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I remember looking a few times over the years for an alternative to Photoshop for editing images. I've tried using Gimp too, and that's also not quite sufficient. There are some problems that have only been solvable by breaking out into an asset compiling stage. For example, none of the graphics packages come with premultiplied alpha options, and none come boxed with previews of what the image will look like once it's been compressed for hardware. I've never come across a package that lets you modify the diffuse, specular, ambient and normal maps all at the same time with the same tools.

Is there an image manipulation package out there that can satisfy things like this, allow for textures that have more than just 4 channels, export with preview to final format, maybe even rendering them in some coherent way?

items on the wishlist include:

  • batch conversion
  • scriptable pixel shader/transform
  • view diffuse+alpha over a background / allow alpha2coverage preview
  • render depth mapping via height or normal map
  • show mip-maps and allow editing them
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You may be able to find some helpful tools in this question. –  Richard Marskell - Drackir Sep 21 '11 at 17:55
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ah, if its only these 5 features, its not hard to write. :P –  iamcreasy Sep 21 '11 at 17:56

5 Answers 5

I doubt such a power tool exists, game companies create in house tools, max-scripts and Photoshop scripts to make up for the lack thereof.

They generally adapt because Photoshop is the tool that all artists need to know how to use. Even if you created a tool with all the functionality of Photoshop, artists would still prefer the original and even if you force them to use it, there will probably be a productivity drop during the time they get used to the new way of working. This may be made up for afterwards, but and new recruits will have to go through the same thing.

Photoshop can still be hooked up with 3DSMax and textures can be updated in real-time on your meshes, so no problem with viewing your four channels.

Your in-house level editor will have the game renderer's code in, so when the asset is imported, the final result will be seen. A tool could even be made to update the mesh at real time, but again, this would have to be an in-house tool with the renderer's code.

Basically, in-house tools (are they even called that?) are the only way to go.

I recently used The Gimp (with PowerShell) to create a batch converter to convert textures to the nearest power of two, it wasn't all that hard and is reusable even though The Gimp's batcher is slow. I also made a script to rescale textures depending on the resolution, and pad the full-screen textures so they're not distorted. It's a bit of work, and you'd think a tool should already exist, but hey.

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Photoshop is extremely powerful, and I find that very few people appreciate how much it can do (+1 for mentioning some lesser-known capabilities). I even use it for pixel art in addition to the graphics work I do for all the web sites I look after -- going away from Photoshop would be a major productivity loss for me, the magnitude of which I can't even begin to imagine (I tried GIMP, but it's not for me). For game-specific development, I'm building in-house tools for my MMORPG project to edit the world, control and modify some aspects of graphics, etc., but I still do need the other tools. –  Randolf Richardson Sep 21 '11 at 22:48

Mesh material settings are dependent on the game and engine(s) used, which is why there are no specific tools that let you load up any kind of mesh file and take the referenced data from it.

Such a tool will have to cover a broad area of material formats, or expect custom ones. If you are working with OBJ files, for example, the editor will have to be able to read a .mtl file to load all diffuse maps, specs, normals for the object materials. If it's an .fbx mesh, that's even more involved. Will you use a generic naming scheme in your 3D modeler for basic material attributes or do you need custom attributes?

In short, you're basically asking for an editor that has a content pipeline that can handle any arbitrary material format, and that's more of a programmer's problem, which is why custom tools are needed/created.

The best you can do in Photoshop is using NVIDIA's plug-ins, which include things like converting grayscale bump maps to normal maps or DXT compression with built-in 3D previews.

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I'd look into ToonBoom, perfect for 2D game sprites and other game stuff from what I've heard.

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It doesn't seem to have any games hardware related features. Looks more like an animators tool by the website. No low level features that I can spy. –  Richard Fabian Sep 21 '11 at 17:06
    
Ah sorry you're right. Maybe I should've read the question more careful! ToonBoom makes it easy to make sprite sheets and skeletals for 2D sprites and stuff, nothing more fancy. –  Roy T. Sep 21 '11 at 20:13
    
It looks like they have some nice features for comic authors too. –  Randolf Richardson Sep 21 '11 at 22:52

You could try the new game oriented graphics tools in the Visual Studio 11 preview.

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www.inkscape.org

I'm no programmer, but the 'export', 'GPL', and 'layers', functions of Inkscape should work for about 3 of your wishlist.

[Inkscape is an opensource image editor. It's powerful and quite intuitive; and since it uses the GPL liscense (making it FREEware), you can code your own modules and send them in for everyone to use.]

Sharing counts. (-and up yours Adobe!)

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-1. Inkscape is a tool for vector graphics. Textures are pixel-based. Sure, you can export to bitmaps from Inkscape but it doesn't even come close to the requirements in the question. –  bummzack Mar 1 '13 at 8:28

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