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20. November 2014

 

The JavaScript game library MelonJS reached the milestone 2.0.0 release yesterday.

Melonlogo

 

The key features of this release are:

 

  • Shape-based collision layer has replaced the tile-based collision layer.
  • WebGL support has landed! (Currently alpha-quality)
  • Many fixes and improvements with collision detection in isometric maps.
  • Physics bodies now support multiple shapes.
  • Automatic collision response handling is enabled by default, and fully customizable.
  • Support for most of the new features in Tiled 0.10, like :
  • Shape scaling and rotation (especially in TMX maps,)
  • TMX Tileset animations

 

You can read more about the release here.

 

You can read the change log here.

 

You can download MelonJS here.

 

You can view the source here.

 

You can see a rabbit with a waffle on it’s head here.

 

WebGL support is a nice add, as with it’s recent adoption in both Safari and Internet Explorer, it is certainly the future of HTML5 gaming.  While it’s popular I have never actually taken more than a cursory look at MelonJS, I really should jump in a bit deeper one of those days.

News

12. November 2014

 

This one falls under the category of “extremely awesome news”, Microsoft just announced Visual Studio Community 2013 and it’s completely free.
 
You may think to yourself… big deal, there is already Express and it’s free too.  Unlike Express however, Visual Studio 2013 Community is actually the complete version of Visual Studio, nothing has been stripped out.
 
Here is the announcement from the Visual Studio blog:
 

Visual Studio Community 2013 is a new edition that enables you to unleash the full power of Visual Studio to develop cross-platform solutions. Create apps in one unified IDE. Get Visual Studio extensions that incorporate new languages, features, and development tools into this IDE. (These extensions are available from the Visual Studio Gallery.) Find out more details about Visual Studio Community 2013  here.

Download Visual Studio Community 2013.

What's in Visual Studio Community 2013 

  • Professional-grade editing, code analysis, and debugging support 
  • Support for open-source workflows (Git)
  • Compilers for managed languages, C++ and more
  • Cross-platform mobile development for your preferred device and platform, including the web, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone with the free Visual Studio Tools for Apache Cordova extension
  • Take advantage of cloud services with simplified Azure SDK integration, and incorporate modern app analytics and telemetry with Application Insights
  • Access to all the Visual Studio 2013 extensions on the  Visual Studio Gallery
  • Visual Studio Community 2013 includes Update 4, which is a cumulative update of all previous Visual Studio 2013 updates

Watch the  Visual Studio Community 2013 video to learn all about what you can do with this release:

Introducing Visual Studio Community 2013 

Several other Visual Studio 2013 products are available for download with Update 4, including the following:

  • Visual Studio 2013 Update 4 
  • Azure SDK for .NET 2.5 
  • Visual Studio Tools for Unity (VSTU) 2.0 Preview 
  • Kinect for Windows 2.0 SDK RTW 
  • Visual Studio Tools for Apache Cordova CTP3 
  • TypeScript 1.3 

To get more details on these releases, go to the  release notes for Visual Studio 2013 Update 4.

 

So, what's the catch? There's always a catch, right?

 

Yes, there is a catch, but it’s a pretty generous one.  From the Community page:

 

Q: Who can use Visual Studio Community? 
A: Here’s how individual developers can use Visual Studio Community:
  • Any individual developer can use Visual Studio Community to create their own free or paid apps.
Here’s how Visual Studio Community can be used in organizations:
  • An unlimited number of users within an organization can use Visual Studio Community for the following scenarios: in a classroom learning environment, for academic research, or for contributing to open source projects.
  • For all other usage scenarios: In non-enterprise organizations, up to 5 users can use Visual Studio Community. In enterprise organizations (meaning those with >250 PCs or > $1MM in annual revenue), no use is permitted beyond the open source, academic research, and classroom learning environment scenarios described above.

Q: How does Visual Studio Community 2013 compare to other Visual Studio editions? 
A: Visual Studio Community 2013 includes all the great functionality of Visual Studio Professional 2013, designed and optimized for individual developers, students, open source contributors, and small teams. 

So, basically if you are part of a team with 5 or fewer members, and made less than a Million dollars last year… Visual Studio is now completely free.

 

Merry XMas!

News

10. November 2014

 

If you are a Steam user, you may have noticed that game development related tools have been popping up with increasing frequency.  From 2D and 3D art packages, to script writing utilities and complete game engines, Steam is becoming increasingly Steam Logo mportant to indie developers.  Not just as a place to sell their games, but as a source for the tools to make them.  Also, and this is no small point, software on Steam tends to be a hell of a lot more affordable, especially with the frequent sales that occur.

 

As a direct result, I am going to start a new segment here on GameFromScratch, covering game development tools available on Steam.  Right off the bat I am going to be looking at a pair of products, Fuse, then Substance Painter.  For each product covered, I will do both a text and video overview.  They will essentially be reviews, but without a score ( I am not a huge fan of scores, except for meta ratings ).

 

I will also favour products that are on sale, when I get the opportunity.  This has a two fold purpose.  First off, it’s products that are on sale that generally draw the most attention.  Second, it’s a lot easier on my pocket book.  On the same topic, if you make a game development tool that is available on Steam that you wish to see covered, sending me a key will certainly increase the odds I will look at it, although it won’t influence my conclusion in any way.

 

Is there a particular product on Steam that you’ve always been interested in learning more about?  Got a product that’s available on Steam that you would like me to review?  Either way, let me know!  Hope this series proves to be interesting and useful.

News

8. November 2014

 

Amber have just open sourced Copperlicht, a WebGL 3D JavaScript engine.  Copperlich was previously available for 99 Euro per year.

Logo

 

Here is an overview of Copperlicht’s functionality:

  • 3D World editor: CopperLicht comes with a full 3D world editor named CopperCube.
  • Many supported 3D file formats: 3ds, obj, x, lwo, b3d, csm, dae, dmf, oct, irrmesh, ms3d, my3D, mesh, lmts, bsp, md2, stl, ase, ply, dxf, cob, scn and more
  • Built-in Collision detection: Throw a polygon soup into the engine and walk around the 3D world.
  • Lots of 3D graphics features, see below.
  • Incredibly fast: CopperLicht is highly optimized and able to render and animate even huge 3d scenes.
  • Character/Skeletal animation: supports playing back animated meshes with an unlimited amount of joints and an unlimted amount of weights
  • Simple to use: easily understandable SceneGraph API with lots of tutorials and examples in the documentation
  • Binary compilation: Unlike other WebGL 3D Engines, CopperLicht compiles your 3D meshes into a small, binary file which downloads quickly, reducing bandwith usage for your users. Simply import your 3D files into the CopperCube editor and publish it as CopperLicht scene.
  • Totally free: CopperLicht is free to use. And open source. Just download and go!

 

You may notice the strike through that Copperlicht includes a 3D world editor; this isn’t entirely true with the open sourced version.  There is a commercial editor available named CopperCube, however it is a commercial product

 

I have to say, I like this move.  You can create a full game using Copperlicht without the editor, while the editor is available on a 14 day trial.  This means people can contribute to a Copperlicht project without paying money, but there is a value add sell that means the developer can eat!  I hope this will result in an increase in popularity for Copperlicht that in turn increases sales for Coppercube, which would be win/win.  I personally would like to see the demo extended to 30 days, or preferably be 14 actual days, not 14 calendar days.

 

This announcement is quite timely, as I just recently had this conversation on Twitter:

 

TwitterDiscussion

 

I feel almost prescient!

 

This is a slightly different business model, but one I firmly support.  On the whole I think this is a great change.  I have used Irrlicht in the past and was impressed by the engine.  Now I am going to look closer at Copperlight and possibly due a tutorial series on it in the future.  Now that Copperlicht and Coppercube are a bit less intwined, I wonder if Coppercube could move to being more agnostic and be of use to say… Three.js or Turbulenz.

 

Are you at all interested in hearing more about the Copperlicht engine here on GameFromScratch?

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24. October 2014

 

On a daily basis I use dozens of different programming languages.  Some languages are certainly better than other languages at certain tasks, while other languages truly shine on certain platforms.  Some languages are more portable than others, others are more customizable while some can be faster.  All that said, when all other things are equal and I need to just pick a language, the one I go to is generally C#.  C# just strikes that right balance for me, straddling the line between low level and productivity, convenience and speed, functional and procedural, for me at least.  This news then is welcome, for me at least. :)

 

Xamarin, the maker’s of Mono, a cross platform open source version of the .NET runtime and framework (Perhaps most famously known as the language technology that underpins Unity)  have announced they are bringing it to Unreal Engine.  Here are some of the features and benefits of Mono for Unity:

 

Hot Reload

 

We fully support Unreal Engine's Hot Reload functionality.

This means that whenever you rebuild your C# code in Xamarin Studio, your changes are immediately reloated into the Unreal Editor. The changes are also reflected with running games in the editor, so you can quickly iterate on your design.

On fast machines, the process of rebuilding the C# code and reloading it live takes less than a second. It feel instantaneous.

 

Xamarin Studio

While hard core hackers are happy editing their game code with vi or emacs and have the hot reload functionality do all the work for them, we have also provided a nice integration with the MonoDevelop (and Xamarin's branded version, Xamarin Studio).

It provides a first-class IDE with rich, accurate code completion, and powerful refactoring and analysis tools.

 

Debugging

Full support for C# debugging is included. Simply launch your game from Xamarin Studio as a standalone editor or mobile preview process, and it will connect to the runtime debug engine, giving you full access to a rich suite of abilities to inspect and debug your code.

Seamless Blueprint and Editor Integration

Your C# classes that are exposed to Unreal Engine are fully accessible from Blueprint and the Unreal Editor, just like Blueprint-accessible C++ classes.

You can continue using Blueprint for simple logic and use C# when things get more complicated.

And you can consume your C# classes from Blueprint.

 

Mixed C#/C++/Blueprint Solutions

The same tool that we use to generate bindings to Blueprint-exposed Unreal Engine APIs is integrated into Unreal Build Tool, and will automatically generate bindings to all of your Blueprint-exposed C++ gameplay code and engine modifications.

 

Native Access

In addition to the automatically generated bindings to Blueprint-exposed Unreal C++ code, the Mono runtime allows accessing any native APIs, including custom C/C++ code and the native platform API.

You can manually bind C APIs using Platform Invoke services, or use CppSharp to generate bindings to C++ APIs.

 

Async Programming

The Getting Started tutorial shows the low-level approach to defining behaviors, but this approach can become cumbersome when defining more complex behaviors and AI. Luckily, this task can be simplified with async programming, a C# compiler feature that rewrites what appears to be linear code into a state machine.

For more details about how this helps writing complex gameplay logic, see our overview of async programming.

 

API Profile

The Mono Mobile Profile is the core API profile in the support for Unreal Engine.

The Mono Mobile Profile removes a number of bloated .NET features including System.Configuration support from the Base Class Libraries. This is the same API profile used by Xamarin's Android, iOS and Mac products.

Note: The Mobile Profile is not ABI compatible with existing assemblies compiled for a different profile (like the .NET desktop, Silverlight or Windows Phone). You mustrecompile your source code to generate assemblies targeting the Mobile profile.

A full list of the assemblies in our Mobile framework profile can be found here.

 

Portable Class Libraries

You can use Portable Class Libraries with Xamarin's Unreal Engine support. This allows the same binary library to be shared across a wide range of platforms without code modifications.

To learn more about using Portable Class Libraries with Xamarin, read our Introduction to Portable Class Libraries document.

 

There are a couple limitations.  It’s based on .NET up to 4.5, with a smattering of .NET 5 features.  Well, anync, which is frankly the .NET 5 feature.  Perhaps the biggest limitation is it only has access to code from the Blueprint API.  Given that the Blueprint API has access to just about everything C++ does, this isn’t perhaps the limitation it sounds like.  If you want to make more C++ accessible to .NET you need to use CppSharp.  Additionally, Unreal AND Mono need to be available on the targeted platform, although frankly, Mono is available just about everywhere these days.  However, right now only Windows and Mac are supported, with other platforms under development.

 

Oh yeah, there is of course one other big side effect… money.

 

To redistribute code written with Mono for Unreal Engine, you must have a commercial license to the Mono runtime. These licenses are available from Xamarin for Mac, Android and iOS online, and you can request Windows licenses through support.

 

This of course is completely reasonable.  People make their money selling software, so obviously they have to sell their software.  That said, I’ve always found Xamarian’s licensing to be a bit awful.  There are almost unique in the development world for not offering a (real) free version for non-commercial development and this is a huge mistake IMHO.  The lack of a free edition makes open source software around their tools pretty much non-existent.  Of course you can open source work made with Xamarian tools, but good luck building a community around a commercial only development product.

 

That said, this is still an interesting development and one more feather in Unreal Engine’s cap.  Given that Unity is moving away from Mono and developing their own runtime, it’s not entirely shocking that Xamarin made this move.  It is somewhat ironic that the Unreal Engine .NET runtime will be substantially newer and more complete than Unity’s!

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Project Anarchy v2014.0.5 released
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10. April 2014

 

Somehow missed this announcement in the chaos of the last few weeks.  It was only via this comment I became aware of the release.  Anyways Havok have released a pretty massive update to Project Anarchy, their free for mobile, cross platform gaming engine.  The star of the release is integration of Autodesk BEAST lighting solution and a new water system, but that’s only a small part.  Post below verbatim is the contents of the release:

 

We are happy to announce the release of Project Anarchy v2014.0.5. It is now available to download. This release contains a host of new features and improvements. The v2014.0.5 release also adds Autodesk® Beast® as a fully integrated component at no charge and includes a new mobile water shape.

Additionally, you can find a number of usability improvements for vForge such as better gizmos and a new transform panel. For easy and quick prototyping we have added several primitive assets that are directly shipped with the Project Anarchy package.

Below you’ll find some highlights for the changes in v2014.0.5. For a full list of changes please take a look at our documentation.

Autodesk Beast Plugin

With Project Anarchy v2014.0.5 we include our integration of the powerful global illumination lighting solution Autodesk Beast.

With Beast, you can generate amazingly realistic lightmaps and lightgrids directly from within vForge, and even distribute the computation workload among multiple machines using DistriBeast. The features of Beast can be considered as a superset of the default vLux integration. Summarized, it has the following strengths when compared to vLux lighting:

  • Faster computation times that scales well on n-cores and in some cases orders of magnitude faster if global illumination is enabled
  • Support for new light shapes: window light, area light
  • Tighter packing on lightmaps to save texture memory
  • Realtime preview through eRnsT tool
  • Better scalability for larger scenes with its support for instanced geometry

The Beast integration can be used for free in the context of Project Anarchy.

In order to activate Beast, open any scene, go to the menu Lighting->Active Lighting Tool and checkmark “Autodesk Beast”. Once this is done Beast will be used when you re-calculate the lighting.

New Mobile Water Shape

A specialized mobile water shape has been added in v2014.0.5. This shape implements specially optimized water rendering for mobile devices. For more details see "Mobile Water Introduction" in the Project Anarchy documentation.

The mobile water shape is located in the effects shape section and can be added to your scene by dragging and dropping an instance of the mobile water shape from the shape creator panel.

New Search Bar in Shape Panel

There is now a search bar in the Shape panel that can be used to filter all objects by name.

Asset Browser Improvements

  • The path to a file can now be copied from the asset browser.
  • When Perforce is used assets can now be checked out directly.

  • Particle Effects are now shown in the asset browser and can be added to the scene via drag & drop.

  • Static meshes are now also shown while dragging them from the asset browser into the scene and snap-to-grid is now also working while dragging meshes into the scene.

New primitive meshes for easy prototyping

In the base data directory there are now some primitive meshes that can be used for quick and easy prototyping and blocking out of a level. Material sets are also available to facilitate color coding sections. On a static mesh instance, see the properties, there is a property called 'CustomMaterialSet', which contains variants for different colors.

New Transform Bar

We have added a 'transform bar' to the bottom of the viewport. The transform bar allows quick and easy changing of the position, rotation and scaling of selected objects. Values can be input both relative to the current value, or absolute.

New Script List Panel

There is now a 'Script List' panel, which shows all the scripts that are used in the scene. You can open the scripts in the script editor directly from that list and you can see which shapes use that list and select them.

vForge Grid Improvements

The grid in vForge has been improved with a number of visual and UX improvements:

  • In ortho mode it now consistently displays in the viewing plane and the grid gets less detailed when zooming out.
  • Lines can be highlighted at user-defined regular intervals.
  • In perspective mode the grid now follows the camera and the grid size is fixed.

Improved Gizmos and ‘Stick to Ground‘ Feature

  • The 'Stick to Ground' feature for the move gizmo has been improved significantly. It can now correctly handle indoor levels comprising of different stories or levels.

  • The scaling gizmo has been improved. Scaling is now much smoother and the center handle of the gizmo now does uniform scaling dropping the need for an extra mode.
  • The translation gizmo now shows helper lines to make it easier to place objects.

General vForge Improvements

  • In the Visual Shader Editor, you can now zoom in with CTRL+Mousewheel.
  • vForge now automatically makes a backup of the scene when entering Run-in-Editor or Play-the-Game mode. Should that crash the editor, on the next start vForge will prompt to use that backup or continue.
  • The multi-user editing dialog will now retrieve more descriptive errors from Perforce in case connecting or workspace resolving fails.

Scaleform Integration Improvements

  • The access to the ActionScript state has been refactored.
  • The new VScaleformValue and VScaleformVariable classes now also allow invoking functions and accessing class members.
  • As opposed to VScaleformValue, an instance of the VScaleformVariableclass represents an ActionScript variable and its value is always kept in sync with the value in the movie.

General Improvements for Programmers

  • Double Tap via remote input is now supported.
  • Cubemap Textures that use the PVR format are now loading correctly.
  • The depth-fog settings are now exposed to Lua, so they can be changed at runtime from script.
  • There is now a new function on the ragdoll component to apply a force or impulse to bones that are inside a sphere. This can be used to create explosions and other effects that push or pull objects within a defined area.

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