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23. October 2013

 

I just received the following information from Autodesk about Maya LT, an indie focused version of the Maya 3D software we covered back in August.  Today’s release adds some new functionality and addresses one of the biggest complaints, the low polygon limit.

 

Autodesk Releases Maya LT Extension 1 for Indie and Mobile Game Developers


Advances asset export and 3D modeling through enhanced interoperability with Unity3D and increased polygon count


Today Autodesk launched the first extension for Autodesk Maya LT - the company's recently released 3D modeling and animation tool designed specifically for independent and mobile game developers. With new features such as improved interoperability with Unity3D, an increased polygon count and more, Maya LT Extension 1 simplifies the export of 3D content into artists' desired game engines and expands 3D modeling capabilities. Extension 1 is available today to as a free download for customers on subscription and pay-as-you-go plans.


Key features in Maya LT Extension 1 include:
- Improved Interoperability with Unity: A new “Send to Unity” workflow allows artists to export 3D assets with unlimited polygon counts from Maya LT directly into the asset folder of a Unity project.
- Increased Polygon Count for Export: Export high-resolution models or scenes up to 65,000 polygons in the Autodesk FBX asset exchange format to the desired game engine.
- New Retopology Toolset: First integrated in Maya 2014 and now part of Maya LT, NEX modeling technology streamlines the retopology workflow. Artists can optimize meshes for cleaner deformations and better performance using a single toolset within Maya LT.
- Advanced Booleans: Maya LT now employs a robust and efficient new library for faster and more reliable Boolean operations on polygon geometry.
- FBX Export Improvements: Advanced support for exporting accurate geometry normals (binormals) facilitates consistent surface shading when assets are rendered in-engine.


More information about Maya LT and a free trial of the software are available via http://www.autodesk.com/mayalt and http://area.autodesk.com/mayalt .

 

Is 65K polygons a better limit, or still to low for your games?  It’s certainly an improvement on the old 25K limit.  One of the big flaws of a polygon limit is if you are using Maya as a level design tool, which is nicely solved if you are working in Unity which no longer has an limits.  If you are working in UDK or Project Anarchy on the other hand, there is still a problem. On a somewhat off topic note, I am not sure what I think of the “extension” versioning system.  It makes sense and its nice to see a fast support cycle but there is something about that I find off-putting.

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22. October 2013

 

Hot on the heels of their 100,000$ contest announcement the guys at Project Anarchy have another major announcement.  The latest update to Project Anarchy now includes Scaleform… for free!

 

SAN FRANCISCO – October  22, 2013 –Havok™, a leading provider of 3D game development technology, announces today that it has integrated the full version of Autodesk® Scaleform® software into Project Anarchy, Havok’s completely free end-to-end mobile 3D game production engine. The addition of Autodesk’s industry leading UI solution to Project Anarchy complements Havok’s Vision Engine, Physics, Animation and AI technologies and offers developers a complete solution for faster, more efficient game development.  Games built using Project Anarchy can be deployed for free on iOS, Android and Tizen mobile platforms without commercial restrictions on company size or revenue. The latest version of Project Anarchy, which now includes Scaleform is available for download now at www.projectanarchy.com/download.


Autodesk Scaleform has helped game developers create immersive UI for over 1,500 game titles. Leveraging the power of the Adobe Flash toolset, Scaleform provides streamlined, artist-driven workflows that help developers create 3D game menus, HUDs, animated textures, in-game videos and mini-games more quickly.


“Project Anarchy was created to give mobile developers a complete solution for all aspects of the game development process, and Scaleform is the perfect addition to round out that package,” said Ross O’Dwyer, Head of Developer Relations at Havok. “We have an incredibly active community and their feedback is really important to us. We saw demand for an improved UI system and we’re happy to be able to deliver it and further empower our developers with the strength of the Scaleform toolset.”


“Scaleform provides a robust solution that allows developers to rapidly create high production value user interfaces for a wide range of game genres.  Coupled with the comprehensive Project Anarchy toolset, developers are empowered to design innovative user interfaces seamlessly across many platforms,” said Marc Bennett, Director Interactive Display Solutions, Autodesk Media & Entertainment. “The Scaleform toolset and the robust functionality offered by Project Anarchy allow developers to give their mobile titles a level of polish usually reserved for big-budget console games.”    
Project Anarchy includes Havok’s Vision Engine together with access to Havok’s industry-leading suite of Physics, Animation and AI tools as used in cutting-edge franchises such as Skyrim™, Halo, Assassin’s Creed®, and Uncharted. With features like an extensible C++ architecture, a flexible asset management system, Lua debugging, customizable game samples and tutorials, and a full fmod® integration for audio, Project Anarchy offers game developers the ability to quickly iterate on their ideas and create incredible gaming experiences.


For further information on Project Anarchy, developers can visit www.projectanarchy.com and www.havok.com. More information on Scaleform can be found at: http://gameware.autodesk.com/scaleform  

 

You can read the official announcement here.  If you’ve never heard of Scaleform it’s basically a striped down game oriented version of Flash intended to be embedded in games.  Tons of AAA games use Scaleform for their UI layer ( Crysis, Deus Ex, Witcher 2, etc ).  Scaleform is also available for Unity as a plugin, but in the case there is a 300$ price tag attached!  Scaleform is also available for the UDK although I am unsure of the licensing conditions.

 

So, if you are looking for a cross platform mobile 3D engine, Project Anarchy just got a great deal more attractive.  Oh yeah, in case you didn’t know, GameFromScratch does have a series of tutorials available! If you just want an overview of what Project Anarchy actually is, start here.

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18. October 2013

I have an HTC One that I recently replaced my Galaxy Note with and I absolutely love the phone.  That said, I ran into an interesting problem with an outright mind boggling solution.  I recently upgraded the firmware to  Android 4.3.  Today when I attempted to run an app on it, developer mode isn't enabled.  So part of the upgrade apparently turned it off.  Then I went into the settings and… no developer option.

To enable the developer menu option, go in to settings and select:

About->Software Information->More.

Now click Build number 7 times.  After tapping a few times, you will get a notice.

SS1

 

After you do this, the developer menu will now be shown:

Screenshot 2013 10 18 10 34 45

 

Very odd experience.

17. October 2013

 

A few hours back I received the following email from Havok:

 

Calling all game developers!

 

PROJECT ANARCHY MOBILE GAME DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGE

Whether your studio is in an office building or a garage, we know you’ve had an idea bubbling in the back of your mind to create the next big hit on mobile! Now is your chance to wrangle your team, warm up your machines, and get your hands on some of the industry’s top middleware for video game development and a chance to win $100,000!

  • Download our FREE mobile game engine and get started developing the game that could win you up to $100,000 in prizes!
  • EARLY SUBMISSION deadline is Feb 1, 2014 that gives you an opportunity to get feedback from Havok's world class developer support team. These are the same guys that helped perfect Assassin's Creed IV, Halo 4, Uncharted 3, and Skyrim. They can help push the limits of what your game can do with the power of Project Anarchy
  • FINAL SUBMISSION deadline is May 31, 2014.

 

There are absolutely no revenue restrictions to develop your games with Project Anarchy. What are you waiting for? Get started at www.projectanarchy.com/contest and start making some games! Check us out on our social media outlets (below) and share with your friends!

 


Project Anarchy is some really cool tech and is a great option if you want to make a mobile game ( oh yeah… and it’s free ).  If you are new to Project Anarchy, you can get an overview right here.  I’ve actually done a tutorial series you can read right here.

 

To be honest, I kind of put the series on the back burner because Project Anarchy wasn’t as popular as I expected it to be (the traffic just wasn’t there), which is a shame, it was fun to write and PA is incredibly powerful.  Hopefully this contest will help in that regard.  If so, expect to see more tutorials here in the near future!

 

If you haven't already, you really should check out Project Anarchy.

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17. October 2013

At their developer event today in Montreal, nVidia released a series of new developer tools.

 

The first one is FLEX which is an extension to the PhysX um… physics engine.  It is "a unified GPU physics simulation tool that allows two way coupling of effects".  For example with Flex, a particle simulation could accurately interact with a fluid body simulation.

 

Here is a video of Flex in action:

 

They also introduced GI Works, a real time solution for global illumination for doing accurate lighting in games.

 

Big nvidia lighting 2

(Image from hothardware.com)

 

Finally they announced Flame Works, a volumetric engine for implementing film quality fire and smoke effects in games.  nVidia announce they are already working to get the technology implemented in existing game engines.

Here is the Flame Works demo:

You can read more about the new tools on hot hardware.com.

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Non GameDev related tip: Removing the animation from an animated gif
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12. June 2015

 

So as I announced yesterday, I am currently in the process of reworking some existing GameFromScratch tutorials into book formats.  This presents one particular challenge… animated gifs.

 

While animated gifs are mostly used these days for memes and cat pics, they can also be extremely useful in tutorials.  If you need to demonstrate short bit of animated process, the animated GIF works perfectly.  They are reasonably small, with ok visual quality, can automatically loop, play automatically and require no plugins. However when it comes to the printed (or virtual printed) page, they simply don’t work.

 

So I’ve struggled how to deal with converting these animated gifs.  In some cases it’s simply impossible and I will have to re-write the description, especially when I need to show a lot of detail.  However I have come up with a workable solution and I figured I would share it with you.  This is making heavy use of the swiss army knife of image manipulation ImageMagick.  It’s a free, battle tested set of tools and libraries for manipulating images, and it’s amazingly powerful.

 

Consider this following animated gif:

Source

 

How can we represent this as a non-animated gif.  We can easily extract the first frame and display it as a non-animated image, but there is very little value in this.

 

We can however create a montage and the results do a decent job of demonstrating motion in a static image.  First we need to split out our image into individual frames.  This can be done with ImageMagick using:

convert -coalesce source.gif frames.png

 

This splits your image into a sequence of frames like so:

Ss1

 

The coalesce command incorporates the background into each frame, otherwise you only get the portions of the animated gif that actually changed.  Now what I am going to do is prune down from 20 frames of animation to about 6 by simply selecting and deleting every other image, twice.  There is certainly a way to automate this process, but with 20 images its faster to just manually select and delete the extra frames.

Finally we are left with these frames:

Ss2

Now let’s assemble them into a single image, ImageMagick comes to the rescue again:

montage -geometry 256x128 frames-0.png frames-4.png frames-8.png frames-12.png frames-16.png frames-20.png results.png

 

Again with several images this process could obviously be scripted.  Essentially what you are doing is making a single image out of all of these frames, with each frame being 256x128 in size, resulting in:

Results

 

Obviously not as effective as an animated gif, but it conveys the same information in a single image and more importantly, can be printed.

 

I’ll admit, that had absolutely nothing to do with Gamedev but it took me several hours to figure out how to “unanimate” an animated gif, so I figured I’d share the process for others that might be struggling with the problem.


Quick Warning to MacOS users

The above process works flawlessly with Windows, however on MacOS with ImageMagick installed via HomeBrew, when you run the montage command you will get the error:

unable to read font (null)

This is because you need to install another package, ghostscript.

 

When installing simply do:

brew install imagemagick

brew install ghostscript

 

Then it should work just fine.

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