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TRON 2.0: Killer App Mod v1.2 - Experimenting With AI Enhanced Textures

By TronFAQ on Monday, March 11, 2019 at 2:02 PM
If you have an interest in the modding scene for older games: you may have seen a number of articles on gaming sites, mentioning enhanced texture upgrades created by using AI "Deep Learning" tools, with the most commonly cited tool being ESRGAN.

For the longest time, upgrading the textures in TRON 2.0 as part of the Killer App Mod was something I did not consider doing. At all. For the following reasons.

  • I believed any enhanced textures would likely not have much of an impact. Both due to the nature of the original textures (I'll elaborate on this point, shortly), and the fact that Monolith Productions were forward thinking, by including fairly high resolution textures in TRON 2.0 to begin with. (For the time, in 2003, anyway.)

  • Upgrading the textures would also result in requiring more disk space. Much more. Something I'd prefer to avoid.

  • The work required to manually upgrade any significant amount of textures, would have been an enormous task.

  • As a side-note: There seems to be a misconception, out there, that previous versions of the Killer App Mod already had enhanced textures in the Single Player campaign. This is incorrect, as the earlier points explain. The only improved textures, are those that replaced some very low resolution ones, on some of the Multiplayer characters. These enhanced Multiplayer skins were done via a laborious manual process, by hand, by LDSO team members.

But with the advent of AI tools, to automate the upgrading of textures: I decided to investigate whether or not using these tools would truly provide any benefit.

I used three AI tools, in my attempts to enhance the textures in TRON 2.0. Waifu2x, ESRGAN, and SFTGAN.

There are others, too, such as Topaz AI GigaPixel and NVIDIA's GameWorks Textures and Materials, with more appearing on a regular basis. But some of these aren't free, or require applying for an account in order to use. So, I stuck with the three aforementioned tools.

Of the three tools, I predicted that Waifu2x would very likely provide the best result.

This is due to the fact that most, if not all, the textures in TRON 2.0 are, effectively, pixel art. Consisting of large bands of single, solid colors, and some line patterns (with many located at the edges of the textures).


Below are images showing the results of using Waifu2x, ESRGAN, and SFTGAN with the various "model" data sets available for them. Each "machine learned" model provided slightly, or sometimes even greatly, different results. The original textures were 2x upscaled while being enhanced. (Except ESRGAN, which defaults to 4x.)

Apologies for using larger .PNG images. But avoiding quality loss, when doing image quality comparisons, is essential.

Please click on the images to open them in new tabs at their proper sizes.
Original texture
on Transport Station level
Texture upscaled using
simple 2x pixel resize
Waifu2x (UpResNet10 model)
Topaz AI GigapixelESRGAN (Manga109 model)SFTGAN (default model)
Original texture in-game

Waifu2x texture in-game
Original texture
on Primary Docking Port level
Texture upscaled using
simple 2x pixel resize
Waifu2x (UpResNet10 model)
Topaz AI GigapixelESRGAN (Manga109 model)SFTGAN (default model)
Original texture in-game

Waifu2x texture in-game


After testing the various models available for the AI tools, I found that:
  • UpResNet10 provided the best quality for Waifu2x.
  • Manga109 the best quality for ESRGAN.
  • SFTGAN had one default model, and was inferior to both Waifu2x and ESRGAN.
  • Simple 2x pixel resizing in an image editing program, is also inferior to Waifu2x and ESRGAN.

Based on the results, I only provided screenshots featuring these models.

As predicted, Waifu2x provides the best result in every case. Though ESRGAN, using the Manga109 model, is a close second.

However, when comparing the original and enhanced textures in-game: the results are less than impressive. The higher resolution enhanced textures really don't add much in the way of visual improvement.

The texture at the rear of the Exit Port on the Transport Station level is slightly sharper, using Waifu2x. But the alpha channel seems to have been affected negatively, reducing the glow effect (bloom).

March 15th, 2019 UPDATE: Fixed the problem causing the reduced glow/bloom in the Transport Station texture. The Waifu2x in-game screenshot has been updated, accordingly. If you want to see the previous broken glow/bloom screenshot, it looked like this.

The texture on the wall of the Primary Docking Port level shows almost zero difference in sharpness in-game, using Waifu2x. Even when viewed close-up.

Perhaps more experimentation with different models, or even different AI tools, could provide better results. But for now, my conclusion is: Attempting to enhance textures for TRON 2.0 is not worth the effort.

These experiments will briefly be featured in the upcoming third Single Player fixes trailer video, but I most likely won't be spending any more time on attempts at texture enhancement for the foreseeable future.

March 24th, 2019 UPDATE: Decided to revisit texture enhancement one last time, because I wanted to see how Topaz AI Gigapixel fares against the other tools. Screenshots for Topaz have been added to previous comparisons, and also added a third new comparison where I enhanced another TRON 2.0 texture.

Overall, in all texture comparisons, Topaz produces results similar to ESRGAN using the Manga109 model. With one sometimes outdoing the other, and vice-versa.

Please click on the images to open them in new tabs at their proper sizes.
Original texture
on Program Integration level
Texture upscaled using
simple 2x pixel resize
Waifu2x (UpResNet10 model)
Topaz AI GigapixelESRGAN (Manga109 model)SFTGAN (default model)
Original texture in-game

Waifu2x texture in-game


For this third, new texture: Waifu2x once again provided the overall best result. Topaz AI Gigapixel was a very close second.

But, more interestingly, looking at the Waifu2x result in-game actually shows a noticeable, subjectively improved, texture difference for the first time. (The previous enhanced textures for the Transport Station and Primary Docking Port levels, in-game, did not look significantly different.)

This latest result doesn't substantially alter my conclusion, though. Attempting comprehensive enhancement of all the textures in TRON 2.0, still won't be worth the effort based on these results.

Perhaps some selective enhancement of a few textures — where the difference is actually noticeable in-game — might be worth it. Something to consider in a potential Killer App Mod v1.3, but not for v1.2.
 
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2 comments so far.

  1. EPCOTFan March 13, 2019 4:10 AM
    I would just like to thank you for all of your support over the years to the TRON v2.0 game. It has definitely been appreciated, at least for myself, and I look forward to your continued efforts.

    I must agree that "enhanced textures" would not make a significant impact on the game, based upon the nature of the visuals in the game.

    Out of curiosity, has there been any renewed effort to attempt to convince Disney to release more tools so that more of the game may be modded? Thank you.
  2. TronFAQ March 13, 2019 10:23 AM
    Thank you for the kind words. :)

    In the past, fans (including myself) approached Disney about helping out the modding community. At first they seemed willing to co-operate, but later we were rebuffed. Since then, no one has attempted to communicate with them about this again, as far as I'm aware.

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