VisualShaderNode in Godot – Complete Guide

Visual shaders are a powerful tool in game development, allowing developers to create stunning visual effects without delving into the complexities of code-based shader programming. With the Godot 4 engine, the capabilities for visual representation have been substantially enhanced, inviting both beginner and experienced game developers to explore the realm of visual shading. In this tutorial, we’ll delve into the world of the VisualShaderNode class in Godot 4, discovering how it forms the backbone of visual shading within the engine.

What is VisualShaderNode?

Exploring VisualShaderNode

At its core, VisualShaderNode is a base class utilized within Godot’s visual shader graph system. It’s designed to represent nodes – the fundamental building blocks of visual shaders. These nodes empower developers to visually construct shaders by connecting various elements in a graph-like structure, making shader development more intuitive and accessible.

Unlocking Shader Potential

The VisualShaderNode class serves as a foundational element in creating shaders for different materials and effects. From simple color modifications to complex transformations, the array of nodes derived from this class lets creators craft an infinite variety of visual effects.

Why Should I Learn About VisualShaderNode?

Understanding how to work with VisualShaderNode is essential for any aspiring Godot developer. The ability to manipulate shaders visually opens up a myriad of possibilities for game aesthetics, and learning it can be the key to bringing your game’s visuals from good to great. Furthermore, being proficient in visual shaders can significantly boost the performance and flexibility of your game’s graphics, making your projects stand out in the crowded game development landscape.

Now, let’s dive into the practical aspects of using VisualShaderNode with some engaging examples to show you the ropes of visual shader creation in Godot 4.

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Setting Up Your Godot Environment

Before we dive into creating visual shaders, it’s important to set up your Godot 4 environment correctly. This ensures that you’re ready to start experimenting with the VisualShaderNode class seamlessly.

First, create a new project or open an existing one in the Godot 4 engine. Then, follow these steps to set up a basic visual shader:

  • In your Scene tree, select or create a MeshInstance node.
  • Attach a new material to the node by creating a ‘New ShaderMaterial’ in the material slot.
  • Click on the ShaderMaterial, and under the ‘Shader’ property, create a ‘New VisualShader’.

The VisualShader will then appear as a resource, which opens up the visual shader graph interface when clicked. Here, you will find a grid where you can add and connect nodes, creating the shader of your choice.

Creating a Simple Color Shader

Let’s start by creating a simple shader that changes the color of our MeshInstance. To do this, we’ll use the VisualShaderNodeColorConstant and VisualShaderNodeOutput nodes to assign a solid color.

// Create a new Color Constant node
var color_constant = VisualShaderNodeColorConstant.new()
color_constant.constant = Color(1.0, 0.0, 0.0) // Red color

// Retrieve the Output node, usually present by default
var output_node = visual_shader.get_node("Output")

// Connect the Color Constant to the Albedo of the Output node
visual_shader.node_connect(color_constant.get_output_port(0), output_node.get_input_port(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, 0))

This will turn your MeshInstance red, demonstrating the simplest form of shader you can create using visual nodes.

Changing Shader Parameters

We can also modify shader parameters over time to create dynamic effects. Below is an example of how to change the emission color of a material using a VisualShaderNodeColorConstant and VisualShaderNodeEmission nodes.

// Create a new Color Constant node for emission
var emission_color = VisualShaderNodeColorConstant.new()
emission_color.constant = Color(0.0, 1.0, 0.0) // Green color

// Create a new Emission node and connect the emission color to it
var emission_node = VisualShaderNodeEmission.new()
visual_shader.node_connect(emission_color.get_output_port(0), emission_node.get_input_port(0))

// Connect the Emission node to the Output node
visual_shader.node_connect(emission_node.get_output_port(0), output_node.get_input_port(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, 1))

With this code, the mesh will now emit a green color, giving the impression of glowing.

Adding Textures to Your Shader

Textures are fundamental in giving surfaces detail and realism. Below, we will add a texture to the albedo of the material.

// Create a new Texture node
var texture_node = VisualShaderNodeTexture.new()
texture_node.texture = preload("res://path_to_your_texture.png")

// Connect the Texture node to the Albedo of the Output node
visual_shader.node_connect(texture_node.get_output_port(0), output_node.get_input_port(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, 0))

With these nodes connected, the MeshInstance will now display your chosen texture.

Manipulating UV Coordinates

Often, you’ll want to change the way textures are mapped to your mesh. This can be achieved by manipulating UV coordinates with VisualShaderNodeUV and VisualShaderNodeVec3Uniform nodes.

// Create a new UV node
var uv_node = VisualShaderNodeUV.new()

// Create a new Vec3 Uniform node to change the UV coordinates
var uv_transform = VisualShaderNodeVec3Uniform.new()
uv_transform.constant = Vector3(2.0, 2.0, 0.0) // Scale the UV coordinates by 2

// Connect the UV node to the Vector Uniform
visual_shader.node_connect(uv_node.get_output_port(0), uv_transform.get_input_port(0))

// Then connect the Vector Uniform to the UV input of the Texture node
visual_shader.node_connect(uv_transform.get_output_port(0), texture_node.get_input_port(0))

This will scale the texture on the mesh, repeating it twice both horizontally and vertically.

Through these examples, we’ve started to explore the surface of what’s possible with Godot’s VisualShaderNode class. By understanding how different nodes interact, you can begin building more complex and dynamic shaders to bring life to your games.

To further our exploration of visual shaders in Godot 4, let’s delve into more complex scenarios that can enhance the visuals of your game. The power of VisualShaderNode becomes evident when you start combining different nodes for richer effects.

Using VisualShaderNode, we can simulate environmental phenomena, like water or reflective surfaces, add animated effects to objects, or even create holographic visuals. Here are some code examples of how you can create these effects:

Simulating Water Waves

To simulate water, we will use a combination of sine functions and time to achieve a moving wave effect on the surface of our mesh.

// Create a Time node that provides the shader with the elapsed time
var time_node = VisualShaderNodeTime.new()

// Create a Scalar Uniform node to control wave speed
var wave_speed = VisualShaderNodeScalarUniform.new()
wave_speed.constant = 1.0

// Create a Sine node to apply a sine wave effect
var sine_node = VisualShaderNodeScalarFunc.new()
sine_node.function = VisualShaderNodeScalarFunc.FUNC_SIN

// Connect the Time node to the Scalar Uniform
visual_shader.node_connect(time_node.get_output_port(0), wave_speed.get_input_port(0))

// Connect the Scalar Uniform to the Sine node to apply the sine function
visual_shader.node_connect(wave_speed.get_output_port(0), sine_node.get_input_port(0))

// Connect the Sine node to the Vertex port of the Output node to deform the mesh
visual_shader.node_connect(sine_node.get_output_port(0), output_node.get_input_port(VisualShader.TYPE_VERTEX, 0))

This creates an undulating surface, similar to the gentle waves of water.

Creating a Fresnel Effect

Fresnel effects increase the intensity of light on a surface as the angle of view gets shallower, often used for convincing representations of water, glass, and other reflective materials.

// Create a Camera Data node to get the view direction
var camera_data_node = VisualShaderNodeCameraData.new()

// Create a Dot Product node to calculate the view angle
var dot_node = VisualShaderNodeDotProduct.new()

// Connect the Camera Data to the Dot Product node
visual_shader.node_connect(camera_data_node.get_output_port(VisualShaderNodeCameraData.OUTPUT_VIEW_DIR), dot_node.get_input_port(1))

// Connect the Normal Vector to the Dot Product node
visual_shader.node_connect(output_node.get_input_port(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, 2), dot_node.get_input_port(0))

// Use the result of the Dot Product as the emission strength to create the Fresnel effect
visual_shader.node_connect(dot_node.get_output_port(0), output_node.get_input_port(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, 1))

This will create a shader where the edges of the object shine more intensely based on the viewing angle.

Animating an Object’s Color Over Time

You can also animate an object’s color over time using a sine function combined with a color ramp node to transition between multiple colors.

// Continue using the previously created Time and Sine nodes

// Create a ColorRamp node to transition between colors
var color_ramp_node = VisualShaderNodeColorRamp.new()

// Set the colors of the ColorRamp
color_ramp_node.add_point_at_offset(Color(1.0, 0.0, 0.0), 0.0)  // Red at the start
color_ramp_node.add_point_at_offset(Color(0.0, 1.0, 0.0), 0.5)  // Green in the middle
color_ramp_node.add_point_at_offset(Color(0.0, 0.0, 1.0), 1.0)  // Blue at the end

// Connect the Sine node to the Interpolated offset of the ColorRamp
visual_shader.node_connect(sine_node.get_output_port(0), color_ramp_node.get_input_port(0))

// Connect the output color of the ColorRamp node to the Albedo of the Output node
visual_shader.node_connect(color_ramp_node.get_output_port(0), output_node.get_input_port(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, 0))

Your object will now smoothly transition through red, green, and blue colors over time.

Creating a Holographic Effect

Holographic effects can be created by layering different nodes such as noise textures and sine waves. The following example demonstrates a basic implementation:

// Create a Noise Texture node for the holographic illusion
var noise_texture = VisualShaderNodeNoiseTexture.new()

// Create a Sine node for the holographic flicker
var sine_flicker = VisualShaderNodeScalarFunc.new()
sine_flicker.function = VisualShaderNodeScalarFunc.FUNC_SIN

// Connect the Time node to the Scalar Uniform (wave_speed) for the flicker speed
visual_shader.node_connect(time_node.get_output_port(0), wave_speed.get_input_port(0))

// Connect the Scalar Uniform to the Sine node for the flicker effect
visual_shader.node_connect(wave_speed.get_output_port(0), sine_flicker.get_input_port(0))

// Connect the Noise Texture to the Emission strength and mix it with the flicker effect
var emission_strength = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.new()
emission_strength.operator = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.OP_MUL

visual_shader.node_connect(noise_texture.get_output_port(0), emission_strength.get_input_port(0))
visual_shader.node_connect(sine_flicker.get_output_port(0), emission_strength.get_input_port(1))

// Apply the result to the Emission input of the Output node
visual_shader.node_connect(emission_strength.get_output_port(0), output_node.get_input_port(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, 1))

With these snippets, the MeshInstance will now exhibit a dynamic, flickering holographic pattern that is typical for science fiction environments.

Each of these examples demonstrates the versatility of VisualShaderNode in Godot 4, showing how a mix of nodes can be used to create various effects. Remember that experimentation is key in mastering visual shaders; adjust values, combine nodes in new ways, and see what amazing visuals you can produce for your game projects. And if you’re eager to learn more, we at Zenva offer comprehensive courses on game development that include in-depth lessons on shader programming and visual effects. Harness the power of Godot’s shader system and elevate your game’s graphics to new heights!

Building upon the foundational knowledge provided in the previous sections, let’s delve further into creating unique and intriguing visual effects with more complex visual shaders in Godot 4. These examples will focus on common visual elements like distortion effects, toon shading, and making objects pulse with light.

Toon Shading

Toon shading, or cel shading, is a popular non-photorealistic rendering technique that gives 3D models a flat, cartoon-like appearance. This effect can be achieved in Godot by manipulating the way light interacts with the surfaces of objects.

// Create a Dot Product node to determine the angle between light and surface
var light_angle_node = VisualShaderNodeDotProduct.new()

// Create a Light Data node to get light direction
var light_data_node = VisualShaderNodeLightData.new()

// Connect the Normal Vector and Light Data to the Dot Product node
visual_shader.node_connect(output_node.get_input_port(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, 2), light_angle_node.get_input_port(0))
visual_shader.node_connect(light_data_node.get_output_port(VisualShaderNodeLightData.OUTPUT_LIGHT_VEC), light_angle_node.get_input_port(1))

// Create an If node to apply the cel shading effect
var if_node = VisualShaderNodeIf.new()
if_node.condition = VisualShaderNodeIf.COND_GREATER_THAN
if_node.a = 0.5 // This determines the breakpoint for the toon effect

// Connect the Dot Product to If node's condition input
visual_shader.node_connect(light_angle_node.get_output_port(0), if_node.get_input_port(0))

// Set the colors for shaded and unshaded parts
if_node.false = Color(0.1, 0.1, 0.1)
if_node.true = Color(1.0, 1.0, 1.0)

// Connect the If node to the Albedo of the Output node
visual_shader.node_connect(if_node.get_output_port(0), output_node.get_input_port(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, 0))

This will render the object with a stylized shading effect, creating clear, defined edges between light and dark areas.

Distortion/Warping Effects

Distorting the UV coordinates of a texture can create various effects, such as heat haze or underwater views. This can be done by manipulating UVs with noise or sinusoidal functions.

// Create a Noise Texture node
var noise_tex = VisualShaderNodeNoiseTexture.new()

// Create a Vector Operation node to distort the UV coordinates
var uv_distortion = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.new()
uv_distortion.operator = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.OP_ADD

// Connect the UV node and Noise Texture node to the Vector Operation
visual_shader.node_connect(uv_node.get_output_port(0), uv_distortion.get_input_port(0))
visual_shader.node_connect(noise_tex.get_output_port(0), uv_distortion.get_input_port(1))

// Finally, connect the Vector Operation node to the UV port of the texture node
visual_shader.node_connect(uv_distortion.get_output_port(0), texture_node.get_input_port(0))

The texture mapped on the mesh will now appear distorted, creating the impression of a moving, undulating surface.

Making Objects Pulse

Pulsating light effects can give an object an otherworldly or energetic quality. By modulating the emission based on time, we can create a simple pulsing effect.

// Continue using the previously created Time and Sine nodes

// Connect the Sine node to the Emission strength of the Output node to create a pulsing effect
var emission_pulse = VisualShaderNodeEmission.new()
visual_shader.node_connect(sine_flicker.get_output_port(0), emission_pulse.get_input_port(0))

visual_shader.node_connect(emission_pulse.get_output_port(0), output_node.get_input_port(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, 1))

The mesh will now pulse with light, adding to the visual dynamics of your scene.

Simulating Cloaking/Invisibility

Creating a cloaking effect involves playing with transparency and refraction. Here’s a basic example to simulate an object phasing out of visibility:

// Create a Fresnel node for edge visibility
var fresnel_node = VisualShaderNodeFresnel.new()

// Create a Scalar Interp node to interpolate transparency
var scalar_interp = VisualShaderNodeScalarInterp.new()
visual_shader.node_connect(time_node.get_output_port(0), scalar_interp.get_input_port(1))

// Connect the Fresnel node to the first input of Scalar Interp 
visual_shader.node_connect(fresnel_node.get_output_port(0), scalar_interp.get_input_port(0))

// Apply the result to the Alpha of the Output node to create the cloaking effect
visual_shader.node_connect(scalar_interp.get_output_port(0), output_node.get_input_port(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, 3))

The mesh will now intermittently appear transparent with a notable edge glow due to the Fresnel effect, mimicking a cloaking device.

Creating a Stylized Fire

Combining several of the previously described techniques, such as noise and interpolation nodes, can be used to simulate fire. Here’s a simplified example:

// Use Noise Texture node for the base of the fire pattern
// ...

// Use Time node to continuously update the fire animation
// ...

// Calculate the offset for the noise to animate it
var offset = VisualShaderNodeVec3Uniform.new()
// Keyframe or script the offset values to vary over time to simulate rising flames

// Finally, blend the noise with an orange color for the fire
var orange_color = VisualShaderNodeColorConstant.new()
orange_color.constant = Color(1.0, 0.5, 0.0) // Orange color

var blend = VisualShaderNodeScalarInterp.new()
visual_shader.node_connect(noise_tex.get_output_port(0), blend.get_input_port(0))
visual_shader.node_connect(orange_color.get_output_port(0), blend.get_input_port(1))

// Use the result as the emission color
visual_shader.node_connect(blend.get_output_port(0), output_node.get_input_port(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, 1))

The flames will now dynamically change, giving the illusion of fire burning and flickering.

With these examples, you can see how the potential of VisualShaderNode in Godot 4 is vast, offering countless avenues to enhance the visual immersion of your projects. Experimentation and creativity will go a long way when designing visual effects, and at Zenva, we encourage learners to push the boundaries of their digital creations. As you refine your visual shaders, you’re not just improving the look of your game; you’re also honing your skills as a game developer savvy in the latest techniques and tools.

Continuing Your Game Development Journey

Having traversed the realm of visual shaders in Godot 4, you may be wondering “What’s next?” The world of game development is vast and constantly evolving, and there’s always more to learn. If you’re excited to deepen your knowledge and skills in Godot game development, our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree is a treasure trove waiting to be explored. This comprehensive collection of courses will guide you through building your own games using the versatile Godot engine.

The Godot Game Development Mini-Degree caters to a wide range of skill levels; whether you’re just starting out or looking to expand your expertise, these courses are designed to take you through the paces of game creation. From understanding 2D and 3D assets to mastering GDScript and game mechanics across various genres, this mini-degree empowers you to not only learn but also apply your knowledge to real-world projects and build a portfolio to show off your newfound skills.

For those looking to broaden their horizons further, our extensive collection of Godot courses offers an even more diverse learning experience. With Zenva, you’re not just gaining knowledge; you’re setting yourself on a path from beginner to professional, with the flexibility to learn at your own pace and earn certificates that showcase your competencies. Embrace the challenge, keep learning, and let Zenva be your companion in levelling up your game development journey.

Conclusion

In this tutorial, we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible with Godot 4’s VisualShaderNode. The practical examples discussed here are stepping stones to mastering the art of visual effects in your games. And remember, the key to becoming proficient in game development is consistent practice and exploration. Through our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree, you have the opportunity to dive deeper, harnessing the full potential of visual shaders and beyond.

At Zenva, we’re committed to providing you with high-quality education that turns complex programming tasks into engaging and approachable challenges. As you continue to innovate and craft awe-inspiring digital experiences, we’re here to support your learning journey every step of the way. Let’s bring your creative visions to life with Godot, one node at a time!

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