Isn't it! I do find myself stopping to watch the sun appearing around a planet at times - I think people will find the PetRocket atmosphere shader especially is a really, really nice addition in this next build, as well as the reworked rendering so that even within atmospheres you can glimpse hints of distant planets through a daytime skyLooking superb!
There's also a new 'glow' atmosphere shader that I've created to use around brown dwarfs & the irregular gas-giants (admittedly far less spectacular, but they can't use the PetRocket circular one) and also some surface effects to fog or boost colours to either obscure or make the terrain begin to glow relative to distance. You can see a nice example of this being used in nanite2000's 3rd picture of Jupiter seen through the haze of its volcanic moon, Io. The moon Europa is also just visible contrasted against the new backdrop of FFE's original nebula... (and btw, it is a shaded model of that distant moon - it's not a sprite!)
Between the new shader features and the enhanced texture pack, there's going to be some visual treats to be discovered in this next release!
As nanite2000 has posted, it looks like we're pretty much there with the next release and his texture pack!
I've just had a very productive testing/bug-fixing session and I think/hope I've been able to track down and squish the issues that had caused shutdown crashes when exiting the game. (annoyingly, they didn't happen or trigger anything in 'debug' builds!)
I've also decided to add a new display mode... couldn't help myself after reading a post in the Elite: Dangerous section of the forum yesterday!
The post described how a 3rd party tool (Borderless Gaming) allows games running within windows at fullscreen to lose their borders & caption to fill the screen - but still allow interaction with secondary monitors etc.
I thought this sounded like a neat idea and it was reasonably straight-forward to implement this feature internally as an alternative to the 'exclusive' full screen mode. The 'exclusive' full screen mode does have the advantage of being able to run at a specific resolution, and can restrict the mouse to the primary monitor, but it doesn't play well with any other windowed DirectX application running at the same time! The new mode will run full screen at the current resolution of the primary monitor - but other DirectX apps can run on other monitors, such as Windows Media Center, or the player can hop back and forth to applications such as BUFFET or a web browser without the game being disturbed.
I did decide however to 'park' the change that I was making to split up planetary rings for the time being. The idea was that it might help solve some rendition issues where the rings overdraw the planet, and unfortunately the new 'glow' surrounding them. Although the ring model does get broken up now into separate parts, in extended testing it seems that for as many scenes that this change fixes, there are perhaps as many new issues it creates
I could keep testing & tweaking this, but I think that I'll probably be fighting a fundamental "Cull" issue here; the ring models are currently drawn as a 'single sided' models and rely upon them not being culled at all at rendition time - this is so that you can see them from either direction, above or below. Normally you should only see a triangle that's drawn as facing towards you, switching off culling means that you can potentially see it from the opposite side as well - and rings require this...
And there are similar issues with the 'primitive' based FFE models where they draw 'mirrored' triangles and squares to save repeating mesh data. The sidewinder ship is a case in point - half of its body is a reflection of the other. When drawn, only half of these parts face the correct way, the other half doesn't... So these 'primitive' models currently require that culling is switched off when rendering them so that you can see the whole model! Meh!
Trivia: this is also why surface cities/stations can be seen through a planet's hills/ground, why the outer 'port' texture can be seen at the back of the docking bay when entering a 'claw' shaped space station (e.g. Mackenzie High@Beta Hydri) and why the rear view of some ships is obscured
This might yet be fixable, but I've already spent waaaaaay too much time tweaking triangles for this build - it'll have to wait for another day - it's time to play!
I just need a final "catch-up" on the admin side of things, documenting some of the latest functionality into the readme file (how to define surface fog, glows, atmospheres etc) as well as making sure that the standard installation's default settings without nanite2000's texture pack is still presentable - although installing that texture pack with v1.10 will obviously be the recommendation!
"Touch wood" though, this next release is incoming and preparing for final approach!