Shader Creation

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Revision as of 23:26, 29 January 2018 by Merlyn (talk | contribs) (Making a custom shader)
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Shader file structure

Shaders are a programmable code for each of the OpenGL standard rendering pipeline stages. These are used to modify the geometry and per-fragment ("pixel") rendering of a given object.

In Overgrowth, they are programmed in the GLSL shader language.

They are generally stored in the Data/GLSL folder. Shaders that go together have the same base filename, but have a different extension for each shader stage.

.vert shader

.vert corresponds to the per-vertex shader stage.

This stage is always required

This comes first in the shader pipeline.

Vertex shaders are used most often for calculating interpolated data for the fragment shader to use (e.g. vertex coloring/lighting), or to calculate things in-shader, but once per vertex instead of once per pixel (which often makes it cheaper).

.frag shader

.frag corresponds to the per-fragment shader stage.

This stage is always required

This comes last in the shader pipeline.

Fragment shaders are used for calculating the color on a per-fragment ("pixel") basis.

Note: a "pixel" is a simple way to think about it, but if you're doing AA, or full-screen effects that span multiple pixels per single fragment, or rendering to a texture, than there isn't always a 1:1 mapping of "pixels on the screen" to fragments. This is useful to keep in mind in special cases, but generally for regular objects, a fragment is a "pixel".

other shader stages

.geom, .tess_eval, and .tess_ctrl are other shader stages that the engine supports. However, the engine only supports these stages in special cases. For the most part there's no need to worry about or try to work with these shader types.

Object file specification

You set the shader you want to use for a given object by editing that object's XML file, and specifying the shader you want in the ShaderName tag.


This will tell the engine to use the Data/GLSL/my_example_shader.vert and Data/GLSL/my_example_shader.frag programs to render this object.

Reusing shader programs

If you want to reuse common parts of a shader program (or make optional parts you can turn on or turn off, per-object) then you can pass a set of #define flags to the shader.

For example:

<ShaderName>my_example_shader #DO_SOMETHING</ShaderName>

Will automatically add this at the top of your shader files:


You can then use #if defined(DO_SOMETHING) or #ifdef DO_SOMETHING to block off optional code.

Overgrowth does this with most of its object shaders, putting a lot of common code inside the Data/GLSL/envobject.* shader programs.

Special shader file names

Right now the engine automatically substitutes certain shader strings with a different/expanded string with extra options in place.

This means, even if an object seems to be using one of the shaders inside the Data/GLSL folder, the engine is actually replacing it with envobject, with an extra set of flags.

As of this writing, here is an exhaustive list of these substitutions:

  • cubemap -> envobject #TANGENT
  • cubemapobj or cubemapobjchar or cubemapobjitem -> envobject
  • cubemapalpha -> envobject #TANGENT #ALPHA
  • plant or plant_less_movement -> envobject #TANGENT #ALPHA #PLANT
  • plant_foliage -> envobject #TANGENT #ALPHA #PLANT #NO_DECALS
  • detailmap4 -> envobject #DETAILMAP4 #TANGENT
  • detailmap4tangent -> envobject #DETAILMAP4 #TANGENT #BASE_TANGENT
  • MagmaFloor -> envobject #MAGMA_FLOOR
  • MagmaFlow -> envobject #MAGMA_FLOW

This means that, for example, even though there are Data/GLSL/MagmaFlow.vert and Data/GLSL/MagmaFlow.frag files, they aren't actually used by the game. The shader code for those is inside Data/GLSL/envobject.*

Making a custom shader

To create or modify an existing shader:

  1. Copy the Data/GLSL/envobject.* files and paste them on Data/GLSL folder inside your mod.
  2. Rename the envobject.* files to another name, so they won't conflict with those from the game (for our example, we will use EnvobjectEx.*).
  3. Edit the object .XML file, and change the ShaderName element to look like this:


  1. Start editing Data/GLSL/EnvobjectEx.vert and Data/GLSL/EnvobjectEx.frag to set your own custom behavior.

The 'envobject.* shader programs have a lot of code in them, so it might be useful to start by very carefully cutting out code out that you know doesn't apply. This will be code between #ifdef or "#if define(...) sections, and their corresponding #endif. Be careful, these can be nested, and it may be hard to figure out what is what, unless you're carefully cutting or selecting line-by-line.