VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter in Godot – Complete Guide

Visual shaders in Godot Engine have transformed the way we design and implement graphic elements in our games. By abstracting shader programming into more visually digestible nodes, Godot has made creating and tweaking shaders more accessible, especially for beginners and artists. In this tutorial, we delve into the terrain of one such visual shader node, the VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter, and explore how it can be a game-changer for your projects. Let’s embark on this graphical journey and discover the rich possibilities it unlocks, making your game visuals more dynamic and vibrant.

What is a VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter?

A VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter is a powerful node in Godot’s visual shader graph that allows users to incorporate textures as uniform parameters into their shaders. Using this node, you can easily reference textures defined elsewhere and use them within your visual shaders, without writing any traditional shader code.

What is it used for?

Textures are fundamental to giving surfaces in your game detail and realism. The VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter grants you the flexibility to use these textures dynamically in your graphics rendering, including using different types for specific effects, such as color data, normal maps, or even anisotropic textures.

Why should I learn it?

Shaders can seem daunting, but visual shaders and nodes such as the VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter simplify the process. They are important for:

  • Adding high-quality visual effects to your games.
  • Optimizing game performance by managing texture details within shaders.
  • Enhancing your skill set and making your resume stand out if looking to enter the game development industry.

By the end of this tutorial, you’ll have a solid understanding of how to implement texture parameters in your Godot projects using the VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter, even if you’re just starting out with shaders.

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Setting Up Your Godot Project

To begin with, ensure you have the Godot Engine installed and create a new project. Once you have your project open, we will start by creating a simple 3D scene. Add a MeshInstance node to your scene and assign it a plain shape like a QuadMesh for clarity.

var mesh_instance = MeshInstance.new()
mesh_instance.mesh = QuadMesh.new()
add_child(mesh_instance)

With our MeshInstance set up, we’re going to attach a new ShaderMaterial to it. This material will utilize our VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter eventually.

var shader_material = ShaderMaterial.new()
mesh_instance.material = shader_material

Creating a Visual Shader

Next, we need to create a VisualShader resource and assign it to our material.

var visual_shader = VisualShader.new()
shader_material.shader = visual_shader

Godot’s visual shader editor will provide a node graph where we’ll construct our shader. Add the VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter node by dragging it into the graph area from the “Add Node” menu. This node is where you will reference the texture that you want to utilize.

Adding and Referencing a Texture

With your VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter in place, let’s reference an actual texture. First, load a texture into your project. Then, to reference it, click on the VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter node and in the Inspector panel, set the texture property.

# Assuming you have a texture file at 'res://textures/diffuse.png'
var texture = preload("res://textures/diffuse.png")
shader_material.set_shader_param('texture_param', texture)

This sets a texture, which is accessible within our shader graph as ‘texture_param’. Now, whenever you want to apply this texture to a surface, you can connect the VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter to a ShaderNode such as the output Color or make more complex connections for different shader effects.

Manipulating Textures in Shaders

Textures can be manipulated to achieve different visual effects. Let’s say you want to adjust the UVs to tile the texture across the QuadMesh. For this, you can add a VisualShaderNodeUV and a VisualShaderNodeScalarUniform to your graph and modify the UVs accordingly.

// Adding a UV node and Scalar Uniform for tiling
var uv_node = VisualShaderNodeUV.new()
var scalar_uniform = VisualShaderNodeScalarUniform.new()

// Set the scalar uniform (e.g., 'tiling') which controls the texture repetition
scalar_uniform.constant = 2.0 // This would tile the texture twice across the surface

// Connect these nodes to your TextureParameter node
visual_shader.node_connect(uv_node.get_output_port_for_preview(), texture_param_node, "uv")
visual_shader.node_connect(scalar_uniform.get_output_port_for_preview(), texture_param_node, "scale")

This would result in a shader that tiles the texture based on the value of the ScalarUniform, thus giving you control over the texture’s repetition on the surface through a shader parameter called ’tiling’.

Continue playing with node connections and observe how your texture changes real-time on the MeshInstance. This practical approach will help reinforce your understanding of how the VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter works.

Remember, the beauty of Godot’s visual shaders lies in their flexibility and the speed at which you can iteratively develop complex visual effects without delving into traditional shader code. However, each node you add should serve a clear purpose in pursuit of the visual effect you desire. In the next part, we will explore advanced applications using VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter for creating even more engaging visuals.

Moving forward, let’s expand on our visual shader by incorporating more advanced functionality. We’ll take our basic texture application further and show how to utilize the VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter node in various effects, creating a more vibrant and dynamic visual presentation in your Godot projects.

Let’s explore the use of masking to blend textures. Imagine you want to blend between two textures based on a mask. You will need a second VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter for the additional texture and a mask texture.

var texture2 = preload("res://textures/texture2.png")
var mask_texture = preload("res://textures/mask.png")

shader_material.set_shader_param('texture2_param', texture2)
shader_material.set_shader_param('mask_texture_param', mask_texture)

In the visual shader graph, you would add these new textures and use a VisualShaderNodeMix to blend between the two based on the mask.

// Connect your texture parameters to the mix node
visual_shader.node_connect(texture_param_node, "rgba", mix_node, "input1")
visual_shader.node_connect(texture2_param_node, "rgba", mix_node, "input2")
visual_shader.node_connect(mask_texture_param_node, "r", mix_node, "ratio")

// Then, the output of the mix node can be connected to the color input of the fragment function

This would result in dynamically blending two textures where the mask defines the blend ratio.

Another powerful effect you can implement is normal mapping for enhanced surface detail. For this effect, you would use a normal map texture along with your diffuse texture.

var normal_map = preload("res://textures/normal_map.png")
shader_material.set_shader_param('normal_map_param', normal_map)

In your visual shader graph, connect the normal map’s RGB output to the Normal input of the fragment function.

visual_shader.node_connect(normal_map_param_node, "rgb", fragment_function, "normal")

With this connection, the lighting of your object will react as if it had the detailed geometry the normal map represents, without the cost of additional vertices.

Emphasizing environmental interaction, let’s illustrate how to use screen-space reflections (SSR) using a VisualShaderNodeScreenTexture and your VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter.

// Create a screen texture node and connect it
var screen_texture_node = VisualShaderNodeScreenTexture.new()
visual_shader.add_node(screen_texture_node, Vector2(0, 0))

// Connect the ScreenTexture to your effect's mix node or another intermediate node that you've set up
visual_shader.node_connect(screen_texture_node, "rgba", mix_node, "input")

This would allow your surface to reflect the environment in screen-space, adding realism, especially to shiny or reflective surfaces.

To take surface interaction even further, you can simulate wetness by fading between a dry and wet version of a texture. By introducing a VisualShaderNodeScalarUniform for wetness level, you can control this dynamically in-game.

var wetness_uniform = VisualShaderNodeScalarUniform.new()
visual_shader.add_node(wetness_uniform, Vector2(0, 0))

// Connect this uniform to control the blend between the dry and wet textures
visual_shader.node_connect(wetness_uniform, "scalar", mix_node, "ratio")

This snippet essentially controls the texture’s appearance based on your ‘wetness’ uniform variable, thus simulating the effect of moisture or rain on surfaces.

As a final touch, consider the use of animated textures. By creating a VisualShaderNodeTime node and combining it with UV manipulation, you can animate your textures to move or evolve over time.

// Create a time node and connect it to UV manipulation nodes
var time_node = VisualShaderNodeTime.new()
visual_shader.add_node(time_node, Vector2(0, 0))

// Use time to affect UV coordinates
var uv_map = VisualShaderNodeUV.new()
visual_shader.add_node(uv_map, Vector2(0, 0))

var add_node = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.new()
add_node.operation = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.OPERATION_ADD
visual_shader.add_node(add_node, Vector2(0, 0))

visual_shader.node_connect(time_node, "time", add_node, "a")
visual_shader.node_connect(uv_map, "uv", add_node, "b")
visual_shader.node_connect(add_node, "vec", texture_param_node, "uv")

Using the output of ADD node for texture UVs, this creates the effect of your texture slowly moving across the surface over time.

By exploring these examples, you have learned how to utilize the VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter in various contexts to achieve different visual effects within the Godot Engine. Remember, experimentation is key in shader programming, so don’t hesitate to tweak values and connect nodes in new ways to achieve your artistic vision. Happy shading!

Expanding on our exploration of visual shaders, let’s delve further into the realm of shaders in Godot and how the VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter can be leveraged. We’ll introduce more complex techniques that offer a wider range of visual fidelity to your game environments and characters.

Let’s start with creating a displacement mapping effect, which allows for an even more pronounced sense of depth on a surface than normal mapping does.

// Set up a texture parameter for the displacement map
var displacement_map = preload("res://textures/displacement_map.png")
shader_material.set_shader_param('displacement_map_param', displacement_map)

// In the visual shader graph:
// Connect the displacement map to the vertex function to offset vertices based on texture
var vertex_function = visual_shader.get_node("vertex")
var displacement_map_param_node = VisualShaderNodeTexture.new()
visual_shader.add_node(displacement_map_param_node, Vector2(0, 0))
visual_shader.node_connect(displacement_map_param_node, "rgb", vertex_function, "vertex")

To fine-tune the displacement, a multiplier for the displacement map would typically be used:

var displacement_multiplier = VisualShaderNodeScalarUniform.new()
displacement_multiplier.constant = 0.1 // Control the intensity of the displacement
visual_shader.add_node(displacement_multiplier, Vector2(0, 0))
visual_shader.node_connect(displacement_multiplier, "scalar", displacement_map_param_node, "rgb")

Next, consider adding ambient occlusion to your shader. Ambient occlusion approximates how exposed each point in a scene is to ambient lighting. Therefore, the crevices are darker, which significantly boosts the depth perception in a scene.

// Add a texture for the ambient occlusion
var ao_map = preload("res://textures/ao_map.png")
shader_material.set_shader_param('ao_map_param', ao_map)

// In the shader graph, blend it with your base color using a multiply node
var ao_map_param_node = VisualShaderNodeTexture.new()
visual_shader.add_node(ao_map_param_node, Vector2(0, 0))

var multiply_node = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.new()
multiply_node.operation = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.OPERATION_MUL
visual_shader.add_node(multiply_node, Vector2(0, 0))

visual_shader.node_connect(ao_map_param_node, "rgb", multiply_node, "a")
visual_shader.node_connect(base_color_param_node, "rgba", multiply_node, "b")
visual_shader.node_connect(multiply_node, "vec", fragment_function, "albedo")

Another interesting effect is specularity mapping, which allows different parts of a surface to reflect light in varied ways, simulating different materials within a single texture.

// Create a parameter for the specular map
var spec_map = preload("res://textures/spec_map.png")
shader_material.set_shader_param('spec_map_param', spec_map)

// Connect the specular map to the specular input of fragment function
var spec_map_param_node = VisualShaderNodeTexture.new()
visual_shader.add_node(spec_map_param_node, Vector2(0, 0))
visual_shader.node_connect(spec_map_param_node, "r", fragment_function, "specular")

All these effects can be combined to create a sophisticated look for your assets, making them more lifelike and visually appealing. We also can’t forget about parallax mapping, which is similar to displacement mapping, but instead of displacing vertices, it distorts the texture coordinates to give the illusion of depth on a surface.

// Create a parameter for the height (or bump) map used for parallax mapping
var height_map = preload("res://textures/height_map.png")
shader_material.set_shader_param('height_map_param', height_map)

// Calculate the parallax offset
var uv_map = VisualShaderNodeUV.new()
visual_shader.add_node(uv_map, Vector2(0, 0))

var view_dir = VisualShaderNodeView.new()
visual_shader.add_node(view_dir, Vector2(0, 0))

var parallax_offset = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.new()
parallax_offset.operation = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.OPERATION_SCALE
visual_shader.add_node(parallax_offset, Vector2(0, 0))

var height_map_param_node = VisualShaderNodeTexture.new()
visual_shader.add_node(height_map_param_node, Vector2(0, 0))

visual_shader.node_connect(height_map_param_node, "r", parallax_offset, "a")
visual_shader.node_connect(view_dir, "view", parallax_offset, "b")
visual_shader.node_connect(parallax_offset, "vec", uv_map, "uv")
visual_shader.node_connect(uv_map, "vec", base_texture_param_node, "uv")

Lastly, let’s address color grading, which can give a unique atmosphere to a scene or signal the game state. By using a Look-Up Table (LUT), we can remap the colors of a texture to achieve various effects like a sepia tone, night vision, or heat map.

// Set up a LUT texture property
var lut = preload("res://textures/color_grade_lut.png")
shader_material.set_shader_param('lut_param', lut)

// Utilize the LUT inside the fragment shader to transform the output colors
var color_grade = VisualShaderNodeTexture.new()
visual_shader.add_node(color_grade, Vector2(0, 0))
visual_shader.node_connect(fragment_function, "COLOR", color_grade, "vec")

Color grading can greatly influence the mood and feeling of a game, and with the VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter, implementing it becomes very straightforward.

In essence, the VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter is a stepping stone to mastering Godot’s visual shaders, unlocking creative and technical control over the graphics in your game. We at Zenva encourage you to harness the power of textures through these nodes. Push the boundaries of what you can create and bring your vision to life with the magic of shaders.

Continue Your Game Development Journey with Zenva

You’ve dipped your toes into the expansive ocean of visual shaders in Godot, specifically harnessing the power of the VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter. Your toolkit is brimming with new techniques, but the path to mastery is paved with continuous learning and practice. To further solidify your understanding and expand your abilities, Zenva’s Godot Game Development Mini-Degree offers an incredible opportunity to dive deeper into building cross-platform games with Godot 4.

This extensive collection of courses covers a plethora of essential game development principles, from using 2D and 3D assets to crafting complex gameplay systems. You’ll learn GDScript and game mechanics like RPG, RTS, survival, and platformer elements. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or already have a baseline knowledge—there’s something in store for you.

As you work through these project-based courses and develop your own real Godot projects, you’ll build a strong portfolio to showcase your skills. To explore our full range of Godot courses, including other topics and different engines, visit the Godot courses page. With Zenva, you’re not just learning; you’re evolving into the game developer you aspire to be—accessible anytime, anywhere. So, keep on coding, keep creating, and take your game development journey to new heights!

Conclusion

In this enlightening journey through the VisualShaderNodeTextureParameter in Godot, we’ve unearthed the treasure trove of visual effects you can create without writing a single line of code. The node-based shader system in Godot empowers developers and artists alike to bring their visual imaginations to life with unprecedented ease. Keep experimenting, keep refining, and remember that with each node you connect, you’re not only building your game, you’re also building your future as a game developer.

Take these newfound skills to the next level with Zenva’s Godot Game Development Mini-Degree and set sail on your most ambitious game development adventures yet. Whether mastering shaders, scripting, or game mechanics, the mini-degree is your compass to navigate the complexities of game creation. With Zenva by your side, your dream game is just a node away.

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