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17. February 2012

 

You may have read my review of Photoshop Touch for Android earlier.  If not, basicallyAdobe-Photoshop-Touch1 Photoshop Touch had all the makings of a very affordable while very capable Photoshop alternative for tablet owners.  That said, it was hobbled to the point of near uselessness by a couple really bad design decisions.

 

 

I happy happy to say, those mistakes have been rectified.  I have added a section to my review which covers the changes that have happened post release, which you can read here.

 

 

To put it simply, if you have an Android tablet, and are looking for an affordable and streamlined version of the Photoshop + Wacom tablet experience on a budget, you owe it to yourself to check out Photoshop Touch.  Could be the best 10 bucks you’ve ever spent, well say 20 bucks, once you toss in a stylus

16. February 2012

 

Blender 2.62 was released today.  The 2.6 series of releases is all about adding in the variousbl branches that have been in development recently and this one is no exception.  Key new features include:

 

  • UV Tools, a number of new features have been added including an interactive stitch tool, sub-division surface aware UV unwrapping and a sculpting tool for selecting and tweaking UVs
  • Boolean library now using “Carve” library which should be faster, more stable with better overall results.  To the end user, other then improved results, there should be little difference to the existing interface
  • Cycles render engine ( render via GPU ) has had a number of new features including render layers/passes, multiGPU rendering and more
  • Object tracking support has been added
  • Remesh modifier, creates a new topology based on an input surface.  If I am honest, I’m not really sure what purpose you would use it for
  • Many bug fixes and other new features

 

For full details, you can go here with the bug fixes listed here.  To download the newest release head on over here. Have some patience though, as always with every new release days, their servers are getting hammered.

 

 

The next release (in April) is the one I am really waiting for, as it’s the one that finally adds BMesh support!  There is also a new team focusing on improving COLLADA support.  The future is looking extremely good!

 

Nice work Blender team, keep ‘em coming!

Art, News

14. February 2012

 

Released in Beta back in December, Unity 3.5 is now out of beta!  This release is a pretty epic one to boot.  New features include:

  • Flash export.  Compile your game to SWF format
  • Google Native client targeting ( Chrome C++ )
  • Path finding built in
  • A new particle system, editable in Edit Mode, group-able, modular with a built in curve editor
  • Built in LoD support
  • Asset cache server
  • Multithreaded rendering ( PC, Mac, 360 only )
  • HDR support
  • Directional light maps
  • Select and edit multiple items in Inspector
  • Webcam texture ( huh? )
  • Microphone support on all platforms
  • iOS improvements including iAd, Compass, Gyro, Camera, Microphone and push notification support
  • Android improvements include Mouse/Joystick support, Camera, Microphone, Gyro/Compass, Android 3.2 ( Honeycomb ) and Android 4.0 ( Ice Cream Sandwich ) support

 

 

And much much more.  The full list of changes is available here.

News

13. February 2012

 

On the PlayN discussion forum PlayN 1.1 was just announced.  Complete release notes are available here.

 

 

Key new features include:

  • add HTML Canvas backend ( in addition to the WebGL and deprecated DOM HTML5 back ends ) as a fallback for browsers that don’t support WebGL *cough* Internet Explorer *cough*
  • iOS support… probably the biggie of this release
  • removed GAE dependencies ( this was a pain in the butt previously )
  • Android properly supporting mp3
  • various other bug fixes

 

As was mentioned in this earlier post iOS support isn’t complete, yet.

 

 

Good job PlayN team!

News, Programming

13. February 2012

 

 

I have been playing around a bit with Daz 3D Studio since it was recently made freely available. At first I struggled to find an actual use for the program, then I realized how exceptionally easy it made creating animated sprites. The following tutorial will walk through creating the following walk cycle using Daz Studio:



The above image is actually a web animation generated from this spritesheet that we will create. All told, the process will take about 5-10 minutes, most of it will be you waiting for your computer!  If the above image isn’t animating, that means your browser ( most likely Internet Explorer ) doesn’t support the keyframes CSS attribute.  Trust me, it works. Smile

 

 

You are going to need a couple things to follow along this tutorial, all of which are (currently) freely available.

 

You will need:

 

 

 

Install all of these products.  Now we fire up Daz Studio.

 

We are going to use the default human, feel free to drag and drop and design your guy however you want.  That said, do not move the person from the default screen location.

 

Once your guy or gal is dressed/decorated however you want, its time to add some animations.  On the left hand panel, select Content Library, Walks then start-(N) and drag it down to the beginning of the timeline.

 

Like so:

 

imageimage

 

If done correctly, if you press play your character will now have a walk cycle.  You can drag down as many animations as you would like to capture, just add them one after another in the timeline.  In this example we are just going to do the single walk cycle animation.

 

Now comes the key part, you don’t actually want your character to be moving like it does currently, you want him to remain stationary.  First lets frame things into the left.  Click the view selector box to rotate to the left view.

 

image

This is the guy you are looking for, click the red section labeled left.  Now ideally your window should look something like this:

 

image

 

 

Now we need to strip out the movement part from the animation.  To do so, first we need to convert to Studio keyframes.  This is done by right clicking in the blank gray area above the timeline and selecting Bake to Studio Keyframes, like so:

 

image

 

You will get the following message:

 

image

 

Simply click Yes.  Now we can edit out your animation.  What we want to do is remove movement along the Z-axis.  In order to do this, select Parameters along the right hand panel, then you want to select the Hip ( the root of all animations ).  You can do this by either clicking it within the scene Window, or selecting it from this drop down:

 

image

 

 

Now that you have the Hip selected, in the Parameters panel ALT+Left click the zTranslate panel:

image

 

This process should reset it’s value to 0.  Now if you press play on the timeline, your animation should now be stationary.  Now its time to render our images out.  To do so in the menu select Render->Render Settings…  like so:

 

image

 

The following window will appear:

 

image

 

If not already done, make sure at the bottom right it is set to “Show Advanced Settings”.  Now drag the quality/speed slider down to 3 ( or it will take forever, for little visible gain ).  Now you want to scroll the options down a bit.  First we want to set our image render resolution.  I personally went with 128x96, but you can use whatever you want.

 

image

 

 

Now scroll the options down a bit more and select the Render To: drop down.  You want to select Image Series like this:

image

 

 

Now we want to select where to render it to.  Leave Start and End Frame at the defaults ( the entire animation ), file in a name and leave it as PNG so we get transparencies.  Switch the location from Library to Folder and pick a directory you want it to save your renderings to, like so:

image

 

Now click the green “Render” button.  You will get a warning like the following:

image

 

Simply click OK.

 

Now we wait… there is absolutely no indication it’s actually doing anything, but Daz Studio is now rendering your sprites.  The only real indicator it’s doing anything is the spinning “busy” mouse icon.  Let it do it’s thing, it took approximately 4 minutes on my PC.

 

Once it is completed, in Explorer navigate to the directory you told it to render to.  If all went well, your directory should be populated with 51 PNG images.  Here’s mine:

 

image

 

 

Now that we have our sprites, we need to make them into a sprite sheet.  If you haven’t already, install The GIMP and the sprite sheet plugin I linked earlier.  Now load up The Gimp.

 

In GIMP select File->Open As Layers…

image

 

Navigate to the folder you saved your images to, then CTRL+A to select them all ( or CTRL + Click to select them one by one ).  When finished press Open:

image

 

If everything worked correctly, your layers list should look like this:

 

image

 

Now select the Filters Menu->Sprite-Sheet->Create From Layers…  If this menu option doesn’t show up, you haven’t installed the spritesheet plugin correctly.

 

image

 

Gimp will now merge all of the layers together into a single sprite sheet in a new window like so:

 

image

 

 

Simply save this file and you are done.  My end results are this.  You may want to do some editing, like making your spritesheet square instead of one wide and short image, but this can be accomplished in a few minutes of copy and paste.  All told, one remarkably fast way to generate a walk cycle sprite animation.  Rendering other angles or different animations is simply a matter of repeating the process from a different angle or dragging and dropping different animation sets.

 

Of course, you can also create your own animations quite simply in Daz.  You can also import your own meshes and props, although I haven’t really experienced this part yet, so I do not know how painful the process is. 

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15. April 2013

So last week I decided to run a poll to see which gaming technology people would be most interested in and the results actually shocked me:

 

 

Haxe narrowly edged out LibGDX ( by two votes ), while my original plan of HTML5 came in a distant third.  The other category seemed to be mostly composed of people interested in MonoGame.

 

I have long been a fan of C# and XNA, so Monogame was an obvious option.  It was ( and is ) discounted for a couple reasons.  First is the inability to target the web.  It's a shame Microsoft put a bullet in Silverlight, as otherwise this limitation wouldn't exist.  Second, paying 300$ to deploy on iOS and another 300$ to deploy on Android is a bit steep.  LibGDX suffers this to a degree too, as you need Xamarin to target iOS.  Hopefully in time this changes.

 

Hello Haxe World

So over the last couple days I've taken a closer look at Haxe or more specifically Haxe + NME.  Haxe as a programming language is an interesting choice.  It has an ActionScript like syntax and compiles to it's own virtual machine like Java ( the VM is called Neko, so if you are wondering what Neko is…  well, now you know!)  If that was all Haxe did, we wouldn't be having this conversation.  More interestingly, it compiles to a number of other programming languages including HTML5 ( JavaScript ), ActionScript ( Flash ) and C++.  As a result, you can compile to C++ for Android and iOS and get native performance.  This makes Haxe quite often many times faster than ActionScript.

 

There is however a serious problem or flaw with Haxe.  Let's take a quick look at part of the Haxe API and you will see what I mean:

 

Haxe Api

 

Notice how there are a number of language specific apis, such as cpp, which I've expanded above.  So, what happens if you use the cpp Random api and want to target Flash? Short answer is, you can't.  If course you could right a great deal of code full of if X platform, do this, otherwise do that, but you will quickly find yourself writing the same application for each platform.  So, what do you do if you want to write for multiple platforms with a single code base?

 

Meet NME

This is where NME comes in.  NME builds on top of the Haxe programming language and provides a Flash like API over top.  Most importantly, it supports Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, webOS, Flash and HTML5 using a single code base.  Let's take a quick look at part of the NME libraries to show you what I mean:

NME api

 

There are still platform/language specific libraries, like the neko.vm above.  There are also the nme.* libraries.  These provide a Flash like API for the majority of programming tasks needed to make a game.  Targeting your code towards these libraries, and minimizing the use of native libraries, and you can target a number of different platforms with a single code base.

 

There is another aspect to NME that makes life nice.  If you read my review of the Loom Game Engine you may recall I was a big fan of the command line interface.  NME has a very similar interface.  Once you've installed it, creating a new project from one of the samples is as simple typing nme create samplename then you can test it by running nme test platform.

 

Here is an example of creating the DisplayingABitmap sample and running it as an HTML5 project:

Creating an NME project

 

And your browser will open:

NME running as HTML5

 

What makes this most impressive is when you target C++, it fires off the build for you using the included tool chain.  Configuring each platform is as simple as nme setup platformname, valid platforms are currently windows, linux, android, blackberry and webos.  Unfortunately Xcode can't be installed automatically, so this process won't work for iOS or Mac, you need to setup Xcode yourself.  As you can see, setting up and running NME/Haxe is quite simple, and worked perfectly for me out of the box.  If you are curious what options you can provide for sample names, you can get them from the Github directory.  There are a fair number of samples to start with.

 

Now is when things take a bit of a turn for the worse…  getting an IDE up and running.  This part was a great deal less fun for me.  You can get basic syntax highlighting and autocompletion working on a number of different IDEs, here is the list of options.  This is when things got rather nasty.  I was working on MacOS so this presented a bit of a catch.  I tried getting IntelliJ to work.  Adding the plugin is trivial ,although for some reason you need to use the zip version, it's not in the plugin directory.  Configuring the debugger though… that's another story.  I spent a couple hours googling, and sadly only found information a year or two old.

 

Then I tried MonoDevelop, there is a plugin available and its supposed to be a great option on MacOS.  And….  MonoDevelop 3 is no longer available…  It's now Xamarin Studio 4 and the plugin doesn't work anymore.  Good luck getting a download for MonoDevelop 3!  There is also FDT, which I intend to check out, but it's built on top of Eclipse and I HATE Eclipse.  Eventually I got IntelliJ Flash debugging to work but it was a great deal less fun.

 

After this frustrating experience, I rebooted into Windows and things got a TON better.  FlashDevelop is easily the best option for developing with Haxe but sadly it's only available on Windows.  There was however a major catch… debugging simply did not work.  After some digging, it turns out you have to run the 32bit JDK or it doesn't work.  Seriously, in this day and age, still having Java VM problems like this is just insane.  Once I got that licked, I was up and running.

 

At this point I have a working development environment up and running I can get to coding.  If you are working on Windows, using FlashDevelop you can get up and running very easily, so long as you are running 32bit Java.  On MacOS though, expect a much rockier experience.  It would be great if FlashDevelop could be ported to Mac, but apparently it can't be… there have been a number of attempts.  They have however provided a configuration for working in Virtualized settings ( VMWare, Parallels, etc ).

 

Stay tuned for some code related posts soon.

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