So, I've been wondering lately about ways to achieve an interesting, convincing effect for rocket smoke trails...
What I want is to achieve the best possible visual effect, without of course, compromising performance... and that's where things get tricky.
Look at this example:
As you can see, the smoke trail has a very cloud-like quality to it... it appears very solid, and very dense...
This isn't so easy to achieve, without using an impractical number of particles...
So I'm looking for ideas, or at least just discuss the matter in the hopes of having some magical insight
So, to kick it off, this is something I think could work:
Creating a new particle shader, that will animate a spritesheet of smoke textures over time, so that each smoke particle will appear to "bubble" up as it goes... This means each particle is visually more interesting by itself, so we need less particles overall, and that means each particle can stay up longer.
Problems are, this spritesheet would have to be masterfully created and animated, so it looks convincing... may take a great deal of time and effort.
Also, it would be impractical to create overly long texture animations in this fashion, so the smoke animation would have to loop, and it would need to run fast enough to look convincing.
The above idea shows why I'm opening this thread... I want to discuss these ideas before committing myself to a week-long effort in getting a cool rocket exhaust effect.
So, to keep going, here's another idea:
Instead of creating a spritesheet for each particle, instead, give them a procedural, noise-based texture, that's created by the shader.
This would enable nice, patternless textures, and better yet, the smoke can animate itself over the 3rd dimension of the noise field.
Problems here? This shader will be running on a couple of thousand instances... how practical, hardware-wise, would this be?
What do you think?