It’s been a while since I bought my MindTex license (it was in 9/6/12), so this time I’m going to talk about this cheap and useful application.
Here is the original overview from the web page:
MindTex is a normal map generation utility for game developers and 3D professionals alike. Built to rival the competition in quality without the steep price, whether you want to generate a normal, height, specular, self-illumination, or occlusion map, you can easily do it in seconds flat from a single source texture with MindTex.
Integrating MindTex into your 3D content pipeline will save you substantial amounts of time, money, and effort, allowing you to focus on what is really important: building immersive worlds and making your ideas a reality.
Here is the original MindTex video demonstration:
MindTex is very similar to CrazyBump, but at the same time a bit different in terms of functionality.
You can open a Difufuse map, Height map and Normal map to edit or generate normal map, height map, diffuse map, specular map, self ilumination maps and ambient occlussion, and as far as I can tell, everything works prety good, but with some differences against the competitors,
So, being said that, here are my insights.
By opening a Diffuse map in MindTex you will see a different interface, with options to open images or projects (asuming you’ve already saved one) and options to save single images and projects as well.
Normal and Height share the same control settings, and Diffuse, Specular, Self Ilumination and Ambient Occlusion has their own settings as expected.
As far as I can tell, other apps are lacking height maps generation, but here in MindTex we have it.
Tools and Options
The map preview / 3D view button at the end of the lower right corner of the app works good, and quite usable. In different apps another windows opens with the 3D texture view but some times I prefer to close it when I don’t need it, and then open it when I do.
I have to say that I like the fact that we have all we need in a single window.
Map Export Settings
To be honest I’ve never used this part before, so when I was testing for the review, I got confused with this part, take a look in the image below in the “Normal” button in the middle left of the picture :
As you can imagine, for instance, a normal map needs R, G and B channels in order to process the output image, so I change the format parameters to “RGBA” and tried to process the map, and the result was an error.
Either, “Gray” or “RGBA” it wont work for Normal Mapseven if you open a difuse map with “RGBA”, so try to keep the default values, or press the “Restore Defaults” if you change something and got some errors with other maps, like “Height“.
Batch Generate Utility
This is very useful if you want to convert a large number of images, just select batch input type, the folder or files and press the Run Batching Tool button.
If you force the output of a non power of two map, it happen to modify your map in a very weird way, so remember to press the “Force Maps To Square” button to avoid that
By pressing that button you will see, even in the 3D textured view when texture change to square.
I know it is a gold rule while working with power of two images, but if for some reason you need a non power of two image, this will help.
I usually work with current gen props for games (dif, nor, spec) and in the texturing phase we tend to use normal maps to obtain some kind of “detail maps”, this one is placed in the Diffuse map, on top of every other layer (photoshop), in this way we get most of the details in the angular surfaces of the prop.
This map (cavity map) is usually done with CrazyBump, just by opening it as normal map, and then adjusting the specular settings.
But unfortunately with MindTex the result wasn´t good, so I decided to contact the developer, so I sent the video below (among others) and then we got some fix updates
MindTex Update (1.0.38): Fixed artifacting issue that sometimes appeared when generating from normal map sources
— Frozen Flame (@OfficialFrznFlm) September 13, 2012
But there are some issues with this, because I istill find very difficult to get something similar to CB. By opening a normal map and converting it to specular, is where I found it more complex.
Also by opening the normal map as height map, although it works less worse, but still not the same as CB
And by opening the normal map as diffuse map, we got similar results, kind of better but yet not the same as we need.
Maybe is going to be impossible to get the same results I got with CrazyBump, but with MindTex, because of the algorithms used, but I hope the developers keep improving this part of MindTex.
I found that in my second monitor MindTex has some issues with the interface in terms of redrawing, as you can see in the video below:
And here are my two monitors:
This is quite annoying since you need to mantain the application (in my case) in the right monitor only in order to see it properly.. And not to mention that this only happen in this application. Several times I ended up thinking that the app has just stopped working because of that.
- Plenty of nice sliders to tweak your output
- Generated maps are of a very decent quality.
- Affordable price
- It is obviously a ‘low end’ package, there are some missing out in some advanced areas, but this might depend of your level or knowledge as an artist.
- Interface could use some work ; seem to be that the interface tried to include a lot of thing/options into tabs and panels that change depending their availability, and this could be confusing at first.
I’m very happy with my purchase, no regrets at all despite the issues with the normal map conversion to detail/border map.
So to sum up I can say that this is a very worthy app for its price ($14.99) for a hobbyist artist, freelance artist or indie developers or anyone interested, so grab you 30 day trial in the official page or in Steam.