(( ive been thinking about what you said RE; shadows on the plant basket.
Transmission masks only give objects a bit of a semi-transluscent look when you have a light source behind them.
(in the same way the skin between your fingers glows red when you put it on a flashlight, or how a leaf shows its 'veins' when you put a light behind it).
To achieve better shadows for your basket Id just Bake/burn them in with a Render-to-texture pass in Max.
If you dont know Mental ray Amb-Occ material, there is a REALLY easy workaround in max.
Take your basket, apply a light-grey material to it, set the material to 50% self illumination.
isolate the basket so nothing else exists in the scene.
Now you have to setup some lights all around your object.
it takes a bit, but Id reccomend Omni's. (The following can be achieved with a Skylight, however that takes approx 1000 years to render. Omni's can do it in a fraction of the time with relatively similar results, and also Omni's can be customized and placed where you want the shadows most)
Make one Omni, enable shadows and set the illumination intensity to like 0.05.
Now make a sphere of them around your object (make sure they are set as 'Instance' when you duplicate them. That way when you modify the light parameters of one, they will all change.
Do a test render, If it washes everything out and your object appears Vibrant white, the lights are too bright. We want a nice soft glow from all sides here, the object should appear relatively light-ish grey with soft shadows in all the tight spots.
It depends on how many lights you have surrounding your object. Tweak the illumination values by fractions of percents until it looks right, not too dark, not too bright.
Once youve achieved this, try a render to texture, and in the Output area, click ADD and choose 'Complete Map'.
Try a few trial runs, if the shadows look sharp and strange (like multiple spotlights instead of a nice soft Ambient shadowing,) modify your Omni to be 'Shadow Map' instead of 'Raytraced' or 'Advanced Raytraced'. Shadow maps tend to be much softer depending on the parameters in the Shadow Map parameters box on the omni.
Once you have all that done, take the Complete Map it generates and throw it on top of your Diffuse, with a Multiply layer blend in Photoshop.
if you want more shadows coming down vertically, move more of the omnis on top of your object and re-render-to-texture it and see how it goes.
This is my way of Baking in shadows. It takes time and care, but in the end it can look awesome and doesnt require 10000 hour rendering times like Mental Ray ambient occlusions, or Skylights.
Practice makes perfect!
With baked in shadows you shouldnt need to worry about how your object looks when lit in engine, just tone down its lighting properties so it is not a dynamic-lit object. (elsewise it eats ram and youll see sharp shadows on it)..
if you want subtle shadows in ut3 just play with the lighting parameters (i know its confusing at first), and try to let your Ambient Occlusion shadow map you just added do most of the work for you.
Did that make any sense? hehe