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Im sure there is some sort of technique with a name I don't know or didn't think to search, but how would I go about making an effect similar to loose dirt sliding down the face of a slope when something disturbs it? I guess I think of it as a mini avalanche or something.

I have attempted it a couple times with pretty poor results, but some of the properties i tried to replicate was: the sliding dirt spreads out the further it gets from its start position depending on the surface shape, angle of repose, rocks or larger pieces of debris causing even more dirt to slide(quasi-recursion?), loose dirt 'sliding' over other dirt, etc. I assume id need to combine the right ratio of shaders, particles and textures to look right but I cant seem to find any real info on this type of effect. Would something like this be too intensive to do real-time?

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You could try using an animated texture. I think that a gif file might possibly work but I'm not 110% sure

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