About the Freelancer Texture formats and File Types
Basically... FL uses both
TARGA and DDS textures, for various things.
TARGA (TGA) was the original format used for everything. I think that when the game was originally being built, DA was going to use 8-bit compressed TGAs for things like ships, and 32-bit TGA for things that needed a 16-bit alpha channel.
But then DDS came along... DDS, which has the compression levels of JPG, but has native support for mipmapping and 8-bit alpha channels. Pretty darn good format... and DA went with it. The FL engine supports DDS DXT1 and DDS DXT3 formats.
All FL Material nodes that actually make use of TARGA formats are listed as MIP0, MIP1, MIP2, etc., when you look at them in UTF Edit. If you look at some of the textures used for certain things where different mip levels was actually needed, DA used as many as 8 different mips.
If a texture is listed as MIPS, however, then you're looking at a DDS file.
The two types of DDS both have advantages/disadvantages:
DXT1 has the best quality and compression ratio. You can make 2048/2048 textures at about 1MB in size, if you leave out the mipmaps... try doing that
with a 32-bit TGA! But... DXT1 does not support any alpha channel data, at all.
DXT3 supports an 8-bit alpha channel. This is OK for things that are basically either clear... or opaque... but is crappy for things that require subtle amounts of transparency. However, it still has better compression than TGA by a long shot, and supports mipmaps.
Basically... the ONLY REASON
to use TGAs in your MATs... is if you have something that absolutely requires
delicate transparency levels. IOW, use as infrequently as possible. If you want insane levels of detail... use DDS DXT1 !!! If you need a simple black/white alpha layer, use DDS DXT3.
I'm adding this to my "How to Skin" Tutorial... and someday, somebody needs to alter Drizzt's Tutorial, because neither he nor Kasdian really understood texture formats very well... nor how important they are to the overall final finish on a ship in the FL engine.
Basically, folks... 95% of the time, you should have a final ship with ONE MATERIAL. One large texturemap is more efficient, come render time, than multiple smaller ones, even if the overall memory size is smaller! People get into the bad habit of using lots of small textures- when you can avoid it, do so- it will save a lot of FPS. And that texturemap, 95% of the time, can be DDS DXT1, no mipmaps... for maximum beauty, utility and efficiency