VisualShaderNodeVectorBase in Godot – Complete Guide

Welcome to your journey through the mesmerizing world of shader programming with Godot 4. If you’ve ever dreamed of lending that extra visual flair to your games, mastering shaders is your rite of passage. In this tutorial, we’ll be focusing on the enigmatic VisualShaderNodeVectorBase class and its offshoots in Godot’s Visual Shader graph system. Let’s unlock the potential of vector operations to bring your game’s aesthetics to life!

What is VisualShaderNodeVectorBase?

VisualShaderNodeVectorBase acts as a cornerstone in Godot’s Visual Shader graph, providing the foundational operations for manipulating vectors. Vectors, as you might know, are mathematical entities used extensively in game development for representing points in space, directional forces, colors, and more. This abstract class is the parent of several derived classes that perform a variety of vector-specific operations, from basic math to complex transformations.

What is it for?

Understanding VisualShaderNodeVectorBase is like getting to know the brushes and colors on an artist’s palette. It offers a range of functionalities crucial for game development, including manipulating the position of objects, calculating lighting effects, and many other visual manipulations that can enhance your game’s appeal.

Why Should I Learn It?

Diving into VisualShaderNodeVectorBase will equip you with knowledge to create sophisticated and high-performance visual effects. Whether you’re a beginner eager to get started with shader programming or an experienced developer looking to sharpen your skills, understanding this class and its derivatives can significantly up your Godot game development game. Moreover, shaders are a universal concept in graphics programming, so this knowledge transcends any single tool or engine, adding to your value as a game developer.

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Exploring Basic Vector Operations

First, let’s start by delving into some basic vector operations that you can conduct using Godot’s Visual Shader nodes derived from VisualShaderNodeVectorBase. We’ll be looking at VisualShaderNodeVectorOp, which allows us to perform operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division on vectors.

// Example 1: Adding two vectors
// Assume vec1 and vec2 are defined as vec3
var result = vec1 + vec2;

In the Shader Graph, you would use VisualShaderNodeVectorOp with the ‘Add’ operation to combine the two vectors visually.

// Example 2: Subtracting two vectors
var result = vec1 - vec2;

Here, ‘Subtract’ would be selected in the VisualShaderNodeVectorOp to get the difference between vec1 and vec2 vectors.

// Example 3: Component-wise multiplication of vectors
var result = vec1 * vec2;

This operation multiplies corresponding components of vec1 and vec2. In Shader Graph, you’d set the operation to ‘Multiply’.

// Example 4: Dividing one vector by another, component-wise
var result = vec1 / vec2;

For dividing vectors, select ‘Divide’ in the visual shader operation. Remember, the resulting vector’s components are calculated by dividing the respective components of vec1 by vec2.

Length, Normalize, and Distance

Moving on to understanding the magnitude of vectors, we’ll use VisualShaderNodeVectorLen to determine the length of a vector. The ‘Normalize’ function is also critical, as it scales a vector to have a length of 1, and is useful for various calculations, particularly in lighting algorithms.

// Example 5: Calculating the length of a vector
var length = vec1.length();

In the visual shader, you would use VisualShaderNodeVectorLen to achieve this without writing code.

// Example 6: Normalizing a vector
var normalizedVec = vec1.normalized();

This operation is visually performed by connecting a vector to a VisualShaderNodeVectorFunc set to ‘Normalize’.

// Example 7: Calculating the distance between two points
var distance = (vec1 - vec2).length();

Although Godot doesn’t have a dedicated distance node, you can simply subtract two vectors and measure the length of the resulting vector to find the distance between two points.

Reworking Coordinates with Dot and Cross Products

Vector math also involves more complex operations like dot and cross products. The dot product can reflect the angle differences between two vectors, while the cross product is primarily used to find a vector perpendicular to two given vectors in 3D space.

// Example 8: Dot Product
var dotProduct = vec1.dot(vec2);

You can calculate the dot product in the Visual Shader editor by connecting vectors to a VisualShaderNodeDotProduct node.

// Example 9: Cross Product
var crossProduct = vec1.cross(vec2);

In Godot’s Shader Graph, you would create a VisualShaderNodeCrossProduct node and connect the two vectors to find the cross product.

These fundamental vector operations lay the groundwork for more complex shader effects. It’s crucial to understand and practice these basic mathematical tools to effectively harness the power of Godot’s shader system.

Delving further into the world of shaders, we encounter vector interpolation and directional operations. These are pivotal for smooth transitions and directional manipulations in your game’s graphics. Let’s explore some of these operations with practical code examples.

// Example 10: Linearly interpolating between two vectors
var interpVec = vec1.linear_interpolate(vec2, 0.5);

For a visual shader, you’d use VisualShaderNodeVectorInterp to achieve a blend between two vectors based on a weight factor.

// Example 11: Reflecting a vector off a surface
var reflectedVec = vec1.reflect(normalVec);

This operation is visually represented by a VisualShaderNodeVectorReflect node, where `vec1` is the incoming vector and `normalVec` is the normal of the surface.

// Example 12: Refracting a vector through a surface
var refractedVec = vec1.refract(normalVec, 1.5);

The VisualShaderNodeVectorRefract node would help you simulate the refractive property within the Shader Graph, where `1.5` represents the refractive index.

Transitioning from operations to transformations, we have several nodes that cater to transforming vectors based on matrices. These are crucial for operations like moving a vector from world space to screen space or vice versa.

// Example 13: Transforming a vector from world space to camera space
var camVec = cameraMatrix.xform(vec1);

You’d use the VisualShaderNodeTransformVec node for this operation, feeding in your vector and the camera matrix.

// Example 14: Transforming a vector with a custom matrix
var customTransformedVec = myMatrix.xform(vec1);

Similarly, feed any transformation matrix and your vector into VisualShaderNodeTransformVec to apply complex custom transformations.

Lastly, for more artistic control over your visual assets, you might want to manipulate individual components of a vector.

// Example 15: Swapping the components of a vector
var swappedVec = Vector3(vec1.y, vec1.z, vec1.x);

In the Shader Graph, VisualShaderNodeVectorDecompose allows you to break down a vector into its components, and VisualShaderNodeVectorCompose lets you reassemble them in any order.

// Example 16: Creating a gradient using a vector
var gradientVec = vec1 * vec3(1.0, 0.5, 0.0);

This is done by component-wise multiplication, which you can perform visually by connecting individual scalar values to a vector using the VisualShaderNodeScalarFunc and then combining them with a multiplication node. It results in a vector where each component has been scaled by a different factor, creating a color gradient effect if vec1 represents colors.

Understanding and utilizing these operations opens up a realm of possibilities for creating dynamic and immersive visual effects in your games. As with any skill, practice is key—experiment with Godot’s Shader Graph and watch as your visual effects evolve from simple transformations to intricate, custom shaders that breathe life into your creations.

We’ve looked at vector operations and transformations, and now it’s time to put these into context with practical shader programming examples. Godot makes it simple to create complex effects, and here we’ll explore how to manipulate vectors for visual outcomes like moving objects, altering lighting, and more.

// Example 17: Moving an object in the direction of a vector
var moveSpeed = 5.0;
var directionVec = Vector3(1.0, 0.0, 0.0); // Move along the x-axis
object.transform.translated(directionVec * moveSpeed * delta);

In the visual shader, you would animate the UV coordinates or vertex positions using a time-based function connected to a direction vector to achieve a constant movement.

// Example 18: Adjusting the brightness of a texture
var brightness = 1.2; // Brightness factor
var texColor = texture(albedoTex, UV).rgb; // Albedo texture’s color
var brightColor = texColor * brightness;

Within Godot’s Visual Shader Graph, you would multiply the texture’s sample node by a scalar to increase brightness.

// Example 19: Creating a vertex displacement effect based on noise
var noiseTex = preload("res://noise_texture.png");
var displacement = texture(noiseTex, VERTEX.xy).r; // Red channel for displacement
VERTEX.y += displacement * 0.1; // Modify the vertex y position

For a visual implementation, you would input a noise texture into the shader and use its output to displace vertices along a chosen axis.

// Example 20: Simulating water waves using sine function
var waveHeight = 2.0;
VERTEX.y += sin(VERTEX.x + TIME) * waveHeight;

In the visual shader, this effect is achieved by adding a time-dependent sine function to the y coordinate of the vertex position.

// Example 21: Rotating a vector around an axis 
var angle = PI / 4; // 45 degrees in radians
var axis = Vector3(0, 1, 0); // Rotate around the y-axis
var rotatedVec = vec1.rotated(axis, angle);

To visually rotate a vector around an axis, Godot’s VisualShaderNodeVectorRotateByAxis node can be used, where the axis and angle are inputs alongside the original vector.

// Example 22: Creating a pulsating color effect
var baseColor = Color(1.0, 0.8, 0.6);
var pulsate = sin(TIME) * 0.5 + 0.5; // Oscillates between 0 and 1
var color = baseColor * pulsate;

A similar “pulsating” visual effect can be created by multiplying the base color with the sinusoidal value of the shader’s ‘TIME’ node.

// Example 23: Calculating specular highlight for Phong shading model
var lightDir = normalize(lightPosition - fragPosition);
var viewDir = normalize(viewPosition - fragPosition);
var reflectDir = reflect(-lightDir, norm);
var specIntensity = pow(max(dot(viewDir, reflectDir), 0.0), shininess);

For specular calculations in the visual shader, you would construct the vectors for light direction, view direction, and reflection direction using node operations. The final intensity is then calculated with a ‘dot’ node and a ‘power’ node to simulate shininess.

Each of these examples showcases the versatility of Godot’s shader language and the graphical interface for visual shaders. Whether you’re writing the code directly or connecting nodes, Godot’s shader system is both flexible and powerful, enabling you to create a variety of effects that can significantly enhance your game’s visual appeal.

Where to Go Next

If you’ve enjoyed this exploration into shader programming with Godot 4 and VisualShaderNodeVectorBase, your journey is just beginning. We encourage you to continue learning and expanding your game development skills. Dive deeper into the limitless possibilities of Godot with our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree. This comprehensive collection of courses will guide you through creating cross-platform games using the powerful and versatile Godot 4 engine.

Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to refine your existing skills, the Mini-Degree is designed to cater to developers at all levels. You’ll gain hands-on experience with a variety of concepts and techniques, from creating basic gameplay mechanics to implementing advanced features like player combat systems, item collection, and custom UI solutions.

And if you’d like to browse through an even broader range of Godot learning materials, visit our full catalog of Godot courses. These resources are here to support you as you embark on a fulfilling path to becoming a proficient game developer with theGodot engine. Learn at your own pace with Zenva – where your next big game idea can come to life!

Conclusion

Through this tutorial, we’ve taken a glimpse into the potent realm of Godot’s shader programming and VisualShaderNodeVectorBase class. Armed with these tools, you’re now able to craft more dynamic and visually captivating game experiences. Remember, every great game is an amalgam of tiny details, and shaders play a pivotal role in bringing those details to life. Embrace the power of VisualShaderNodeVectorBase, and watch as your games transform with new dimensions of interactivity and beauty.

Don’t let the learning stop here. Continue to refine your understanding and strengthen your development skills with our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree. Ready to take the next step in your game development career? Join us at Zenva, and turn your creative vision into a gaming reality, one shader at a time.

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