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13. July 2017


Babylon.JS 3.0 has just been released.  BabylonJS is an open source WebGL powered 3D game engine.  If you are interested in learning more about BabylonJS I reviewed an earlier version available here as well as a more recent tutorial series available here.  The 3.0 release brings a number of new features to the game engine including WebGL 2 support, WebVR 1.1 support, glTF 2.0 support and more.  Perhaps most interestingly, this release also introduces the Babylon.UI extension for creating user interfaces.


Details from Microsoft’s developer blog:

Support for WebGL 2

WebGL 2 is a great step forward for 3D developers as it allows more control over the GPU. The support for WebGL 2 is completely transparent with Babylon.js 3.0. This means that the engine will automatically use WebGL 2 if available, and it will fall back to WebGL 1 if not. Mode details can be found here.

Support for WebVR 1.1

With a single line of code, you can now unleash the power of virtual reality directly in your browser. Babylon.js 3.0 supports all VR devices, including the new Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Babylon.js can also transparently use WebVR 1.0 if your device does not support the latest version of the specification (Gear VR for instance). It also supports using device orientation events to provide virtual reality on mobile.

You can visit the Build 2017 website to watch a complete session about Babylon.js and WebVR.

You can find the Sponza demo here.

Support for glTF 2.0

glTF is a file format for GL APIs. With Babylon.js 3.0, we added complete support for loading glTF 2.0 files (including physically based rendering materials).

This version was ratified recently by Khronos group. glTF will help the 3D ecosystem to enable all new ways to create, share and consume 3D.

Improved physically based rendering (PBR)

The PBRMaterial used to render physically based objects was completely rewritten. It is now more accurate and better aligned with GLTF2.0 specifications. This material can be used to simulate real life lighting and provide photorealistic scenes.

You can find a live demo here.

Introducing Babylon.GUI

The Babylon.js GUI library is an extension you can use to generate interactive user interface. It relies on hardware acceleration to produce a fast and light way to deal with user interaction.

The Babylon.GUI extension can be helpful with VR scenarios when you cannot display HTML elements. It can also be used to project your UI in 3D. In this case, the UI will be textured on a 3D object but will remain functional.

Support for morph targets

Morph targets are a great way to animate objects by using morphing between different targets. This technique is widely used to animate character heads, for instance.

You can find a technical demo here.

Support for live textures using WebCam

You can now create project webcam content to any textures in your world. This could be used to simulate mixed reality experience or apply some fun effects like in this ASCII art demo.


BabylonJS is available here and on Github.

GameDev News

12. July 2017


The Godot Game Engine has just received Python support via the new GDNative interface.  Unfortunately the project is Linux only at this moment, so MacOS users will have to jump through some additional hoops, while Windows users are simply out of luck.


Details from the Godot blog:

All core features of Godot are expected to work fine:

  • Builtins (e.g. Vector2)
  • Object classes (e.g. Node)
  • Signals
  • Variable export
  • RPC synchronization

On top of that, mixing GDScript and Python code inside a project should work fine, have a look at the Pong example to see how you can convert one by one your existing GDScript code to Python fairly easily.

This release ships a recent build of Godot 3.0-alpha (yes, it's a beta based on an alpha...) and CPython 3.6.1 with the standard library and pip, ready to work with the Python ecosystem in its full glory (can't wait to see people experimenting game AI with Pytorch!).

The project is Linux-only so far, however you should be able to compile it from the sources if you are on macOS (let us know if you do so). Binaries for all platforms will eventually be provided when Godot 3.0 gets stable.

As always, keep in mind this is a beta and you are expected to encounter issues and maybe crashes. If so, make sure to report them on the project's bug tracker ;-)


The project Github page is available here.

GameDev News

11. July 2017


A new version, 1.2.108, has been released for the Defold game engine.  The Defold game engine is a cross platform, Lua powered, free (as in beer) mobile focused game engine.  If you are interested in learning more about the Defold engine, we have a complete tutorial series available here.


This new release brings a few new features including new texture formats, native extensions are finally available on Win32 and support for the newest iOS and OS/X versions.


Full details of the release:

  • DEF-2746 - Added: Add 16-bit RGB/A and Luminosity + Alpha support to engine
  • DEF-2796 - Added: WebP lossy/lossless support for 16-bit RGB/A and Luminosity + Alpha
  • DEF-2731 - Added: Added Win32 support in Native Extensions
  • DEF-2778 - Added: Added support for iPhoneOS 10.3 and MacOSX 10.12
  • DEF-2690 - Fixed: Bump max spine scene count for GUI scenes
  • DEF-2716 - Fixed: Minor fix for ColladaUtil if scene only has bones in the visual scenes entry.
  • DEF-1954 - Fixed: WebP lossy compression with HIGH compression level gave visual errors

GameDev News

11. July 2017


Unreal Engine just released a new preview release, version 4.17 preview 1.  Of course this release is a preview, meaning you should expect flaws and probably shouldn’t use it in a production environment.  While the 4.17 release doesn’t have any standout new features, it is absolutely packed with new functionality and improvements.


Details of the release from the Unreal forums:

  • Animation/Physics Updates:
    • Baking out materials on StaticMesh instances is now supported.
      • Support for baking out materials on a Static or Skeletal Mesh asset is also added as an experimental feature (requires enabling the Asset Material Baking under Experimental settings).
    • New physics optimizations by having PhysX tasks batched together to reduce overhead. This can be tuned with p.BatchPhysXTasksSize. Bigger batch sizes reduce per-task overhead at the cost of less parallelism.
    • The ‘Additional Meshes’ feature for previewing modular meshes now uses the ‘Copy Pose’ node instead of ‘MasterPose’. This means it can support meshes that do not share a Skeleton, and bones are copied by name.
    • ProceduralMeshComponent now supports Async PhysX Cooking, avoiding hitches at runtime.
    • Runtime PhysX Cooking can be turned on and off as a plugin instead of an engine recompile.
    • The animation Asset Browser now uses folder filters.
    • Added a MakeDynamicAdditive node to animBlueprints.
    • Two Bone IK improvements including a ‘NoTwist’ option and an ‘Enable Debug Draw’ option.
    • (Experimental) Animation Blueprints can now be live edited and recompiled while running on a PIE/SIE instance. When choosing an instance to debug in the level, the viewport is now 'connected' to that instance and displays a mirror of the instance's animation state.
    • (Experimental) Clothing Tools improvements.
      • Refactor of clothing paint tool framework to create a more extensible editor.
      • Clothing Masks are supported. This allows multiple masks to be defined and swapped between during development while testing different configurations.
      • Reworked tools framework for cloth painter and added new tools.
  • Audio Updates:
    • Audio Streaming is no longer experimental, and contains a number of fixes.
    • (Early Access) The new Unreal Audio engine now supports Android, PS4, Xbox One, iOS, and Mac OS.
  • Console Updates:
    • New features and improvements are coming for development on XBox One, Nintendo Switch, and PS4. Since console code is not available for the Previews, details will be provided with the final 4.17 release.
  • Core Updates:
    • Plugins may now declare dependencies on other plugins, allowing the engine to automatically enable and load anything they require. Dependencies can be listed in a .uplugin using with the same syntax as .uproject files.
    • UE4 now includes support for the PVS-Studio static analyzer (available separately). To enable static analysis with PVS-Studio, append -StaticAnalyzer=PVSStudio to the UnrealBuildTool command line.
  • Gameplay/Scripting Updates:
    • The Asset Manager now has Blueprint access and is ready for production. The Asset Manager is a global object that can be used to discover, load, and audit Maps and game-specific asset types in the editor or at runtime. It provides a framework to make it easier to create things like Quests, Weapons, or Heroes and load them on demand, and can also be used to set up cook and chunk rules when packaging and releasing your game. The Asset Manager tab in Project Settings can be used to set up the rules for your game. Primary Asset Types that are scanned by the Asset Manager can be queried at runtime before they are loaded, and can then be asynchronously loaded on demand. To use the asset manager, call functions on the native UAssetManager class (which can be subclassed for your game), or call Blueprint functions in the Asset Manager category such as Async Load Primary Asset.
    • A new Orphan Pin feature has been added to help avoid mysterious content breakage as the result of pin removals. Any time a pin that is in use has been removed from a node, instead of that pin quietly vanishing, breaking all connections, the pin will now be retained as an Orphan, and an error (if it is connected) or a warning (if it is an input pin with a non-default value) will be emitted.
    • Native member variables can now make use of uproperty markup to be exposed to Blueprints via ufunction accessors even if the property had been previously exposed directly using BlueprintReadOnly or BlueprintReadWrite markup.
  • Mobile Updates:
    • Translucent objects marked as “Mobile Separate Translucency” will be rendered separately after Bloom and Depth Of Field. This option can be found in Translucency section of Material Editor.
    • Executable sizes have been reduced on iOS and Android. Further mobile executable size reductions are coming in 4.18.
      • For iOS we now disable exceptions for ObjectiveC by default, saving around 6.5 MB from the executable size.
      • For Android we have enabled -ICF flag for android shipping builds. This saves around 5 MB from the Engine’s .so size (uncompressed) and 1.2 MB inside the apk file (compressed).
    • Android applications built with OpenGL ES3.1 or Vulkan will now use native sRGB sampling instead of emulating it. You can expect better texture brightness.
    • The Android toolchain now supports NDK 14b with NDK 15 as experimental.
      • Google Play Services upgraded to 9.8.0
      • Gradle is supported as an experimental build option. This is enabled per project in the Android Project Settings with the “Enable Gradle instead of Ant [Experimental]” checkbox.
    • Android support for ultra-wide aspect ratios. By default maximum supported screen aspect ratio is 2.1 (width / height). Android will automatically letterbox application on devices with bigger aspect ratio. Default aspect ratio can be changed in Android section of Project Settings.
  • Rendering Updates:
    • A new Composure Compositing Plugin is available to help with real-time compositing pipelines. (note, this currently causes the project to crash in Preview 1) It includes many features, such as:
      • Binding mechanism between a Player Controller and a Texture Render Target 2D to replace the engine default’s video game rendering pipeline by the project specific C++ or Blueprint implemented compositing pipeline output
      • Parametric lens distortion
      • UVMap pass to distort textures according UV displacement map and UV matrices
      • Engine tonemapper independent pass
      • Experimental alpha channel support in Engine’s post processing chain
      • Post process material domain and their alpha channel output support in the Blueprint canvas drawing API
      • And more…
    • (Experimental) Shaders are now supported in Plugins and Projects due to changes made to the shader file directory structure and a new file extension.
      • USH files are used for shader header files that do not contain a shader entry point and that should only be included by other shader files
      • USF files would be the only non includable files that have the shader entry points.
      • Shader files have been split under public and private folders. The public API should be placed in files under a public folder, while the implementations are placed in the private folder.
      • Plugins & projects modules that have global shaders requires PostConfigInit loading phase.
      • Project and plugins can include other plugin’s USH file in Public directory freely.
      • USF files should be only in Private directory.
      • All calls to IMPLEMENT_SHADER_TYPE, should now include the full path of the USF shader file (e.g. “/Engine/Private/Foo.usf” or “/Plugin/FooBar/Private/MyComputeShader.usf”).
      • C++ Generated files should be mapped within the /Engine/Generated/ virtual directory.
      • Shaders/ directory requires at least a Private/ or Public/ directory, and Generated/ directory shall not exist.
    • Bent Normal Maps are an additional piece of information that can come when calculating ambient occlusion. With this information we can do multiple things to improve indirect lighting. Most traditionally bent normals are used with AO to improve diffuse indirect and make it look closer to GI. We also use this information in a powerful but less traditional way, for Reflection Occlusion (occlusion for specular indirect light). This can reduce specular light leaking significantly, especially when SSR data is not available.
    • We have added several Blueprint and Material nodes to generate point locations using the Sobol quasi-random sequence. The Sobol sequence can generate points with a large number of independent dimensions.
    • We have added Texture-based Importance Sampling Blueprint nodes to place points according to a given density function. Blueprint nodes allow flexible 2D placement based using a texture to drive the placement. The Make Importance Texture Blueprint node processes the texture for use, and the Importance Sample Blueprint node gives point locations driven by the provided density.
  • Sequencer Updates:
    • Sequencer is now more tightly integrated with the World Outliner. The World Outliner shows which level sequences an actor is bound in. It also displays actors spawned by sequencer so that you can access all actors bound by sequencer in one location. There’s also a new filter in the “View Options” to “Show Only Sequencer Actors”.
    • There’s a new toggle which helps you divide up your work so that you can be confident in whether a change to a property will affect a single shot or propagate to other shots. When “Allow Sequencer Edits Only” is enabled, any edits to properties will automatically create a track if it doesn’t exist and/or a keyframe. These changes will be isolated to the particular shot you’re working on and won’t leak into others. When “Allow Level Edits Only” is enabled, you’ll be editing default properties on objects. Properties that already have tracks in sequencer will be disabled in the details panel when you want to make global changes that affect all shots.
    • Improvements to blending, including automatic easing between blendable sections, per-channel animation of transforms, and more.
    • Auto-key has been simplified to be a single toggleable state.
  • Tools Updates:
    • Slate has a new clipping system that properly supports complex layered clipping quads with arbitrary transforms. Additionally widgets can now individually opt into clipping their children. More details here.
    • UI improvements to the Materials and Sections panels of the Static and Skeletal Mesh Editors.
    • In VR Mode, selecting a camera or actor with a camera now gives an in-world preview of what that camera sees.
  • VR Updates:
    • Spectator screens are now supported on the Oculus and HTC Vive.
    • Stereo layers have been unified across all platforms, allowing developers to use them agnostically across any platform without worrying about functional differences between platforms.
    • (Experimental) Google Tango AR platform support is now available as a plugin.

Unreal Engine 4.17 Preview 1 can be installed using the Epic Game Launcher.

GameDev News

11. July 2017


Announced in beta a few months back, Unity 2017.1 is finally available.  There are some pretty massive new feautres in this release such as Cinemachine (advanced camera controls for cutscenes), Timeline (for sequencing) and new post-processing filters.  Unity Collaborate, the Unity team asset system, is now out of beta in this release.   The release also sees improvements in the 2D realm, with the new 2D Sprite Atlas replacing Sprite Packer.

For programmers, there are some extremely welcome additions in 2017.1 as well.  Unity now supports Visual Studio 2017 Community as part of the install (instead of 2015).  Perhaps most importantly and over due... C# 6 is finally here!  Sort of.  This release includes experimental support for C#6 and .NET 4.6.


A summary of the major new features from the Unity blog.


Artists & Designers: Brand new tools for storytelling and in-game sequences

Unity 2017.1 introduces new ways artists & designers can create stunning cinematic content, compose artistic camera shots and tell better visual stories with the Timeline, Cinemachine and Post-processing tools.

Timeline is a powerful new visual tool that allows you to create cinematic content such as cutscenes and trailers, gameplay sequences, and much more.

Cinemachine is an advanced camera system that enables you to compose your shots like a movie director from within Unity, without any code, and ushers in the era of procedural cinematography.

Post-processing lets you easily apply realistic filters to scenes using film industry terminology, controls, and colour space formats to create high quality visuals for more dramatic and realistic looks, so you can tell a better visual story.

Efficiency: collaboration, live-ops analytics, tools

We’re announcing Unity Teams, a set of features and solutions that simplifies the way creators work together, which includes Collaborate (now out of beta) and Cloud Build.

Our live-ops Analytics introduces new, easier ways to understand your users and dynamically react and adjust your games without having to redeploy.

On top of that, there are many productivity updates to the Editor, including improvements to FBX import, animation workflows, 2D functionality, working with assets bundles and Visual Studio integration.

Graphics & Platforms:  improvements across the board

There are a number of advancements in the areas of Particle Systems and the Progressive Lightmapper offering more options to achieve your artistic vision and control performance. Various platforms get rendering boost options with Deferred Rendering on iOS and NVIDIA VRWorks on PC.

Those are just the highlights of Unity 2017.1, read on to get the full list and juicy details!


This is only scratching the surface of new functionality in this release.  Be sure to read the full blog post for more details.  Unity 2017.1 is available for download here.

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Unreal Engine 4.11 Preview 8 Released
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24. March 2016

 

There is a new preview release of Unreal Engine, 4.11 Preview 8, obviously for those willing to walk on the wild side.  As always, it can be downloaded using the Epic Game Launcher.

 

This release is entirely bug fixes, including:

Fixed! UE-27462 ShooterGame fails to launch on Xbox One
Fixed! UE-28057 Android crash a couple minutes into StrategyGame
Fixed! UE-28492 Lighting needs to be rebuilt in UE4 4.11 Samples
Fixed! UE-28232 2D scene capture component crashes the editor when dragged into the viewport
Fixed! UE-28441 [CrashReport] Crash on Duplicating from Higher on Beam Emitter Type Module in LOD1
Fixed! UE-28491 Placing a Constant 3 Vector in a Material on Mac Metal causes log spam
Fixed! UE-28391 HotReload is not updating instances already placed in the level
Fixed! UE-27424 Reimplement GC cluster fixes in 4.11 to fix memory leaks
Fixed! UE-28051 Android LaunchOn camera forced down in jolts when fired rapidly
Fixed! UE-28442 SunTemple crashes on iPad 4 when opened multiple times
Fixed! UE-28201 Can select child actor component in scene outliner after loading level
Fixed! UE-28169 PSVR is mispredicting on several UE4 titles, need to adjust the prediction timing
Fixed! UE-28114 Crash in shaped text when measuring an empty range
Fixed! UE-28068 Eyes incorrectly offset with instanced stereo enabled
Fixed! UE-27892 iOS leaks all HTTP responses
Fixed! UE-28386 [Mac][Metal] - Panic/Crash when closing active window of packaged project
Fixed! UE-28000 Instanced Stereo Rendering not being used
Fixed! UE-27617 UnrealMatch3 not displaying UMG background material on mobile devices
Fixed! UE-27637 Leap Motion plugin broken with 4.11, need updated code from them
Fixed! UE-24713 Match3 crash on several Android devices Data != NULL
Fixed! UE-26167 Unreal Match 3 Movie is causing crash on startup
Fixed! UE-28558 Letterboxing in blueprint First Person on some aspect ratios
Fixed! UE-28438 Player spawns inside the floor
Fixed! UE-28564 Blueprint Errors not displaying in Log
Fixed! UE-28054 Unable to get mouse control in the server window when networking in editor
Fixed! UE-27863 Project freezes when launching on mobile
Fixed! UE-28526 Match3 does not compile in debug
Fixed! UE-26565 Shootergame fails to package for WindowsXP
Fixed! UE-25688 Some ContentExamples maps have player start outside level boundary
Fixed! UE-28240 Lighting needs to be built in Sanctuary map in Shooter Game
Fixed! UE-27855 Crash launching project on mobile devices
Fixed! UE-27798 Erroneous MoveFixedBody warnings when running construction scripts in game
Fixed! UE-27535 Starting position of physics simulated bp is different in Standalone Game
Fixed! UE-27154 Using StereoPano capture commands crashes the editor
Fixed! UE-26789 Available HTML5 browsers are not automatically listed in the HTML5 SDK project settings
Fixed! UE-28434 Matinee Capture Movie is rendering distorted when aspect ratio is set to 2:1
Fixed! UE-28293 Multiple Content Example intro boards have typos or need rewording
Fixed! UE-23446 If a hot reload is performed after adding a custom UserDefinedEnum class to the project, the Editor will crash.
Fixed! UE-28189 Crash Occurs When Duplicating Static Mesh with Foliage Placed on it
Fixed! UE-27824 Component in Child Blueprint Parented to Inherited Component Disappears
Fixed! UE-26768 Sequencer crashing engine when opening Sequencer File with Audio setup inside (FAsyncAudioDecompressWorker::DoWork() [audiodecompress.cpp:336])
Fixed! UE-24967 Integrate D3D12 update from MS
Fixed! UE-28005 KiteDemo: Deer spawn immobile in Kite Cinematic
Fixed! UE-28003 Fail to QuickLaunch HTML5 through UnrealFrontEnd
Fixed! UE-28162 Components added via IWCE in 4.11 to actor with inherited root component spawn in wrong location
Fixed! UE-27795 Split Pins on a referenced Macro Library will crash the editor on restart
Fixed! UE-28122 Plugin Warden links to invalid store page
Fixed! UE-28154 Math expression node text not editable on creation
Fixed! UE-28118 Instanced stereo rendering doesn't handle arbitrary eye gap sizes.
Fixed! UE-27856 "Always" Save on Compile does not save the Blueprint
Fixed! UE-27859 Cannot spawn tab because no spawner is registered for 'BlueprintProfiler' for multiple assets in Automation Test
Fixed! UE-27987 Match3 Settings menu text is inconsistent
Fixed! UE-27995 Match3 loses theme selection buttons after returning to Start Screen on Android
Fixed! UE-28312 Android store version should not be limited to 65535
Fixed! UE-28013 Rivalry runs very slow on Nexus 9 before Android 6.0
Fixed! UE-26994 Directional Light (stationary) causing blown out lighting on suntemple with Mobile Renderer
Fixed! UE-26900 Consistent hitch 1 minute into play on some Android devices
Fixed! UE-27509 Save on compile set to always causes a crash on compile
Fixed! UE-26284 KiteDemo: Missing foliage textures
Fixed! UE-24793 iPadPro uses wrong resolution
Fixed! UE-28196 Demo Display doesn't render text in Content Examples
Fixed! UE-27990 Broken textures in KiteDemo
Fixed! UE-28471 Shader Complexity view no longer showing particle effects
Fixed! UE-26194 FBX Import flips faces of mesh on Import for static meshes

There is also one important known issue with NVidia chips on Mac OS:

Important Known Issue: UE-27673 - Mac (El Capitan on Nvidia GPUs) crashes when building lighting. This is due to an Nvidia GPU driver bug on OSX El Capitan 10.11.3 or earlier. The solution for this is to update to OSX 10.11.4.

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