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Trent Kaniuga: How Metal Gear Solid Used Alpha Textures

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On the heels of his Final Fantasy VII Cloud Strife redesign, video game character designer Trent Kaniuga continues to muse on the classic games of the PlayStation 1. This time he brings us a video essay on Metal Gear Solid in the form of a tutorial on creating alpha textures (channels) for video games. Trent has recently been replaying MGS, and it’s great to hear his perspective on the graphics of this classic game. In his tutorial he uses a fan-made Metal Gear texture pack, and he can quote exactly which rooms they come from and what items you get in them, proving his Metal Gear fan credentials.

The graphics limitations on the PS1 meant that the geometry of the 3D space in the games wasn’t shaded and wouldn’t react to light sources. So the alpha textures, the panels of illustration placed on the geometry, has to have the shadows and highlights painted on. Trent even points out that the desks in Metal Gear Solid have their keyboards painted on the texture panel so there were fewer 3D geometries to create.

In the tutorial, Trent shows which brushes in SketchBook are good for adding painted noise to the textures which adds to their depth. He also points out you can turn off the background in your canvas’  which renders the negative space transparent which greatly helps in creating transparent alpha textures. He then shows how to save your textures and export them into Unity 3D and impliment them in a 3D game design.

Have a look at the full Alpha Textures tutorial here: