VisualShaderNodeBillboard in Godot – Complete Guide

Welcome to our latest tutorial where we’ll be diving into the details of the VisualShaderNodeBillboard class in Godot 4! Godot Engine is widely known for its user-friendly and powerful tools for game development, and shaders play a crucial role in creating stunning visuals and dynamic effects. If you’re fascinated by game art and want to learn how to make objects interact with the player’s perspective, you’re going to enjoy the practical insight we’ll share on effectively using the VisualShaderNodeBillboard.

What is VisualShaderNodeBillboard?

VisualShaderNodeBillboard

is a specialized node in the Godot Engine that aids in adjusting how an object faces the camera within a visual shader graph. This node is a part of the visual scripting system that Godot provides, making shader programming more accessible, especially for those who are less comfortable with traditional coding.

What is it for?

The primary purpose of the VisualShaderNodeBillboard is to implement the billboarding technique. This technique ensures that an object always faces towards the camera, no matter its position in the scene. It’s extremely useful for creating effects like particles, sprites, or flat objects that should face the player at all times, enhancing realism and immersion in the game.

Why Should I Learn It?

Understanding how to implement and manipulate shader nodes can significantly level up your game designs. Billboarding is prevalent in games, where efficiency and performance are key. By learning how to use the

VisualShaderNodeBillboard

, you’re not only expanding your toolkit but also investing in a skill that will add polish to your visual elements and provide a better experience to players. With Godot’s visual shaders, you can create these effects even without deep knowledge of shader programming languages, which makes the learning curve much smoother.

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Getting Started with VisualShaderNodeBillboard

Using the VisualShaderNodeBillboard is straightforward in Godot. First, let’s create a simple shader that uses this node. Begin by creating a new ShaderMaterial for your object:

var material = ShaderMaterial.new()

Next, create a VisualShader instance and set its mode to ‘Spatial’ to work with 3D objects:

var shader = VisualShader.new()
shader.set_mode(VisualShader.MODE_SPATIAL)
material.set_shader(shader)

At this point, you need to attach the material to your object:

your_3d_object.set_material(material)

Now, let’s open the shader by clicking on the material and then on the shader. This will bring up the visual shader graph. Here’s where you can add the VisualShaderNodeBillboard:

var billboard_node = VisualShaderNodeBillboard.new()
shader.add_node(billboard_node, Vector2(0, 0))

This script adds a VisualShaderNodeBillboard node to your shader graph at the coordinates (0,0).

Creating a Simple Billboarding Effect

Now that we have our VisualShaderNodeBillboard in the graph, let’s create a basic billboarding effect. To do this, we’ll first need an output node and a texture to apply to our object.

var output_node = VisualShaderNodeOutput.new()
shader.add_node(output_node, Vector2(200, 0))

var texture_node = VisualShaderNodeTexture.new()
shader.add_node(texture_node, Vector2(-200, 0))

We connect the texture to the billboard node to ensure that the texture faces the camera:

shader.node_connect(texture_node.get_output_port_for_preview(), billboard_node.get_input_port_index('UV'), billboard_node.get_output_port_index('UV'))

Finally, we will connect the billboard node to the output to render the effect on our object:

shader.node_connect(billboard_node.get_output_port_for_preview(), output_node.get_input_port_index('COLOR'))

This basic setup ensures that your object’s texture always faces towards the camera, giving it proper billboarding effect.

Adjusting the Billboarding Orientation

Depending on your needs, you might want the billboard effect to be constrained to a specific axis. Godot’s VisualShaderNodeBillboard allows you to adjust the billboarding orientation as well. For example, if you want the object to only rotate around the Y-axis (up), you can easily configure this:

billboard_node.billboard_mode = VisualShaderNodeBillboard.BILLBOARD_MODE_ENABLED

If you want a fixed Y-axis but with a tilt when looking up or down (common in trees or plants in games), you can set the billboard mode to ‘Y-Billboard’:

billboard_node.billboard_mode = VisualShaderNodeBillboard.BILLBOARD_MODE_Y_BILLBOARD

Experiment with the different BILLBOARD_MODE options to find the one that suits your project needs.

Combining with Other Nodes

VisualShaderNodeBillboard can be used in combination with other nodes to create more complex effects. For instance, you can use it along with a VisualShaderNodeVectorInterp to interpolate between different textures or color based on the camera’s angle:

var interp_node = VisualShaderNodeVectorInterp.new()
shader.add_node(interp_node, Vector2(-400, 100))

// Connect a secondary texture and interpolate based on the view direction
shader.node_connect(texture_node.get_output_port_for_preview(), interp_node.get_input_port_index('vector1'))
shader.node_connect(billboard_node.get_output_port_index('VIEW'), interp_node.get_input_port_index('interpolator'))
shader.node_connect(interp_node.get_output_port_index('vector'), billboard_node.get_input_port_index('UV'))

This example demonstrates how you can blend two textures depending on the viewer’s perspective, making your billboard not only face the camera but also react to it.

Stay tuned for the next part of the tutorial where we’ll delve deeper into advanced techniques and practical applications of the VisualShaderNodeBillboard in Godot 4. We’ll make sure you have everything you need to make the most out of this incredibly useful node.

Advanced techniques with

VisualShaderNodeBillboard

can further enhance the visual appeal of your games. Let’s build on our earlier example and apply more complex behaviors to our shader.

One common technique is to alter the opacity of an object based on its angle to the camera. This can help create more realistic transitions as objects rotate. We will introduce a VisualShaderNodeScalarInterp for this purpose:

var scalar_interp_node = VisualShaderNodeScalarInterp.new()
shader.add_node(scalar_interp_node, Vector2(-400, 0))

// Connect angle to scalar interpolation
shader.node_connect(billboard_node.get_output_port_index('VIEW'), scalar_interp_node.get_input_port_index('interpolator'))

// Define the start and end opacities
scalar_interp_node.set_input_port_value(scalar_interp_node.get_input_port_index('scalar1'), 0.0) // Fully transparent
scalar_interp_node.set_input_port_value(scalar_interp_node.get_input_port_index('scalar2'), 1.0) // Fully opaque

Next, we need to use this interpolated value to alter our shader’s alpha property:

shader.node_connect(scalar_interp_node.get_output_port_index('scalar'), output_node.get_input_port_index('ALPHA'))

This will change the object’s opacity as it turns towards or away from the camera.

Additionally, you may want to modify the color based on the object’s orientation. This is where a VisualShaderNodeVectorInterp can create interesting color shifts as the object moves:

var color_interp_node = VisualShaderNodeVectorInterp.new()
shader.add_node(color_interp_node, Vector2(-600, 0))

// Connect billboard angle to color interpolation
shader.node_connect(billboard_node.get_output_port_index('VIEW'), color_interp_node.get_input_port_index('interpolator'))

// Define the start and end colors (e.g., from red to green)
color_interp_node.set_input_port_default_value(color_interp_node.get_input_port_index('vector1'), Vector3(1.0, 0, 0)) // Red
color_interp_node.set_input_port_default_value(color_interp_node.get_input_port_index('vector2'), Vector3(0, 1.0, 0)) // Green

We’ll connect our color interpolation node to the shader’s color output to apply our effect:

shader.node_connect(color_interp_node.get_output_port_index('vector'), output_node.get_input_port_index('COLOR'))

Now, as the billboard rotates, the color will seamlessly transform from one vector color to another.

If you’re creating an effect such as fire or smoke, you might want the billboard to also slightly move or sway in the virtual wind. This can be done by manipulating the UV coordinates with a VisualShaderNodeUVTransform:

var uv_transform_node = VisualShaderNodeUVTransform.new()
shader.add_node(uv_transform_node, Vector2(-800, 0))

// Apply a rotation to the UV coordinates
# somewhere in the game logic to update regularly
var time = OS.get_ticks_msec() / 1000.0
var rotation_amount = sin(time) * 0.1 # Sways back and forth
uv_transform_node.set_input_port_default_value(uv_transform_node.get_input_port_index('rot'), rotation_amount)

Connect the UV transform node to alter the UVs:

shader.node_connect(uv_transform_node.get_output_port_index('uv'), billboard_node.get_input_port_index('UV'))

Now our billboard will have a subtle sway, adding a dynamic element to the otherwise static orientation towards the camera.

By combining these techniques, you can create visually rich and interactive shaders that respond to the player’s movements. With

VisualShaderNodeBillboard

, Godot provides a solid foundation for building adaptive and engaging 3D environments.

Remember to experiment with different inputs and connections in your visual shader graph. The possibilities are virtually endless, and with practice, your visual effects will become more sophisticated and immersive. Happy shading!

As we further explore the capabilities of the

VisualShaderNodeBillboard

, let’s look into the application of dynamic lighting effects to enhance realism. The principle is to create lighting that responds realistically as the billboard faces toward or away from light sources.

In Godot, lighting manipulation in visual shaders often involves nodes like VisualShaderNodeLighting and VisualShaderNodeDotProduct. These can be used to calculate the angle between the surface normal and the light direction. First, we set up a node to capture the lighting information:

var lighting_node = VisualShaderNodeLighting.new()
shader.add_node(lighting_node, Vector2(400, 200))

Now, let’s calculate the dot product between the light direction and the billboard normal using the VisualShaderNodeDotProduct:

var dot_product_node = VisualShaderNodeDotProduct.new()
shader.add_node(dot_product_node, Vector2(200, 200))

// Connect the lighting information to the dot product node
shader.node_connect(lighting_node.get_output_port_index('LIGHT'), dot_product_node.get_input_port_index('vector1'))
shader.node_connect(billboard_node.get_output_port_index('NORMAL'), dot_product_node.get_input_port_index('vector2'))

This value can now be used to modify the color intensity based on the lighting angle:

var vec_mult_node = VisualShaderNodeVectorScalarMult.new()
shader.add_node(vec_mult_node, Vector2(200, 400))

// Modulate the color by the dot product result to simulate lighting effect
shader.node_connect(dot_product_node.get_output_port_index('scalar'), vec_mult_node.get_input_port_index('scalar'))
shader.node_connect(texture_node.get_output_port_index('rgb'), vec_mult_node.get_input_port_index('vector'))
shader.node_connect(vec_mult_node.get_output_port_index('vector'), output_node.get_input_port_index('COLOR'))

With this setup, your billboard’s appearance will change based on how directly it faces the light source, giving a more lifelike interaction with light.

Moving beyond lighting, let’s add time-based animations to the shader. Animating a parameter over time can give your billboard dynamic visual effects like pulsating light or changing colors. We’ll make use of VisualShaderNodeUniform to set up a uniform time variable within the shader:

var time_node = VisualShaderNodeUniform.new()
time_node.uniform_type = VisualShaderNodeUniform.TYPE_SCALAR
time_node.set_name_and_hint('Time', PROPERTY_HINT_NONE, 'Time')
shader.add_node(time_node, Vector2(-200, -200))

To create a pulsating effect using this time uniform, we could use a sine function to oscillate values:

var sine_node = VisualShaderNodeSine.new()
shader.add_node(sine_node, Vector2(-400, -200))

// Connect the time uniform to the sine node to create the oscillator
shader.node_connect(time_node.get_output_port_index('scalar'), sine_node.get_input_port_index('scalar'))

Now we’ll modulate the alpha channel to create a pulsating transparency effect:

// Create a scalar multiplication node to control the amplitude of the oscillation
var scalar_mult_node = VisualShaderNodeScalarMult.new()
scalar_mult_node.set_input_port_default_value(scalar_mult_node.get_input_port_index('scalar'), 0.5)
shader.add_node(scalar_mult_node, Vector2(-600, -200))

// Connect the sine node to the alpha channel through the scalar_mult_node to control the strength
shader.node_connect(sine_node.get_output_port_index('scalar'), scalar_mult_node.get_input_port_index('scalar1'))
shader.node_connect(scalar_mult_node.get_output_port_index('scalar'), output_node.get_input_port_index('ALPHA'))

The above code will result in a billboard that fades in and out smoothly over time.

Finally, let’s consider environmental factors. Say you want to blend your billboard with the background based on fog density. We can achieve this by adding a VisualShaderNodeFog node and blending the billboard color with the fog color depending on the fog depth:

var fog_node = VisualShaderNodeFog.new()
shader.add_node(fog_node, Vector2(-800, -200))

var fog_mix_node = VisualShaderNodeVectorMix.new()
shader.add_node(fog_mix_node, Vector2(-1000, -200))

// Connect the fog settings to the mix node
shader.node_connect(fog_node.get_output_port_index('FOG'), fog_mix_node.get_input_port_index('amount'))

// Connect the billboard color output and fog color to the mix node
shader.node_connect(texture_node.get_output_port_index('rgb'), fog_mix_node.get_input_port_index('vector1'))
shader.node_connect(fog_node.get_output_port_index('FOG_COLOR'), fog_mix_node.get_input_port_index('vector2'))

// Output the final blended result to the COLOR output
shader.node_connect(fog_mix_node.get_output_port_index('vector'), output_node.get_input_port_index('COLOR'))

This creates a more cohesive blending of your billboard object within different atmospheric conditions, adding depth to your scene.

By leveraging Godot’s visual shader nodes like VisualShaderNodeBillboard, you can craft intricate visual effects that respond to a variety of in-game factors, creating an engaging and dynamic player experience. Remember that shaders are a powerful tool in your game development arsenal; experimentation and practice are the keys to unlocking their full potential.

Continuing Your Learning Journey

Congratulations on completing this tutorial on the

VisualShaderNodeBillboard

! We hope it has illuminated new possibilities for creating engaging visual effects in your games. But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mastering Godot and game development.

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Conclusion

We’ve explored the versatility and power of the

VisualShaderNodeBillboard

in Godot 4, providing you with the knowledge to bring dynamic and responsive billboarding effects into your 3D scenes. Experimentation is key, and as you integrate these techniques into your projects, the true potential of shaders will unfold, enhancing not just the aesthetics but also the overall feel of your games. It’s amazing what can be achieved with the right tools, a bit of creativity, and a platform like Godot that makes complex effects accessible.

Remember, this is just the beginning of your adventure in game development with Godot. Through our comprehensive Godot Game Development Mini-Degree, you have the opportunity to build upon what you’ve learned today and much more. Every lesson is a step closer to becoming the game developer you aspire to be. Don’t stop here—keep creating, keep learning, and let Zenva be the wind beneath your game development wings.

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