For now, the only way to create fake detail is to change the diffuse shading without any real deformation (and displacement is real detail, and hours of render time). Parallax maps can even cast self shadows, from what I’ve seen. They achieve the same effect as displacement on an extremely high poly mesh would, and would really help to get rid of that flat look once and for all. And what’s more, many games use them in real time, so why aren’t they up there with bump and normal maps? If there is a substitute for now, tell me.

Exactly what I’v been thinking for almost a year… Personally I’m holding out for parallax maps in 2.5. I didn’t think they self shadowed though. It’d be interesting to see how the BGE handlled parallax maps as there fairly resource intensive.

Is the self shadowing a link to the shader or internal?

I’m not quite sure about that; from what I’ve seen, there are steep paralax maps and regular paralax maps, and the deep kind are exactly like mesh protrusions; they self shadow, obstruct other parts like this: