AS3 BulkLoader Useful Flash Asset Loading Kit by Arthur Debert

Found via Zeh, this great bulk loading kit for AS3 from Arthur Debert.

AS3 Loaders are very useful, but when you have large projects there is always a pause and focus on loading scenarios and architecture needed for your loading scenarios, sometimes this can literally eat days and entirely change performance with wrong moves. BulkLoader is a well written kit from Authur Debert that makes loading scenarios or using BulkLoader as a base to your loading situations a great pluggable piece of code that has many excellent features.

Some of the calls like BulkLoader.getLoader(“main-site”).getContent(“bg”), are also very similar to Silverlight’s downloader object that can be queued like this. All in all a kit that is very useful that I have already put to work and will help teams standardize on bulk loading for those killer flash apps.

Creating a BulkLoader instance:

// creates a BulkLoader instance with a name of "main-site", that can be used to retrieve items without having a reference to this instance

var loader : BulkLoader = new BulkLoader("main-site");

Add urls to load:

// simplest case:loader
.add("logo.png");

// use an "id" so the item can be retrieved later without a reference to the urlloader
.add("background.jpg", {id:"bg"});

// since the url by itself can't tell us what the filetype is, use the type property to let BulkLoader know what to do:loader
.add("/some-web-services?size=Large", {type:"image"});

// add an item that should be loaded first (higher priority):loader
.add("/data/config.xml", {priority:20});

// add a max trie number (defaults to 3)loader
.add("/unreliable-web-services.xml", {maxTries:6});

// you can also use a URLRequest object , this will load from a POST request

var postRequest : URLRequest = new URLRequest("/save-prefs.php");postRequest
.method = "POST";

var postData : URLVariables = new URLVariables(myPostDataObject );postRequest
.data = postData;loader
.add(postRequest, {"id":"settings"});

// of course, all options can be combined:loader
.add("the-sound-webservices?name=maintrack", {"id":"soundtrack", type:"sound", maxTries:1, priority:100});

Listening for events:

// attaching events to all items:

// this will fire once all items have been loadedloader
.addEventListener(BulkLoader.COMPLETE, onAllLoaded);

// this will fire on progress for any item

// the event , BulkProgress is a subclass of ProgressEvent (with extra information)loader
.addEventListener(BulkLoader.PROGRESS, onAllProgress);

// this will fire if any item fails to load:

// the event is BulkErrorEvent and holds an array (errors) with all failed LoadingItem instancesloader
.addEventListener(BulkLoader.ERROR, onAllError);

// you can also listen to events in individual items               

// this will fire as soon as the item registred with the id of "bg" is done loading (even if there are other items to load)loader
.get("bg").addEventListener(Event.COMPLETE,onBackgroundLoaded)

// this will only trigged if the config.xml loading fails:loader
.get("data/config.xml").addEventListener(BulkLoader.ERROR, onXMLFailed)

Starting the loading operation:

BulkLoader will only begin loading once you call the start method:

loader.start();

Retrieving content:

You can retrieve an untyped object and cast it your self:

var theBgBitmap : Bitmap = loader.getContent("bg") as Bitmap;

// you don't need to keep a reference to the loader intance, you can get it by name:

var theBgBitmap : Bitmap = BulkLoader.getLoader("main-site").getContent("bg") as Bitmap;

// you can also use the conviniece methods to get a typed object:

var theBgBitmap : Bitmap = loader.getBitmap("bg");

// grab a BitmapData directly:

var theBgBitmap : Bitmap = loader.getBitmapData("bg");

Other convenience functions: getXML, getText, getNetStream, getSound, getMovieClip, getNetStreamMetaData.

You can retrieve an item using it’s id, it’s url as a String or as the URLRequest object (if the item was created with an URLRequest).

Arthur also has experience on Tweener so making simplified calls and minimalist code to make a library successful is very clear in the notes/goals on the project and the resulting code:

BulkLoader is a minimal library written in Actionscript 3 (AS3) that aims to make loading and managing complex loading requirements easier and faster. BulkLoader takes a more dynamic, less architecture heavy aproach. Few imports and making heavy use of AS3’s dynamic capabilities, BulkLoader has a one-liner feel that doesn’t get your way.

BulkLoader tries to hide the complexity of loading many data types in AS3, providing a unified interface for loading, accessing and events notification for different types of content.

This library is licensed under an open source MIT license.

Features:

  • Connection pooling.
  • Unified interface for different loading types.
  • Unified progress notification.
  • Events for individual items and as groups.
  • Priority
  • Stop and resuming individually as well as in bulk.
  • Cache managing.
  • Statistics about loading (latency, speed, average speed).
  • Multiple kinds on progress indication: ratio (items loaded / items to load), bytes , and weighted percentage.
  • Multiple number of retries.
  • Configurable logging.

Design goals:

  • Minimal imports.
  • Few method to learn.
  • Dynamic nature: items can be added by specifying a url as a String or a URLRequest .
  • Items can be assigned an identifier key to be used on retrieval.
  • Only one class to learn / use.

BulkLoader tries to gracefully handle progress notification in these use cases:

  • Few connections to open: bytes total can be used instantly.
  • Many connections opened: progress by ratio
  • Many connections opened for data of widely varying sizes: progress by weight.

Check out and download AS3 BulkLoader!

This is quite a contribution to the flash community and is a perfect candidate for the base of your loading assets projects and scenarios. Thanks Arthur!

AS3 Papervision3D 2.0 and 2D BitmapData Effects are Evolving

Andy Zupko is probably doing some of the coolest / useful work in performance and possible effects combining 2D and 3D. Using 2D BitmapData and papervision 3D it turns out you can create a parallel dimension of coolness that cannot fully exist by themselves.

Papervision 2.0 with these effects and if it is as pluggable as it seems is very good for games that lighting is a key component or effects. Imagine a game that can customize weapons with 2d effects in 3d, or rocket boosters, or fireworks or all kinds of inspiring things like changing the mood or environment such as fog, lighting etc… If you start taling about adding physics to all this it just gets too fun. Effects have always been there and around, but making this possible to have a semi-standard way to do this and if it is pluggable, this can lead to many engine advancements.

I think the PV3d team additions of Tim Knip and Andy Zupko have been very good and zupko era in PV3d has begun. Tim Knip is also very active and helping to really organize the ascollada formats and performance stuff like only drawing what is on screen.

Who needs Hydra now? j/k although having this now in papervision leads me to see a very fun 2008 ahead for Flash, it is also, if as pluggable as it seems, a bit like a shaders kit.

All those older great 2d effects merging into 3d from the good old days (some still going very strong) of praystation, yugop, levitated, neave (great 2d tv effects in neave.tv) , flight404 (moved to processing) and many others. And a new era of zupko [pv3d], mr. doob, unitzeroone [pv3d], fabrice [away3d] and many more a new 2d effects in 3d platform is emerging. This kit for papervision3d by zupko and Hydra is making the future glowing full of bright points, and lots of effect explosions.

Let’s hope papervision3d 2.0 it is released soon and it has zupko’s effects code in there.

 

New AS3 2D Physics Engine Box2DFlashAS3 Based on Box2D for C++

Another great new 2D physics engine for AS3 has been released called Box2dFlashAS3 that is based on the excellent kit Box2D for C++. It has been a busy year for physics engines in AS3. FOAM was released this month, APE, the highly anticipated Motor Physics from polygonal labs and plenty more still I am sure.

The Box2dFlashAS3 version has some great demos available on the site that show, use the arrow keys to move to the different demos highlighted here.

  1. bridge
  2. ragdolls
  3. compound shapes
  4. rube goldberg / domino / tank tracks etc
  5. stacked boxes
  6. slider crank / piston
  7. pulleys
  8. gears

Box2DFlashAS3 is an open source port of Erin Catto’s powerful c++ physics library Box2D. Cycle through the demos to see some of the features.

Full source code for the engine and examples can be downloaded from the project’s sourceforge page found Here.

This kit is nice because it mimics Box2D for the crossover and ability of developers to use it in C++ and Flash AS3 moreso than other kits. It looks good and performs well except for a memory or FPS pause I get intermittently.  The demos are already inspiring many uses of the features highlighted for games and effects.

MosesProposes: Standardizing Animation and Motion Kits for Flash, Flex, After Effects, Javascript and I add Director and haXe

The Proposal

Moses, the maker of FuseKit, is hoping to influence Adobe product lines to include a common base for animation and motion going forward. Currently the AS3 world is very alive and is inspiring developers like myself to build lots of toolkits and really creating reusable code and kits that can make things very easy from going to Flash to Flex. But wouldn’t it be nice if a part of these kits that have to be downloaded every time you have an application use them be part of the native Adobe applications, or a core animation kit that partially standardizes animation basics to build upon further?

Are we just asking for trouble or is this a good idea? I don’t’ think it can hurt to bring this to the surface. I know that common syntax and familiar kits can really help the developers and designers move from Flash to Flex to After Effects to Javascript, it could also help Adobe with usage and usefulness of their entire suite of products. Or further this could be a standard that allows Silverlight to also build upon (open standard) and may the best platform win.

I think it would be very wise for Adobe to:

  • Standardize animation toolkits across their products and
  • Start standardizing some of the basic tools of building motion and filter kits to native but still allowing a flourishing open source and community research and development aspect.

What MosesProposes:

Moses did speak with someone at Adobe about this and it is generally in the plans:

“It was also a pleasure to see Richard Galvan present the upcoming crop of Flash features: the sleek update to the animation timeline (better late than never?), support for columnated flowing text (double finally!) and the big one, native 3D player support for Display Objects as rotatable 2D planes. He ran out of time and didn’t get to a few others shown at Adobe MAX, such as built-in IK (inverse kinematics) and faster pixel-level drawing for texture-mapping and photoshop-like filter effects.

Talking to him after the presentation I learned that Richard has a keen awareness of exactly where each feature is at currently. We chatted about low-level animation mechanics of the Flash Player, and I found out that the holy grail of a time-based player is indeed on the distant horizon, but that each rev will need to be a small step toward this goal. The new Flash timeline features meld After Effects, Premiere and Live Motion, and from what I’ve seen I have to say that they are nailing this long-overdue upgrade with great design decisions and a level of usability we’ve never seen in Flash. Kudos, team!”

The Current Situation

Right now Tweener and TweenLite (and animation package and a few others) have a unique position in that they work the same almost for AS2 and AS3 (Flex or Flash – with minor property changes such as _x to x as that has changed in AS3). But it would be nice if these kits also had a version for After Effects (really bringing that tool into Flash/flex developer worlds) and Javascript and it would be great if Silverlight also were supported (AgTweener anyone?).

Tweener is leading the pack in this aspect of creating a similar experience from AS2 to AS3 in Flash and AS3 in Flex and even JSTweener for Javascript, and a kit for haXe which is becoming my favorite toy and the dark horse with the most upside potential, with haXe on the loose these points may all be moot as haXe can target any platform (except After Effects easily, correct me if I am wrong and Silverlight but it could easily be done so to do it for Silverlight 1.0 which is ES3 based).

I don’t use After Effects as much right now but if I could easily incorporate this into Flash/Flex and script and animate in a similar syntax and way I know After Effects would definitely have a boost in interest.

Also, the forgotten one Director, can we please get an ES4 based language in that application, or an update? Then kits and add-ons are much more possible. I really miss hardware accelerated 3d in browser as a pushed technology, Director is still around but it does not get the focus it needs. Feel the freedom and coolness just in this small test here in director, hardware accelerated 3d is the best, the Director application environment and Lingo and hacked in javascript are not the best. As a long-time Director user, hobbyist and professional I am disappointed in Director’s support at Adobe thus far, but I digress.

The Reality

The reality is right now the only problem with kits like Tweener, TweenLite, Tween, mx.transitions, mx.motion, etc is that the source has to be embedded in movieclips multiple times. Sometimes there are multiple animation kits per compiled SWF that have to be used for more advanced features. This adds bulk that if common might not need to be there (this comes into play still on mobile and large games/apps).

Let’s say you have an application that pulls in many disconnected SWFs and they all have animation in them, well if you have 20 of these let’s say, and you embedded a very small Tweener at 9k per SWF. That is about 200k of duplication of AS code. Due to the kits small sizes this is not a problem really but when animation kits like Animation Package come into play, you are talking 40k per SWF which would leave you with almost a meg of just duplicated animation code. I don’t think this is that major of a problem for kits like Tweener (9k compiled) and Tweenlite (3k compiled) but as projects get bigger and more depth of animation platforms needed this can be a problem. This can also be solved in architecture with a controller and dummy SWFs to animate but there are times when you need animation in the compiled SWFs and then also need it in many others and the controller.

The other reality is the animation kits (mx.transitions.easing, mx.transitions.tween) for Flex and Tween for fl are a little bloated, more difficult than needed to use and as has been seen, much slower than kits currently available in the community. My one fear about this is that if Adobe makes this, possibly like Microsoft’s toolkits and libraries they put out, they are always bloated and slower, then because they are embedded they are untouchable. If it was standard enough as building blocks that are faster because they are native, then this is the best option as embedded script would be hard pressed to beat native code in the players/applications.

The Future Plans

Some of this is underway….

Animation kits for future, Adobe is releasing Flash 10 called ‘Astro’ that has many new improvements in tweening with xml closer to flex or even Silverlight like transitions and storyboards. Aral Balkan, a sponsor of OSFlash, posted on this and even that Diesel Flash CS4 will include more Tween tools for IK/bones. Tweener , TweenLite, Animation Package, Animation System etc these are all helping to define the best way to do animation kits.

Physics toolkits have their own animation kits currently usually to handle the movement according to algorithms. FOAM, APE , Box2DFlashAS3 (just released very recently will be posting more on this after I check it) and Motor Physics (unreleased but heavily demoed at polygonal labs) are great physics toolkits and I like this being part of the community to get refined, maybe one of them or the best performing ones becomes part of the proposed Adobe Animation bundle. These will define the best way to do physics kits.

3d in flash toolkits have also been emerging rapidly in 2007 with Papervision3D, Away3d based on pv3d, Sandy, and even engines starting to get built on top of these platforms.

The general direction is moving towards another platform in there somewhere but I think much work is left to be done to standardized physics systems, 3d and advanced motion filter tweens and bezier, splines (Catmull-Rom), editors, etc. I think it is getting time for basic animation kits to become more standard though and in latest versions of flash this is included in the flex and flash scripts but not the native code.

Right now the standard in syntax and the broadest reach is Tweener and due to the bigger fish syndrome, haXe that can target any platform, it also has a Tweener and can create code for as2, as3 and any target written in if After Effects, Premiere or other apps get more robust and standard animation and motion kits. Tweener has kits made and contributed for AS2, AS3, haXe, Javascript and others.

There is also Hydra and the AIF Toolkit that are standardizing After Effects and Flash shaders and filters into a new shader language like Cg and reminiscent of processing.org.

As humans we trial and error and build new platforms in the market to step on to create better platforms to build cool stuff, it is evolving right now. AS3 is inspiring platforms within platforms of Flash and Adobe kits as well as on Silverlight and in the Javascript world with JSTweener, jquery etc. As these things are refined we build a level standard platform to build more stuff on. Eventually this will be there and whoever does the standard platform for animation will probably reap in users and abilitty to easily add new products and solutions where people already have training. Silverlight is an example with .NET developers. .NET was also an example with C# so similar to Java. ES4 based AS3 has proven it is inspiring all types of new platforms and kits and will continue to do so and it is an interesting time in this industry whichever direction it goes.

Sandy3D and Red5 Server Attack! – Sandy 3.0 Final Released for AS2 and AS3

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

AS3 2D Physics Engine FOAM Demos and Sources For Semi-Realistic Physics, Euler + RK4 Comparison

Drew Cummin’s FOAM is a great flash as3 2d physics package that can be integrated quickly and get started with realistic physics in 2d flash apps and games. I have been playing with this since FOAM’s release last week and putting together some tests to show, comparing with APE and really looking forward to polygonal labs Motor Physics to add there.

Three excellent physics engines (FOAM, APE and Motor Physics) for flash in AS3 already. Basically at flash9 player/avm2 market saturation (it is now available to develop on in over 94% of market) is showing the power of the ES4/Javascript2 based Actionscript3 language and how it is inspiring developers to new levels of interest/inspiration. Then again haXe can target them all but I digress.

FOAM was recently released but the author Drew Cummins is showing very good support for the toolkit and released a plethora of goodins to support this great kit, bug fixes, samples, docs and some realistic physics demos as well as in depth walkthrough of creating a force generator and comparison of the Euler and RK4 equations used in that process and their differences (Euler being less correct due to the factors of the platform and intervals and environment, RK4 more correct but more expensive to run)

If you are developing realistic physics in flash games or apps this toolkit is a great source of inspiration.

AS3 FOAM 2D Physics Engine

A new AS3 physics engine has been released from generalrelativity and adds itself to the block. It is in early alpha but this is looking pretty good so far. APE, the highly anticipated Motor Physics from polygonal labs and now FOAM, so many wonderful physics toys to build games with!

Current Features:

  • Rigid body simulation
    • Arbitrary convex polygons
    • Circles
    • Cubic Bezier curves
    • Lines
  • Constraints
    • Springs
    • Bungees
  • Easily swappable numerical integrators
    • RK4
    • Euler
    • Midpoint
  • Separation Axis Theorem based collision detection
  • Modular force generation

Source

Demos:

SVN:

  • http://foam-as3.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/

Here’s a list of classes in the repo:

AABR
AABRDetector
AbstractSolver
AxisProjection
BezierDetector
Bungee
Circle
CircleAxisProjection
CircleCircleDetector
CirclePolygonDetector
CollisionResolver
CollisionType
Contact
CubicBezierCurve
Euler
Foam
FOAM_AS3
Friction
GravitationalForceGenerator
Gravity
IBody
ICoarseCollisionDetector
ICollisionFactory
IFineCollisionDetector
IFoamRenderer
IForceGenerator
IODE
IODESolver
ISimulatable
KeyDrivenTorqueGenerator
MathUtil
MouseSpring
PerpetualFall
PhysicsEngine
PointPolygonDetector
PolygonPolygonDetector
Renderable
RenderingUtil
RigidBody
RigidBodyBungee
RigidBodySpring
RK4
RotationMatrix
SATCollisionFactory
ShapeUtil
SimpleFoamRenderer
SimpleForceGenerator
SimpleMap
SimpleOrbit
SimpleParticle
Simplification
Spring
Vector
ZeroGravityToyChest

game on! Thanks Drew!