Disclaimer : This post is a constant WIP, I try to keep it updated but I may not always have had the time to look into the latest patch!
First off, there’s a tl;dr at the bottom. Secondly here’s a third look at what I’ve found while using Shader Forge and the Amplify Shader Editor, we’ll start by taking a look at two simple node networks that do the same thing and look at the output code.
Continuing on I’ll write some thoughts and finally a few lines on how I use (both) of these in my Eco Tales : My Item Shop workflow.
Shader File : An SF .shader file contains the actual code for vertex and fragment shaders in three passes for forward rendering; this gives of a file filled to the brim with information, 390 rows to be precise in the case of the forward version found below.
The deferred version adds a deferred pass and weighs in at 538 very interesting lines of code!
Shader File : An ASE .shader file contains a single surface shader, it’s very easy to read and it’s remarkably similar to the way I’d’ve written it by hand had I not used a node editor, very possible to write and the one found below measures in at 68 rows, should you wish to compare, just download both of them.
Shader Forge (as of version 1.29)
The play test : After updating to version 1.29 I’ve yet to get any crashes whilst entering play mode. You will have to make sure you compile the shader before entering into play mode however as it locks into a “Saving…” mode if you have not, this forces you to close the window and reopen it.
Another issue is that, if you “Maximize on Play” and have Shader Forge as a non-floating window, it will auto-shut down forcing you to reopen it.
Usability : The way it’s possible to hold down a letter/number to quickly get to a node is wonderful, holding 1 will allow you to pop a Value node down, holding L will send up a list with all nodes starting with an L, it’s a wonderful system once you’ve learned the shortcuts.
There is a code node currently available, it works well but is cumbersome to work with, sadly as of today that is the only way of getting a “custom node” into Shader Forge.
Final Thoughts : Shader Forge does in many ways feels like a complete package, there are some things which are not optimal but once you get used to them, you’ll be able to manage just fine.
As for if the package is still alive, as of Unity 5.5 there have been some issues reported (I’ve yet to experience these personally), the main huge asset breaking issue was resolved instantly and therefor I’d say that, yes, Shader Forge is still alive. If you’re looking for speedy updates and customizability, you may want to scroll down to Amplify Shader.
With that said, it’s an amazing package and the node part of the interface at the time of writing works better than Amplify Shader’s does.
Is it worth its price? At $90 it’s “expensive” as far as asset packs are concerned, and certainly more expensive than Amplify Shader, in many ways it’s still ahead of Amplify but unless a 2.0 is somewhere around the corner, this may not stay true for long. With that said, I in no way regret the money I spent on Shader Forge, despite now having access to Amplify Shader, I would buy it all over again.
Amplify Shader (as of version 0.2.6_dev01)
The play test : I’ve yet to experience any crashes while using ASE in play mode.
Usability : It’s feeling less and less like a beta. As more and more nodes are added to the asset, things are really looking bright for Amplify Shader, these, of the ones I’ve tried so far, also create really manageable code which is, incredibly easy to read.
However, there are still no real shortcuts that I’ve found, other than N for comments; and using RMB to open a window with a search, containing a lot of, if not cryptic, then less intuitive node names than those found in SF; SF’s hold a letter and select is by far my favorite way to place nodes.
Finding nodes by the string compare doesn’t really work either as a lot of the node names can be rather strangely named, some of these could be named by the community however, and that may be the reason.
Which leads me to the customizability of Amplify Shader, it’s in one word “incredible”. Users can easily code their own nodes which can then be shared with the community, sometimes they’re even added straight into Amplify Shader itself.
Is it worth its price? As of beta 3 it’s $30, that’s a steal, even if the only reason you buy it is to create base shaders to expand upon, it’s worth it.
My workflow on Eco Tales : My Item Shop
A workflow that I’ve found to be rewarding is this, I first, due to the ease of prototyping within Shader Forge create the sample shader here; then, when I feel that the shader is done, I’ll remake it in Amplify Shader, should this not be possible, I’ll keep the Shader Forge shader and then maybe, I’ll be able to create an Amplify Shader version in a few betas.
Next up, the shaders, feel free to download and have a look!
As of right now, I’d go for both, Shader Forge is “expensive”, but working inside of it is fast and intuitive, not to mention that you get the actual code which you could look through and learn a thing or two.
Amplify Shader will surely only get better, and at its current price point, it’s a steal, the shaders are very easy to read and with some work, Amplify has the potential to take the throne from Shader Forge.
Here are a few tutorial-series I’ve made to show off the workflow, so far only Shader Forge is represented below.