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11. March 2014

 

From this post on reddit I have learned of the open sourcing of Sony’s game tool creation kit Authoring Tools Framework (ATF).  The ATF is a comprehensive .NET/C# based framework for creating game tools.  It has been used to create all kinds of tools for several shipped games including the level editor for Naughty Dog’s epic Last of Us.

 

In Sony’s own words:

Authoring Tools Framework (ATF) is a set of C#/.NET components for making tools on Windows. ATF has been used by most Sony first party game studios to make many custom tools such as Naughty Dog’s level editor and shader editor for The Last of Us, Guerrilla Games’ sequence editor for Killzone games (including theKillzone: Shadow Fall PS4 launch title), an animation blending tool at Santa Monica Studios, a level editor at Bend Studio, a visual state machine editor for Quantic Dream, sound editing tools, and many others. ATF has been in continuous development in Sony's Worldwide Studios central tools group since early 2006.

 

The license is Apache Version 2, which is a very liberal license with no GNU style conditions.

 

Sample Level Editor created using ATF

 

When I said comprehensive earlier, I meant it.  This is an incredibly well documented project.  There is a 75 page PDF DOM programming guide, a 30 page Getting Started PDF as well as a comprehensive online Wiki, including the ATF Programmer’s Guide.

 

The framework itself contains a number of classes.  It is provided as a Visual Studio 2010 project.  As you can see, ATF provides GUI components, Collada and Perforce support and more.  The core however is um… in Atf.Core, which provides the backbone of the framework itself.

 

image

 

From my quick scan, ATF appears to provide a game orriented MFC style document model.  It’s complex, it will take some time digging before I can fully appreciate what this framework provides.  However, to assist in that, there are a number of included samples:

image

 

Unfortunately, a few of them are missing, including probably the one you would be most interested in, LevelEditor.  Hopefully these get released in short order.

 

It is getting increasingly common to create games using C# and this toolkit should make the job a heck of a lot easier!  Very cool release Sony!

News


8. August 2013

 

In the previous post, we looked at creating a simple design concept for our game jet sprite.  Now we are going to start modelling our jet using Blender.

 

Of course, I cannot teach Blender in a single post.  Fortunately I have already covered modelling in Blender in a prior tutorial series.

 

Programmer Art: Blender for Programmers

 

If you already have experience with Blender, EXCELLENT!  Jump right in.  If however you haven’t much/any experience with Blender, I will assume you have gone through all of the above tutorials.  So instead of saying "Press X to delete the faces” I will simple say “delete the face”.  Dont worry, just keep the Quick Reference open in another tab and you should be OK.  If a concept is new or not covered in the above tutorials, I will go into a bit more detail.

 

In the design area, we created a top and side profile of our image, now if trimmed them down to two separate images, side and top.

 

Side.png

Side

 

Top.png

top

 

We are going to use these as modelling aids in Blender.

 

Setting up a background image in Blender.

 

Load up Blender, delete the default cube, then switch to Top view in 3D View.  Make sure you are in Orthographic view mode ( 5 on the number pad ).

Bring up the properties window ( N ) then locate Background Images and enable it:

image

 

Then click Add Image.  The dialog will expand with more options.

Click the Axis pulldown and select Z Axis Top, like so:

image

 

Click the Open button and find your top reference image.

image

 

Your Blender should now look something like this:

image

 

In the Properties window, near the bottom of the Background Image panel, you should see a manipulator for X and Y. 

image

 

Move the image along the X axis so it’s aligned with the Y axis in your top view, like so:

image

 

Now repeat the same process for side image.  It is exactly the same process.  Click Add Image, and another image will be available in the panel.  This time select axis as X Left and obviously use the side reference image instead.  If you have done it successfully, your Left view (Ctrl + 3 on numpad ) should look like this:

 

image

 

Now we want to make sure the two views are somewhat the same size in both the left and top views.  The way I do this is to simply create a cube the length of the reference image in the side view ( Add cube, S)cale + Y ), like so:

image

 

Then switch into Top View:

image

 

Hmmmm… this isn’t right… our top reference image is far too big ( or I suppose, the side image is far too small… ).

 

It’s a simple enough fix.  In the properties window, where we adjusted the X position earlier, there is also a setting for size.

image

 

Adjust the size and position of the background image until it matches the dimensions of your cube.  Be sure to use the proper dimensions, as there will be a set of controls for each the top and side background images.  IF you need to see through the CUBE texture while adjusting, hit the Z key to enable XRay mode.  When you are done, your top view should look like:

image

 

Perfect.  We now have two perfectly calibrated background images to work with.  Now delete the rectangle, we no longer need it.

 

OK, that section got a bit picture heavy, so I will end this part here so page load times don’t become insane.


Click here for the Next Part


Art


7. August 2013

 

This isn’t an area I spend a ton of time on, as I haven’t got much talent for drawing.  That said, if I just fire up Blender and start modelling I tend to be a lot slower then if I nail down the basics of my concept, at least the proportions and overall shape, before even beginning to model.

 

In this case my concept was pretty simple… I want to make a jet that is a throwback to classic planes of old like the twin tailed Lockheed P38 Lightning or the DeHavilland Vampire, except with wing mounted engines like the Me-262.  However, I want it to appear near-future modern, like a contemporary of the F22 Raptor or F35 Lightning II.

 

For non plane buffs, I basically want:

 

This (P38):

p38

 

Or This (Vampire):

Vamp

 

With engines like these (Me-262):

me262

 

But more modern/futuristic, like this ( F22 ):

f22

 

 

Got it?  So basically I want a retro style twin tailed jet that looks futuristic.

 

So, time for some doodling!  I have a tendency to start with something really quick, break it down into individual pieces and go from there.  This way I get mostly the correct perspective, but I can work on smaller details instead of big picture… I can also quickly decide what works and what doesn’t.

 

For this, I worked entirely on my iPad Mini using a 5 dollar stylus and the application iDraw, which is a vector based graphic suite for iOS and MacOS.  Obviously any sketching app would work, as would paper if you have access to a scanner or digital camera.

 

Here is my first brain dump of the concept, side and top view:

1

 

I'm relatively happy with the top view, but hate the under-wing engine and am not a fan at all of the side profile.  I am thinking wingmounted engines don't work too well with the look I am shooting for here.

 

Instead I am going to switch to a single jet engine, like the Vampire pictured above.  Let’s clean up the tail section a bit and move to a single centrally mounted engine, again top and side view:

2

 

OK, I'm pretty happy with that look over all, now I’m going to look at the top and wing layout.  I start with:

3

 

Not really a fan.  Doesn’t make a ton of sense for the wing to extend out in front of the air intake.  Instead I decide to extend the air intake forward quite a bit, like so:

4

 

I like the overall shape better, it’s starting to look more modern, but I am still not a fan of the cockpit, nor have I nailed down the side profile yet.

 

On to the side profile.  I start with a quick sketch of the side, now using the forward wing, air intake and single engine. 

5

 

I did a quick sketch in black and it’s too fat and not very modern.  Drew over it in red more to my liking.

 

Now it’s a matter of figuring out the cockpit I am still not happy with, as well as the front view.

6

 

Started with a 3/4 view of the cockpit area, a rough front sketch, then a slightly cleaner one.  Over all, I’m pretty happy with the front profile.

 

So, I’ve got my basic design down, now the most important part, as a modelling aid and so I get the proportions generally right, I trace over the side and top view of my design using the line tool and end up with this:

7

 

The basic outline for the side and top profile of our jet.  I am certainly going to win no awards for artistic talent, but it should be sufficient for my needs and over all, I’m fairly pleased with the design concept.

 

You will see how we use it in the next part when we fire up Blender.

Art Design


7. August 2013

 

I am about to create a game sprite for my own use and I figured I would document the process.  I am going to make an animated jet sprite and ultimately output a multi-frame single sprite sheet ready for use in a game.

 

Through the process I (may) cover:

  • Concept design ( as far as I do it anyway… )
  • Modeling it in Blender ( probably over multiple parts )
  • Texture painting in Blender
  • Texture finishing in GIMP or another image manipulation program
  • Animation ( maybe, might be overkill ) in Blender
  • Rendering in Blender
  • Making a sprite sheet, probably using TexturePacker
  • Using the sprite sheet in code (maybe ), probably using Haxe/OpenFL/Some Haxe Library, but subject to change.

 

Basically if I need to do it, I will document the process.

 

Keep in mind… I am a programmer who dabbles in art, and it shows!  We are just one step up from programmer art here, but the process is pretty much the same, you just need to add a bit more talent and patience. I am certainly not recommending anyone follow my work process, but it may give you some ideas.  Worst case scenario, it may just give you a good laugh!

 

Hope you enjoy.

News Art


3. June 2013

 

As I am just starting out on a new game these days, I am in the most wishy-washy stage of development, design.  Over the years, the way I went about designing an application has changed greatly as technology, my team size and frankly, me, have changed.  Now that I work mostly alone I find I am a lot less formal than I used to be.

 

In the ancient days, I ignored design completely, or used a spiral bound binder and a pencil.  On my last large scale project I worked mostly in Visio for object design and program flow modelling.  For idea capture and design documents, OneNote was my loyal ally.  If you find yourself working using a paper and pencil most often, you should check out OneNote, it is probably the greatest application Microsoft make and I say that without hyperbole.  It is an under-exposed and under-appreciated application.  Whenever I see websites comparing Evernote or Google Keep I laugh and laugh and laugh.  Those two programs aren't in the same league as OneNote.  That said, the OneNote mobile offerings, at least on iOS and Android are pretty terrible and the web version is only ok.  The application version though, its just great. 

 

That said, this combination of applications has definite limits.  These days I am working more commonly across platforms, splitting my time about 50/50 between MacOS and Windows.  Unfortunately Mac Office doesn't include OneNote and Visio isn't available either.  Also, I am no longer part of MSDN and Visio is stupidly expensive.  The other major change is the rise of tablets.  I find myself on mobile much more often now, either the iPad or my Galaxy Note ( which you can pry from my cold dead hands! ).  So, if I am out and about and an idea comes to me, its nice to just whip out my phone or tablet, which are on instantly, jot the idea down and move on.  Additionally, I find touch a much nicer interface when working on a fluid design.

 

One of the flaws of working with code modelling software is it is often too advanced for me.  I don't need it to validate my class design, I am not working in a team or with contractors, so I don't need it to create formal design documents or strictly defined interfaces.  At the end of the day I generally just like to enter a class name and description, then model relationships between other classes.  That or create flow charts that illustrate user or application flow.  Visio can do this, but it is massive overkill.  Enter the mind map.

 

In my life, I always had a bit of a mental block towards this kind of software…  I don't really know why, but I never really looked into it closer and I regret that, as mind mapping is basically what I've needed all along.  Essentially mind mapping is just a diagramming software that models relationships.  That's about it and exactly what I am looking for.  There are reams of mind mapping applications out there, from downloadable applications to web services, from free to very expensive.  If you want to try one out free, you can try FreeMind or XMind to get started.  If you haven't tried one yet, you really should.

 

Myself, I am using a combination of applications for program design.  My design documents and "raw text dump" application of choice is still OneNote.  I vastly prefer authoring in the full application in Windows, but the web application and mobile apps work in a pinch, at least for reading.  On iPad I use iThoughtsHD, which you can see in action below:

IThoughtsHD

I haven't found a mind map application that works well on my Note, but I've also barely looked.  I like iThoughtsHD because it's quick, intuitive and supports the functionality I need. On top, it is compatible with most other Mindmap applications including FreeMind and Xmind that I mentioned earlier.  So I can design on the go, then open on my desktop on any platform.  Truth is though, I vastly prefer working on the tablet, it is just such an intuitive format for this kind of work.

 

If there is any interest, I will go into a bit more detail on Mind mapping and iThoughtsHD for game design.  I know this is a topic that isn't generally discussed very often, although that could be because people find it boring! ;)

 

So, that's what I use these days to design my applications ( and other projects ).  What do you use?

Design


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