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5. December 2017


Visual Studio 2017 15.5 has just been released with several new features and improvements.  Performance optimizations were a big part of this release including a halving of the time required to open C# or VB.net project.  The biggest feature of interest for many mobile developers is the Xamarin Live Player, enabling you to develop using just Visual Studio plus an iOS or Android application.


Details of the release from the MSDN blog:


Performance. In this update we continued to improve performance. Solution load times for large C# and Visual Basic projects is nearly cut by half. The time to switch between debug and release is significantly reduced. It is faster to add, remove, and rename files and foldersTask Center Notification so you know if Live Unit Testing is discovering building or executing your test in .NET Core projects. Project templates should now unfold much faster than before. In the most exceptional cases, you can see up to a 40x improvement in unfold time. There are multiple performance improvements in F# tooling. We’ve added an “Only analyze projects which contain files opened in the editor” checkbox under the JavaScript/TypeScript Text Editor Project Options page. This option will improve performance and reliability in large solutions. Note that when this box is checked, you will need to perform a Solution build to see a complete list of TypeScript errors in all files.

Most notably, we have cut the solution load times for large C# and VB projects by half. The primary way we achieved this was by starting the design-time build process earlier and by batching the design-time build operations for all projects and executing them in parallel with other solution load operations. To see this in action, watch this video comparison loading the Orchard Content Management System solution before and after optimization.

Check out our detailed post to learn how we achieved this performance in large C# and VB projects. For those who missed the similar performance improvement we made for C++ projects in an earlier update check out this blog post on C++ solution load and build performance improvements.

Diagnostics. The Visual Studio debugger got considerably more powerful with the addition of step-back debugging, also known as historical debugging. Step-back debugging automatically takes a snapshot of your application on each breakpoint and debugger step you take, enabling you to go back to a previous breakpoint to view its state. Check out this post from Deborah that details out this capability and how to make the most of it – step-back while debugging with IntelliTrace. For more on diagnostics and debugging, also look at our post on lesser known debugging features.

Docker and Continuous Deployment. Visual Studio has featured good Docker support for a while. With this release we have taken it further. Docker containers now support multi-stage Dockerfiles. The continuous delivery features make it easy to configure Visual Studio Team Services to set up CD for ASP.NET and ASP.NET Core projects to Azure App Service

Secrets management. Visual Studio has added features to help identify and manage secrets like database connection strings and web service keys. We have a preview of support for credential scanning that can easily read through your source files to ensure you don’t unintentionally publish key secrets into your source repo. And the integrated support for Azure KeyVault gives you an easy place to publish those secrets (and get them out of your source code). Check out this post to learn how to manage secrets securely in the cloud.

Azure functions. The Visual Studio tools for Azure functions has gotten a notable improvement, with the ability to use .NET Core. Learn about added support for creating .NET Core Azure Functions apps, as well as improving the experience for creating new Function app projects.

Mobile development with Xamarin. A major milestone in this release for mobile development was the addition of the Xamarin Live Player, which enables developers to continuously deploy, test, and debug their apps using just Visual Studio and an iOS or Android device. This release adds support for Android emulators, enabling developers to preview real-time XAML changes directly in the Android emulator without requiring a re-compile and re-deploy.

We have also added the ability to File → New → Mobile App with Xamarin.Forms and .NET Standard, and migrated all project templates to use PackageReference for easy NuGet package management.

Unit Testing. We’ve improved the unit testing experience for both managed languages and for C++. C++ developers will notice integrated support for Google Test and Boost.test (add them through the Visual Studio installer in the desktop development workload). We already mentioned feature behind a feature flag called source-based test discovery that hugely improves test discovery performance. And the Live Unit Testing (LUT) is better integrated with the task notification center and now supports .NET Core (starting in Visual Studio 2017 15.3) as well as MSTest v1. Be sure to check out this post for an overview of the various text experience improvements in Visual Studio 2017 version 15.5.

Web development. If you are an Angular 2 developer you will now see errors, completions, and code navigation in inline templates and .ngml template files. See the sample repo for an overview and instructions. Other updates in the web space include improvements to Razor syntax formatting and improvements in the workflow for publishing ASP.NET applications to Azure Virtual Machines.

Visual C#. VS 15.5 adds support for C# 7.2 features like Span<T>, the readonly struct modifier And the private protected access modifier.

Visual C++. We already talked about the support for Google Test and Boost.test, and C++ developers will also see improvements to the Standard Template Library for C++ 17 standards. Check out the Open Standards website. The VC++ compiler supports 75% of the C++ 17 features. In addition, the team has added new optimizations to the compiler.

Visual F#. We added .NET Core SDK project support to the F# tooling so you can now create new .NET Core console apps, .NET Standard libraries, and .NET Core unit test projects from File > New Project, for example, and we added support for project-to-project references. You can also you can now right-click Publish tooling with Web SDK projects and the continuous delivery features will now autogenerate a CI/CD pipeline with Visual Studio Team Services tooling.

Source control. You can now work with Git submodules and worktrees, and configure fetch.prune and pull.rebase in Team Explorer. Visual Studio now treats Git submodules and worktrees like normal repos. Just add them to your list of Local Repositories and get coding!

Reliability. The Visual Studio Installer now supports modification and uninstallation of each entry, improving the installer experience. On the note of the crashes caused by the PenIMC.dll that some of you may have run into, Windows is currently working on a root fix. Meanwhile, we wanted to ensure we helped those of you still running into crashes when trying to scroll, click, or interact via touch in Visual Studio. To activate the workaround, disable touch scrolling by checking the “Disable Touch Scrolling” under Tools > Options > Environment > General and restart Visual Studio.


For even greater details on this release be sure to check out the full release notes.

GameDev News

30. November 2017


Following on the heels of Alpha 2 released the end of October, we are one step closer to a full Godot 3.0 release with today’s release of Godot 3image Beta 1.  The major difference between beta and the earlier alpha releases is beta is now feature complete.  No new functionality will be added between now and Godot 3.0, only bug fixes and refinements.  This is important to me as it means I can get to work on new tutorials and content targeting Godot!

The beta release also contains several new features since the last alpha including Bullet as the new physics engine for 3D physics, onion skinning support for animations, improved remote debugging and auto tiling for tilemaps.

Details of the release from the Godot blog:

Godot 3.0's development officially entered the beta stage last week, which coincides for us with what we name the feature freeze: from now on, no new features will be merged in the master branch, as the focus will be fully on fixing existing issues to stabilize the current feature set. Don't worry though, Godot 3.1 will arrive soon after the 3.0 release to bring all the nice features that contributors are already working on.

To get broader testing of the feature-frozen branch, we're releasing an official build, Godot 3.0 beta 1, just one month after the previous alpha 2.

It notably includes Bullet as the new 3D physics engine, onion skinning, autotiling for 2D tilemaps, an enhanced debugger with remote SceneTree edit, and nice usability improvements such as code folding in the script editor, PascalCase builtins for C#, and many others.

But more importantly, it also brings tons of bug fixes compared to alpha 2, and we will continue to hunt down the remaining issues to guarantee a nice experience with Godot 3.0 stable. The documentation and translation have also been updated thanks to the work of our many contributors.


Downloads are not on the download page, instead available via the following links:


GameDev News

30. November 2017


Today marks the release of Cocos Creator 1.7.  Cocos Creator is a full suite 2D game engine built on top of the Cocos2d-x open source project.  It imageprovides a complete game editor and SDK for creating cross platform 2D games.  If you are interested in learning more, be sure to check out our recent hands-on video with Cocos Creator.

Cocos Creator 1.7 brings several new features to the engine.  Details from the developer forums:

Performance Improvements
  • [Engine] JSB 2.0 officially launched, greatly optimizing the native platform operating efficiency. Support debugging, if you use manual bindings, be sure to bind the code to be upgraded. For more information, read the [JSB Binding and Debugging Tutorials] (https://github.com/cocos-creator/cocos2d-x-lite/blob/develop/cocos/scripting/js-bindings/docs/JSB2.0-learning-en.md34)
  • [Engine] Separate culling and transform calculation steps to improve performance
  • [Engine] Fixed bug where the width of the rung would change to 0 after adding the Camera component to the node
  • [Animation] Optimize animation components
  • [Engine] Optimize native platform camera cropping performance
What Is Different
  • [Editor] The plug-in script “Allow Editor Load” is disabled, the internal display is not checked
  • [Build] iPhone X Screen Resolution Support
  • [Build] Projects can now exclude un-needed modules for native engine projects. (Project Settings -> Module Config)
  • [Build] Allow native scripts to disable script encryption (support choose whether encrypt js files in builder panel)
  • [ProjectSettings] Add CocosAnalytics to the Services tab.
  • [ProjectSettings] Increase data validation when saving project settings
  • [TypeScript] Upgrade the TypeScript compiler to 2.4.2
  • [Editor] Improve the template of the new script
  • [Editor] Optimize Explorer file sorting
  • [Editor] Explorer to create a new node immediately change the file name state
  • [Console] supports setting line height and font size to change log display
  • [Engine] Give detailed hints when a user has erroneously released a resource that may still be used
  • [Engine] Support mouse event bubbling
  • [Engine] Support and WebView interoperability
  • [Engine] supports dynamic modification of cc.macro.ENABLE_CULLING
  • [Engine] Provides the native platform RenderTexture’s saveToFile interface
Downloads:

GameDev News

27. November 2017


Today Amazon announced the preview release of their new AR/VR engine “Sumerian”.  Sumerian consists of a web based editor for composing AR/VR scenes as well as a programming environment, either using a visual interface or scripted via JavaScript.  Sumerian currently supportsSumerian Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and iOS devices with Android ARCore coming soon.  The editor enables you to import and then position 3D objects authored in either OBJ or FBX format, with Unity scene format coming soon.


You can preview a Sumerian authored scene in a WebGL 2 capable web browser by clicking here.  Advanced warning, this scene caused Chrome to freeze up on my computer, so your mileage may vary.


Sumerian in Amazon’s own words:

Amazon Sumerian lets you create and run virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and 3D applications quickly and easily without requiring any specialized programming or 3D graphics expertise. With Sumerian, you can build highly immersive and interactive scenes that run on popular hardware such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and iOS mobile devices (support for Android ARCore coming soon). For example, you can build a virtual classroom that lets you train new employees around the world, or you can build a virtual environment that enables people to tour a building remotely. Sumerian makes it easy to create all the building blocks needed to build highly immersive and interactive 3D experiences including adding objects (e.g. characters, furniture, and landscape), and designing, animating, and scripting environments. Sumerian does not require specialized expertise and you can design scenes directly from your browser.


While this may sound like a new game engine, unfortunately it really doesn’t seem to be aimed at that demographic.  Instead Amazon seem to be targeting Sumerian towards sales and education markets.  Sumerian use cases given by Amazon are:

  • Employee education
  • Training Simulations
  • Field Service Productivity
  • Virtual Concierge
  • Design and Creative
  • Retail and Sales

So, while something can look like a game engine, walk like a game engine and talk like a game engine, that doesn’t make it a game engine unfortunately.  While Sumerian tools are free to use, at least while in preview, the generated results are meant to run on AWS and have a price tag attached:

Pricing Details


Scene Storage

You are charged for the total storage size of the 3D assets you upload and store in Sumerian at the rate of $0.06 per GB per month.

Scene Traffic

You are charged for the total volume of traffic generated by your scene each month at a rate of $0.38 per GB per month. The total cost is the number of views your scene receives in a month multiplied by the published project size and the cost of $0.38 per GB transferred.

Sumerian Hosts (optional)

If your Host uses Amazon Lex or Amazon Polly, then you are charged for what you use. Each offers a free tier for the first 12 months using the service. Visit the Lex pricing page and Polly pricing page for pricing details.

You can learn more about Amazon Sumerian here.  It is currently in preview, requiring an Amazon account number to sign up.  If you are interested, the application form is available here.


GameDev News

21. November 2017


articy:draft is unique product for game developers to design and implement game details such as application flow, game inventory and character dialog trees.  They have recently released a plugin enabling you to use your articy:draft data directly in Unreal engine.  It is available for download here on Github.  Keep in mind this is a work in progress release, so not all features may be implemented, or you may encounter bugs.


From the github page:

Goals

We release our current progress for the plugin as a github open source project in the hopes that this will give you a substantial headstart into incorporating your articy:draft data into your unreal project while still give you enough flexibility to adjust the plugin to your needs. We also would love to hear about suggestions or even better for you to directly contribute to the development of the plugin.

Features

While this is not meant as a full product release, it is still considered a working foundation for integrating your articy:draft content into your unreal engine project. So you can expect the following features including but not limited to:

  • Everything accessible via C++ and Blueprint
  • Flow player for automatic configurable flow traversal as an actor component
  • Automatic import
  • Database with your project data. Excluding Journeys, Settings, Template constraints
  • Uses of unreal engines localization


If you are interested in learning more about articy:draft, we previously featured it in our ongoing GameDev Toolbox series.  The video is available here and embedded below.

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