I dunno what's the best way to discuss this - it seems like a not very frequently talked about topic, and it's certainly not something that affects my opinion of this great game very much.
But - it does seem like the graphics could be improved a bit.
For one thing, the lights, while they certainly "glow" by not getting darker when in shadows, don't seem to cast their light on the ship they're attached to. I think it would be nice to, say, make a light really bright and light up the whole side of the ship.
Another thing that I think would help is to perhaps add some shaders - maybe some exhaust and some heat distortion around the engines, maybe a bit of bloom added to the shiny parts, maybe some Ambient Occlusion, maybe some shader effects on the weapons, etc.
I dunno how well the engine is designed to handle this stuff, and I probably should've made these suggestions a long time ago, but I've been rather busy with life and keep forgetting to write about it.
I think it makes sense to switch to improving other parts of the graphics, especially since there's a lot of concern about memory with all of these textures and large maps. Shaders are often very small, but can have drastic effects on the overall appearance of the game - indeed, a lot of today's ultra-realistic games owe a lot of their realism to shaders.
I know there's been a lot of emphasis on the textures for making the graphics look better, but perhaps it's time to dust off the rest of the graphics code and see what can be done.
Even if you only implement, say, an ambient occlusion shader (an example can be found on nvidia's web site
), I think you may turn a few heads.