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8. October 2016

 

Welcome to the next chapter in the on-going Closer Look At game engine series.  The Closer Look series is aimed at informing you quickly if a given game engine is a good fit for you or not.  It’s a combination of overview, review and getting started tutorial that should give you a quick idea of a game engines strengths and weaknesses.  Today we are looking at Clickteam Fusion, a codeless game engine that has been around in one form or another for over 20 years.  I have to admit up front, this guide isn’t as in-depth as previous entries as I am rushing a bit to get it out to you.  This is because as ofctf25 publish date (Oct 6/2016) Clickteam Fusion 2.5 is heavily discounted in the Humble Bundle.

 

As always, there is an HD video version of this guide available here.

 

About Quickteam Fusion

 

Quickteam Fusion is a 2D cross platform game engine that takes a codeless approach in a similar vein as Construct2 or Stencyl.  First released as Klik and Play in 1995, it was later rebranded The Games Factory, then Multimedia Fusion then finally Clickteam Fusion.  Clickteam tools run on Windows, and via various add-ons and modules is capable of targeting Windows, iOS, Android, Flash, HTML5 and Mac OS.  Note that several of these modules have an additional price tag from the base package.  In terms of pricing, here is the current ( 10/6/2016 ) from Steam.

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Please note however that those prices are in Canadian dollars.  Also Clickteam is frequently discounted up to 75% or more, so do not ever pay the full price.  The free version is mostly full functioning minus extensibility and the ability to generate a game that runs outside of Clickteam itself, along with a few in game resource limitations.  The Developer Upgrade removes the requirement to display that the game was authored in Clickstream ( via Splash screen, credits, etc ) as well as adding some more controls inside the engine, most of which aren’t game related.

 

There are some fairly successful games that have been authored using Clickteam Fusion, the most famous of which is the Five Nights at Freddy’s series.  Other games include The Escapists, Freedom Planet and a few dozen more games available on Steam, Google Play or the iOS App Store.  So this is a production ready game engine, although only suited for 2D games.

 

Inside Clickstream Fusion

 

The strength of Clickteam is certainly the tooling it comes with.  All work in Clickstream Studio is done in the editor:

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One of the biggest faults against Clickstream has got to be it’s aging UI.  While not particularly attractive, it is for the most part effective.  On the left hand side you’ve got the Workspace Toolbar, which can be thought of as your scene graph.  “Scenes” in Clickstream are somewhat confusingly referred to as Frames.  You game is made up on one or more frames, and when you select a frame you see the level editor shown on the right.  This is used for placing and interacting the various items that compose your scene frame.  On the bottom left you see the Properties panel, this changes based on what object is currently selected.  Also shown here is the editor for Active objects.  Actives are very important to CTF as we will see shortly.  There are also windows for controlling layers, for selecting built in assets, etc.  Windows can be undocked, pinned and move about the interface easily.

 

CT1

 

The primary editing service can be used to easily create levels or maps via simple drag and drop.

CT2

 

You can also insert new items into the frame:

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Then choose from the dozens of built-in object types available:

ctf3

 

Perhaps 90% of the time, what you are going to use is an Active object, which is essentially Clickteam’s version of Entity or Sprite.

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Double click the newly created Active and you get the active editor:

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This tool combines several different tools into one.  There is a full paint package in here with fairly advanced tooling.  There are tools for doing common tasks like setting the Active’s pivot point and direction of facing, and there are tools here for defining and previewing animations.

 

In addition to the built in objects, there are several other extensions that can be added using the Extensions manager:

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Additionally Clickteam offer a store for additional extensions that are both freely available and for sale:

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Confusingly there is no direct integration between the store and Clickteam.  Therefore you have to download and manually install extensions and assets purchased this way.  The Store’s contents are mostly free and also showcase games created using Clickteam, tutorials, game code and more.

 

“Coding” in Clickteam

At this point you should have a pretty good idea how you compose the assets of your game to create levels… how do you actually add some logic to it?  That is done using these four tools:

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Left to right they are the Story Board editor, Frame Editor, Event Editor and Event List Editor.

 

Story Board Editor

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This one is pretty simple.  It’s just a top level overview of the Frames that make up your game.  Remember your game is ultimately composed of multiple frames, like so:

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Frame Editor

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The Frame Editor is simple the level editor we’ve already taken a look at.

 

Event Editor

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This is where the “coding” happens.  Essentially its a top down flow chart/graph of events that happen in your game and what those events happen to.  Here for example is the “code” to select a Flying Saucer Active in the game “Saucer Squad”:

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On the left hand side are the events (38 and 39, 36 is a group heading and 37 is simply a comment).  That first event triggers when the user left clicks on the Saucer object.  The right handle side of the screen shows the action that occurs when that happens.

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So for the event on Line 38, then the user clicks the left mouse button on Active type Saucer, it plays the sound sample Button_1, among other actions.  It’s essentially these events and actions you use to create your game.  Let’s create a very simple example… lets create an action that simple plays a sound effect when the frame (scene) is created.

First select Insert->Condition

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This will bring up the conditions dialog:

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In this case I clicked the Storyboard Controls (the chessboard/horse icon), then chose Start of Frame.  The creates a new action that will fire when the frame is started.  Now to the right hand side, select the space below the Speaker icon, like so:

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Right click and all of the available options will be displayed:

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Next the appropriate editor will be shown

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Event List Editor

This editor performs the same functionality as the Event Editor, but instead of in a somewhat unwieldy grid view, it represents the events in a much more readable list form:

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One last editor of note is the expression editor, for creating much more advanced logical conditions:

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Individual entities within the frame can also have their own events, set in the properties panel of the selected item:

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Clicking edit will bring you back to the exact same interface we just discussed.  Also in the properties panel you can define variables:

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These values can then be interacted with in other event controllers.

 

Community and Documentation

Documentation in Clickteam is decent.  Built in there is an integrated CHM based help system, as well as 4 multipart tutorial games to get started.  There are also a wealth of tutorials available to download (mostly free) on the Clickteam store.  There are also a fair number of Clickteam tutorials on YouTube, although many of them are quite awful.  There is an active forum as well as a wiki.  All told, for every problem I faced, I found a solution quickly enough online.

 

Summary

So what ultimately do I think of Clickteam Fusion?  For the most part it is what it’s advertised to be, a code free 2D game creation kit able to target multiple platform.  There is of course a learning curve, but it’s a relatively short one.  As a code focused programmer, I don’t find the coding process extremely productive, but I can see how it would be so for a more visual oriented person and especially for a non-coder.  Clickteam tools are certainly getting a bit long in the tooth, a lot of the legacy cruft is showing it’s age and the UI could certainly use an update.  My biggest hesitation is wondering how well this development system would scale with system complexity.  If you’re game isn’t easily broken into scenes or is sprawling in complexity, I can see Clickteam becoming incredibly cumbersome.  That said, I think this is a successful all in one development tool that can take you a very far way in a very short period of time even with minimal to no development skill.

 

The Video

Programming, Design , ,

4. August 2016

 

Back in October of 2015 the MaxPlay game engine was announced, but very little details were made available.  It’s a well funded, asset driven, cloud powered collaborative game engine and... that’s about all we know.  They have however just started a closed beta.

 

We are looking for a few good developers to join MaxPlay's first closed beta test and become critical members of the team building the world's most advanced game development platform.

Qualified applicants need to be willing to work with early-stage software, quick to provide strong critical feedback, and happy to engage with passionate developers in lively debate on the nuances of game development best practices.

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If selected, you will be among the first people on the planet to experience the unprecedented power of the MaxCore™ runtime in addition to the groundbreaking real-time collaboration features of the MaxPlay GDS.

Closed Beta participants will:

  • Prototype games in a real-time collaborative environment with developers all over the world
  • Test drive the MaxCore™ runtime on PC, Android, and Oculus Rift
  • Become part of the MaxPlay development community and provide critical feedback to the MaxPlay team

Use the form below to apply for the first MaxPlay Closed Beta, scheduled to begin this fall.

 

You can apply to join the beta here.

GameDev News

12. July 2016

 

Today Torque 3D released version 3.9 and in a somewhat odd release blog post they spoke mostly about the plans for the next release.  Torque is an MIT licensed open sourced 3D game engine written in C++.  This release constitutes 515 commits with the major releases being proper roll over to deferred renderer, an initial implementation of entity/component and DirectX 11 integration.

 

As mentioned earlier, the majority of the release blog post covers features intended for the 4.0 release:

So, here's a main features list that we're looking at bringing into Torque for 4.0:

  • Physically-Based Rendering. This is, unsurprisingly a pretty big one. Luckily, it's also most of the way done! The only main piece that needs finishing is reflection probes, and the core features are in. From there it would just be a matter of dialing in the supporting art pipeline and tweaking the math to make it look as good as possible.
  • MacOS support. This was originally slated for 3.9, if you look at the 3.8 release blog, but a lack of machines to test on, and the age-addled old platform code made it impractical to really tackle initially. The good news is, near the end of 3.9's development, with SDL and epoxy to take a LOT of the workload off, huge strides were made and it's actually almost completed. There's still some issues with rendering on some machines and catching errors and warnings that crop up, but it's looking very practical to have MacOS as an official platform for 4.0! You can see Timmy's screenshot in the 3.9 RC thread showing off T3D running on MacOS with his and JeffH's work now.
  • SDL as the main platform layer. Torque3D's supported SDL for quite a while now, and it's naturally the main platform layer for Linux(and MacOS). However, it's been a little bit of a red-headed stepchild to the Win32 platform code. For 4.0, that's changing and SDL will be adopted as the core platform layer with whatever glue needed sitting atop it. This will drastically simplify the platform code and make it easier to maintain. It also offers a good bit of future proofing should any other platforms come into the equation down the line. SDL's stuff is very nearly at parity with the Windows side, it's pretty much just a matter of jumping over the last bits and doing cleanup/bugfixes to make it rock-solid.
  • New Project Manager The old project manager was useful, but was hacked together with QT and php, so maintaining it was a little sketchy and fell by the wayside for the more standard CMake gui. However, there's lots of management things CMake can't do, which is why the Project Manager will be making a comeback, it'll just be a graphical frontend sitting upon the more standard cmake project generation. This new PM will let you manage your updates, and hopefully in the future hook into online repositories for easier grabbing and integration of updates as well as fetching content packages without hassle.
  • New Shadergen As great a job as the current workhorse does of generating shaders for all the many materials you need to make a game, updating and expanding it has proven to be a pretty annoying thing to deal with due to how it's structured. Excellent peice of tech, but a chore to maintain, just like ye olde German tanks in WW2. As such, we'll be looking into restructuring shadergen to not only make it easier to update and expand upon in the backend-sense, but also easier to build materials/shaders for the end user as well, up to, and probably including a node-based approach for engineering your fancy shaders for your fancy materials.
  • Graphics API refinements DirectX 9 has proven to be a monstrous workhorse of the graphical APIs, reliably serving well beyond what anyone though it would. However, while it has proven to be a rock-solid API, the time has come to retire the poor girl and send her off to the glue facto-eeeer, the farm. Yes. As such, DirectX 11 will be taking over as the main Dx rendering API, and will continue to see refinements to bring it up to speed now that Dx9 isn't hampering it or OpenGL. Timmy's been poking at this and has noted improved performance in Dx11 by quite a lot, and some gains in OpenGL as well.
  • Threads. Threads for days One major blocker to rendering performance that even dropping Dx9 won't help is that we curretly don't thread or do much to optimize out the render calls themselves. That'll change in 4.0. We've been brainstorming the optimal approach for a few months now and have a pretty solid plan of attack that will see the render calls threaded out, and also proper batching of rendered geometry where appropriate. So fewer, faster drawcalls for the same workload. We'll also be looking at threads for handling resource loading and spawning of objects to cut out all those hitches when the map starts or stuff is created.
  • Hardware Skinning Another thing that's been pretty much complete outside a few oddball behaviors we'll be getting in there is Hardware Skinning. When it's behaving, the current implementation already notes a huge improvement in performance for animated meshes, so getting it polished up and in should be a huge, immediate performance boon.
  • Physics API T3D's had a physics abstraction layer for a long time now, and it's been pretty useful in letting the end user decide if they wanted PhysX or Bullet. However, Torque's stock physics has still served a useful niche in being network-reliable, or lightweight for basic physics mechanics, and some people find it to be a pretty workable thing. As such, the Torque physics will be converted over into a Physics plugin, so all physics and collisions will go through the Physics API and standardize all the behavior for that across the engine, cleaning up quite a lot and making it easier to maintain.
  • Entities, Components, and Assets This is the big one from non-rendering side. 3.9 already has the initial implementation of the entity/component stuff, as well as the Assets/Modules systems, but they're not yet fully utilized. That'll change in 4.0. If you've been checking out my work blog with the recent updates, I've been covering work I've been doing on the improved asset pipeline, as well as continued work with the Entity/Component stuff. For 4.0, this will become the standard, and all existing gameplay classes(Vehicle, Player, Item, Shapebase) will be replaced with GameObjects built of entities and components to do the same work. The idea is to give users a similar base to what is in Torque now in terms of starting objects, but remove all the bulky, hardcoded functionality. It should be a standard point, not an anchor, after all. Tying to that, we also will have:
  • Assimp support This was actually mostly done back in the day, just some issues with animation stuffs and a few other minor problems. I'd poked at this with some R&D time a while back, so it shouldn't take much tweaking to get it polished up and hooked into the assets system, which will allow quite a few new 3d model formats, including FBX.
  • A new base template This is also basically complete. This will be a much more streamlined starting template intended to easily drop in modules, assets and the like into to build up your game project, as opposed to having to spend time stripping out the stuff you don't need. Numerous ancillary improvements also help load times, easier to read and comprehend code and the like. This will replace the empty and full templates, cutting down on the effort needed to maintain(no need to duplicate changes).
  • Vive support This comes from our own Mango's efforts. It's pretty much done, but didn't quite squeak in for 3.9. It will be going into 4.0 for sure.

GameDev News ,

1. July 2016

 

NeoAxis, a .NET powered 3D game engine with full editor, just released version 3.5.  The key features of this release are:terrain_editor

 

  • Graphic user interface of the tools has been updated.
  • A tool to easily import 3D models from a file has been added.
  • Example maps have been updated.
  • Freeze Objects Manager has been added. The object is indended to optimize maps with big amount of objects on them. With this object the developer can make some objects on the map freeze to save resources.
  • Streaming terrain has been improved. Better management of load/unload mechanism.
  • The ability to skip mip maps during loading textures.
  • Bug fix: Broken rendering with enabled SoftParticles parameter of the material.
  • Bug fix: Broken decals on terrain.
  • Bug fix: Broken export of 3D models from Map Editor to DAE.

 

You can read more about the release here.

GameDev News ,

24. June 2016

 

Leadwerks just released version 4.1 of their beginner focused 3D game engine.  The Leadwerks engine is currently available at 80% off as part of the Steam summer sale.

 

New features of this release from the release notes:

 

Environment Probes

The new environment probe entities can be used to add global illumination and reflections to any scene.
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Volumetric Lighting

Each light in Leadwerks can now display an adjustable volumetric effect using a ray-marching technique to give your game dramatic visuals.
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Enhanced Post-Processing Effects

Leadwerks 4.1 includes new built-in post-process effects including volumetric light scattering and screen-space ambient occlusion.  Older effects like bloom have been updated for improved visuals.
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8. October 2015
So I fire up my iPad and notice this strange new icon:

 

What the heck is this? So I fire it up to discover it's Adobe Graphic. I dont have any such program installed? So I fire it used and low and behold, it's iDraw. What's iDraw? Its an extremely affordable and easy to use alternative to Ilustrator, think Inkscape but with a UI that doesnt take you to dark dark places. So apparently Adobe purchased iDraw, although there were no such announcements.

I have long been a fan, I own it both on my Mac and iPad and use it all the time. In fact I even did a game art in iDraw tutorial here in the past. You know what one of my favorite things was about iDraw? That it wasnt Adobe! :/

This is actually the second company whose products I use that Adobe purchased this year. Early they bought Mixamo a great animation resource for indie and AAA developers alike.

I have a sad feeling Adobe purchased iDraw to have a Vector app on iPad and the desktop version is as good as dead. My more foreboding fear is that it gets rolled into an Adobe subscription I simply dont want to pay for. Only time will tell. Thank goodness Blender and Krita cant be acquired!

EDIT- OK, epic fail on my behalf. Adobe didnt acquire iDraw, Autodesk (3D Studio, Maya, etc) did. This makes a GREAT deal more sense and may in fact be a good thing. My goodness do I need to start getting more sleep!

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