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9. May 2019


Substance Designer, the PBR material creation software from Allegorithmics (and now Adobe), just received it’s first major update of 2019.  The major new feature is the ability to process both values and textures, simplifying the material creation workflow.  The release also includes several new filters such as new flood fill variants, height extrusion and more.


Details from the press release:

Where before textures represented values, Substance Designer can now process these values directly during material creation, ensuring consistency across the pipeline. Using the new “Value Processor” node, users can manipulate values from within the composite graph itself, helping to drive parameters and optimize their workflow with even more creative flexibility. Rather than working with nodes that represented elements like color, users can add the color value directly, simplifying and strengthening the design process. 

Users can also pass values from one node to another, and create global variables at the graph level. Over time, nodes/filters will attain the ability to become smarter throughout the graph as they receive additional data. Substance Engine v7 will soon be compatible with all the Substance integrations, so materials can be directly imported into top tools without any extra tweaks.

"With the introduction of Substance Engine v7, Substance Designer takes another step toward becoming the ultimate material authoring tool," said Nicolas Wirrmann, product manager for Substance Designer. "The whole ecosystem has become smarter, and the new engine allows artists to continue to innovate and experiment for years to come."

Along with Substance Engine v7, today’s update brings with it several new filters, including:

  • New Flood Fill Variants – Two new Flood Fill companion nodes have been released including: “Flood Fill to Index,” which generates user numbers per shape, and “Flood Fill Mapper,” which lets them apply images to each shape.
  • Atlas Splitter – Users can now divide an Atlas in order to isolate and exploit the separate elements of a scan.
  • New Directional Warp Filters – The “Non-Uniform Direction Warp” allows the intensity and direction of the warp to be driven by an image input; the “Multi-Directional Warp” applies the directional warp multiple times in opposite directions while the displaced texture stays in place.
  • Height Extrude – Height maps can now be rendered as 3D depth; users can rotate the resulting shape as a 3D object.
  • Triplanar Update – More accurate blending formula, random offset, separated inputs for x, y and z projections are now available.
  • Improvements to Normal Vector Rotation – Rather than being set by a uniform value, the Normal Vector rotation angle can now be set using the grayscale value of an image input.

Along with the new features, today’s update also introduces several performance upgrades, including a massive boost to the bakers. The integration of Optix for the AO, Bent Normal and Thickness bakers will now produce speeds at least five times faster than CPU ray tracing. The .obj loader has also been optimized and multi-threaded, leading to a significant increase in loading times.

For technical users, the update brings expanded options to the Python Scripting plugin system. Users can now create GUIs for plugins within Substance Designer using the Python API. The plugin system has also been standardized, allowing for plugins to start when the application loads, aiding in the creation of persistent plugins. Additional plugins created by the Substance team are on the way as well, look for those soon.


You can learn more as well as download a 30 day trial here.

GameDev News


2. April 2019


Today marked the release of Microsoft’s seminal IDE Visual Studio 2019.  It is available for download right now at https://visualstudio.microsoft.com/downloads/.  The community edition of Visual Studio 2019 is completely free to use so long as your company makes less than $1M USD annually or has > 250 PCs.   Free trials for the Professional and Enterprise versions are also available.  For more details on the differences between versions, be sure to check here.

There are several new improvements and features available in Visual Studio 2019 including improved performance and start up times, a new AI driven code tool called IntelliCode, .NET core 3.0 support, C# data breakpoints, tighter integration with GitHub and Azure, multiple improvements to mobile development using Xamarin, a new remote coding interface called Live Code and much more.  You can read the complete Visual Studio 2019 release notes here.

Visual Studio 2019 for Mac also received a new release, including intellisense support taken directly from Visual Studio.  You can read the full release notes here and download here. (be sure to click the MacOS tab if required).

You can watch a condensed to under 10 minute version of the keynote in the video below.  In addition to the keynote, Microsoft have a series of training materials and more in-depth sessions available at https://visualstudio.microsoft.com/vs2019-launch/.

GameDev News


1. April 2019


Instead of reporting the April 1st “news”, today we are instead going to look at a pair of excellent free texturing tools that run entirely in your browser, Normal Map Online and Texture Generator Online.  Normal Map online can be sued to create normal, displacement, ambient occlusion and specular maps from a simple height map image.  Texture Generator Online is used for creating simple procedural textures like patterns, noises, terrain and more.

While both tools are easy to use, you can see both of them in action in the video below.  You can also learn more by clicking the question mark icons found within the website.  Chrome is the developers recommended browser, although I ran it without issues in the Firefox browser.   Both services are also available from this homepage.

Art


27. March 2019

Autodesk have released the newest version of their popular 3D application, 3DS Max 2020.  This is an incremental release bringing new features such as an improved chamfer modifier, new and improved Open Shader Language (OSL) shaders and more.


3ds Max 2020 highlights include:

- Performance enhancements support more accurate playback in the Viewport Framerate, faster playback speeds with Validity Intervals, accelerated SetNormals MaxScript function, and more.

- New Create Animation Preview features enhance the user experience and enable faster local drive creation, AVI codec selection and unlimited capture resolution, among other capabilities.

- Chamfer Modifier updates, including a Fixed Weight Chamfer, presets, inset feature, end point bias and added depth, facilitate efficient, predictable modeling.

- OSL Shader improvements like an enhanced viewport display of OSL maps, automatic conversion of OSL shaders to viewport shaders, Quicksilver Hardware Renderer support for OSL Maps, and new and extended OSL maps introduce greater rendering flexibility and customization.

- Enhanced Revit import functionality accelerates data imports and simplifies scene management and organization, delivering options to combine files by material more selectively, the ability to import older Revit files into 2020 without upgrading, more accurate conversion of imported IES lights, and other features.

- 3ds Max to Arnold (MaxToA) integration updates streamline workflows, offering the ability to export Export Points as Arnold point primitives, faster PFlow instance rendering, and distribution of the Python API to edit, write, and render .ass files without relying on kick only.


You can check out the new OSL features in this video and the new chamfer modifier in this video.

GameDev News


19. March 2019


Today at GDC 2019, Allegorthmic, recently acquired by Adobe, announced the open beta of Substance Alchemist to existing Substance customers.  Alchemist is a tool for authoring and managing materials and is part of the Substance subscription.

Details from the press release:

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – March 19, 2019 – Today at Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2019, the Substance team announces the start of the Project Substance Alchemist open beta. Effective immediately, all current Substance subscribers have exclusive and unrestricted access to the latest Substance material tool, uniting the Substance ecosystem like never before. Artists now have a SubstanceAlchemistplayground for creating and augmenting entire libraries of materials with ease.

Project Substance Alchemist advances the art of making and managing 3D materials through instinctive simplicity. Creators can rely on a powerful, streamlined workflow and an intuitive user interface. It’s simple, fast and it uses some of the most advanced technology around. By hiding its complexity through easy-to-use tools like parametric sliders and filters, Project Substance Alchemist brings efficiency to artists and designers, without giving up any of the power that helps them thrive.

Starting today, artists are able to leverage the power of a tool that can quickly be adapted to meet their needs. Users can access materials in several ways, including downloading materials directly from Substance Source, find materials offered up by the Substance community or even upload real-world photographs. From there, they can quickly elaborate their own libraries of materials. For instance, a cobblestoned street can be honed to an artist’s exact specifications within Project Substance Alchemist, whether they desire a brand-new look with polished surfaces, or a broken down feel with moss and damaged tiles.

Project Substance Alchemist puts powerful tools into the hands of artists who work with scans, with quick and reliable tiling, as well as an AI-powered delighter. Trained with thousands of images, the delighter can instantly balance the shadows and light tied to photos and scans, so that lighting remains even and consistent. Designers who need to iterate rapidly on a material can also enjoy a vast array of variations with the instant creation of material collections based on a single image or a moodboard. Project Substance Alchemist can analyze the artist’s material and automatically generate suggestions on colors and textures, ensuring compatibility and additional creation options.

Although it is designed as a standalone tool, Project Substance Alchemist is deeply tied to the existing Substance ecosystem. Artists can search through their Substance Source downloads, import materials and filters made in Substance Designer or swap creations through the Substance Share artist exchange. Imported materials can then be added to the artist's personal library for later use, or applied to an asset in Substance Painter. Thanks to the standardization of the Substance format, materials created in Substance Alchemist can be exported and used in every major 3D tool, including Unreal Engine, Unity, 3ds Max, Maya and many others.

Based on years of industry-leading research, and built with the help and feedback of the Substance community, Project Substance Alchemist will continue to develop in order to adapt to the evolving needs of artists and designers. The open beta is available now. For a video walkthrough, click here.

Pricing/Availability

Project Substance Alchemist is available at no cost to current Substance subscribers. Subscriptions come in Indie or Pro plans, priced at $19.90/month and $99.90/month respectively. Enterprise and education pricing is available upon request. Students and teachers can request a license at no cost.

In addition to the release of Alchemist, Allegorithmic also did a blog post on the status of their acquisition by Adobe and the effects it will have on future licensing terms.  The key details are as follows:

Since the acquisition, we’ve heard lots of questions from our community about licensing and pricing. Our goal with licensing and pricing has always been to be fair to everyone and we’re continuing that philosophy. We're planning to introduce new offerings late this year, but until then, our licensing and pricing structure will not change.

These future offerings will be primarily subscription-based, but we will continue to offer indie perpetual licenses. We believe that when the content and services offered in a subscription package evolve and improve at a steady pace, the subscription model is the best way for us to innovate fast, continuously improve your tools, and bring you more value.

I know perpetual licensing is important, especially in the indie space, so this should be taken as good news.  That said, it’s Adobe calling the shots now so who knows what will ultimately happen.

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