with the realism of that Quakewars video. However, one thing I like to use is a ring or halo that expands outwards quickly and fades as it expands. Kinda like a shockwave. Just make sure it expands and fades fairly quickly (half a second or so) otherwise it completely contradicts the impression of a huge force.

The other thing that can really help is to make sure the explosion consists of many smaller parts all complementing each other instead of just one effect so something like...
- 20 small, bright particles that move outwards at high speed and fade quickly.
- 5 large explosion sprite particles expanding outward only a small amount and fading very quickly.
- 1 large central blast that lasts only a few miliseconds at the start.
- 1 halo (as mentioned above)

The parts all combine to represent the blast the explosion and the debris making for something, visually, more appealing than just a few particles.

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Thanks for the quick replies. I'll take a look at the program ASAP!

I do however already have a particle system consisting of particles that shoot out up down left and right of the player just as in the original bomberman games (but slightly more snazzy!). I'd like to do a blastwave effect but it would have to be done in segments or something as otherwise it would be hard to manage cases where part of the blastwave hits a wall and part carries on it's path.

My main reason for wanting to do realistic effects is to bring the game up to date, it's something I would leave out if I were running short on time, but something that I would prefer to have if possible! Okay, Quake Wars might be aiming a bit high, but I would still like to just progress past the cartoony appearance that I currently have as I'd like to make my project stand out as a quality portfolio piece that looks as professional as possible within my timescale (7 months from start to finish).

I do also have separate smoke and explosion particles, but it still seems somewhat lacking, I think it is variety in the particles, they all look too similar and so the effect is somewhat flat in feel, but perhaps it's something that good artwork can cure? Anyhoo I'll look into the program and see if it helps and would still love to hear any further suggestions!

Cheers,

Steve

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Actually having now read the thread linked to, the glow effect around the explosion really helps a lot and I might try that. I guess I just use one big particle around the explosion with a low alpha value so that it gently adds a glow around the explosion.

I also realise I have to adjust the way I get the alpha value for my particles. Currently I have the shader use the red component directly as the alpha. Instead I think I need to use vertex colour to colour the particle and make the actual texture greyscale so that blue and green components of the particle are not blended out. This is probably making my particles look too light in colour as darker colours are not rendered because they get alpha blended away which would explain the cartoony feel.

I'm seriously thinking about adding in animated particles after reading it as well as I think it might make a bigger improvement than I realised.

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The biggest hint I can give you is additive blending: This turns your particles from looking like seperate entities, and makes them into a more cohesive one.

Back on track with rocket trails: I don't like using particles for my rockets and other trails. The reasoning for this is you have to keep up a certain emmission density, or you get "gaps" in your trail, and it breaks the illusion.

I prefer to use one or more runtime-generated tapers, additivly blended and mapped with a changing rough texture, fading out to fully transparent at the tip.

Its more complicated to code, and to make efficient, but you never get gaps, and you can dynamically adjust the density depending on how close you are to the trail and how fast your simulation is running.

Another screeny I dug out:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

I never pursued this method as far as I could because it was for an RTS, but with more detail and more tapers layered together, I feel far more realistic results can be obtained...

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I love the screenshot, and that is just the kind of effect I wuold love to achieve! I'm surprised you say that it is difficult to make it efficient though, as I would have thoughts a taper effect would consist of far fewer polygons than, say, a 500 (ok perhaps slightly overkill!) polygon particle system that might be used to create a similar (but not even as good) effect. I guess then that it must be generating the taper geometry that is the bottleneck, as I couldn't think of any other area that would cause problems?

I'll look into that anyway as it really achieves the kind of effect I want. IIRC I do have a guide on how to make ribbon particles somewhere (Mathematics for game programmers book I think), which I think are pretty similar in nature if not exactly the same as the taper particles you suggest. That should hopefully get me started!

Cheers,

Steve

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