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27. February 2017

 

Firebase is a backend as a service owned by Google that provide a number of server side features for application developers such as realtime cloud database support, notifications, authentication with various providers, analytics, notifications, storage and more.  Basically if you need some kind of network integration, Firebase aims to provide it.  Today at GDC they just announced the public release of SDKs for game developers, both in C++ and Unity formats.  The official release blog:

If you haven't heard yet, the Firebase team is at the Game Developers Conference this week to show all you game developers out there how Firebase can make it easier for you to develop successful games. And one of our big announcements at the show is that the official Firebase SDKs for Unity and C++ have now graduated to full General Availability! This means that they're both primary supported platforms that Firebase is committed to supporting in the future.

Both SDKs let you take advantage of:


AdMob: Monetize your games with targeted, in-app advertising, include native ads and rewarded video. Guides: Unity/C++.
Analytics: Record events that happen in your game with our free and unlimited analytics service, now complete with real time views! Guides: Unity/C++
Realtime Database: Magically sync your app's data across all devices, usually within a few hundred milliseconds. Guides: Unity/C++
Dynamic Links: Create mobile deep links that you can use to point players to any element of your game (if they have it installed), or take them to the Play Store / App Store (if they don't). Guides: Unity/C++
Authentication: Sign in your users in from third party providers like Facebook, Google, and Github, or use our built in username and password system. Guides: Unity/C++
Cloud Messaging: Send notifications to iOS, Android and web clients through a single endpoint, or use the Firebase Notifications panel to schedule notifications without having to worry about writing any custom server code or curl calls. Guides: Unity/C++
Remote Config: Tweak variables from the cloud, and then use Firebase Analytics to see if they give you the results you expect. You can even use Remote Config to deliver custom values to specific groups of people, like your expert players. Guides: Unity/C++
Storage: Store user-created binary data in Cloud Storage buckets directly from the app - fantastic for uploading screenshots or videos. Guides: Unity/C++

You can jump in today with our new getting started guide for gamedevelopers . As a bonus for developers working in Cocos2D-x, we've also released a set of new samples that demonstrate how to integrate the C++ SDKs into your Cocos2D-x games. As always, if you have questions or comments, reach out to us through our support team, Stack Overflow or the firebase-talk group!

 

Pricing for Firebase is available across 3 different tiers, a free limited to 100 simultaneous connections, 1GB of realtime storage and 10GB of network usage, a $25/month subscription with unlimited connections, 2.5GB of storage and 20GB a month of network usage, or a pay as you go tier for $5/GB/month storage, $1GB networking.  You can read more about the pricing here.

GameDev News

27. February 2017

 

For the third straight year Soniss have released a massive collection of sound effects for download in celebration of the annual Game Developers Conference.  You can see the complete list of released audio files here, in total there are 806 audio files across dozens of different categories from several different creators.  The license seems exceptionally liberal with very few conditions:

Restrictions

a) Licensee may not modify any of the sound effects with intent to claim authorship of the original recording.12141731_10153066685161962_3912813759275053667_n-600x222

b) Licensee may not sell any of the sound effects as they come. (Although the sound effects may be sold as incorporated into licensee project).

Rights Granted

a) Licensee may use the licensed sound effects on an unlimited number of projects for the entirety of their life time.

b) Licensee may use and modify the licensed sound effects for personal and commercial projects without attribution to the original creator.

c) Licensee may freely distribute the licensed sound effects and make an unlimited amount of copies.

d) Licensee may publicly perform a reproduction of the sound effects over any form of medium.

 

You can read the complete license here.  Downloads are available from multiple sources including Dropbox, Google Drive and Torrent links available, click here for various download links.

27. February 2017

 

While no individual VR headset has set the world on fire sales wise, between the GearVR, Vive, OSVR, Daydream and Oculus Rift, there are a fair number of them out there.  The problem for developers is supporting each device requires a slightly different workflow. The Khronos group, the people behind OpenGL and other cross platform media frameworks, have teamed up with a number of hardware and middleware providers to create OpenXR, which acts as an abstraction layer between VR devices and various game engines, as shown in this graphic.

The Industry need for a Virtual Reality Standard

The idea is actually a bit of a no brainer, and to a certain degree engine providers like Unity and Unreal were doing the heavy lifting for us.  It comes as no surprise then that both Epic and Unreal are part of the initiative.  Most major players are in fact!

image

 

That is pretty much every single relevant player, except oddly enough HTC (although Steam’s membership might render their participation moot).  For most game developers OpenXR will be pretty much a transparent layer, however game engine developers will certainly want to pay attention.  It will give them the ability to target several different VR headsets using a single code base.

 

You can read more about OpenXR here.  It’s unfortunate that Steam owns the trademark for OpenVR, it’s the most logical name for this project.  The Khronos Group are going to be present and active at GDC 2017, the following is a list of details and events they will be participating in.

  • Khronos GDC Booth – Visit the Khronos booth for hourly presentations on Khronos APIs as well as opportunities to talk with Khronos members and standards experts. Booth 2419, South Hall.
  • Khronos discusses OpenXR at VRDC 2017: Monday and Tuesday, February 27 to 28 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., visit the Khronos table #TT06 in room 135 North Hall to talk to VR experts working on OpenXR and share feedback on this recently-announced initiative.
  • Khronos 3D Graphics Developer Day Sessions on Vulkan, OpenXR, WebGL, glTF and more: On Tuesday, February 28 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., room 3022 in West Hall, Khronos will host one-hour educational sessions for developers.
  • Khronos Meetup: To discuss WebGL, WebVR, glTF, mobile 3D and network with Khronos members and developers, join the group on Thursday, March 2 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Galvanize, San Francisco.
  • Official GDC Sessions related to Khronos standards: Khronos members and developers will present on topics from Vulkan Lessons Learned to the Future of VR.

The full schedule of events is available at: https://www.khronos.org/news/events/gdc-2017.

 

OpenXR is still very much in the planning stages, and like OpenGL, will be implemented both as an API level and in the hardware drivers of the individual devices.  They have described the architecture (as it stands now), like so:

OpenXR defines two levels of API interfaces that a VR platform’s runtime can use to access the OpenXR ecosystem. Note that the design of the OpenXR specification is in progress, and so while the above diagrams represents the design goals of the group - final details may change

Apps and engines use standardized interfaces to interrogate and drive devices. Devices can self-integrate to a standardized driver interface.

Standardized hardware/software interfaces reduce fragmentation while leaving implementation details open to encourage industry innovation.

 

Obviously this is all tentative and subject to change.  A standardization in the VR space is exactly what is needed, so hopefully this takes off.  Only time I suppose will tell, although with the players involved, this one looks promising.

GameDev News

24. February 2017

 

Valve have just launched Steam Audio a new SDK for advanced audio processing in games.  Currently it ships with support for a C api and with a Unity SDK, although a Unreal Engine SDK is in the works.  In Valve’s own words, Steam Audio is:image

Steam Audio delivers a full-featured audio solution that integrates environment and listener simulation. HRTF significantly improves immersion in VR; physics-based sound propagation completes aural immersion by consistently recreating how sound interacts with the virtual environment.

Essentially it enables you to create realistic real-time audio simulations, by integrating audio processing into your 3D world.  You define sound sources within your 3D world, define what geometry does and does not interact with the audio simulation and their acoustical properties and finally define the position of your ear in 3D space.  Steam Audio is then capable of simulating more accurate audio  positioning in a 3D world.  In many ways it works a great deal like existing physics engines, except for audio.  Obviously its tailor made for VR applications, but is useful for regular 3D applications as well.  Currently Steam Audio supports the following platforms:

 

image

There is obviously one major missing platform...  iOS.  It will be interesting to see if it is added in the future.   Somewhat surprisingly for Valve, this is not an open source project.  It is however free to use and is available for download here as both a Unity package or C API.

GameDev News

23. February 2017

 

Pluralsight is one of the oldest online courseware companies in existence, founded back in 2004.  Traditionally they have focused on the enterprise, but have been more and more active in the world of game development.  Just in time for GDC 2017, they have released a very interesting product.  A complete top down dungeon crawler game ( which can be downloaded for free here ), as well as a series of lessons covering how the game was created using Unity, Maya, Photoshop and ZBrush.  The game “Swords and Shovels” was created by a team with industry experience including such titles as Skyrim, Fallout, Fable Legends and Splinter Cell.

The following is the official press release:

SILICON SLOPES, Utah (February 23, 2017) Pluralsight, the enterprise technology learning platform, today announces the release of a free, downloadable game, Swords and Shovels,” to enhance the learning experience for aspiring game developers. The first of its kind on the technology learning platform, “Swords and Shovels” offers game developers the hands-on opportunity to play a game they can then learn to recreate in its entirety through a series of courses available on Pluralsight.

Mapped as sequential training through the Game Environment Modeling learning path, the courses provide game developers with the most direct route to increased proficiency in gamingPluralsightSaS environments, character modeling and gameplay elements using leading software tools including Maya, Unity, Photoshop, ZBrush and more.

“As technology becomes more complex, the art of creating games will become increasingly interdisciplinary,” said Andy Rahden, VP of creative, design and engineering at Pluralsight. “By embracing hands-on, interactive mediums like “Swords and Shovels” and the Game Environment Modeling learning path, we are helping game developers understand the full inner-workings of a game, see where every little piece fits and interacts within the pipeline and master the skills they need to be successful.”

“Swords and Shovels” is a top-down dungeon crawler -- a game where characters navigate a labyrinthine environment, battle monsters and loot treasure. The game and accompanying courseware was designed and authored by Josh Kinney, curriculum manager at Pluralsight, in collaboration with game development industry veterans Jean Simonet, Jonah Lobe, Dan Cox, Michael Baker and Alex Jerjomin, known for their work on “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” “Fallout 4,” “Fable Legends,” “Splinter Cell Blacklist” and “Below.”

"Learning how to create games is one of the most difficult and demanding challenges in tech right now,” said Jean Simonet, a former AAA developer for “Skyrim,” “Fallout” and “Oblivion” and lead developer for the project. “Due to the complexity of modern games, many developers are forced to specialize their craft, limiting their experience and exposure to the various elements of video game creation. With ‘Swords and Shovels’ and the learning experience through Pluralsight, game developers can get a taste of the entire game-creation process and then select the learning focus that really appeals to them.”

“Swords and Shovels” is available for immediate download on Pluralsight.com/gamedev and will also be available to play at Pluralsight’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) booth #244 in San Francisco on March 1-3, 2017.

 

As mentioned above, the game is available as a free download, while the course is available via their subscription service.  You can currently get a free 10 day membership, I am currently in the process of registering, and unfortunate it doesn’t appear to be an automatic process.  Coincidentally, you can also get a 3 month subscription to Pluralsight when you sign up for Visual Studio Essentials.

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Exporting from Blender to PS Mobile: Blender to Vita in under 5 minutes.
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30. April 2012

 

BlenderOnVita

We are now going to look at creating a fully textured model in Blender and exporting to a PlayStation Studio SDK project, a simple model viewer.  We create a very simple model, UV map, texture then export it.  At this point, we process it using the PS Studio ModelConverter tool, import it into PS Studio then finally run our code in the simulator.

 

The example model is as I said, brutally simple ( it’s simply a dice, er… die, also known as a textured cube ). However the process for exporting more complex models is exactly the same.  The process isn’t really all that difficult, especially if you know your way around Blender, but if you don’t know Blender all that well don’t worry, I’ve actually captured the entire process in video form.  This video covers exactly the same thing that the rest of this tutorial does, so if you have problems following one, refer to the other and vice versa.

 

 

Modeling, texturing and exporting from Blender to Sony PlayStation Suite SDK in under 5 minutes

 

 

The above video is actually encoded at 1080p and is probably almost illegible at anything less than 720p.  You can watch it on YouTube or Vimeo in full definition.  Again, the video demonstrates exactly what I am going to show below, except the source code.  So if you are the type that prefers to learn by watching, or the type that learns by reading, you get the best of both worlds here!  Alright, let’s get started.

 

 

If you already know how to model, texture and export in COLLADA format using Blender, I suggest you skip ahead to part 2, as the remainder of this section will be quite boring for you… it goes into detail, a lot of detail. Smile

 

 

If you haven’t already, fire up Blender.  We are going to work with the default cube, if you don’t have a default cube select the Add menu –> Mesh –>Cube.  The first thing we want to do is create a new image to texture our model.

 

In the properties panel to your right ( assuming you are using the default layout, which I will for the remainder of this tutorial ), locate the Textures tab and click it.  Like such:

 

image

 

 

Now change “Type” to Image:

image

 

Scroll down slightly to the Image section ( expand it if required ) and click New:

image

 

In the resulting dialog, we specify the texture details.  I am going to name it the ultra imaginative name “Texture” but fell free to call it whatever you want.  1024x1024 is massive overkill for what we are doing, but hey… I like overkill.  When done, click OK.

 

image

 

Now we want to apply some simple texture mapping to our 3D cube.  In the 3D view, make sure you are in “Edit Mode”, either by hitting Tab until selected, or via this menu:

image

 

Now that you are in edit mode, select all the faces of your mesh by hitting “a”.  Now in the Mesh menu, you want to select Mesh->UV Unwrap…->Follow Active Quads.

image

 

Simply click OK at the resulting dialog menu.  Now we want to switch to UV editing mode.  Locate the icon to the bottom left of your view, click it and select UV/Image Editor.

image

 

We now want to make our texture the active image.  Locate the “Browse image to be linked” button, click it and select texture from the list.

 

image

 

Now press A to select all of our faces, then using hit S to scale ( then mouse move, left click when done), followed by G to translate, until our UV coordinates are all over the black image, like so:

image

 

Now we want to quickly paint our dice faces on the texture within the UV coordinates.  From the menubar select Image->Image Painting.

image

 

Now left click to mouse paint the texture like the face of a die.  You can use the left hand panel ( press “N” if not visible ) to change the paint settings.  When done you should have something like this:

image

 

Now, back in the Image menu, unclick Image Painting.  Now we want to save our completed image.  In the same menu as before, select “Save as Image” or hit F3.  In the resulting dialog, locate the directory you want to save the texture to ( make it the same place you are going to save the model ), name it, then click Save as Image:

image

 

Now with that complete, we assign our image to our texture.  Back in the Texture panel ( to the right ), locate the Image section, click the Browse Image to be Linked button and select your texture.

image

 

Now scroll down lower in the Texture panel, locate Mapping, then select the Coordinates: dropdown and select UV.

image

 

Right below that, select the Map: dropdown and select UVMap.

image

 

 

 

All right, now we have a fully texture mapped model ready for exporting.  From the File Menu ( top right ), select File->Export->COLLADA(.dae).

image

 

 

In the resulting dialog, navigate to the same location where you saved your texture, name it ( I used box.dae ), optionally select “Export only selected” then click Export COLLADA.

 

image

 

 

And we are now done with Blender.

 

 

This section has already gotten quite long so I am going to break this post into two parts.

 

 

Continue on to Part 2.

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