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3. October 2016

 

It’s been quite a wait, but Blender 2.78 is finally here and it brings us all kinds of great new features.  There are new add-ons, render for VR functionality, viewport performance improvements, freehand curves on surfaces, new B-Bones and a great deal more in this release.splash_2x

 

From the release announcement:

The Blender Foundation and online developer community are proud to present Blender 2.78, released September 30th 2016! This release aims to be a very stable one, so that developers can focus better on Blender 2.8 work. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Spherical Stereo images rendering support for VR
  • Grease Pencil is now a full 2D drawing & animation tool!
  • Viewport Rendering improvements
  • New Freehand curves drawing over surfaces!
  • Bendy Bones, powerful new options for B-Bones
  • Alembic support: import/export basic operators
  • Cloth Physics: new Dynamic Base Mesh and Simulation Speed option
  • New Add-ons, individual preferences, Python APIs changes, and a lot of new & updated add-ons!
  • Many more features, improvements and the usual huge bug-fixes list

 

 

You can read more about this release here, there is a ton more to this release than the list above.  I took a look at using one of the new plug-ins, Archimesh, for level design last month.  You can check that out here or embedded below.

GameDev News

6. September 2016

 

There is an entire area of 3D modelling known as architectural visualization, or ArchViz for short, that have long been used by architects to help design buildings and help customers visualize the end result.  Many major CAD packages have archviz functionality built in, but Blender is not one of them, or at least wasn’t.  With the upcoming Blender 2.78 release, there is a plugin called Archimesh that brings much of this capability to Blender.  So… why should you care as a game developer?  As you will see shortly, this can also be used to help rapidly prototype 3D game levels as well.  So without further ado, let’s jump right in.

 

There is a video version of this tutorial available here and embedded below.

 

Getting Started

 

As of writing, the Archimesh plugin isn’t available in the normal Blender distribution.  If by the time you are reading this you are using Blender 2.78 or later you should be good to go.  If not, you will need to download the most recent test release available here.

 

Next you need to enable the plugin.  With Blender loaded select File->User Preferences or hit Ctrl Alt U.

Select the Add-Ons tab

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In the search field type arc

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Click the checkbox beside Add Mesh: Archimesh.

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If you dont want to do this every time be sure to Save User Settings before closing the preferences window:

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We are now ready to make use of Archimesh.  Feel free to close the settings window.

 

Designing A Room

 

Now that we have the plugin enabled, let’s get started.  First let’s get started by drawing some walls.  This is done easily enough using the grease pencil.  In the 3d view (I’m using top view), draw the room outline.  ( D + LMB + Draw ), like so:

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Now in the Tools ( T hotkey ) menu, locate the Archimesh tab:

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Scroll to the bottom of the tab and locate the Room from Draw button.

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You’ve also got the option to have it generate a Ceiling, Floor and to close the room in ( close any gap in your drawing with a wall ) or not.  I selected Floor then clicked the button.  Here is the result:

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Now in the properties (N) panel you can make tweaks to your generated room.

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Here you can set the thickness of generated walls and you can also add or remove the floor and ceiling after the fact.   Here i’ve set the wall thickness to 0.120.  This is required so we can add doors and windows later.

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You can modify each individual wall, including curving it, raising it to a peak, changing the length, etc.

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And the results of these various settings:

wall

 

Creating your room is that simple.  Now we can refine our room.

 

Adding Detail

So rapidly creating walls and floors is certainly nice, but a little dull no?  Well don’t worry, that’s not the extent of Archimesh’s functionality.  If you take a look in the tools panel you will notice several other options.

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Let’s go ahead and add a door.  Place the cursor where you want the door to be created.  This pivot point is relative to the bottom of the door, so place it low near the floor and along a wall, like so:

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Now you can either add the door using the button in the Tool menu, or via the Shift + A hotkey, then Mesh->Archimesh->Door:

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Tada, a door.

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You will notice there are several options and styles to choose from in the Properties panel:

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These settings appear to only be available on creation however, so be sure you have the door configured in a way you like before moving or modifying it.  Windows can be created using the exact same process.

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Once you are done however there is one last step to perform.  You basically have to “Cut” the window and door from the room.  Don’t worry, it’s easy.  In the Tools panel, with the Room selected, select the Auto Holes button.

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Now the appropriate holes will be cut into the wall.  You will also notice that the mesh hierarchy has changed as well:

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And essentially that’s the process in a nutshell.  There are other very cool features in here, such as Stair creation:

StairGif

 

There is also the option to show detailed measurements, automatically create roofs, built in props like lamps and book shelves and more.

At the end of the way, it’s just creating mesh objects for you too, so you can quickly jump in adding details using traditional techniques like extruding.   There are some missing features.  Ways to link multiple rooms together easily, the ability to create interior walls automatically, but these are easily worked around. 

 

The Video

Art, Design

25. July 2016

 

BDX can best be though of as a mashup between Blender and LibGDX, a game engine built on top of the LibGDX framework, directly integrated inside the Blender application.  This enables you to create levels directly in Blender and take advantage of Blender features such as physics, but code your game using Java and LibGDX.  I took a look at a very early version of the engine available here and it’s come a long way since.

 

Version 0.25 is primarily a bug fix release, but brings some new features to the table.  From the /r/gamedev announcement:

 

  • Render-to-texture is now supported.
  • GameObjects can now be invisible on select cameras, simply by adding a reference to the GameObject to the camera's "ignoreObjects" list. This, when combined with render-to-texture support, allows for some nice shader effects.
  • Texture loading and texture switching on Materials is now supported.
  • A new Mesh class has been added, allowing you to easily alter vertex information for GameObjects' meshes.
  • Fog / mist is now fully supported.
  • Support for a Viewport has been added to allow you to tweak how your game scales onscreen.
  • Many bug-fixes, and other tiny added features.

For more detail, see the commit log over on GitHub.

 

It’s a cool engine, one I highly recommend you check out if Blender is core to your workflow.

GameDev News ,

4. May 2016

 

Mixamo is a great animation resource, that enables you to quickly (and currently freely) add animations to your 3D models.  However, if you want to incorporate the results into your Blender workflow, it can be a bit non-intuitive.  The Mixamo documentation recommend using Collada, which simply does not work well.  There instructions also skip completely the process of actually using the resulting animations...  a rather key component.  The following workflow is perhaps the easiest with the best results.

 

First off, when exporting your animations from Mixamo, use the following settings:

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This will result in a zip file containing your model, as well as several animations, like so:

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If you haven’t already, load Blender.  Next go to File->Import->FBX.  The next part is critical, in the Import FBX settings select Manual Orientation and Apply Transform

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Your model and it’s armature should now load fine, with full proper textures showing up.  I suggest you rename your armature something meaningful, as each animation is going to come in with the same name (Armature, Armature.001, etc.).

 

Next do the import again, with the exact same settings, this time bring in one of your animations.  If you only need to wire up a single animation, you are nearly done.  Just bring up the DopeSheet, switch to Action Editor

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You can now toggle between any animation available in the Blend file:

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Keep in mind, I renamed my main character Timeline, then the walk animation armature was renamed Walk, etc...

 

If however you need to use multiple animations, or want to create a single timeline with all of the animations on it, you are now going to have to break out the NLA Editor.  It is simply a matter of Add Action Strip to your main character, for each animation in the timeline, like so:

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And, the end result:

GIF

 

I glossed over part of the process, but never fear... I also did a video!

Art , ,

29. March 2016

 

Welcome to the second Blender how to ( here is the first ), a series of quick step by step tutorials showing you how to accomplish a specific task using Blender.  Today we will look at a way of quickly modeling a high rise building.  It assumes you know the basics of using Blender.  If you don’t, no worries, I have tutorials for that!

 

First, start with the default cube, like so:

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Now enter edit mode(TAB) and  loop cut (CTRL + R) it about the center, like so:

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Select all the faces of the top half and separate them (P->Selection)

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In object mode move the newly separated top portion up along the Z axis (G + Z + mouse)

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Select the bottom box, make a copy (SHIFT + D), then move it up along the Z axis.

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Select the middle piece, switch to edit mode, select the bottom face and delete it (x –> faces), like so:

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This face is going to represent the various floors of your building.  Keep the top and bottom edges the same size as the top/bottom box and start carving it up to match your floor.  I generally start by doing a pair of loop cuts along the entire length, like so:

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This can be accomplished by doing a loop cut (Ctrl + R), then before clicking to commit, scroll button once to perform multiple evenly spaced cuts at once.  Next I move them up and down the mesh simultaneously by simply scaling along the Z axis (S, Z, mouse move)

Now lets do several more loop cuts for windows using the same process (Ctrl + R, Mouse wheel multiple times):

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Next select every other edge created (alt + shift click to select multiple) like so:

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We now want to edge slide the selected edges (G,G)

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Now select the inner faces like so:

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Then hit E to extrude them

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Repeat the similar process on all 4 sides to define your building.  Obviously you would arrange as you saw fit.

 

Now that we have our floor defined, it’s time to make a lot of them.  Switch to object mode then go to the modifiers tab and select Array:

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Now we need to make sure we set the axis to array along ( set Z to 1 in the relative offset area ) and the number of times to duplicate under the count section.

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When satisfied, click the Apply button.  Finally move your top and bottom pieces so they cap the building on each end, like so:

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Select all 3 shapes and merge them together (Ctrl + J) like so:

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Now we just need to weld our objects together.  Box select (B) the overlap area between the bottom and middle boxes in edit mode, like so:

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Now select Remove Doubles in the Tool menu(T), then manipulate the Merge distance

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Until you see

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Repeat for the top portion.

 

TADA, a building in Blender.  An ugly building mind you, but a building none the less.

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PlayCanvas Add Spine Support Via Free Plugin
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4. January 2016

 

PlayCanvas, a popular 3D HTML5 game engine have added support for Spine the 2D bone based animation software from Esoteric Software.

 

You can get the plugin from Github, details from the announcement:

This is the first version of PlayCanvas plugin for the Spine Animation tool.

Image

Spine allows you to create bone-driven 2D animations so it does away with the need for huge sprite atlases and tedious animation processes.

Using the PlayCanvas Spine plugin you can drag and drop your Spine Animations into the Editor and get them straight into your game.

Read more on the plugin's Github page

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