I just wanted to let you know about something we are currently working on that was very exciting and fun for us. I am currently creating another low poly pack containing residential buildings. To decorate those i needed some sort of foliage, which looks very complex to help with the details on eye-level for a possible first-person character, but don’t slow down render times to much.
So I went through the process of creating really Low Poly meshes that I baked simple leaves (cubes with some scaled loopcuts) onto. Blender offers some great tools for baking textures (also normals), but it rarely worked out as well as it did this time. I always use a white environment, a simple diffuse material and the combined render setting to get a color texture that already has some subtle ambient occlusion, but no shadows. I guess the key to making it work properly is to use smooth normals for the baked mesh and to use a cage projection in contrast to the default setting, because that enables you to project the objects onto baked mesh if they are outside of it. Also make sure to disable triangulation when exporting! This caused me some problems when exporting the meshes for the first time, since it distorted the mapping.
Anyways, everything worked out great in the end. I knew that Michi made a foliage shader for a different project, that moves the vertices to create a sort of wind-effect. The transparency on the leaves caused some problems there, since the shadows only got updated in Unity’s “deferred” rendering mode, which we now started to use for this project. But he was able to figure out a solution for everything and created a shader, that enabled the leaves to not only add detail, but make the scene feel alive.
In the end we were able to create some really nice foliage assets, some of them using only four quads, the two textures and a custom shader.
That was a fun side project! Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get notified when we publish the asset pack.