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German developer price: Deutscher Entwicklerpreis 2005

by Benjamin Nitschke 30. November 2005 14:07
About Rocket Commander: The game is nearly finished. I will post a new screenshot in a couple of days. The internal beta testing will start this week too.

Today we are going to the german developer price (german: Deutscher Entwicklerpreis).
Last year we won 2 prices for Arena Wars :)
I'm excited to see who will win some prices this year.
Hope to see some developer guys there.

Article in gamestar/dev magazine

by Benjamin Nitschke 28. November 2005 11:46
Dirk Primbs and me wrote an article for the german game development magazine gamestar/dev. It is about game development and high performance in .NET. We talk about using managed code, new features of Visual Studio 2005 and .NET 2.0 and show a few nice tips and tricks.

You can preview the article if you click on the image, the full article is the the current gamestar/dev. If you don't understand german, you can still look at the images :)

Rocket Commander: Week 3

by Benjamin Nitschke 24. November 2005 01:43
The problem with many asteroids in a scene is finally solved. I spend most of the time optimizing the game loop, rendering and physics. I should have more time now to test and play the game and add some fun to it.

The game is now capable of calculating and updating over 10 000 asteroids (each over 1200 polygons) per frame while maintaining a reasonable framerate, which was not possible a week ago (I got many asteroids, but updating them was very slow and rendering wasn't very fast either). Usually a scene consists of 2-5k asteroids and runs pretty fast (over 100 fps with all shaders on, up to 200 fps without post screen effects). Physics aren't perfect yet, but the basic stuff works. I might need to speed a bit more time on player collisions for more accurate collision checks.

Since the graphics isn't so much different from last week and some new graphical stuff isn't finished yet (items, final sky, on screen layout), I present you today the main menu screen. Pretty boring, but I didn't say there will always be fancy screens every time I post stuff here. I looks much better in action because the background is an automatically updated asteroid field in realtime while the menu is in the foreground.

Other things like sounds and music do work now too. I said that 2 weeks ago already, but now all sound effects are included and Boje did a nice music track for the game.

The game itself is missing too. Flying around works nice, but most of the game elements (menu, items, game dynamics, etc.) are still missing. For the level design I had some nice ideas too, which I will try out this week (required for the optimizations above anyway).

Most of the game should be finished by next week. I will only do an update to DirectX 9 December 2005 as soon as it is available.

Rocket Commander: Week 2

by Benjamin Nitschke 15. November 2005 02:44
Alrighty, the second week passed and most of the graphical effects are implemented now. There will be some updates to the background sky and some additional asteroid types next week. Other than that not much more effects will be added yet. You can see the new radial blur effect (it won't be that strong all the time, only with speed boost item) and a nice post screen glow/bloom effect in the screenshot. There are currently around 10000 asteroids in the scene (clipped if not visible) and rendering is very fast (up to 13-20 mio visible polys/sec) with help of shader instancing :)

I've got still 2 major problems left: The first one is the performance of the physics calculations. For 10000 asteroids to check every one each frame if they collide with any other asteroid is computually very expensive. Even the visibility test gets very slow if a lot of asteroids are checked. I have to implement some clever checks to optimize this. The other one is a polygon based collision check for supporting not only round asteroids (that shouldn't be too hard, but it is a still a bit of work).

The game itself is missing too. Flying around works nice, but most of the game elements (menu, items, game dynamics, etc.) are still missing. For the level design I had some nice ideas too, which I will try out this week (required for the optimizations above anyway).

To be continued .. (next week)

Visual Studio 2005 Express Editions for free!

by Benjamin Nitschke 10. November 2005 21:00

Wow, Microsoft has made all their Visual Studio 2005 Express Editions (c++, c#, VB, J#, etc.) free (they normally cost $49). This offer is active for 1 year (till November 2006), but you can use the downloaded version as long as you want.

So there is no reason for you to not try out Visual Studio 2005 now, if you haven't got a clue yet how cool it is :)

Download here:

Rocket Commander: Week 1

by Benjamin Nitschke 7. November 2005 04:00
Well, a week isn't really over yet, but since most of the planed work for this week is finished, I'm going to post a screen now. Unlike my posts for Lost Squadron I think it is much better to have weekly steps since you can see more changes in a week.

You can see on the screen the basic framework for the engine, it supports parallax shaders, cube maps (for the space background), music, sound and all other basic graphic elements. The lens flare isn't finished yet and most of the models are not fixed yet (there is an evil bug in 3DS Max 8 preventing us to export correct normal maps, somehow the tangent calculation inside of 3DS Max 8 to bake normal maps is not working as it was in 3DS Max 7).

This is still a very early screen (at least it is realtime and 3d ^^ please don't think anything is final art yet) and you won't get a feeling for the game yet. Hopefully next week this will look much better. Currently missing are also:

  • Some simple physics for all game elements (asteroids, rocket)
  • Main menu, Highscores, logos, texts, etc.
  • Post screen effects (motion blur, glow/bloom effects, hdr stuff).
  • Level design .. hmm, havn't got a clue how to solve that yet.
  • The game itself, items, fun and so on ...
  • The website too :)

See ya next week ^^

New Project: Rocket Commander

by Benjamin Nitschke 3. November 2005 17:15
It's time for another cool game: Rocket Commander!

The cool thing about this game is the fact, that Microsoft will ship it with Visual Studio 2005 (german, release: feb 2006) and hopefully push it a little to make it more known :)

The full source code and game will also be available freely and can be used to learn .NET 2.0 and DirectX (using all the newest tricks with c# 2.0 and Managed DirectX for .NET 2.0). I will develop the game this month, dunno yet when the official online release will be, we will see (we may have to wait till 2006).

I will post screens and code tricks every week for this project and hopefully get some attention for this little fun game. The idea is pretty old, I've told this game idea a lot of people in the last 1.5 years, but I wasn't able to convince anyone that this is a really cool special and unusual game. Now I told some Microsoft guys the same idea (Dirk Primbs and Lars Lippert) they were really amazed and think this idea would be great (I thought they were kidding me at first).

This is the basic game idea: Rocket Commander is a little beginner friendly casual 3D game. The player finds himself inside a rocket flying through a city, an asteriod field or other levels. The basic task is not to kill enemies or to solve any quests like in many other games, but to finish a level by flying through it without colliding with anything. Additionally there are special items, which can be collected to increase the health of the rocket, add additional fuel, increase the speed for a short time and give more lifes.

Everything will be presented in a nice space enviroment using a lot of cool shaders (parallax mapping, glow effects, motion blur, hdr lighting, etc.) and a lot of cool effects and graphic tricks. It is still a casual simple game, which is hopefully a lot of fun to play. Since the source code is free, players are encouraged to modify it or add extensions, but this is a topic for a later time.

Another topic: 3D Studio Max 8 (3dsMax8) was released a little longer than a month ago and we are currently in the progress of writing an exporter for our in-game models (has nothing to do with Rocket Commander, which will just use simple .x files, which can be exchanged by the user). I posted the following stuff it the Autodesk Sparks board (but there isn't anything going on there, 2 views per day?):

I'm having very ugly problems with IGame and 3dsMax8. Every single exporter I tested (and recompiled using max8 sdk) using IGame crashes in 3dsMax8 while it was working on 3dsMax7. I've tested: IGameExporter (sample directory), creating a plugin with the vs wizzard (in vs2002, 2003 and 2005, no difference except a bunch of header file errors, which can be fixed easily) and using other IGame exporters.

This is what happens in every single one of the exporters using IGame I debugged, I've used IGameExporter.cpp to explain the problem:

IGameExporter.cpp line 2482:

igameVersion = GetIGameVersion();
igameVersion returns always 0 in 3dsMax8, in 3dsMax7 the exact same code produces igameVersion == 1073741824

that's strange, but the following line still is valid: IGameExporter.cpp line 2498:

pIgame = GetIGameInterface();

and finally when calling InitialiseIGame (no matter with what parameters or in what order) everything crashes: IGameExporter.cpp line 2504:


Everything after that gets never executed. If commenting out that line, every other call with pIgame crashes (pIgame, which is of type IGameScene, is not null, it got a valid pointer value).

Now the solution to all this crap: Just copy over the IGame.dll (version from 3dsMax7 to 3dsMax8 (just save the IGame.dll version and now everything works fine. But I guess new features of IGame 2.0 (now called 3dxi - Date Exchange Interface or something) wont work this way ^^ A fix from Autodesk would be nice anyway.

There are still some things missing in 3dsMax7 (e.g. the IGameFx class), which can be annoying, but at least 3dsMax8 does not crash all the time. Let's hope they do a 3dsMax8 SP1 sometime soon. We also found out, that it is easier to develop for 3dsMax7 and then just use the plugin in 3dsMax8 too with the IGame.dll copied over from 3dsMax7. This also works nicely with other plugins like the Panda Exporter (for .x files) and other IGame exporters (which all crash in 3dsMax8). At least Microsoft isn't the only company which screws up with their managed DirectX releases, all the managed dll hell (wtf? I thought there is no dll hell anymore in .NET) and the still missing working MDX for .NET 2.0 final.

Investing a bit more resources would be nice to support important things like Managed DirectX (well, there is just Tom Miller from Microsoft) or plugins for 3DSMax (more or less just Neil Hazzard from Discreet). They are both great guys and they do a hell of a nice job managing such big tasks, but still: It would be nice if the companies would hire more people for this things. It's not like nobody is using Managed DirectX or never going to write a plugin for 3dsMax (which again is a hard job with c++, a write only language ^^).

Enough rambling, back to work ...

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are own personal opinions and do not represent the companies view.
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