I've got the "surface feature" system more or less working -- it associates surface features with particular triangles on the planet's surface, so we only need to go through the surface feature code path when a point in one of those triangles is actually being drawn. In the case of the Jupiter-like planet above, this can be used to add large storms to the gas giant's cloud face. A larger version is uploaded to my DeviantArt account here. In the back is a slightly more polished version of the organized Galaxy, with simple quads scattered around it to represent glowing gas clouds.
It's possible for a star to be located close enough to a gas cloud quad such that the quad clips through Direct3D's near clipping plane. In that case, the obvious course of action is to decide that the star system is actually located inside the cloud, and apply some fog and shadows to the scene instead. I've played around with that tech a bit, but haven't really nailed anything down successfully yet.
In other news, I finished Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All a few days ago. I do have to agree that this is the weakest of the three games. Case 3 in particular has problems; I did feel rather chuffed when I figured out how the murder was committed, and I'm not so dignified as to not laugh at the references to Max Galactica's "ample bust," but some parts of it were darn near agonizing (I'm looking at you, Ben and Trilo) and the experience as a whole wasn't too satisfying. The game also suffers from a less polished translation than the other two titles, in particular by being infested with Ominous Pronoun Syndrome. (Anybody who played Xenogears knows what I'm talking about. "Do you think 'he' will be coming soon?" "It's all because of 'that' person." Et freakin' cetera. I'm pretty sure this is a linguistic tic in Japanese that just doesn't translate well into English.) Finally, I hate to say it, but... For a dead person, Mia Fey really likes to hang around and interfere with the living, doesn't she? Mia, I love you, but seriously, Obi Wan Kenobi had nothing on this lady. It does tend to reduce the impact of her being dead and all when she's still constantly underfoot -- I much preferred the way they tackled it in the final game, where Mia's appearances were rare and vital to the story, and it was still up to Phoenix to save the day.
People have recommended the fourth case, and I'll agree it was pretty good, but my favorite was the second. It was a good, compact locked-room mystery, the whole thing with Ini Miney was pretty amazing, and it introduced Pearls, who just instantly charmed me. The way she interacts with Phoenix and Maya is just classic.
Well, anyway, only a couple more days until Apollo Justice! Can I resist the temptation to replay the third game before then?