It’s about time to upgrade SilverLining to a new major version – 5.0. Since the release of SilverLining 4, we’ve added lots of new features such as new stratocumulus clouds, DirectX 11.1 support, and countless little performance improvements. The feature that pushes us over the edge to 5.0 will be all-new representations of towering cumulus and cumulonimbus storm clouds, as seen above.
We’ve teamed up with AgileSrc LLC to develop a new cloud editor application using Unity, which lets us quickly create 3D models for clouds and visualize them using SilverLining’s engine. Unlike other cloud types, storm clouds are difficult to model procedurally, and hand-modeling yields the best results. We are putting the finishing touches on a library of cumulonimbus and towering cumulus cloud models that represent a variety of storm development stages, and so far they look great.
Towering cumulus are basically cumulus congestus clouds that have started to grow vertically, and are on their way to becoming cumulonimbus clouds. Cumulonimbus are the big anvil-shaped thunderheads you see in heavy thunderstorms. Our cumulonimbus clouds can be as massive as you want – and include rain shafts and lightning strike effects.
Another benefit is that these new models perform much better than SilverLining 4’s storm clouds. By allowing an artist to specify the textures and texture rotation properties at every voxel of a cloud, we can rely more on textures and less on geometry to provide detail. This means we can get away with fewer voxels per storm cloud, reducing the CPU load and fill-rate associated with them rather dramatically.
We also plan to release our cloud editor application as part of the SilverLining SDK, so customers who want to create additional models or to tweak ours can do so. Although SilverLining has become somewhat ubiquitous in the military and flight training industry, it’s little customizations like this that our customers use to stand apart.
We don’t have a hard date for the release of SilverLining 5 – it’ll come out when it’s ready. But as you can see from the screenshot above, it’s pretty close.