Hardware of the Casual Gamer

Making great games, applications and tools using flash, silverlight or other tools that are emerging such as Unity3D takes great style, effort and knowing your target. We need to know what the end-user machine has at hand.  The Unity 3d guys put together a great post on the capabilities of casual gaming machines. With all the talk about flash 3d, unity3d and silverlight what level are you targeting and what group of people can actually PLAY your games as you envision.

Pretty much everyone knows Valve’s hardware survey – it’s a very valuable resource that shows what hardware the typical “hardcore PC gamer” has (that is, gamers that play Valve’s games).

However, the “casual gamer”, which is what Unity games are mostly targeted at, probably has slightly different hardware. “Slightly” being a very relative term of course.

Lo and behold – we have a glimpse into that data.

How? First time the Unity Web Player is installed, it submits anonymous hardware details (details in the EULA). This happens only once, and contains no personally identifiable information. It’s much like visitor statistics trackers on the websites that gather your OS, browser information and whatnot.

Remember, all this data is from people who installed Unity Web Player (most likely because they wanted to play some Unity content on the web). Hardware of standalone game players might be different, and hardware of your game’s players might be different as well. The data set is well over a million samples at the moment.

Check out the full stats here.

The most interesting stats to me:

OS Platforms

Windows 96.8%

Mac OS X 3.2%

CPU Core count overall

1 54.7%

2 44.1%

4 1.1%

8 .1%

Wow this one is surprising, but with the type of gamer that will play and download a quality new plugin to get to a game, maybe not.  They need to have the latest and greatest.  Multi-core processors have been selling for about 2-3 years so this is a continuing trend that will make Flash 3d and even plugins like Unity 3d better over the short term.

Also when you check it over at Unity Blog note the top cards, it is a bit painful if you are a casual gamer developer.  Not a decent card in the top 10-15. But that is changing rapidly over the next 1-2 years in this regard. But this also vyes well for flash based games that rely on dual core software rendered results right now as a decent constraint for developers to keep content painfully accessible to all states of machinery out there.

I wonder if this information is available on the flash player and public? This is specific to the Unity 3D plugin that is also a bit of a different market that is willing to install a plugin for better experiences.  With Flash it is usually preinstalled or auto updated for a casual user and might be different as Flash has a 98% penetration rate.  Or for that matter the Director users which would be more gaming focused which amout ot about 40% of internet users.  But as with the case of Unity it is specific to games right now and a small penetration rate, Flash is also apps, ads, tools, demos, interactives in addition to games.  Having this information on Flash or Director would be nice.

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!

DirectX and OpenGL Hardware Acceleration in Flash9 Update?

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/

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.

Pageturn in Silverlight

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketHere’s the first pageturn in silverlight.  It runs pretty smooth. 

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