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23. October 2015

 

If you are a LibGDX developer or even a Java developer hoping to target iOS some pretty big news just happened.  In a nutshell Xamarin acquired RoboVM (more details here).  If both of those names are meaningless to you, here’s a quick rundown.

 

Xamarin are ultimately the company formed around Mono, which is the open source cross platform version of Microsoft’s .NET framework.  That’s actually simplifying their history a fair bit.  Many years ago they were a company called Ximian, and their big push was trying to make Linux on the desktop happen and part of that process was the Mono project.  In between they were purchased by Novell, Novell blew up in spectacular fashion and from the ashes Xamarin was born.  Of perhaps most interest to game developers, Xamarin developed the technology that Unity is built on top of.  In fact, if you are working in a C# based game engine ( MonoGame, WaveEngine, Paradox, etc ) chances are it requires a Xamarin license to target iOS or Android.

 

RoboVM on the other hand are a much smaller developer that provide a very similar product, just targeting Java instead of .NET.  Basically RoboVM provide an iOS runtime for Java applications, enabling you to run Java apps pretty much unchanged on iOS.

 

So, why do we care?

 

Well first off, RoboVM is the technology that LibGDX depends on for iOS deployment, ironically chosen while moving away from Xamarin years ago.  In many ways, RoboVM owes it’s success and existence to the libGDX community.  In fact, the LibGDX founder Mario Zechner started working for RoboVM about a year ago.  Note, working for…  it isn’t his company, something far too many people seem to miss these days.

 

Fast forward to recent history…

  • RoboVM is now owned by Xamarin
  • the core of RoboVM, the Ahead of Time (AoT) VM is no longer open source
  • the pricing is much less indie friendly

 

So basically a core component that LibGDX depends on to support iOS just became closed, more expensive and owned by a company that doesn’t really seem to get game developers.  This all in a world where people don’t expect to ever pay for anything… although that’s certainly a conversation for a different day.

 

To Mario/RoboVM’s credit, they have offered a free license option for LibGDX developers.  You need to apply for the license, have a development team limit of 3 developers and need to activate the license on your build machines with a machine count limit attached to the license.  Of course it also adds the pain of dealing with a license were there previously was none.  The one silver lining in all of this is you get debugging support including in this license, something that was previously a paid feature.

 

At the end of the day, what exactly does this mean for LibGDX developers?  Well you are now basically in the same boat as C# developers.  To support certain targets you now have a pay wall in front of you.  Of course the current license offer will mitigate that for many existing LibGDX developers but how that actually turns out is yet to be seen.  With that license offer in place, LibGDX devs are still in a better place than most MonoGame/Paradox/et al developers out there, to say nothing of the fact there is no added cost to support Android.  They are however certainly in a worse place then they were before.

 

I’m not going to lie and say this development is great news, it certainly isn’t.  It however isn’t the end of the world scenario many are making it out to be.  If enough community demand exists, they can pick up the code for RoboVM and run with it.  Or port to another Java on iOS solution such as Codename One or Avian.  Or explore a different approach entirely like Unity are moving toward.  Of course they could also take the path of least resistance and keep working with RoboVM.

 

There are however two meta-points I want to mention here.

 

First off, no matter how much this affects you personally, some of the reactions I have seen to this have been downright off putting.  The amount of heat Mario has taken over something that is basically beyond his control is just sickening.  It really makes one wonder why people would even contribute to an open source project in the first place.   Now caustic end users in an open source is nothing new, but it’s always disgusting to witness.  Now Mario is a big boy and is handling fine so far as I can tell, but really ask yourself… if you had to put up with this crap, would you bother donating your time anymore?

 

Second, Xamarin, if anyone from that company happens to be reading this, I hope the entire experience is an eye opener.  When the entire indie game development industry looks at you at best as a necessary evil, at worst as the devil, it’s time for some introspection.  Part of that relates to the above paragraph… people are horrifically over entitled these days and the thought of having to pay for anything is galling.  Ignore this crowd, there isn’t much you can or should do.

 

On the other hand, with a more reasonable licensing, you would have a much larger community of advocates and I have to assume greater profits.  Your legacy as a tool vendor to corporations really shows in your pricing model.   Heck, look at LibGDX for example… they were using RoboVM in the first place to avoid you!  If you followed the Unity or Unreal model of geared to income licensing then suddenly your products would become much more appealing to a much larger segment of the population.  Your license fees are a bitter pill to swallow for a hobbyist looking to release a free title, while someone who was commercially successful would probably be willing to pay a greater amount.

 

At the end of the day this isn’t a story that is going to play out in a single day.  There is an active discussion and more information on the LibGDX forums that I think is the ideal place to discuss things.  Just keep the personal insults out of it.

 

EDIT: One major concern people had with the license granted for LibGDX developers was how long it would be valid.  I just had the following conversation with Nat Friedman (CEO of Xamarin) on Twitter:

temp

 

Other very interesting things related to Xamarin licensing were discussed, which I will be putting in a separate post.  This announcement is very relevant to LibGDX developers however.

News


2. October 2015

Well this one came out of left field.  It appears that Microsoft just acquired Havok from Intel.  In case you’ve never heard of them, Havok are behind a greatimage many pieces of Middleware that power the gaming industry including Havok Physics, Vision Game Engine and Animation Studio.  They also bundled many of their tools together for mobile in a free project called Project Anarchy, that I did a tutorial series about.

 

 

From the announcement:

Today, we are proud to announce that Microsoft has acquired Havok, the leading provider of 3D physics, from Intel.

As we welcome Havok to the Microsoft family, we will continue to work with developers to create great gaming experiences, and continue to license Havok’s development tools to partners. We believe that Havok is a fantastic addition to Microsoft’s existing tools and platform components for developers, including DirectX 12, Visual Studio and Microsoft Azure.

Havok is an amazing technology supplier in the games industry and the leading real-time physics creator. We saw an opportunity to acquire Havok to deliver great experiences for our fans. Throughout the company’s history, they’ve partnered with Activision, EA, Ubisoft, Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and many others to create more than 600 games including Halo, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Destiny, Dark Souls and The Elder Scrolls.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Havok continues our tradition of empowering developers by providing them with the tools to unleash their creativity to the world.   We will continue to innovate for the benefit of development partners. Part of this innovation will include building the most complete cloud service, which we’ve just started to show through games like “Crackdown 3.”

Havok shares Microsoft’s vision for empowering people to create worlds and experiences that have never been seen before, and we look forward to sharing more of this vision in the near future.

 

I will say Intel always seemed like a really poor fit for Havok tools, but I’m a bit perplexed what Microsoft is going to get out of this.  They have acquired similar companies in the past, like Softimage, which they used to help move CG to Windows NT, then divested of.  Caligari (Truespace) which they basically just killed off.  Then the most similar acquisition is probably RenderMorphics, which they acquired then used the technology as part of Direct3D.  It will be interesting to see which route Microsoft takes with Havok.

News


23. September 2015

 

LibGDX, the cross platform, Java based, open-source game development library just released version 1.7.  I have to admit, not the most exciting release notes ever mind you…

 

image

 

[1.7.0]

- Gdx.input.setCursorImage removed, replaced with Gdx.graphics.setCursor and Gdx.graphics.newCursor see https://github.com/libgdx/libgdx/pull/2841/
- Fixed an issue with UTF8 decoding in GWT emulation of InputStreamReader
- Updated to RoboVM 1.8 for iOS 9 and Xcode 7 support 

If you have a game on the iOS App Store, make sure it works on iOS 9. If not, recompile with RoboVM 1.8 and Xcode 7 and resubmit it to the App Store!

Update your project as usual. Also update your RoboVM Eclipse or IntelliJ IDEA plugin to 1.8.0!. If you are on a Mac, consider using RoboVM Studio. It will take away all the setup pain for you

Happy coding!

 

If you are interested in learning more about LibGDX, GameFromScratch.com has two comprehensive tutorial series for you, one in text, the other in video format.

 

RoboVM Studio is something I very  much have to check out.  It’s basically a fork of IntelliJ 15 with the RoboVM stuff preinstalled and preconfigured.  As IntelliJ is my Java weapon of choice, next time I am working with iOS i’ll have to give this a go.

News


17. September 2015

 

Today’s humble bundle should certainly be of interest to developers interested in GameMaker.  The bundle includes GameMaker pro and the GameMaker Android plugin, plus around a dozen games that were created in GameMaker, about half of which include source code:

 

image

 

Of course the Humble Bundle also helps support charities, Doctors without Borders in this case.  Altruism aside, it’s also a great value if you were looking at purchasing GameMaker or are an existing GM developer looking for source code to learn from.

News


10. September 2015

Just got this email from Unreal and damn is it cool!

 

Unreal Engine

Download the Infinity Blade Collection for free today!

Infinity Blade Collection

As our gift to developers, you can now download thousands of assets from the Infinity Blade universe for free in the Unreal Engine Marketplace!
Three impressive dungeon environments, two massive character packs, many sound and visual effects, and a host of melee weapons are available, no strings attached.
This content has been produced at the quality level players have come to expect from our successful mobile franchise, and represents a $3 million investment in art and sound design. We're excited to see what you make with it.

Infinity Blade: Grass Land

Infinity Blade: Grass Lands

Explore Grass Lands, the earthy citadel adorned with stone set pieces and beautiful props. It's lovingly crafted and yours to keep!

Infinity Blade: Ice Lands

Infinity Blade: Ice Lands

Delve into this beautiful wintery fort set within a glacial enclave. Build your own perilous quest using this free environment.

Infinity Blade: Fire Lands

Infinity Blade: Fire Lands

Check out Fire Lands, the castle interior laced with unforgiving paths and dramatic props. Make this rare locale all your own! 

Infinity Blade: Warriors

Infinity Blade: Warriors

Customize heroes with exotic battle gear and detailed armor. All characters are compatible with the standard Unreal Engine 4 skeleton.

Infinity Blade: Adversaries

Infinity Blade: Adversaries

Craft a range of fierce characters with this pack, which includes all the pieces for making robots, monsters, trolls and master warriors. 

Infinity Blade: Effects

Infinity Blade: Effects

Can you use attractive fire, smoke, lightning, fog, laser beams, magical reactions and other visual FX? Treat yourself to this pack!

Infinity Blade: Sound FX

Infinity Blade: Sounds

Use thousands of raw audio files and sound cues to take your audio to the next level. There are over 3,600 assets in this pack alone!

Inifinity Blade: Weapons

Infinity Blade: Weapons

Enjoy this awesome selection of melee weaponry. Access never-before-seen swords and axes along with a few Infinity Blade fan favorites.

 

 

Professional quality place holder assets don’t grow on trees, so this is an extremely cool move!  There is now a blog post about this topic available here.  Simply download from the asset store.  I am not entirely certain what the license is, but this seems to indicate a very liberal one:

Most of the content comes from Infinity Blade: Dungeons, which we made here at Epic and chose not to release. While it was a tough decision to make back then, the content is beautifully crafted, and we are happy for you to have it for free. Use it in any Unreal Engine 4 project, no strings attached. We succeed when you succeed.

There are special cameos from released games in the Infinity Blade series, including humorous weapons such as the finger, the lollipop, and the rubber chicken. My personal favorite is the popular Cardboard Hero armor from Infinity Blade II: Vault of Tears.

 

I look forward to jumping in to these assets a bit later, when I am not using my mobile for data!

 

EDIT:  Confirmed on Twitter that the only license limitation is use of the Unreal Engine:

twitterUnreal

 

Seems reasonable to me.

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