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19. September 2017


Perhaps the biggest complaint about Blender is the user experience and this argument has some merit.  Once you learn Blender it starts to become somewhat zen to use, but getting there is a painful process.  3+ key hotkeys are rampant to do some of the most common tasks and a few of the design decisions, such as right click selection are just simply bad.  Granted many of these options can be configured away but that again requires a fairly advanced amount of understanding and by that point many new users have already been turned off.


You would think, being an open source project and all, someone would have forked it and made a more accessible version by now?  Well… someone has!  Meet BForArtists (as in Be For Artists), a Blender fork focused on making the user interface more intuitive.  How did they do that? 


Well first is an over all face lift.  Better contrasted theme really does make it easier to distinguish different features and functions.

image

You no doubt also noticed the prevelence of icons throughout the interface:

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This cuts down on the amount of scrolling and is useful for people who learn by exploring.  They have also configured toolbars for common tasks:

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And perhaps nicest of all, have camera pre-set controls available as icons instead of just hotkeys:

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On the topic of hotkeys, they have also reconfigured most of them.  One nice option available is the ability to display the most common hotkeys in the background of the window:

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Other new options are the ability to lock and outright hide the 3D cursor… a point of confusion for many new users.  You also have extended control over wireframe display, very useful for modellers.

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Menus have also been greatly streamline:

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While default layouts for common tasks have been added:

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They even have their own manual!  What’s impressive is, at least so far, they’ve kept up with each new release of Blender.  There are of course downsides to learning via BForArtists, a great deal of the tutorials for Blender wont work without translation.  Additionally once mastered, Blenders default user interface can be great.  In my opinion though, BForArtists is a vastly superior experience for new developers and one I recommend to those put off by Blenders user experience in the past.


BForArtists is free and open source available for download here and in source form here.


Art , ,

6. December 2016

 

A couple years ago I did a detailed text tutorial on how to use a debugger which oddly is a massively important skill that simply isn’t taught.  Given that this article is still popular two years later I’ve decided to follow it up with a video version.  This video, Debugging 101, walks through the basic tasks involved in debugging.  It used Visual Studio 2017 and C++ but should be applicable in most languages and IDEs.  The video shows how breakpoints and conditional break points work, how to step into, over and out of your code, how to use the local and watch window, call stacks, how to do memory debugging and more.  Basically the video shows you how to get started using a debugger.

 

The following is the code used in this example.  There is nothing special to this code, it’s extremely contrived, but it enabled me to show the various features available in most debuggers.

#include <iostream>

// These two functions are used to illustrate how the call stack works
// As well as how step into and step out of behave.
int innerFunction(int input) {
	int meaninglessCounter = 0;
	for (int i = input; i > 0; i--) {
		// First show stepping through the loop
		// Set a conditional breakpoint that breaks when i is a certain value.
		meaninglessCounter++;
	}
	return input;
}

int outerFunction() {
	int i = 42;
	return innerFunction(i);
}


class Demo {
	std::string stringValue;
	int intValue;
	bool booleanValue;

	public: 
		Demo(std::string a, int b, bool c) : stringValue(a), intValue(b), booleanValue(
		c) {};
};

int main(int argc, char ** argv) {
	// Callstack demo, jump into, jump over example
	int someVal = 0;
	someVal = outerFunction();

	// Data example -- simply create a char buffer, fill it with 'a' then null 
	terminate it so 
	// it can be treated like a string.
	char * data = new char[1000];
	for (int i = 0; i < 1000; i++)
		data[i] = 'a';
	data[999] = 0;
	std::cout << data << std::endl;

	//set a watch on d.  Demonstrates watches and drilling into complex object
	Demo d("Hello", 42, true);
	
	std::cout << "End of demo" << std::endl;
	delete[] data;
	// delete[] data;  Calling delete again will trigger an exception
}

Programming , , ,

24. November 2016

 

Every year there are a large number of great Black Friday deals of interest to game developers.  This list is an attempt to capture as many of them as possible in one place.  If you see a great Black Friday or Cyber-Monday deal of interest to game developers that isn’t on the list below, please let me know in comments below. 

This list will be constantly updated so be sure to check back regularly!

 

Deals on Amazon

Software

 

Hardware

 

Deals on Steam – Autumn Sale

 

Deals on Unreal Engine

 

Deals on Unity

 

Misc

allegorithmic

udemy

Microsoft Store

Dell

HP

tsugi

 ClipStudio

3D Coat

Reallusion

ASoundEffect

GameMaster Audio

Smith Micro

Adobe

Corel

AutoDesk  -- Something Fishy with this promo.  Seems no longer available in Canada and never Available in the US.  BOO

Daz3D

Blender

PaintStorm

GameSalad

News, General ,

18. October 2016

 

Inkscape 0.92 beta was just released.  Inkscape is a popular open source vector based graphics application that was featured in my free game development tools guide.  From the WIP release notes, the new features include:

 

  • The new Object dialog allows to select, label, hide and lock any object in the drawing from a dialog that lists them all Spirolive
  • Selection sets make it possible to 'group' objects together regardless of document structure
  • Guides can now be locked to avoid accidental movement
  • Several new path effects have been added, among them Envelope/Perspective, Lattice Deformation, Mirror and Rotate Copies
  • There are several new extensions (e.g. a seamless pattern extension) and a new filter (colorblindness simulation) included in the release, many old extensions have been updated or got new features
  • Many SVG2 and CSS3 properties are now supported for rendering (e.g. paint-order, mix-blend-mode)
  • Spray tool and measure tool received a set of nifty new features
  • Interactive smoothing for lines created with the Pencil tool
  • BSplines (and more) are available for the Pen tool
  • Checkerboard background can be used to more easily see object transparencies
  • Open Type font functionality

 

 

 

This bullet list is nowhere near complete however, check the release notes for all of the new features, including animations of much of the new functionality in action.  Currently this release is only available in source form, to download the 0.92pre2 source package click here.

Art ,

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.

image

 

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:

image

 

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:

image

 

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.

image

 

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

image

 

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:

image

 

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

image

 

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:

image

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

 

Story Board Editor

image

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:

image

 

Frame Editor

image

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

 

Event Editor

image

 

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”:

image

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.

image

 

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

image

 

This will bring up the conditions dialog:

image

 

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:

image

 

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

image

 

Next the appropriate editor will be shown

image

 

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:

image

 

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

image

 

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

image

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

image

 

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.

 

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ClickTeam Fusion Humble Bundle
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27. September 2016

 

Hot on the heels of the GameMaker Bundle, ClickTeam Fusion is now available as a Humble Game Bundle.  Humble game bundles are a charity program with a  variety of different rewards based on different levels of donations, with the donor given the option of deciding how the donation itself is allocated between the Humble team, the developers who contributed rewards and the supported charity.  This particular humble bundle is in support of the Josh Farler Foundation which works to raise fund for transportation, food and housing for cancer patients undergoing treatment.

The actual bundle is built around Clickteam Fusion, a game engine which requires no coding.  Perhaps the most famous game made with the Clickteam Engine is the Five Nights at Freddy’s horror series, the 3rd version of which is actually included in this bundle.  Other items in the bundle include several games which include source code, the HTML5 and iOS exporters and more.  Additionally the Standard addition of Clickteam that comes with this bundle includes a credit for the developer version, described below:

Note: When you redeem your Clickteam Fusion 2.5 Standard Steam key, you'll also receive a Steam coupon for $50 off of an upgrade to Clickteam Fusion 2.5 Developer, where you'll get access to exclusive developer features! This discount expires November 1st, 2016 at 7:00pm Pacific.

 

EDIT – Top tier of Humble Bundle has been extended to include the Developer version and Android exporter!

 

The full contents of this bundle can be seen in the graphic below:

image

 

Click here for more details of the bundle.  Or watch the video version below:

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