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20. March 2014

 

Today marks the release of Blender 2.7 and you can download it here.  Let’s take a look at what’s new, with an eye towards game development.image

 

The first and most obvious thing you will notice is the changes to the user interface.

 

UI Changes

 

The number one thing you are going to notice is the toolbar tabs.  The Tools (T) pane is now organized in context sensitive tabs.  So like minded operations are grouped together, like so:

image

 

Personally I am a huge fan of this change, it makes the UI much more streamlined and cuts down on the noise. 

 

There is another UI change that I personally love, as I love very sparse windows when possible.  You can now collapse menus down.  For example, you can now go from this:

image

To this:

image

Simply right click, select Headers->Collapse Menu.  Again, I like this change.

There are several other UI refinements, but those are the most visible.

 

Modeling

 

First they’ve added the wireframe modifier, which is useful in a very limited number of scenarios.  Basically it makes a (3D) wireframe out of the selected model.  So this:

image

Becomes this:

image

 

NGon tessellation has been improved. No more holes on bad geometry.

In 2.69 it did this:

 

Now it does this:

 

Much better.

 

Bevel has more options now:

image

 

Laplacian modifier added.  To be honest, I don’t really get this one yet but it sounds pretty cool.

 

Of particular use for game exporting, the triangulate modifier has been improved with more fine control over how triangulation will occur:

image

 

Game Engine Changes

 

PSD File support added.

1st person shooter style camera controls (WASD).

Level of Detail (LoD) support added:

Manual-Level-of-Detail-Panel.png

 

Cycles Rendering

 

Cycles is probably the biggest improvement portion of this release.   Probably the biggest new feature is WIP support for volume rendering.

 

CPU support has been improved, shader language updated to increase performance and a host of other changes.

 

 

There were a host of other improvements including threading improvements for the dependency graph, API updates for the NPR (non-photorealistic) renderer, motion tracking improvements, general bug fixes and more.

 

All told a very nice release, with some great first steps for an improved UI.

News Art


19. March 2014

You had to imagine you would hear something from CryEngine from the GDC after Unity and Unreal made their announcements, and they did… sorta.

 

The full announcement is here, but most of it is below:

 

As a first tier of its new program, Crytek has revealed that from May this year, indie developers will be able to use all of CRYENGINE's cutting-edge features for a monthly subscription fee of 9,90 USD/EUR per user - royalty free. Those features include the recently announced addition of CRYENGINE features such as Physically Based Shading, Geometry Cache and  Image Based Lighting - an upgrade already shown in action by Crytek at this year's GDC conference in San Francisco.


More details about the game-changing opportunities on offer to developers as part of the program will be announced in the near future. The CRYENGINE free SDK will continue to be available under its current terms but developers wanting to take advantage of the new features of CRYENGINE will need to subscribe to the new EaaS-Program. 


Crytek's Director of Business Development , Carl Jones, said: "When we announced the new CRYENGINE this was our first step towards creating an engine as a service. We are happy to announce now that the latest update of CRYENGINE will soon be available to all developers on a subscription basis. We are really excited to make CRYENGINE available to hundreds of thousands of developers working with Crytek to make awesome games.”
The launch of the CRYENGINE as-a-service program expands Crytek's online service portfolio, continuing on from their step into self-publishing with free-to-play online FPS, Warface.

 

… I’ve read and re-read a number of times and I simply can’t get what exactly they just announced.  The best I can take away from this comes from:

 

The CRYENGINE free SDK will continue to be available under its current terms but developers wanting to take advantage of the new features of CRYENGINE will need to subscribe to the new EaaS-Program

 

So unless there is more to come, CryEngine just announced that updates for CryEngine Free are now… not so free?  On the other hand, there is the line:

 

indie developers will be able to use all of CRYENGINE's cutting-edge features for a monthly subscription fee of 9,90 USD/EUR per user - royalty free.

 

This sounds like if you pay 10$ a month you can ship a title completely free of royalties?  That frankly sounds way too good to be true.

 

We are going to have to wait for the fine print on this one folks.  I will update here if more becomes clear.

 

So far, this is the only thing I have found from a Crytek employee:

NewImage

 

Not exactly revealing.  The search continues, there has to be a catch here.  Crytek simply can’t make money off $10/month without royalties unless there is a revenue cap or an up-sell somewhere.


19. March 2014
Unreal Engine 4 for Everyone

 

Today Unreal officially announced the release of Unreal Engine 4.  First a blurb about the Unreal Engine from Tim Sweeny:

 

Unreal Engine 4 launches today. What we’re releasing is both simple and radical: everything.

Epic’s goal is to put the engine within reach of everyone interested in building games and 3D content, from indies to large triple-A development teams, and Minecraft creators as well. For $19/month you can have access to everything, including the Unreal Editor in ready-to-run form, and the engine’s complete C++ source code hosted on GitHub for collaborative development.

This is the complete technology we at Epic use when building our own games, forged by years of experience shipping games like Gears of War for Xbox and Infinity Blade for iOS, and now reinvented for a new generation. Having the full C++ source provides the ultimate flexibility and puts developers in control of their schedules and destinies: Whatever you require to build and ship your game, you can find it in UE4, source it in the GitHub community, or build it yourself – and then share it with others.

Develop in the Unreal Ecosystem

Beyond the tools and source, Unreal Engine 4 provides an entire ecosystem. Chat in the forums, add to the wiki, participate in the AnswerHub Q&A, and join collaborative development projects via GitHub.

To help you get started, we’re shipping lots of ready-made content, samples, and game templates.  You’ll find it in the Marketplace in the Unreal Editor. Right now, it simply hosts free stuff from Epic, but its resemblance to the App Store is no coincidence: It will grow into a complete ecosystem for sharing community-created content, paid and free, and open for everyone’s participation!

[SNIP]

A New Beginning

This first release of Unreal Engine 4 is just the beginning. In the C++ code, you can see many new initiatives underway, for example to support Oculus VR, Linux, Valve’s Steamworks and Steam Box efforts, and deployment of games to web browsers via HTML5.  It’s all right there, in plain view, on day one of many years of exciting and open development ahead!

We have enjoyed building Unreal Engine 4 so far and hope you will join us on this journey as a contributor to the future of Unreal!

 

 

Now the part I didn’t mention:

Ship Games with Unreal

We’re working to build a company that succeeds when UE4 developers succeed. Anyone can ship a commercial product with UE4 by paying 5% of gross revenue resulting from sales to users. If your game makes $1,000,000, then we make $50,000. We realize that’s a lot to ask, and that it would be a crazy proposition unless UE4 enables you to build way better games way more productively than otherwise!

So, will this effort succeed? That’s up to you and your judgment of the engine’s value. Unreal Engine 4 has been built by a team of over 100 engineers, artists and designers around the world, and this launch represents all of our hopes and dreams of how major software can be developed and distributed in the future.

We find this future very exciting. It’s no longer dominated by giant publishers and marketing campaigns, but by a simple and honest proposition: Gamers pay for great games, and anybody who can valuably contribute to building those games can succeed, from indie developers, to large triple-A teams, and to individual programmers and content creators, too.

 

Now part of this is very cool news.  Indie developers are now going to get full source code access to the engine.  If you are setting out to create a game, a flat 5% full code access library is pretty awesome.  However… there is a small blurb this blog missed.

image

 

… a 19$ dollar a month subscription fee.

 

This is capital S STUPID.  No doubt some accountant somewhere thought “Hey, we have all these developers that never ship a product and we are making nothing off them!  Let’s charge a monthly subscription!”

 

Guys… don’t let the accountants do the thinking.

 

What’s 19$ a month you say?  It’s a barrier of entry and a meaningless one at that.  How many indie developers are now not going to bother evaluating Unreal and are just going to go with Unity or another engine instead?  What about schools looking to pick an engine for development?  What about the entire hobbyist community that are just looking to have some fun but accidently make the next Angry Birds and make billions of dollars?  Well, they most likely wont be doing it in Unreal anymore. 

 

They really need to consider how many potential 5% royalty projects are never going to get started because they tried to get 19$ a month from a bunch of hobbyist?  Even if a single hobby developer flukes out an makes a million dollar grossing game, how many developers do they have to sign up in a month to make up that potentially lost revenue?  That would be 2,631 Alex.  Do you think one in 2,631 developers are going to hit it big and make money for Unreal?  Well, now we will never know.

News


19. March 2014

Today from GDC, Marmalade are offering their flagship product, um… Marmalade Community Edition free for a year.  Normally Marmalade Community is priced at $150 a year.

 

So, what exactly is Marmalade?  Its a cross platform, mobile oriented C++ game framework (although Obj-C, Lua and HTML5 are options).  In their own words:

Marmalade gives you the full power of C++ - whether you’re coding for one platform or many. Perhaps even more importantly, Marmalade means you can concentrate on simply making your game the best it can be, rather than getting distracted by the mechanics of going cross-platform. Enjoy performance, openness, flexibility and great low-level access – with Marmalade.

 

Marmalade is one of the most popular mobile gaming SDKs and has been used for a number of high profile mobile titles such as Plants Vs Zombies and Call of Duty: World at War Zombies.  You can see a number of titles made with Marmalade here.

 

So what are the limitations of Marmalade Community Edition.  There are a couple:

  • only able to target iOS and Android ( not BlackBerry, Tizen or Windows Phone 8, Desktop or various devices like smart TVs )
  • show a Made with Marmalade splash screen
  • 3 seats per organization maximum
  • maximum annual revenue of $500,000

 

 If you are interested in signing up you can do so here using the promo code GDCFREE mentioned in this tweet.


18. March 2014

 

With GDC going on it’s no surprise to hear a number of product announcement.  Today Autodesk announced the annual refresh of almost all of their game related technologies including Maya and Maya LT, Max, MotionBuilder, Mudbox and Softimage. 

 

From the official press release here are the major new features for each product:


Autodesk Maya 2015 software adds new capabilities to the toolset such as the new Bifrost
procedural effects platform which provides an extensible, artist-friendly workflow for complex
simulation and rendering tasks, initially applied to near photorealistic liquids; XGen Arbitrary
Primitive Generator for the easy creation of richly detailed geometry such as hair, fur, and foliage; 
Geodesic Voxel Binding method for skinning characters; ShaderFX, a new node-based visual
interface for shader programing; support for Pixar’s OpenSubdiv libraries; enhanced polygon
modeling tools; and expanded UV options;

Autodesk 3ds Max 2015 software has been extended and redesigned to help improve
performance, ease-of-use and management of complex scenes. New in 2015 is ShaderFX, a new
node-based visual interface that allows game artists and programmers to more easily create
advanced HLSL viewport shaders; point cloud dataset support for reality capture workflows; new
viewport performance optimizations; a redesigned scene explorer to make it easier for artists to
manage large scenes; ActiveShade support for the NVIDIA mental ray renderer; and new Python
scripting support – a highly requested user feature for pipeline integration; 

Autodesk MotionBuilder 2015 provides several features that advance motion capture workflow
accessibility such as: a new plug-in for Microsoft Kinect to help capture body movements for use
in MotionBuilder, Animatable Depth of Field and Follow Focus camera options to recreate
elements of real-world cinematography, a robust content library with 100 commonly required
character animations in the Autodesk FBX®
format and flexible marker assignment to adjust
character positions;

Autodesk Mudbox 2015 software boasts streamlined mesh refinement for retopologizing and new
Sculpt Layer and Paint Layer groups for organizing and identifying particular layers in complex
scenes. The release also has advanced interoperability with Maya 2015, an enhanced texture
export and updating workflow, new caliper tool and support for Intel HD graphics 4000 on
compatible Windows 8 operating system hybrid tablet/PCs;

Autodesk Softimage 2015* software helps streamline 3D asset creation and management with
Alembic caching, enhancements to the ICE platform and animatable weight maps in Syflex cloth.

Autodesk Maya LT 2015 Software  Streamlines Indie Game Development

Maya LT 2015, the latest iteration of Autodesk’s cost-effective 3D animation and modeling software for
professional indie game makers, introduces a series of rich new features and integrations that help
advance the 3D content creation process for indie game development.

The updated application has:

  • Cloud integration allows artists to browse, open, modify and save Dropbox or Autodesk 360 files to the cloud directly through the Maya LT interface. Leverage 123D Catch or 123D Creature files saved in Autodesk’s 123D cloud storage as a reference for creating game assets in Maya LT;
  • Unfold 3D helps facilitate the seamless creation of UV maps from 3D models;
  • Substance Material Integration allows users to apply materials created in the Allegorithmic Substance Designer procedural texture creation tool to 3D models

 
In addition to the new features, Maya LT 2015 also has the extension releases of Maya LT 2014, such as:
support for MEL scripting, a send-to-Unity workflow, uncapped polygon export to Unity, the ability to
export models or scenes up to 65,000 polygons in the FBX or OBJ formats, Human IK and IK Handle
Animation, and Boolean operations on polygon geometry.

 

Notice the little asterisk beside Softimage 2015?  Well, here is the fine print.

* Editor’s Note: Softimage 2015 will be the final new release of this product.

 

So there you have it, Autodesk finally killed it off.  I think the writing has been on the wall for a long time, but it still sad to see an old friend go.

News


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