Now the naming and image dimension issues have been resolved, so I loaded the game and it worked perfectly! Drunk with power, I ran a quick and dirty (i.e. impatient) bulk upscale on every texture just to get the payout of seeing that high resolution quality in gameplay. I wish I had a picture, but I don’t sorry. So you’ll just have to settle with one of my test pictures. The ultimate result of that initial effort was a messy, uneven upscale that wasn’t very good.
WTF is upscaling?
I’ll take this hot second to address this topic for those not in the know. One of the first “AI” booms was image upscaling using an algorithm model called ESRGAN (it stands for something, but no one cares). There are many models now, but that one paved the way. Note, when I say “AI”, that’s really just the media branding of this technology because the technical stuff is not as sexy. It (and most of the current AI stuff) is nothing more than highly sophisticated pattern recognition software. You teach it what 200 apples look like in low resolution and high resolution. It learns that when it sees a low resolution apple what the approximate of a high resolution apple might look like and gives you that. See how boring that already got….hence “AI”.
I use a program called CUPSCALE, which is a frontend for the tech behind it. It allows bulk upscaling, supports most common image formats, and allows switching between different models. Best part, it will install all the needed files (python and all things related) for you, so it’s as close to plug and play as possible.
Almost a mod?
I spent many hours trying different combinations of upscale models. Finally, I settled on a workflow that best accomplished the cartoon look I wanted. I started with 1X upscales (meaning no change in size) just to clean up details. I focused on de-dithering, which was often used in old games and extremely low rez art, and sharpening detail a little, so colors weren’t bleeding as much (refocus model). Then I scaled it by 2X using 4XNickelBack model and reducing 50% afterwards. After much trial and error, I found this was the best option for Blake Stone art as it was the least destructive to the essence of the picture. After that I hit them with a couple rounds of a FSManga model to make them more cartoony, with a 50% resizing here and here. Ultimately, I ended up with game textures that were 6X the size of the originals that had a more cartoon appearance.
UP NEXT TIME….A new mod is born!
Part 4 will be about releasing my first full HD texture mod. But it doesn’t stop at Part 4 (wink wink).