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3. October 2012

After a release candidate, followed by another release candidate, Blender 2.64 is finally here.


For game developers, the big release was actually the last one, this release is more focused of VFX, but there is still plenty to get excited about.  Here are details of the release in the Blender Foundation’s own words:


The focus was on creating a full VFX pipeline, with improved motion tracking using a planar tracker, easier green screen keying, and a new mask editor. A new tile based compositing system was added, along with more advanced color management. Cycles rendering got dozens of smaller features and improvements resulting from its use in production.

Sculpting now supports masks, and a skin modifier was added to quickly create a model from skeletons. The game engine got improved shadows and physics options, and Collada export now has more options to tune for exporting to other game engines.


The key changes, from a game developer’s perspective, are probably:

Mesh Tools

Bevel and inset now are modal operator with mouse control, a wire frame tool was added to turn edges into wireframe tubes, and vertex/edge/face sorting tools were improved.


The Collada exporter has been improved for better support of export to game engines, with more fine grained options to control which data is exported.


Sculpting has received some major improvements such has masking to control which areas of the mesh are influenced by sculpting, new brush map modes to control how textures are projected onto the model, and an input stroke averaging option to make brush strokes smoother.

Skin Modifier

The Skin modifier takes a skeleton made up of vertices and edges as input and generates a polygon skin as output, consisting mostly of quads aligned along the edges. The output is mostly quads, although some triangles will appear around intersections.

Game Engine

Lamps and shadows were improved with support for variance shadow maps, shadow color, sun lamp shadows and lamp textures. Non-power of two textures and compressed textures will now load faster and use less memory. A new Character physics type was added, designed for player controlled characters.


Of course there were also a ton of bug fixes.


Good job on the release Blender team!


You can go download the newest release right here.  Of course, expect a bit of a wait as their servers get pummelled.


10. July 2012

Well, sorta.


Autodesk just announced the Scaleform is now available as a Unity3D plugin, or as a standalone mobile200px-Scaleform_logo SDK.  More importantly, it’s available at a price tag of $295 a platform. 


Scaleform is used to create UIs for games using the Flash toolset, including ActionScript.  If you’ve played a game in the last year, chances are you’ve seen Scaleform in action.  It powered such titles as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Civilizations, Warhammer 40K, Skyrim and more.  A partial list is available here.


Up until now, buying Scaleform has been a tricky proposition.  Autodesk had no available pricing, so you could only really get it embedded in existing game engines like Unreal, or directly negotiate with Autodesk ( can you say ouch? ). So while 300$ may seem like a look, especially considering Unity starts at 400$, it is still a massive value compared to before.


Scaleform for mobile


For more details head on over to the Autodesk Gameware website.


19. June 2012


A couple months back took a long look at Appcelerator and initially I loved what I saw.  For those of you unaware, Appcelerator allows you to develop “native” applications for Android and iOS in JavaScript that execute in a special version of the V8 JavaScript Engine. I started developing a prototype app of a simple Android game for my daughter and got surprisingly good results quickly.  It was a very encouraging start, but then the wheels fell off.  I notice a number of people end up on this site from search engines looking for an Appcelerator review ( for some reason? ) so I thought I would share my experiences.


For whatever reason, I got distracted and put it down for a while, I came back to it recently and intended to finish off that prototype.  Here is the kicker, the exact same code from a couple months ago, unchanged, no longer works on my Transformer tablet.


I will say, this is frustrating to say the least.  Now, since the code didn’t change it was obviously an update to Android that broke things, I can’t exactly blame that on Appcelerator Titanium ( oh the joys of Android device compatibility… ) but I can blame them for what came next…


You can’t debug on device.  At all.  With the exception of printing comments to logcat, you are basically blind.  This obviously leads to a problem, as here is what happens when I run the app.  ( Which by the way, still runs perfectly fine on my Galaxy Note running Android 2.3.x, its just on my Asus Transformer that it breaks ):




Since I can’t debug on device, this is the results I get from connecting with the Delvik Debug Monitor:


06-19 09:56:51.090: I/TiApplication(1823): (main) [0,0] checkpoint, app created.
06-19 09:56:51.130: I/TiApplication(1823): (main) [46,46] Titanium 2.0.2 (2012/05/30 10:21 2ff31a3)
06-19 09:56:51.170: D/dalvikvm(1823): GC_CONCURRENT freed 268K, 5% free 6703K/7047K, paused 2ms+2ms
06-19 09:56:51.380: D/dalvikvm(1823): GC_CONCURRENT freed 314K, 6% free 6898K/7303K, paused 2ms+2ms
06-19 09:56:51.450: E/TiApplication(1823): (KrollRuntimeThread) [318,364] APP PROXY: [email protected]



And, that is it.  Since I can’t debug on the device, I am pretty much DOA here.  The forums answer nothing ( although I did find other people having similar problems ).  I of course could debug in the emulator with two exceptions.  a) the error only occurs on the actual device b) the debugging experience on Android is still awful.


This is another area with Appcelerator Titanium I always found infuriating… the emulator.  Getting it to actually run with your running emulator was a nightmare, you had to match up the Android build version and run configuration exactly with the version of the running emulator, then it was still a 50/50 chance that it would actually use your emulator, or start a new one.  If you’ve worked with Android before, you know how fun waiting for the emulator is!  There is light and the end of the tunnel with the recently release Intel emulator running a heck of a lot quicker, but unfortunately the JavaScript V8 virtual machine Appcelerator relies on doesn’t work with it.


It’s a shame to be tripped up on such a thing, but actually being able to debug on your device is an absolute requirement, as is demonstrated by this situation.  There are other annoyances with using Appcelerator certainly…  the binaries it generates are “large” to be extremely kind, performance can be a bit spotty at times and you virtually have to write two applications if you want to support iOS and Android, but none of these was enough to make me give up. 


Not being able to debug on device, coupled with some remarkably meh support.. that is.  Combined with the fact my application was broken by an Android update… if I can’t get my code working with my three devices reliably, what happens when I release to the masses with their millions of different devices?


Which is disappointing, as I really liked working with Appcelerator.  I even liked Appcelerator Titanium as an IDE, which is shocking as I hate Eclipse, which it is based on. 


There is potentially light at the end of the tunnel, as there is an open ticket for debugging on device.  Unfortunately, its been assigned medium priority and has already been open for almost a year.


Appcelerator Titanium is an interesting and encouraging product, but for the above reasons, I just can’t commit to using it.  Add native debugging support, and I will certainly reconsider.


7. June 2012


After spending so many years as a Windows/Visual Studio developer, Intellisense is a simple must have in my arsenal.  In fact, I believe my repeated use of Intellisense actually severedWebStormAndCocos2d the part of my brain that remembers functions and variables!


As I’ve been doing a lot of JavaScript development recently ( between Node.js and now Cocos2D ), I needed to recreate the Visual Studio experience.  I am an avid Notepad++ fan, but I never did get autocomplete working to my liking.  Then I discovered JetBrain’s WebStorm IDE and everything was right with the world.  If you want a full blown IDE for HTML and JavaScript development, you really can’t beat WebStorm ( it is however, not free software ).  Working with Node, auto-competition worked right out of the box.  With Cocos2D-html, there is a bit more work to do.


Here, we are going to cover that configuration process.  This process actually applies to configuring any JavaScript library to work with WebStorm, not just Cocos2D.


First things first, we need a project.  I am going to create one out of the code I created in the second Cocos2d tutorial. A WebStorm project is simply a directory full of code.  Let’s create one now.


Load up WebStorm ( I’m using 4.0.1 ).  Select File->New Project:



In the Create New Project dialog, under the location select the folder containing your project’s code, then in the Project name field enter your app directory name.  You may have to fight a bit with the UI to get it to work right, it really wants to create a new directory.  If you are creating a completely new project, you can ignore this bit.




Now it will prompt  you:




This is what we want, click yes.  This will simply create a .idea folder within your directory with the project data.  If all went well, you should now have a project like this:




Now the we have a working project, we can adjust the settings on it.  In the menu, select File->Settings:



Now scroll down and expand JavaScript and select Libraries:



On the right had side of the screen, locate and click the Add button:



Name it Cocos2D and click the Attach button:



Navigate to and select the Cocos2d folder, then click OK:



You may want to repeat the process for box2d and CocosDenshion ( audio library ) if you wish to use them as well.  Click OK when done.


Back in the settings menu, Click the Apply then OK button.



Now, when you are editing your JavaScript code, you will now have complete auto-completion data for the entire Cocos2D library:





Ahhhh, just like being back in Visual Studio with full Intellisense support. My brain can happily go back to forgetting all about functions and member variables! Smile



If you are looking for a solid JavaSript IDE, you really should check out WebStorm.  If you are looking for a great HTML5 based game library, you should check out Cocos2d-html. As you can see, they work well together.


The eagle-eyed viewer may have noticed the Sublime text project files. This is another great IDE (sorta) option that is worth checking out.  I switch back and forth between the two.


23. April 2012



Photoshop has always been the big boy in the 2D imaging world and I have always found it a bit too expensive at the @ 800$ a license.  What would you say though if you could insteadimage buy Photoshop CS on a subscription basis for 50$ a month?


How about if I threw in some cloud based features like online storage?  Still not sold?


Ok, how about if I threw in Photoshop Touch as well?  Still not convinced?


Oh, how about I threw in say… Illustrator, Lightroom, InDesign, Muse, Acrobat Pro, Flash Pro, Flash Builder Premium, Dreamweaver, Edge, Fireworks, Premiere, After Effects, Audition, SpeedGrade, Prelude, Encore, Bridge, Encoder, Proto, Ideas, Debut, Collage and Kuler?  Did that get your attention?



Because that is exactly what Adobe just did!



The newly announced Creative Cloud appears to be a an all you can eat subscription to pretty much everything Adobe makes, coupled with their fairly new web services, like 2GB of cloud storage.


Pricing starts at 50$ on a annual commitment basis, rises to 75$ on a month by month basis.  If you are already paying for one or more CS products, this represents a massive discount.  Oh, speaking of already paying, if you are an existing subscriber, it is available until August 31 at 30$ a month!.




Tempted yet? Winking smile




EDIT: I suppose I should point out, you can’t actually buy it yet, its in pre-order at the moment. 

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