Director 11 Is Released

I was able to download the demo and it is in the store and on Adobe’s site. The new AGEIA™ PhysX™  physics engine and some sort of updated 3D with hardware rendering is nice.

But, Director is like the Rodney Dangerfield of products at Adobe.  Everywhere you have to dig for it, it doesn’t even have updated marketing in most places, the shockwave player link is still from 2002 etc.  I wish that Adobe would support it more, open it up, allow better IDEs, integrate ES4 based Actionscript 3 or 4 into it and keep the 3d market that shockwave supports moving along.

Maybe they will give Director more love but if they don’t allow for some community input and work on the platform like Flex and Flash have thrived on, well they might just lose that piece of the market (3d gaming, hardware).

First impression is the fonts do look much better.  Unicode support is so far so good and I haven’t had a chance to dig into the AEGIS PhysX engine yet but that looks very very fun.

For instance here is a Physics Engine call that creates a rigid body terrain


//JavaScript Syntax
var objTerrain= member("PhysicsWorld").createTerrain("myterrain",terrainDesc,position,orientation,1,1,1);

Or some raycasting:

//JavaScript Syntax
var lstraycast = member(“PhysicsWorld”).rayCastAll (vector(10,0,0),vector(0,0,1));
for(i = 1; i < = lstraycast.count ; i++) {   raycstEntry = lstraycast[i];   put("Name:" + raycstEntry[1].name);   put"Contact Point:" & raycstEntry[2]);   put("Contact Normal:" & raycstEntry[3]);   put("Distance:" & raycstEntry[4]); }[/sourcecode]I use the Javascript source simply because it is much more usable to me. Unfortunately the docs are only partially converted to Javascript.  Lingo is pretty close to it though but it scares people off. What Adobe needs to do is port into Flash the ability to use Shockwave3D (hardware rendering for 3d), AEGIS PhysX, would that not blow up big time or what?

Moock Mentions XFL for Open Flash IDE Source Formats

Colin Moock an actionscript brain since the great Flash 4 advances that brought all sorts of fun to flash, like games, has mentioned XFL an open format for flash from a discussion with Adobe product managers.

This would be a format that would be able to import, export and allow compile to SWF. MXML for Flex does this now but bringing the two together into one common format and allowing for all sorts of open source and third party contributions to making flash will let it literally explode in support.

I recently met with Flash authoring product-manager, Richard Galvan, to talk about Diesel, the next version of Flash (i.e., Flash CS4, or version 10 for those counting). Adobe has already demonstrated a bunch of high-impact features for Diesel, including inverse kinematics, a new tweening model, 3D “postcards in space”, and advanced text components (see MAX 07 keynote, FOTB 07 keynote, and FITC Amsterdam 08 keynote). But Richard was keen to talk about a lesser known feature quietly percolating behind the scenes: XFL.

Since its inception, the Flash authoring tool has stored documents in a binary source-file called .fla. Historically, interchanging source with the Flash authoring tool has been virtually impossible for third-party software because the specification for .fla has never been public. But things are changing in the next version of Flash. Flash CS4 will be able to export *and* import a new source format called XFL. An XFL file is a .zip file that contains the source material for a Flash document. Within the .zip file resides an XML file describing the structure of the document and a folder with the document’s assets (graphics, sounds, etc). The exact details of the XFL format are not yet available, but Richard assures me that Adobe intends to document them publicly, allowing third-party tools to import and export XFL.

If this is a market test or check of interest I think that everyone I know working with flash would be very excited about opening and unifying the flash format and allowing great IDEs and tools to help produce better flash content more quickly. Also, with the competition Silverlight using XAML (uncompressed) this also allows a competitive advantage maybe making Silverlight add better compression and loading tools beyond their downloader object.

I hope this is also in the plans for Director. If they used similar formats it could be very nice and something to watch as an emerging market to prepare for.

Read the full post at moock.org

Game Development: Havok Offers Core Physics free for PC Game Developers

havok_logo2.gif

This is a bit off the online games department (although Havok was part of Director previously) but they are offering Havok physics core engine, the one that runs many great games including Half-Life 2 family, free. This is truly amazing Havok was the best and probably still is the best 3d physics engine for so long but was so freaking expensive it made it unattainable to anyone without probably close to half a million for budget. I think they are either getting heat from competition or they realize the importance of allowing communities to see what they can do with something, then coming along for the ride rather than being a wall that they have to go around. (of course this leads to bigger license fees once someone is established and can afford it).

They say exactly this here:

Havok’s core platform, Havok Complete combines the industry-leading Havok Physics engine and Havok Animation, the company’s premier character animation solution. Havok Complete is already the most popular solution in the cross-platform AAA games market, featuring technology used in over 200 games. By making Havok Complete for the PC freely downloadable, Havok will further build on its leading position by completely removing the barriers to entry for the large number of independent developers, academic institutions and enthusiasts in the PC space.

I always encourage products and people making any sort of toolkit, engine, application or library to offer it free or a portion of it free to get people hooked, and then as skills are acquired, they are then completely sold in. It is a bit of a play on the old piracy market where applications become so rampant that everyone uses them for years, then they recommend them at work and the growth of this type of marketing is long-term. Windows and Photoshop both got their market shares this way, they will never admit this though but I digress.

I am so excited by this news. It is interesting that the next version of Director, Director 11 was recently announced and it NO LONGER uses the Havok 3d physics engine but the AGEIA PhysX due to it being free (although the source license is still 50k).

I currently use Irrlicht and AEGIS, or ODE (open source physics engine – open dynamics engine) for pc based game development and physics fun. I will have to read the Havok license carefully but just getting your hands on this will be beneficial to all aspiring game developers.

Now if only game companies like Epic, Artificial Studios, and others would do the same, hrm…

One item of note is that it won’t be available until May.  I can imagine that the developers are like “ok well give me a few months to clean up all the code and cuss words from the source” j/k.  Let’s hope this release is not on Valve Time.

Get your game on!

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.

Best Of Commercial Flash Papervision3D (yet)


Here’s some of the best commercial Papervision3d projects so far
(all commercial papervision I have seen so far has made theFWA):

1)  The Brahma Bus interactive project
       by Russian firm PARK Studios.


Customize your own VW Bus, received theFWA recognition.

2) Eye Project
      by
Takayuki Fukatsu aka fladdict

This is a killer use of pixel color mapping to video overall color.  It has papervision in the archives where it uses some more really well done pixel manipulation effects, received theFWA recognition.

3) The Net Eye interface (based on pv3d sample PaperCloud)
      by Neteye


Nice interface based on a pv3d sample project, received theFWA recognition.

*** The authors of papervision3D also have some of the coolest demos with it as well listed here.

Carlo Ulloa (based on pv3d sample Focus – by far the best)
      by Carlo Ulloa


Papervision3d homepage Shark Demo (wait for it, wait for it…)

Very First Papervision3D Star Wars Game by John Grden.


Also the original shader demos by Ralph Hauwert were killer.

About Vector/Web 3d

Papervision3d created by Carlos Ulloa Matesanz, Ralph Hauwert, and last but not least John Grden has really hit a development and design nerve, along with AS3 finally being ready for primetime. People are really excited about projects like this and it just goes back to my point that in the Vector Wars (Adobe vs Microsoft (haxe making a little noise in dev circles as well)) whoever rolls out cross platform 3d harware rendering in their plug in they will pwn.

Whos the Next Leader of 3d on the Web?

Director has been abandoned for new released until 2008 at least for any 3d updates (if we ever see another version).  But Flash could implement OpenGL (which would lead to it maybe being open one day) and Silverlight would implement DirectX but woudl probably stop at implementing OpenGL.  Flash *could* own with hardware rendering but it opens it up to many more plugins which lead to Director being maxed out at 50% market saturation. 

Anyways, it probably won’t happen but today we have some nice 3d engines in Flash that are fast enough in AS3 with its new shiny VM and there have been some nice commercial successes of the wise early adopters of this technology. Papervision3D, Away 3d (possible merging of code), and Sandy have all helped to add to the buzz around AS3.

UPDATE: Check out this Mech Demo that is making the rounds.  The demo has working hit detection and projectiles from the mech as well as animation on the 3d model.

Hardware Rendering for 3D in Silverlight or Flash? And, Anyone Seen Our Director?

Hardware 3D rendering…

One thing that might be interesting in the heating up battle of Flash vs Silverlight is rendering.  Will Silverlight down the road provide hardware rendering support for 3d in Silverlight?  If so Microsoft will have a compelling offering.  Would Microsoft really want this with strong 3d capabilities built into a browser (goes against their console offerings, or maybe not in the end).

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWith 3d in the browser on two competing platforms that use hardware rendering we can make Raycasted donuts (yummy) oh and there could be a massive surge in the online 3d gaming market (especially the indie market).

It is up for grabs 

But the problem is that Silverlight will also need to support OpenGL for other platforms (that do not run DirectX).  If Adobe wants to win this maybe OpenGL 3d integration into flash will make it more cross platform.  I know the developers on the papervision3d lists are all looking forward to better than software rendering in flash.

Who’s Directing Director? 

But then this leads to another question, where does Director fit in all this, is it even part of the plan? Will Director and Flash merge to support this? Then what happens to the saturation of Flash in the market when it has more third party issues like Director? (and possibly less adoption director usually gets up to 50% to 60% saturation) 

What exactly happened to Director in the plans?

Director is still the de facto standard in 3d web games, more on this soon.  Director has been noticeably absent from all versions of Creative Suite (they are up to CS3 now without it).  Buzz about it was happening in 2004-2005 but last anyone heard is it is still planned for released. The one problem with the Director development environment and community is that the IDE is clunky, the libraries and script (Lingo) is not as advanced as AS3 (the addition of Javascript to the capabilities was great but much of the community was Lingo) and the community is a ghost town (loads of broken links and pay xtras, its stuck in 2003-4).  It was a great market before that, I think Adobe is letting it slip further and further away.  If they wait too long Microsoft might add hardware rendering to Silverlight and then game over in owning 3d gaming on the web. 

“Halleys Comet”

Here is a posting to macromedia.director.3d from Ritesh Banglani, Product Manager for Director and Shockwave. It was in response to a joke about him coming and going from the forum like Halley’s Comet…

Still here, guys. I cannot give an exact release date for the next version, but it will likely be towards the end of the year rather than the middle. The Shockwave Vista release (with DirectX 7) will be out sooner – in 6 weeks or so.

We will NOT upgrade the 3D feature set in the forthcoming Director release. Requirements like new platform support, performance and text engine enhancements are very urgent, and we don’t want to delay this release beyond 2007. However, we are committed to maintaining Shockwave as the leading 3D format on the web, and you WILL see 3D enhancements in a subsequent release. The move to DirectX 9 is a signal of our long term commitment to Shockwave 3D.

I know this is not the answer many of you are looking for. I appreciate your patience, and hope to keep the channels of communications open!

Currently this is the status of hardware supported 3d in WPF/E Silverlight. 

WPF fully supports hardware rendering but Silverlight (cross browser) does not.

What features are missing from Silverlight presentation markup that will be supported in WPF?

Some high-end, Windows-specific features of WPF, such as real 3D, hardware-based video acceleration, and full document support, will not be supported in Silverlight. This is done on purpose in order to serve the Silverlight cross-browser, cross-platform reach requirements that demand a light-weight plug-in. However, Silverlight will offer a uniform runtime that can render identical experiences across browsers on both Macintosh computers and on Windows-based computers.