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6. June 2017

Now that VR is here (and somewhat disappointing), the new hotness is AR, augmented reality.  Essentially AR is a blending of real world data, generally a live feed from a devices camera, with programmatic overlays.  Apple have jumped into the AR realm with the release of ARKit, an SDK for iOS devices running the upcoming iOS 11 operating system.  ARKit requires the devices to be running an A9 or A10 processor, either on iPad or iPhone devices.

In Apples’ own words, ARKit is:

iOS 11 introduces ARKit, a new framework that allows you to easily create unparalleled augmented reality experiences for iPhone and iPad. By blending digital objects and information with the environment around you, ARKit takes apps beyond the screen, freeing them to interact with the real world in entirely new ways.

ARKit can also be integrated in existing engines such as Unreal Engine or Unity.  A Unity plugin for ARKit is currently available here while Unreal support ARKit in the current Github build of the engine.  Unreal Engine and ARKit functionality was demonstrated in an example called Wingnut, demonstrated below.

The ARKit developer homepage is available here.

GameDev News

5. June 2017

Khronos Group, the consortium behind the OpenGL/Vulkan series of SDKS have just released the 2.0 specification for glTF.  glTF is an attempt to create a runtime friendly data format for 3D models with modern feature support.  Intended to replace such formats as COLLADA or FBX with a file format with modern features but streamlined for realtime usage.  It is a mix of JSON descriptor coupled with a binary format and various supported textures.  The 2.0 version aims to modernize the format, adding support for PBR (Physically Based Rendering) textures.

From the release announcement:

The release of glTF 2.0 delivers a significant upgrade to glTF 1.0, an extensible, runtime neutral, open standard format for real-time delivery of 3D assets, which describes full scenes with compact transmission and fast load time. In response to major functionality requests from the developer community using glTF 1.0, the release of glTF 2.0 adds Physically Based Rendering (PBR) for portable, consistent description of materials. In glTF 1.0, a material was defined with a GLSL shader, which suited WebGL, but was problematic when importing a glTF model into a Direct3D or Metal application. Through using PBR, visually arresting glTF 2.0 models are now consistently portable to any rendering API. A PBR material is defined by a few concise parameters that can be used to generate shaders for any rendering API. glTF 2.0 defines a simple to implement, but powerful, PBR model that provides high-quality materials, and yet, is scalable to suit the capabilities of different classes of platform and device.

For Blender users, there is a glTF exporter in the works available here.

GameDev News

2. June 2017

Unity have just launched Remote Settings as a package available for download in the Asset Store for free.  Remote Settings enables you to make tweaks and changes to gameplay after a game has been deployed using an interface similar to the PlayerPrefs API.  Two usage examples Unity gave for Remote Settings are dynamically changing the difficulty curve of a shipped game as well as providing context appropriate content, such as seasonal themes.

Details from the Unity blog:

Remote Settings is easy to use. It‘s native to the Unity engine and employs an API similar to PlayerPrefs that most Unity developers are familiar with. We’ve also included a “Remote Settings Component” that lets you get started without writing any code. Once set up, Remote Settings requires no additional engineering work to operate. All changes apply as soon as the game restarts. You can even use the Analytics dashboard to track real-time impacts on key metrics.

So far, we’ve had some really great reaction from our pilot customers.

“Remote Settings allows us to dynamically modify various gameplay factors in real-time and are incredibly easy to implement in our projects! It saves us plenty of development hours so we can keep focusing on creating new experiences for our players!”

Lukasz Wolinski
CTO, Dr. Panda

Remote Settings is now in open beta and free to use for all Unity developers. You can download the package from the Asset Store or through the configure page from the Analytics dashboard.

Here is the description from the Unity asset store:

Unity Analytics presents Remote Settings, a cloud service that provides game developers the ability to change behaviors and configurations of their games without requiring an update to the app.

Create settings that control the difficulty of your level bosses, allowing you to tune game play if you suspect some levels are too hard or too easy. Or create settings that specify the relative frequencies of game items.

And the best part is, after you sync changes with the dashboard, the new values are automatically downloaded and read by every client device when they start a new session. No download or update to the package and app stores are necessary.

GameDev News

2. June 2017

SpeedTree is a popular middleware package for creating trees and foliage for games and other media.  Used for games like the Forza series, Gears of War, Far Cry, Dragon Age and many more titles, as well as films such as Iron Man 3, Avatar and World War Z.  Amazon have now ST8announced SpeedTree 8 is integrated into their Lumberyard engine and better yet, available free.

Following the release of Starter Game, we’re thrilled to give you another tool for building imaginative worlds in Lumberyard. Introducing SpeedTree 8 for Lumberyard, available free to all Lumberyard developers starting today. You can download it here.

The combination is a powerful one: take the industry-standard in 3D vegetation modeling, seamlessly integrate it with Lumberyard’s advanced rendering and lighting technology, and remove any subscription cost. The result is a faster, more intuitive way to create visually stunning worlds for your games. We can’t wait to see what you’ll build.

SpeedTree 8 brings the following new features:

  • Full PBR material workflow and rendering – PBR rendering and a revamped material workflow give you more precise control over your maps. You can also adjust your models before exporting them into Lumberyard, saving you time and effort.
  • New Generators – Sometimes imperfections can make your trees appear more lifelike. With these new generators, you can create a variety of realistic features on your trees, including knots, fungi, gashes, and cavities.
  • New Shape Control – This feature allows you to easily bunch branches together, so you can achieve more natural, organic shapes in vegetation (such as the “broccoli” effect.) You can create large clumpy trees or small clusters within your tree branches.
  • New SpeedTree Library – Buy stock assets, including 2K leaf textures and 8K bark textures. Get access to thousands of species of trees from around the world—an incredibly diverse, high-quality collection of models and materials.
  • And much more – Including unlimited age variation; one-draw-call models with tiling textures, wind, and LOD; new techniques for low-poly branch structure modeling and mesh editing; and automatic vertex color painting for wind, with an in-modeler preview.

You can read more about the SpeedTree and Lumberyard announcement here.

GameDev News

1. June 2017

Ever wish you could go back in time to the days of 8bit computing, when coding was simple and pixels were large?  Thanks to the rise of Fantasy Consoles, this process is easier than ever before.

So what exactly is a fantasy console?  Basically it’s a virtual console with a complete development environment.  The console is designed to be Pico3intentionally limiting, much like the primitive retro computers of the 8bit era.  Generally each also comes with a code editor, programming language (Lua), tile and world editor and some form of music composer.  This gives you a very focused, simple and constrained programming environment to work with.  You’d be surprised how striping away all the modern trappings enables you to focus on a single concept... fun.

So without further ado, let’s take a quick look at 4 virtual consoles available today.


PICO-8 is the application that seemingly launched the entire fantasy console movement.  The hardware it emulates provides a 128x128 pixel display, support for 4 channel audio, 128 8x8 sprites and 32k console/disk sizes.  It is PICO-8 illustrated in the image to the right.  In addition to the virtual machine, it also provides a code editor, sprite editor, map editor as well as music and sound editors.  It is available for $15 USD.


TIC-80, or Tiny Computer, is very similar in concept to PICO-8, with slightly less restrained virtualized hardware.  In this case it provides a 240x136 display, up to 256 8x8 foreground and 256 8x8 background sprites, 4 channels of audio and a 64kb disk/console size.  Tic is open source with the code available here.  TIC-80 also provides a VM, code editor, sprite editor, map editor and music/sound editors.


Another open source option, LIKO-12 is heavily inspired by PICO-8, built on top of the LOVE game framework.   LIKO is currently less feature complete than the others, lacking many of the editors others provide.

PixelVision 8

Perhaps the most interesting of the options out there, certainly the most polished from a UI perspective, PixelVision 8 is heavily inspired by PICO-8 witha  major twist.  PixelVision aims to emulate the development experience of real world hardware such as the NES, Gameboy and SEGA Master System.  It also enables you to customize the capabilities of your target platform.  It also contains several built in editors for graphics, music and code.  Currently it is only available for purchase for $15USD, although a free version is in the works.

You can learn a bit more about fantasy consoles and go hands on with PICO 8 in this video, which is also embedded below.


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