Editing vertex normals for better foliage (3dsmax)

A Tutorial for GoldSrc Engine

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Using transparent image planes is a standard practice for creating foliage models but there is a big flaw where the planes are lit too "flat" and create harsh shading.  Fortunately there is a method of editing the vertex normals to drastically improve the overall lighting of planes in a cluster (Remember in goldsrc there is no "nocull" texture setting for double sided rendring so you must make each plane with a flipped duplicate for the opposite side).

Step1:

Get "Slidenormals Thief" maxscript.
Run the script and set up a UI shortcut from "customize user interface" if you want (its found under "Category: Slidetools").

Then select your object and add a "edit normals" modifier.  Create a sphere or half-sphere (depending on how you want your lighting to be affected) and shape it over your plane cluster.  Add an "edit normals" modifier to that too.


Step2:

Open up slidetools and choose the reference and destination object and press steal.  Hide or delete your reference object and now you have a model with modified normals.  The normals should all be pointing outwards in a uniform way. (note that some versions of max may make the realtime lighting look wrong, but try exporting and verify your results).

Step3:

Collapse the edit normals modifier and export your SMD.  If you are using a more recent version of 3dsmax (2013+) use either wallworm exporter or Game Zombie SMD tools.

Step4:

Compile your model, then verify your edited normals in HLMV by changing the render mode to "Smooth Shaded" it should look like a nice gradient.

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