The lighting on ships looks much better -- the contrast is up, and shadows appear more dynamic. I don't know whether this is because shaders really have been updated, or if it's just that these pictures do a better job of showcasing the graphics engine than previous screencaps, or if it's all just perception on my part. Regardless, I like the look of these ships better than that of previous ships.
In particular the two screencaps of the Akira-class ship are excellent. This is the first time I've been more interested in looking at the ship than the background... and some of these backgrounds have been spectacular. For example, I notice that the Akira escaping from the exploding planetoid is is partially lit by reflected (colored) light from the explosion -- very nice! The reflected light on the Akira amid debris is also very good. (One other note: the "Cryptic" also seems to sport quite a lot of polygons, which looks wonderful -- will that level of detail be standard for all ships? or just player ships? or just this one ship being used for marketing purposes?)
I have to say I'm not as impressed with the Orion Raider ship. I love the design, and I'm amazed at the level of detail -- that looks fantastic. But the lighting on this ship is still a bit blah. I say "a bit" blah; there's actually a lot to like here. I can see the shadowing effects and they look fine. What I think is still missing on this ship -- and the two shots of the Akira as well, actually -- is gloss. Is any kind of specular reflection (which I understand is a dynamic effect that can't be precomputed) considered to be too expensive to include for any PC? (I know it can be hard to hear "tone" in a text message, so let me add that I'm not asking this in a critical way -- it's a sincere request for some knowledge.)
Just a bit of glossiness on ships in the appropriate curved locations. It's all I ask.
Well... it's all I'm asking for now.
While I'm on the subject of the Orion Raider image, kudos to the environmental artist. The planet looks great! I'm blown away by the level of detail, and the color and apparent refraction of the narrow band of atmosphere is wonderful. Now, any chance of throwing some good-looking dynamic clouds on planets? I'm not talking full-up meteorological simulation; just appropriately-colored and -shaped clouds that move at a different rate than the land below. That, I think, in conjunction with the high-detail planetary surfaces and atmospheric effects shown in this image, could be the finishing touch.
The cargo bay image is mildly interesting. Actually, looking at the cluster of three people down in the bottom right makes me suspect that the NPC pathfinding may need a little attention... or are they actually looking at something?
(In fact, I want to put this delicately, but... that's a rather intriguing pose all three male figures seem to be holding in the cargo bay screencap. Are there flys on the fronts of the trousers for male Starfleet duty uniforms, by any chance? :p)
The image I'm least happy with is the one of the four Klingons sabotaging some Starfleet installation. I like the complexity of the landscape, and the shadowing/reflections on the clothing are excellent. (Actually, these guys' pants are shinier than starships made out of metallic composites!) And yet, this image looks -- dare I say it? -- cartoonish. (Perhaps I should go with KO_Gilligan's word "artistic" instead.)
Maybe it's the highly-saturated, almost pastel colors on the foreground objects. Maybe it's the generally flat lighting. Maybe it's that this is a still image of what's actually an energy-filled, dynamic environment. Maybe it's all of these.
It's just so... intense. Still, this is just one image of one location; I'm keeping an open mind that other places will have a less "clean and colorful" quality.
Considering this batch of images overall, though, this is definitely the most exciting collection released so far. In particular, the two Akira images are outstanding.
I still have some serious doubts regarding what matters most for this game, which is the set of high-level design choices that are apparently now set in stone. But in terms of the visuals we're being shown, these images look like solid progress to me, and that positive effort is to be commended.
Finally a good Klingon screenie! Look good. I'm glad to see some progress in the future Klingon Uniforms. I do miss the always traditional belt clip and the horned boots however. Those were iconic. Any chance we can get the gloves with House Symbols on them?
P.S Can't wait to see how the female Klingon uniform turns out. Wink-wink