Archive for the ‘NEWS’ Category

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

So many cool and useful technologies are unveiled at SIGGRAPH every year, this year at SIGGRAPH 2009 was no different.  Khronos Group, behind the new guidance of OpenGL, OpenGL ES, OpenCL, OpenVG, COLLADA etc, came another big announcement about hardware rendering within the browser.  WebGL is now an official standard being developed at Khronos Group to bring javascript control of OpenGL to browsers… Wow!

Ok so this was officially announced at the GDC in March but limited information, but now it has been slated for an official public standard in early 2010. Shortly after the announcement at the GDC we saw Google o3D appear doing exactly that, controlling OpenGL through Javascript in the browser but it was still largely software/harward hybrid rendered. Google, Mozilla, Opera are part of the companies supporting WebGL which is great for browser support, also NVIDIA, AMD and Ericsson are in on it.

Khronos Details WebGL Initiative to Bring Hardware-Accelerated 3D Graphics to the Internet

JavaScript Binding to OpenGL ES 2.0 for Rich 3D Web Graphics without Browser Plugins;
Wide industry Support from Major Browser Vendors including Google, Mozilla and Opera; Specification will be Available Royalty-free to all Developers

4th August, 2009 – New Orleans, SIGGRAPH 2009 – The Khronos™ Group, today announced more details on its new WebGL™ working group for enabling hardware-accelerated 3D graphics in Web pages without the need for browser plug-ins.  First announced at the Game Developers Conference in March of 2009, the WebGL working group includes many industry leaders such as AMD, Ericsson, Google, Mozilla, NVIDIA and Opera.  The WebGL working group is defining a JavaScript binding to OpenGL® ES 2.0 to enable rich 3D graphics within a browser on any platform supporting the OpenGL or OpenGL ES graphics standards.  The working group is developing the specification to provide content portability across diverse browsers and platforms, including the capability of portable, secure shader programs.  WebGL will be a royalty-free standard developed under the proven Khronos development process, with the target of a first public release in first half of 2010. Khronos warmly welcomes any interested company to become a member and participate in the development of the WebGL specification.

Google released O3D this year and there are great strides in 3d within the browser from game engine wrapper technologies such as instant action technology, gaim theory engine (now owned by id Software and runs Quake  Live, hardware rendered Unity 3D (and Torque 3D coming soon), and Flash software rendered  3d engines Papervision 3D, Away 3D, Sandy (Sandy also released a haXe version that exports a javascript version) and others.  But it looks like the movement is to bring OpenGL to the web as a standard under the name WebGL, this would be great!  There would still be lots of times where plugins are better now and in the near future but the path is a good one. Having a software/hardware rendering hybrid like Google O3D for broad video card support (some of the painful older intel cards), or using a plugin like Unity3D, Torque 3D or wrapper technology for bigger engines is a good idea for the time being. But the future is grand in this area.

I think that Google O3D and OpenGL ES success on iPhone games probably combined to get this in motion.  OpenGL and very basic video cards are now standard in most machines out there.  Unity3D actually published hardware statistics on casual gamers (web-based games) ever so kindly and shows that even though there are some older Intel cards out there, for the most part machines nowadays have a video card capable of supporting at least low-poly 3d and hardware supported 2d rendering in real-time for games, user interfaces and more.

This is exciting news, it appears the movement of the web gaming market is getting much more capable and is accelerating the innovation of hardware accelerating the web.

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Well it appears ES4 path is dead officially and a new standard has been published replacing it, the ECMAScript Fifth Edition announced in Geneva, Switzerland and will be in place as fully tested and approved by all involved by the end of 2009. ES5 was previously known as ECMAScript 3.1 or an iteration of the ES3 standard that is what most JavaScript is based on in all browsers, and was previously competing with the ES4 newer standard that changed Javascript quite a bit but in many areas much better, in some areas it was bloated.

This revision of ECMA-262 will be known as ECMAScript, Fifth Edition. It was previously developed under the working name ECMAScript 3.1, which will no longer be used. ECMAScript is the scripting language that is used to create web pages with dynamic behavior. ECMAScript, which is more commonly known by the name JavaScript™, is an essential component of every web browser and the ECMAScript standard is one of the core standards that enable the existence of interoperable web applications on the World Wide Web.

ECMAScript Fifth Edition (ES5) was strongly guided by Crockford and Microsoft, which is different than the push for ES4 which is what ActionScript 3 is based on and was supported by Adobe and Mozilla.

However it seems everyone is happy and everyone is supporting this version to get things moving if you go by the ECMA Org quotes:

Industry Reaction

Brendan Eich, Mozilla CTO and creator of the JavaScript language, said “The Fifth Edition of ECMAScript makes real improvements based on browser innovation and collaboration in Ecma, which provides a solid foundation for further work in future editions.” Microsoft’s ECMAScript architect, Allen Wirfs-Brock, commented “We expect the Fifth Edition to benefit all web developers by helping improve browser interoperability and making enhanced scripting features broadly available.”

Peace.

I still have to read further into the ECMAScript 5 specification which was published, but there are some new interesting things.

One nice feature is the JSON object.  Right now you have to eval to use JSON in javascript in a browser but they now have JSON.parse(object) and JSON.stringify(object) which is standard and conveniently already wired into IE8 this way. This is based on the JSON2.js library by Douglas Crockford of Yahoo.

var jsObjString = "{\"memberNull\" : null, \"memberNum\" : 3, \"memberStr\" : \"StringJSON\", \"memberBool\" : true , \"memberObj\" : { \"mnum\" : 1, \"mbool\" : false}, \"memberX\" : {}, \"memberArray\" : [33, \"StringTst\",null,{}]";
var jsObjStringParsed = JSON.parse(jsObjString);
var jsObjStringBack = JSON.stringify(jsObjStringParsed);

Another feature is DOM prototypes which are useful and cool, which allow you to extend dom objects.

If you use javascript or are an actionscripter, not sure if Adobe will have ActionScript 4 go this way or if Alchemy has changed the flash player into a multi language VM now.  It will be fun to watch things progress but also if you are into javascript it seems this standard, ES5, will be it by the end of the year.  And probably since IE8 already supports it, in all new browser by then as well.  It will probably take 1-2 years before browser saturation makes this usable but if you are using standards that mimic this then there will be no change then, such as the JSON2.js library.

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A quick roadmap was posted by Unity3d.com blog on the immediate future of Unity iPhone.  Currently I am developing two games for the iPhone OS 3.0 and these are welcome updates.  We are really looking forward to items not in the hard version just yet but we are looking forward to terrain support and downloadable content support in iphone sdk 3.0.

 

Unity iPhone 1.0.2. Based on custom builds we’ve been sending to devs in need, this release will address engine memory leaks and fix other outstanding issues:

  • Physics and audio related memory leaks
  • Asset leaks while reloading scenes
  • .NET sockets and threads
  • Compressed audio related issues
  • Stripping away too much of GUI components
  • Occasional crashes in AOT compiler
  • Support for both portrait and landscape splash screens 

Next will be Unity iPhone 1.1. Since the release of 1.0.1 we’ve been working on a number of performance and memory optimizations. Most of the work on 1.1 is finished already and we’re doing an internal bug fixing round before it goes to beta testers too. Along with optimizations this release will include number of important features such as:

  • Binding custom ObjectiveC/C++ functions to C#/Javascript
  • Native on-screen keyboard support and interoperability with Unity GUI
  • Movie playback support
  • Performance optimizations:
    • significant C#/Javascript performance improvements
    • general rendering loop optimizations resulting in less OpenGLES state changes and less CPU work per object
    • number of internal routines were rewritten using VFP coprocessor assembly
    • way much faster mesh skinning utilizing VFP
    • batching small objects, given that they share same material, into single draw call
  • General distribution size optimizations which allows applications below 10Mb
  • Number of significant memory footprint optimizations

 
We don’t have strict versioning past 1.1 yet. Some of the following features will end up in the next big release and some might find a way to sneak into 1.1:

  • Compressed audio streaming directly from disk
  • Support for 3.0 SDK
  • 3.0 downloadable content
  • 3.0 bluetooth networking
  • GPS/Location support
  • Vibration support
  • Post-processing and render-targets support
  • Terrain support
  • Per-pixel DOT3 lighting support for skinned meshes
  • Reduce load times
  • Reduce distribution size even further
  • Improve GarbageCollector collection patterns to reduce spikes
Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

It appears Torque3D is going to compete with Unity3D in a browser based 3d plugin front with a Torque3D toolset and pipeline that target the web.

They announced this on gamasutra recently on how instantaction and torque3d technology is similar yet different. InstantAction is an engine wrapper where the web plugin for Torque3D is more tighly coupled with the Torque3D engine. Instantaction.com technology allows you to wrap an existing game engine for the web which is a competitor with the gaimtheory engine that is used on quakelive.com.

I have been a garage games torque developer and member since 2003 and worked/bought with each engine they have put out from the old school Torque Engine, to Torque Engine Advanced for various game development projects and now they are throwing in on what appears to be based on their instantaction.com technology but using the Torque3D engine. This is very interesting, they might even have a channel/appstore to release games on instantaction.com?

Unity3D has recently taken my time in the full immersion 3d for the web space, the mono engine that runs the scripting is a huge feature. Coding in C#, Boo and javascript is great, and the pipeline for Unity3D is unmatched.

A bit of history, I have been interested in this since Director introduced 3d in director 8.5 in 2001 (how was that not a major revision I don’t know) and the killer Havok 3d physics engine within it. Way ahead of its time. But Director 3d was extremely limited with w3d (not even a decent blender exporter) and it literally has not advanced since that time in terms of ability to develop better for it and the IDE. It was trapped in this little IDE and quirky Lingo language. They tried to save it with javascript, a valiant effort but it still withered due to lack of openness of development for the player (a mistake they aren’t making with Flash now at Adobe). So making full immersion 3d games was not really ready for the web, Director was notorious at crashing browsers and took way too many broken plugins to get a basic engine.

So I went to mods in HL (quake 2 engine), Unreal and when I realized there was no way me or my friends could foot the license fees of either engine we went to Torque in 2003. It was great, large terrains and highly compact engine because it had to run Tribes with 64 players years before anyone else approached 64 players and arguably still played better than 64 player fps now. It was affordable. I have been interested in the movements to make torque an active x control in 2005/6 and Think Tanks did just that. It was very nice, I thought soon after it would be everywhere. But it has taken until now and a new engine called Torque3D before this has been realized years later. This is hard stuff to get right creating a plugin that works cross browser and performs well (browsers had to catch up as well). The culmination of that technology progression has happened and 3d on the web for game development appears to be bigtime in 2009.

Unity3D meanwhile since 2005-6 has gotten it nearly all right so far for a few years now, especially the pipeline and the webplayer. Torque has always had an poor pipeline, not as bad as writing your own engine from scratch and all the tools but in the early days pretty close. Proprietary formats like dts for models made finding the right exporter tasking. There were just so many walls in what was supposed to be a pipeline, largely due to support for formats that were small enough for slower networks and machines of the past. Unity3D gets all this right from the start, pipeline is not an issue. Torque3D seems to address this with their new tools, support for Collada, but unfortunately still scripted with TorqueScript. If Torque3D could wire in Mono and the capability to code in Javascript, C#, Boo or other Mono languages this would have been cool, or at least a semi-standard scripting language like Javascript, Python etc that would be great. TorqueScript was a big feature and UnrealScript is very similar in how it interacts with the engine, but these days we want standard languages that have engine features built in. Maybe this will happen down the road, but the format support is very nice.

For 3d, prior to Unity3D, the web was still owned by Director but that has changed in the last few years. It won me over for immersive 3d games that are web capable and able to port to other platforms and markets. Casual is still done with Flash and mobile space is targeting iphone. Unity3D can run on web, iPhone, Wii, desktop. Torque3D can run on web and also has paths to desktop, iPhone, Wii, XBOX360. You see what is happening here? It is very cool indeed. No doubt the competition in this area is getting to a point where some good innovation and happenings are taking place, what are you going to do with it?

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Adobe will essentially open up the RTMP protocol officially. RTMP has been used in other tools such as Red5 and haXe video for some time now.  But officially having it open will make it possible for more products built on it.  I am sure that most of this is to combat silverlight and to gain more video users that can play flash formats. RTMP spec will be posted here when ready.

RTMP provides an enhanced and efficient way to deliver rich content. Developers and companies will have free and open access to the documented RTMP specification to help enable unparalleled delivery of video, audio and data in the open AMF, SWF, FLV and F4V formats compatible with Adobe Flash Player.

Adobe has also been working on more real-time protocol tools based on UDP instead of TCP (which RTMP is based) that fall under RTMFP using ordered UDP that will be interesting to watch evolve.  Stratus is so far a sample of what is to come there.The UDP based real-time tools will be able to beat the capabilities of TCP based real-time  tools when using authoritative servers.

But with the RTMP announcement, multiuser and video applications should thrive even more with an open RTMP spec.

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Here is an interesting look to start the new year at Google Trends for some common keywords to this blog audience. Comparing AS2, AS3, Silverlight and actionscript you can see that there is some pretty interesting things happening.

as3 as2 actionscript silverlight  

First off, AS2 and AS3 are clouded because they are also related to EDI and EDI-INT so they get a bit inflated. Silverlight though is pretty unique in the naming. So from this graph we can see this happening:

  • Silverlight and AS3 are growing rapidly
  • Silverlight is crossing over as3 or meeting it
  • The market looking for Silverlight is about 8-10 times as large as actionscript/as3/as3
  • Silverlight and AS3 are growing, AS2 has no growth left and is an EOL language (end of life)
  • AS2 (even with crossover to EDI trends for “as2″) leveled out, where AS3 is starting to lift to a larger market. This is strongly due to it being a fun language based on ES4 and interests programmers.
  • The as3 effect started right in March-April 2007 (hrm I started this blog in April 2007 coincidenc? j/k :))

Another chart including Flex shows a better picture of the keyword wars between flex and silverlight.

as3 as2 actionscript silverlight flex

So from this graph we can see this happening:

  • Flex has a large buzz
  • Adobe’s marketing efforts are many while silverlight is more unique and focused
  • Flex, as3 and Silverlight are popular, and growing in their support (the growth market for technology is in these areas, not in tech from Flash 8/as2)
  • AS2 still taking a nosedive

Flash and Flex programmers and designers should know that with Silverlight 2.0 release coming and the capabilities of Silverlight 2.0 more competitive, flashers should be working on Flex, Flash9 or at least AS3 if not Flex. The RIA competition market will heat up immensely this year with Silverlight 2.0 and possibly Flex3 and coding and programming for Flash and Flex is becoming more involved. It also has a very strong competitor in Silverlight 2.0 coming that will drive this market.

This is all great news if you are ready for it, if you are still coding actionscript2 (AS2) and paying no mind to Silverlight, Flex or at least actionscript3 (AS3) then you will see your market slowly start to fade as things are ramped up and more of a programming focus in the vector wars. If you are a flash coder and ignoring Silverlight, your solutions will suffer. If you are a silverlight coder or .NET coder and ignoring the Flex and AS3 rise your solutions will suffer. I have been playing in AS3, Flex and Silverlight for over a year on both now and they are an entirely new platform with great programming models. The competition puts focus on this market so it is a great time to be skilled in these areas.

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Sandy 3.0 was released today. To go along with that a RedSandy (Red5 and sandy demo) has also been released. Sandy is the original 3d flash engine that was around before Papervision3D and Away3D and all the others. Sandy3d is an excellent library and it has many features that others do not have well particularly in the easier control of objects and importing all types of files such as ASE, WRL and 3ds in addition to COLLADA which other 3d engines like PV3d and Away3d support although it has been slower in the past 3.0 may change that.

Sandy 3D engine main features are :

  • Flash player 7 to 9 compatibility.

  • Both MTASC and Macromedia compilers compliant for AS2 and Flash CS3 and FlexBuilder for AS3 versions.

  • Several 3D primitives, allowing fast and parameterized object creation without any 3D modelisation knowledge.

  • Advanced and easy object management allowing some fantastic possibilities during your creations (scaling, rotation, translation, tween, etc.)

  • Advanced camera management ( rotation, motion on linear or bezier-curve path, movements, etc.)

  • Complex object loading thanks to the .ASE and .WRL files parser , but also Collada and 3DS files for AS3, (files generated by several 3D object modeling packages such as 3D Studio Max or Blender)

  • Material system to easily change your objects appearance. Several material are available allowing to create transparent faces, bitmap texture and video texture as webcam video stream.

  • Managment of Flash filters bringing some very nice visual effects

Red5 is the best multi-user media server out there right now and it is built with Java.

The cool and probably most interesting part is Sandy combined with Red5 to create multi-user environments in 3d for flash. There have been experiments with this and many attempts at this and is being done but an open source kit that does this is very helpful and these are two great flash toolkits in Sandy and Red5.

Get your game on!

Getting started video with Sandy 3.0 with a wise robot
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPz4VwIlrQg]

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

Adobe has announced the release of the inital developer views of AIF and Hydra in “Astro” the next version of the flash player (10).

AIF (Adobe Image Foundation) like AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) is a new technology just out of the gate but it does show that Adobe is into innovating and the vector wars. AIR is beta2 and Flash player 9 “moviestar” updates for video are coming along nicely but here we have more news out of MAX in Chicago that AIF is now available.

What is AIF? It is a new imaging and effects technology to help people create their own filters for Flash (blur, drop shadow etc are defaults). Hydra the new language for this is reminiscent of processing.org (if you haven’t been to flight404.com since the 90′s then processing is all it is about there) and Cg from nVidia to write and test shaders. The fact that it is based on GLSL (OpenGL Shading Language) will help it easily port shaders coming in 3d gaming into Flash which is really sweet. The direction slowly is that Flash and maybe Silverlight will become more of gaming platforms and this is a nice point in that direction.

From Adobe here is what AIF is:

Introduction to the Adobe Image Foundation Toolkit Technology Preview

The Adobe Image Foundation (AIF) Toolkit preview release includes a high-performance graphics programming language that Adobe is developing for image processing, codenamed Hydra, and an application to create, compile and preview Hydra filters and effects. The toolkit contains a specification for the Hydra language, several sample filters, and sample images provided by AIF team members. The AIF technology delivers a common image and video processing infrastructure which provides automatic runtime optimization on heterogeneous hardware. It currently ships in After Effects CS3 and will be used in other Adobe products in the future. The next release of Flash Player, codenamed Astro, will leverage Hydra to enable developers to create custom filters, effects and blend modes.

Hydra is a programming language used to implement image processing algorithms in a hardware-independent manner. Some benefits of Hydra include:

  • Familiar syntax that is based on GLSL, which is C-based
  • Allows the same filter to run efficiently on different GPU and CPU architectures, including multi-core and multiprocessor systems in a future update
  • Abstracts out the complexity of executing on heterogeneous hardware
  • Supports 3rd party creation and sharing of filters and effects
  • Delivers excellent image processing performance in Adobe products

Reaction is that this is a strong Adobe direction to move towards more capable technology as in AS3 and Hydra and allow more customizable possibly hardware rendered and accelerated shader like technology for Flash filters. The new AVM2 and AS3 allow for faster processing and pixel based operations that you need for buildng filters and or shaders.

This is pretty interesting, it isn’t full blown hardware rendering which would just be excellent. So far hardware accelerated full screen stretching in Flash 9 Moviestar beta and now filters will have an element of hardware capable rendering, it should help performance. Full hardware acceleration seemingly will not happen in Flash 10 so the 3d engines and new 3d elements from Adobe are all software rendered still. However dual and multi-core processing will help rendering of 3d in flash BUT video cards are more prevalent than dual or multi-core for some time. Basic hardware rendering even for a low bar could greatly change the flash platform.

It is still a while off yet but it was good to know that performance and shaders/filters are getting attention but hardware rendering not just yet for 3d and basic drawing/rendering. One thing is for sure, in 2007 developing interactive for the web is being shook up and changing rapidly.

Here’s a video taken by Aral Balkan of the Astro presentation at MAX

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ympeCv8lLmw"]

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Tinic Uro who works on the Flash player made some amazing announcements about the new beta flash player. Video is getting a major upgrade to the already pwning FLV format on the web, they are moving away from that however towards a H.264 standard format (can you say HD movies on your PC in Flash?). Silverlight (Windows Media VC-9), Quicktime and other formats were looking superior to FLV quality (although noone can beat the file size) but this has changed the game completely.

The people running the Flash product are just answering the calls of the market very effectively.

Some tidbits of what is possible with the new H.264 standard video in Flash:

  • Playing content of other formats inside of Flash without worrying about loading another player or plug-in. (MPEG player or Quicktime movies for instance)
  • Play HD video on your PC in Flash with support from video card manufacturers in the works.
  • Play AAC SBR data instead of MP3, 5.1 channel surround sound.
  • Use open source only tools for your complete video pipeline.

It seems Flash is determined to continue to lead video on the web

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

Tinic Uro who works on the Flash machine recenty posted some great news to hopefully a new direction, possible hardware acceleration with the next Flash update! This is mainly for 2d drawing acceleration but Tinic also notes in his first point that this update improves the speed of Papervision3D (currently a fake 2d painters algorithm 3d).  Adobe is listening to the market on this one.

And what is this, OpenGL and DirectX hardware scaling? It helps to draw the full screen version faster since its more taxing on the processor probably but this will lead to further use of OpenGL and DirectX for 3d, I hope.

Full-screen mode with hardware scaling. Probably the biggest new feature in the Flash Player Update 3. This leverages DirectX on Windows and OpenGL on OSX. There is an new API to control the behavior which was required since we could not change current behavior and we wanted to give the maximum flexibility possible. I know you are probably eager to use this feature, we will post more information on this on labs.adobe.com soon. I’ll also will give you much more technical details in an upcoming blog post.

Found via Zeh. I have dreams of hardware acceleration in flash and what it will do to the gaming world. Microsoft has Silverlight which they could easily make DirectX capable and might as well at such low penetration rates right now, but they would stop at switching to OpenGL I think for cross platform support.  Adobe might be willing to risk it and since they already own Director, roll in OpenGL engine support into Flash and win the 3d web battle not to mention just entirely take 2d effects and animation to a new level as well.

UPDATE: Here is Tinic showing the 1080 video with nhardware acceleration in the new update. Anyone with >2 screens at work, they get stuff done.

http://video.onflex.org/2007/06/14/tinic-uro-shows-new-fullscreen-hd-video-in-flash-player/