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3. April 2016

 

Wave Engine, a cross platform C# powered 2D/3D engine I reviewed recently, just released version 2.1 codenamed Hammerhead Shark.

hh

 

This release brings several new features including:

  • New profile system.
  • Visual Editor Offline mode.
  • Project Upgrader Tool.
  • Spine upgrade.
  • TileMap upgrade.
  • iOS Storyboard support.
  • Static entities on Visual Editor.
  • Non-serializable entities.

 

You can read the entire release notes here.

This release actually happened earlier in the week, but my complete refusal to post any news posts of any kind during April Fools day delayed this announcement slightly.

GameDev News


31. March 2016

 

Microsoft recently acquired Xamarin, the company that makes it possible to port .NET applications to Android and iOS devices.  Ever since that announcement I have been waiting for Microsoft to announce that Xamarin was going to be made free.  That just happened:Ce41KLVW4AATnDB

 

“We are pleased to announce that we will be making Xamarin available free of charge for Visual Studio developers”

 

This includes all tiers, including the free tier.  Xamarin Studio for the Mac will also be available as part of MSDN, as well as a free Mac based Xamarin Studio.

 

On top of this announcement, the Xamarin platform is going open source.  This now makes the entire .NET framework open source and completely cross platform.   More details as I find them.

 

A quick trip to the Xamarin Store ( spotted by keen eyed Twitter user @sol_proj ), shows a quick update:

image

 

As you can see from the pricing above, some features in Professional and Enterprise will still have a price tag attached.  They are mostly enterprise focused features and should not affect game developers.

 

Microsoft announced that the Xamarin open source release would be part of the .NET Foundation along side such projects as Roslyn and Xamarin.Auth.  Given that both projects are currently released under the Apache V2 license, it’s a good bet that the entire Xamarin package will be as well.

 

EDIT – It appears my guess about the license may be wrong.  According to this post ( thanks Mario ), Xamarin have relicensed Mono to use the MIT license:

At Microsoft Build today, we announced that we are re-releasing Mono under the MIT license and have contributed it to the .NET Foundation. These are major news for Mono developers and contributors, and I am incredibly excited about the opportunities that this will create for the Mono project, and for other projects that will be able to benefit from this.

Mono Runtime Released under MIT License

While Mono’s class libraries have always been available under the MIT license, the Mono runtime was dual-licensed. Most developers could run their apps on Windows, Linux or Mac OS X on the LGPL version of the runtime, but we also offered Mono’s runtime under commercial terms for scenarios where the LGPL was not suitable.

Moving the Mono runtime to the MIT license removes barriers to the adoption of C# and .NET in a large number of scenarios, embedded applications, including embedding Mono as a scripting engine in game engines or other applications.

 

Mono is the underlying cross platform implementation of the .NET runtime that Xamarin is built over top of.  Of course this doesn’t mean that the Xamarin suite itself is going to be MIT as well.  Regardless, both the MIT license and Apache license are incredibly permissive, so it shouldn’t be a big deal either way.

 

For those that prefer their news in video form, here it is:

GameDev News


30. March 2016

 

Twin announcements today from the MS Build conference that will have a direct affect on indie developers.  The first is that UWP (Universal Windows Platform) applications can now be run on Xbox One.  The second, anyone can turn their Xbox One into a devkit (warning... big big big disclaimer attached!).

 

Partial announcement from the Windows Blog:

Gaming gets better with the Windows 10 Anniversary update, including background music and Cortana coming to Xbox One. Cortana can become your personal gaming assistant and help you find great new games, new challenges or tips and tricks. On Xbox One, we’re continuing to deliver on top fan-requested features like support for multiple GPUs and the ability to turn off v-sync. Game developers have access to a fully open ecosystem with the Universal Windows Platform, making it easy to bring the games people love to both Xbox One and other Windows 10 devices. With the Anniversary Update, any Xbox One can be a developer kit with Xbox Dev Mode, enabling anyone to develop for the living room. And, the Windows Store will offer a unified store experience for all developers, creating new opportunities to reach millions of new customers.

 

Polygon however have a great deal more details, including the gotcha I mentioned above.

While the preview of Dev Mode is available to anyone now, Charla stressed that most people should wait until its full release later this summer.

"You might run into issues now," he said.

The preview only offers access to 448 MB of the Xbox One's 8 GB of RAM. When Dev Mode comes out of preview, Charla said, developers will have access to the full 1 GB of RAM supported for UWP Xbox games.

"It's also a preview," he added. "And we want to be able to test things still in the preview."

[Snip]

First, a user has to download the Dev Mode activation app from the Xbox Games Store. Launching the app kicks off a welcome screen and a link to documentation that details what to expect when you switch over from retail to a dev kit, as well as the requirements.

The requirements include that you:

  • Join the Windows Insider Program
  • Are running Windows 10 on your PC
  • Have a wired connection to your PC from your Xbox One
  • Install the latest Visual Studio 2015 and Windows builds
  • Have at least 30 GB of storage free on your console

The introduction also warns that once you've converted your console over, you may occasionally run into issues running retail games. In addition, the introduction says, leaving Dev Mode will require resetting your console to its factory settings and uninstalling all of your games, apps and content.

Upon agreeing, you're given a code that can be entered on your computer once you sign into your Dev Center account. The activation can take awhile and usually requires updating your console. Once it's complete, the console restarts and returns you to your standard startup screen.

"It doesn't take a lot of time to switch to Dev Mode," Charla said as he took me through the process on Microsoft's remote console.

After setting up Dev Mode, a user simply pairs their Xbox One with Visual Studio, which sees the console as a Windows 10 machine to which it can deploy content directly through a wired connection.

"When a UWP app is running, it doesn't know it's running on an Xbox," Charla said. "It just knows it's a Windows 10 device."

 

So tread carefully!  Be sure to head on over to Polygon to read the full article.  While this has been in the works for 3 years, it’s nice to see that development has finally come to the Xbox One.  Considering Microsoft absolutely owned this segment when they release XNA, I am somewhat staggered it took this long.  Did you try it out?  If so, how much of an impact did it have on your retail games?

GameDev News


16. March 2016

 

Xenko Engine, previously known as Paradox, just released beta 1.6.  If you are unfamiliar with Xenko, I have done an in-depth tutorial series here.  This release brings quite a few updates, so let’s jump right in.

 

Updates to Xenko 1.6 include:

  • addition of prefabs enabling reusable content easily
  • archetypes, essentially create new objects using the traits of another object 07
  • particles can now be created directly in Xenko editor
  • curve editor inside Xenko studio (currently particle only)
  • new graphics engine.
  • experimental Direct3D 12 support
  • improved OpenGL support
  • scripts are now components
  • event system for communications between scripts
  • game settings improvements

Plus several smaller changes, fixes, etc:

Enhancements
Assets
Engine
  • The KeyedSortedList now implements ICollection<T> instead of IList<T> and is more consistent with CollectionDescriptor.
Game Studio
  • Support for prefabs, add a prefab editor
  • Create derived assets and support property inheritance
  • Added a curve editor to edit animation curve
  • Layout is saved on a solution basis. When reloading a project, Game Studio will try to present the same layout and reopen all assets that were edited (this include scenes, prefabs and sprite sheets).
  • Add a confirmation dialog to enable saving newly created script automatically.
  • Add a confirmation dialog to enable reloading modified assemblies automatically. This is necessary for the script to appear in the list of components that can be added to an entity.
  • Physics gizmos are shown by default.
  • Preview of an asset can be displayed even if this asset is being edited.
  • Project folder can be opened in Windows explorer from the launcher with right-clicking.
  • Properties of derived asset are displayed in gray, unless they are overridden. In this case they are displayed in bold.
  • Rework scene initialization in the scene editor: the scene will be available almost immediately, and content (model, etc.) will be streamed in as soon as they are (asynchronously) loaded.
  • The entity fixup wizard has been removed. Now when an entity is deleted, all references to it or to one of its component is reset to null.
  • The gizmo and camera menus are now displayed in the top-right corner.
  • Entity hierarchy is synchronized (automatically expanded) with the selected entity in the scene.
Graphics
  • New D3D12 renderer (experimental)
  • New Windows OpenGL and OpenGL ES renderers (experimental)
  • Rewrote most of the low- and high-level graphics code to have better performance and better take advantage of new graphics APIs
  • Properly separated rendering in 4 phases: Collect (collect & cull), Extract (copy data from scene to renderers), Prepare (prepare cbuffer data & heavy computations), Draw (emit draw calls)
  • Introduced concepts of RenderFeature (entry point for extending rendering), RenderStage (effect selection), RenderView and RenderObject
  • Render sorting logic can now be customized (culling will be soon too)
  • Low-level API has been rewritten to match better new API: CommandList, DescriptorSet, DescriptorHeap, PipelineState, etc.
  • Introduced concept of RendererProcessor which are responsible for pushing component data to rendering
  • Many other changes, that will soon be covered in documentation
Input
  • Improved GamePad event management to resemble the keyboard API.
Issues fixed
Game Studio
  • Fix Scripts thumbnail generation during project launch.
  • Fix Settings window sharing columns layout with property grid ([#341](https://github.com/SiliconStudio/xenko/issues/341 (new window))).
  • Fix default IDE settings incorrectly reset to null.
  • Fix a crash occurring when duplicating an object quickly after selecting it.
  • Fix an issue with the message box incorrectly resizing.
  • Tooltips are always visible even if the control (menu, button…) is disabled.
  • Fix several issues with undo/redo.
  • Fix drag and drop of components into properties
  • Sometimes the Game Studio was not asking to save when closed with some changes in a project.
  • Fix some issues related to folders in scene editor.
  • Redo does not re-open asset picker anymore.
Graphics
  • Tangents generation was invalid and might have resulted in various swaps
Physics
  • Improved collision detection reliability
  • Fixed collision filter groups
  • Fixed enable/disable component behavior
Breaking changes
Graphics
  • Extending rendering is quite different from before. Please check SpaceEscape and other samples to have a better idea while we prepare documentation.
  • Many methods of GraphicsDevice have been split off into a second class: CommandList
  • Added objects such as PipelineState, DescriptorSet and DescriptorHeap to better match new graphics API
  • Game now contains a GraphicsContext which gives access to the current CommandList
  • GraphicsDevice.BackBuffer and GraphicsDevice.DepthStencilBuffer are gone. Use GraphicsDevice.Presenter.BackBuffer to access the actual backbuffer.
  • In addition to RenderContext, there is now a RenderDrawContext. Some methods have been changed to expect the latter.
  • ParameterCollection has been rewritten to be much more memory and performance efficient (data is now stored directly in buffers).
  • Transferring values from application to shaders and computation of effect permutations used to be done through various inefficient ParameterCollection overrides. This should now be done using RenderFeatures.
Physics
  • PhysicsComponents are now split into 3 different types (Rigidbody, Character, StaticCollider) which can be added multiple times to an entity.
  • PhysicsElements are now removed, including the Collider, Rigidbody and Character classes. They now are merged into the new components.
Known Issues
  • iOS on ARM64 iPhones encounter crashes after a few second. We are currently investigating this.
  • Sometimes duplicate contacts are detected by the physics engine

Full details of this release are available here.

GameDev News


24. February 2016

 

I love C#, probably my favourite general purpose programming language at the end of the day.  In the early days however, C# was heavily tied to Microsoft’s ecosystem.  Then a little company named Ximian created a Mono, an open source implementation of C#.  At first the relationship between Microsoft and Ximian (and Microsoft and Open source in general… ) was not… great.

 

Since then, a ton has happened…  Microsoft became more open source friendly.  Ximian was acquired by Novell, then eventually spun off as an independent known as Xamarin and Mono has gone on to become the technology powering basically every single C# powered non-Microsoft title, including being the runtime behind the popular Unity game engine.  For years I’ve assumed Microsoft would buy Xamarin, especially as their relationships became cosier and cosier.  Heck I last mentioned an MSFT buyout when Xamarin bought RoboVM.  It just made so much sense to happen…

 

And it finally did!  From Scott Gu’s blog announcement:

As the role of mobile devices in people's lives expands even further, mobile app developers have become a driving force for software innovation. At Microsoft, we are working to enable even greater developer innovation by providing the best experiences to all developers, on any device, with powerful tools, an open platform and a global cloud.

As part of this commitment I am pleased to announce today that Microsoft has signed an agreement to acquire Xamarin, a leading platform provider for mobile app development.

In conjunction with Visual Studio, Xamarin provides a rich mobile development offering that enables developers to build mobile apps using C# and deliver fully native mobile app experiences to all major devices – including iOS, Android, and Windows. Xamarin’s approach enables developers to take advantage of the productivity and power of .NET to build mobile apps, and to use C# to write to the full set of native APIs and mobile capabilities provided by each device platform. This enables developers to easily share common app code across their iOS, Android and Windows apps while still delivering fully native experiences for each of the platforms. Xamarin’s unique solution has fueled amazing growth for more than four years.

Xamarin has more than 15,000 customers in 120 countries, including more than one hundred Fortune 500 companies - and more than 1.3 million unique developers have taken advantage of their offering. Top enterprises such as Alaska Airlines, Coca-Cola Bottling, Thermo Fisher, Honeywell and JetBlue use Xamarin, as do gaming companies like SuperGiant Games and Gummy Drop. Through Xamarin Test Cloud, all types of mobile developers—C#, Objective-C, Java and hybrid app builders —can also test and improve the quality of apps using thousands of cloud-hosted phones and devices. Xamarin was recently named one of the top startups that help run the Internet.

Microsoft has had a longstanding partnership with Xamarin, and have jointly built Xamarin integration into Visual Studio, Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and our Enterprise Mobility Suite to provide developers with an end-to-end workflow for native, secure apps across platforms. We have also worked closely together to offer the training, tools, services and workflows developers need to succeed.

With today’s acquisition announcement we will be taking this work much further to make our world class developer tools and services even better with deeper integration and enable seamless mobile app dev experiences. The combination of Xamarin, Visual Studio, Visual Studio Team Services, and Azure delivers a complete mobile app dev solution that provides everything a developer needs to develop, test, deliver and instrument mobile apps for every device. We are really excited to see what you build with it.

We are looking forward to providing more information about our plans in the near future – starting at the Microsoft //Build conference coming up in a few weeks, followed by Xamarin Evolve in late April. Be sure to watch my Build keynote and get a front row seat at Evolve to learn more!

 

This announcement is huge.  Expect Xamarin technology to quickly become free and fully integrated in Visual Studio.  Expect Unity to eventually get a version of C# that isn’t from the stone age.  Put simply, expect the usage to C#, especially in the mobile space, to absolutely explode!

 

I’ve been waiting a decade for this news!  I look forward to seeing exactly how all of this plays out.

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