I would have to disagree with you there. I think you're confusing "adding complexity" with "complementing the form". Those examples you gave all have normal maps, which increases the apparent complexity. Increased detail and complexity does not necessarily enhance the form. Think camouflage; lots of detail serving to break up the form.
On a smooth piece of mesh, the eye slides easily along its length. In the art world this is often described as visual energy or visual flow. If you have a texture line perpendicular across its length, your eye stops at it, before moving on. This breaks up the flow of the form. The greater the strength of the line (more colour, contrast, etc) the more visual stopping power it has.
I think I was misunderstood on what I said
I was actually looking at the non-htl versions of those ships, and I wasn't talking about texture complexity. I was talking about the "big shapes".
So you understand where I'm coming from, my background is on Design (Multimedia and Industrial) and art (drawing+painting), so I'm all too familiar with what you call "visual energy\flow".
What I was talking about when I used the word "reinforcing" was, like I said the big shapes. Look at the Herc2, for instance (being the simplest of the ships I mentioned): the center piece is white, the side pods are grey. The color is placed in such a way that it "reinforces" the Hercs shape. Makes it easier to read its form, than if it was all grey, for example.
If you want to look at the details, the Herc2s panel lines flow along the shape too, reinforcing the visual flow.
That's what I meant. the small details and\or normal maps have nothing to do with it
So anyways, those are my thoughts on that topic. For this ship, the paint job was intended to break up the form a bit and trap the viewer's eye. Same with the S-curve on the front wings.
I get what you are trying to do, and now I understand it was a very conscious choice. That's cool!