Here's a basic engine modification that could yield dramatic results...
For the region of the high-detail image represented by a given character, take a histogram count - if the contrast is above a certain (adjustable) level, discard the 'shading' routing and substitute a best-shape-matching routine. This could simply take each ramp character's raster and compare total difference levels against a high-contrast version of each region.
This would allow shape details to significantly contribute to character selection, where edges are most significant in the image. I guarantee surreal results.
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