Saturday, 30 November 2013

Notes on Terrain Sculpting in Unity

So a couple of weeks ago I watched the Terrain Sculpting video tutorial from Unity, which you can view here:

But one of the questions I had was: what if you want to sculpt valleys, etc., using a height map?

To be able to sculpt valleys and troughs within Unity you have to Flatten your terrain. It sounds odd, I know, but in the tutorial you set a height greater than 0 and hit Flatten. This raises your terrain to the height you specified and allows you to cut into your terrain.

To Flatten your terrain, select it, then click on the "Paint Height" button in the Inspector. You will see the Flatten button in the Brush Settings (highlighted in red below) and you can either use the slider or type right into the box. Once you have your desired height set, then click "Flatten".

If you click the "Raise/Lower Height" button you can hold the Shift key while painting and you will cut into your Terrain.

But what if you want to use a Height Map? Well you can. Flatten your image and then click on the Settings button (illustrated below).

 Then click "Import Raw" under Height Map.

Choose your file and your height map will be applied. I created my Height Map in Photoshop and it looks like this:

The gray colour is: R: 176, G: 176, B: 176.

The black is: R:36, G: 36, B: 36
The texture was created in 8-bit grayscale and was saved in .RAW format.
My Terrain was 2000 x 2000 pixels, so that's how big I made the canvas.

When applied to the terrain, it looks like this:

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Support an indie developer and get a game for free!

Exciting News!
Our friends over at Late Night Apps are doing a special promo on their awesome game Polyhegrams! The game is free from November 28th to December 1st for all Windows 8 based devices! That's right, get Polyhegrams for free on your Windows 8 laptop or desktop, Surface RT or PRO and even on your Windows Phone! Polyhegrams is a fantastic game that works out your brain as well as your fingers. Find out more at

So be thankful for Indie Developers this Thanksgiving weekend and score a free game!

Friday, 22 November 2013

A bit or an update...... or ......... "I love it when a plan comes together"

General Blurb!
Well it's been a bit quiet here on the Blog for a while. I've been getting to grips with Twitter so most of the updates have been going on there. Twitter is great at providing just a short update until I get the time to sit down and write everything out in Blog format. So, if you want more up-to-date news, then you can either Follow us on Twitter, or Like our Page on Facebook (the Twitter updates go to our Facebook page). If I had the time to sit down and work out if the Twitter feed could also go to our Google+ page, then I'd do that as well, but to be blunt: I'd rather spend my time on developing the game.

The Game
Yes, a game decision was made and I'm really excited about it! It's a survival horror game... and that's all I can say at the moment. Oh, I can say that a prototype is being developed!

Wii U
Kirkley Entertainment Inc. is now a registered Nintendo developer! Yay! That was very exciting! :D
We signed up for the Deferred Payment plan and got our Wii U Developer Kit. It was a bit of a process to receive the Dev. Kit as it got held up at border control because we didn't have an International Import number. Fortunately it was only a quick call to sort that out.
I did have an error when trying to run something on it, but the forums were a great place to get help. I managed to get up and running and had the Unity Angry Bots demo running on the Dev. Kit.

If you haven't guessed by now, Unity was chosen as the development engine going forward. I learnt a lot about it at the Unite Training Day as well as at Unite itself. You get a special Wii U version of Unity Pro when you become a Nintendo developer, so that was a bonus. Add in that Unity is compatible with PS 3 & 4 + Vita, Xbox 360 & One, Windows, Linux, Android and Apple OS's, then it makes it a one-stop shop for games development.

The Unity Asset Store
In order to develop the prototype as quickly as possible I decided to buy assets from the Unity Asset Store. Taking out the modelling component for characters (plus some great sales on the Asset Store) means I can just concentrate on developing the prototype and getting to rips with Unity and the Wii U Dev. Kit.

Unity Tutorials
Everyone needs to learn how to do stuff. Even if you've worked with a game engine before, or built one yourself, you still need to learn anything new. The Unity Tutorials have been great, and I'm especially getting a lot out of the Live Training Sessions, which are archived here:

Other Tools
As a Unite attendee I got a great offer on a product called iClone. I got a bundle which included 3DExchange, the Mocap Device Platform (which allows you to use a Kinect to capture motion so you can animate in iClone) as well as training DVDs. Very handy and a great price.
Today I managed to create a custom animation in iClone and then export it using 3DExchange. Then I imported it into Unity and watched my animation play. The tutorial I followed is here:

I also subscribed to the Adobe Creative Cloud so I can use Photoshop to create Height Maps for Unity, as well as for texture editing.

Then there's the Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite, and Maya LT that I've been playing with. I haven't done much with these tools as I have been getting content from the Unity Asset Store.

We also got accepted for BizSpark, hence the logo on our site, which means we get awesome tools like Visual Studio 2013 Ultimate. I think that means we'll have to invest in a copy of UnityVS to take full advantage of that toolset.

Other Stuff
We put a legal firm on retainer, though that retainer was eaten up by getting them to go over our incorporation documents to make sure everything was in set up correctly, and then creating a Corporate Minute Book. The lawyer I'm working with specialises in the Technology field and Intellectual Property, so this is great!

And so it goes..
Now that the game has been selected, the engine has been selected, and the content creation tools selected work can really start to progress on the game. I'm hoping that the prototyping goes well and a basic prototype is available some time in 2014. Once that prototype is running, then I'm considering a Kickstarter campaign so I can raise some money to hire staff and really get going on this game.
I'm really excited in the progress that has been made recently, and the future is starting to look bright, so get out your shades! :)

Friday, 6 September 2013

2D Demo from Unite 2013

The Tower Defense game that was used to demo the new 2D features coming in Unity 4.3 is available for Free in the Unity Asset Store!

You must have the Beta of Unity 4.3 for the Project.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Easter Seals Part 2

Today was the day that Jennifer abseiled down one of the Sun Life buildings in Sun Life Plaza in Calgary! The buildings are all 28 accessible floors (they're actually 30 floors but the very top 2 are for building operations) and they are 114.3 meters (375ft) tall, and Jennifer abseiled down the whole thing.

We're very proud of what she accomplished and she managed to raise just short of $1,500 in only a few weeks. The money goes to the Easter Seals, which you can learn more about on their website here.

We'd just like to say a big "THANK YOU" to all of Jennifer's sponsors!


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

We're on Twitter!

To expand our Social Media presence we are now on Twitter! You can follow us on Twitter @KirkleyEnt

Also, our Facebook page now has a direct link:

Anyway, back to making games!! :)

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Unite 2013 Day 3

*** The following are notes on the sessions I attended and do not represent the full schedule of events at Unite 2013 ***

The final day of Unite :(

Level Up with the Unity Asset Store
This session concentrated on Unity's Asset Store and all the content available on there. The ssest Store does no contain just models, etc., but also contains useful tools like nGUI, shaders, AI, etc., etc. The presenter told us a great story (great for us, not so great for her to go through) on how she was a failed Indie game developer, but how she now has an understanding of what is needed to create games and has developed a passion for game assets as a result.
The presenters also explained that some art assets provided on the Asset Store are created by people working as artists in the games industry, sometime for AAA studios. This is evident in the pure quality of the content itself.
If you want to check out the Asset Store yourself, then it is here.
There were also talks by a couple of people who were selling content on the store. It's funny to hear how one of the speakers built a game, but has made more money from the Asset Store selling a plug-in for Unity that he developed for that game, than he has made off the game itself!

Feedback and Q&A: The Future of 2D and GUI in Unity
This was a bit of a dry session and slow to start. The panel started out by asking the floor for questions, but questions were slow in coming out. The panel then demonstrated some of the 2D and GUI features for Unity and the questions started to flow. There was some confusion on the floor between items in the 2D component and items in the GUI tools. I think this session would have been much better if it had started with a re-cap of the new toolset before starting the Q&A session.
Also, the question of release for the GUI component (the 2D component is coming in 4.3) was raised again but the panel either did not know, or were not allowed to tell (it was hard to determine which) when those release versions or dates would be.

Wrangling OnGUI
This was a great, in-depth, look at the current GUI system built into Unity: OnGUI. Current challenges/bugs were identified and described and a demonstration of OnGUI was also given. Not a very exciting or engaging presentation, but useful nonetheless.

Internal Unity Tips and Tricks
This was the final session I attended and gave some great advice on debugging your Unity game. The PRO version of Unity comes with performance analysis tools built in, but the presenter also recommended:

Visual Studio 2012 Graphics Debuggers
Intel GPA
Pix for Windows (part of the DirectX SDK)

The End

And it really was. I'd saved visiting the exhibitors there until Friday as it was a much slower day and finished at 4pm rather than 6pm. So I thought I'd have 2 hours to go around all the exhibitors during that time. Well, I'm glad I didn't wait until the end to do this as I had planned originally as they were all either packing up or packed up completely.
There were still people at the Hands On Labs, but I think my brain was in overload so I would not have got much out of them.

Anyway, here's a round up of the Exhibitors and my impressions of them:

The Exhibitors of Unite 2013 Vancouver

The Good (in no particular order)
The Foundry - awesome guys and all of them were willing to chat, give live demos, etc. Their passion for Modo was plain to see, and it was great to see that level of passion and excitement about their product.

Game Anlytics - super helpful, easy to talk with and willing to show you anything they could about their product.

Reallusion - In a word: fantastic! Another group excited and passionate about their product and willing to make sure I left with a clear view of what they did and how their product would help me realize my game creating dreams. They also gave me a discount voucher and trial disk, and made me feel valued as a potential customer.

Simplygon - another bunch of guys willing and able to explain the hows and whys of their product. And free t-shirts! :) Great, friendly team!

Nintendo - the representative I spoke to was very friendly and knowledgeable on the Nintendo Store. He took the time to answer my questions, made sure I had all the info they could give me, showed me a development console, the works. I liked what I heard so much that I started the developer reistration process while waiting for my next session to begin.

The Bad
Autodesk - the Autodesk presentation was fantastic, but the booth not so much. The guys there were good to talk to and I think, in all fairness, they may have been "conventioned out". Also it could have been me as the coffee hadn't kicked in yet. But they did answer questions and the guy demonstrating Scale Form was nice enough to give a quick demo. Maybe I'm being harsh on Autodesk, but they weren't that engaging.

The Ugly
NVIDIA - I was excited to see NVIDIA there with the Shield as I've been wanting to get my hads on one of those. Their booth was simply a table with a tiny NVIDIA sign, one guy (maybe 2???) and 2 NVIDIA Shields. When I went over, I got a glance and the guy ignored me and talked to someone else. It was hard to tell if the other person was an attendee or just a friend or fellow exhibitor as he occupied the seat next to the guy. It would have been nice for some engagement there, or just something and not left to just stand there like an idiot!

There were other exhibitors there that I just did not get to talk to:

Unity Asset Store
Unity Studios
Leonardo 3D
Oculus VR (the queue was massive for them and people seemed blown away)
Photon Server

All in all I had a great time and hope they repeat their world tour next year. Thank you Unity!

Friday, 30 August 2013

Unite 2013 Day 2

*** The following are notes on the sessions I attended and do not represent the full schedule of events at Unite 2013 ***

Enable your apps to see with Qualcomm Vuforia (Qualcomm Vuforia - Sponsored Session)
The Vuforia session was really impressive. The SDK allows you to specify a particular shape in the real world and apply animations around it when it is discovered. For example: say you are developing an application for a soda company and they want a particular animation to play when the application on your mobile device detects one of their soda cans. You would specify the dimensions of the soda can, and it's appearance within Unity (using the plug-in), then create the animation to play in Unity (in this session they modelled a 3D soccer ball rotating around a soda can).
On the show-reel they demonstrated how this technology could be used to scan a real-world item and import it into a game. The example for this was for My Little Pony. A new My Little Pony was purchased and scanned in an app, the character of that Pony was then unlocked as a playable character in a My Little Pony Game.
I've done some Googling and I just can't find this show-reel anywhere, which is a real shame as I don't think I'm doing a very good job of describing it here. Anyway, you can find more information on Vuforia here.

Nurturing Large Projects: How We Structured Hardware: Shipbreakers To Make It Easier To Develop, Test, and Maintain
Blackbird Interactive gave a postmortem of the challenges they had when developing Hardware: Shipbreakers in Unity. The presenters were really engaging and presented well, but rather than break it down (and forget stuff) then I thought I'd just share the link to their presentation. Unfortunately, I lost the link to the page when I was fixing up this post, but I have a copy I'm sharing here. I hope this is OK with the folks at Blackbird, if it's not the please let me know and I'll take it down.

Console to Mobile: Bringing an AAA Console Title to Mobile with Almost Zero Asset Modification
The staff from Owlchemy Labs also gave a well put together presentation and were highly engaging. They took us through the development process for when they converted the console game Shoot Many Robots to a mobile game for the original developers, Demiurge. They talked about how they rapidly prototyped the game in Unity, rejected their own idea, then prototyped again all in a matter of days.
The discussion also centred on assets and how they were able to develop the game so that it was compatible with iPad 1 & iPhone 3GS all the way to iPad 4 and iPhone 5. The way they did this was some scripting on the back end that looked for the hardware type, and then neglected to draw components of the scenes in order to optimize the game.

3D Content Creation on a Budget (The Foundry - Sponsored Session)
The Foundry took this opportunity to show off the amazing power of Modo. I've ranted before about 3D creation and what a pain it is. I love Autodesk (more on them later) and would love to own their Entertainment Suite, but it's not really conducive to easily creating assets for games. That statement may seem out there saying as 3DS Max and Maya have been staples of the Games & Film industries for years and have resulted in many beautiful works of art. And I'm not denying that, but consider this:

Your artist roughs up a Character design in Sketchbook (most likely Photoshop but I wanted to use all Autodesk tools as an example)
The design gets approved, tidied up and made ready for your 3D modeller
The 3D modeller creates the character in 3DSM or Maya
To get the character's skin/feature just right, the modeller then sculpts the model in MudBox
The 3D modeller then hands a copy off to the texture artist who creates the texture also in MudBox
The model then gets handed to your Animator for rigging and animation. The animator then uses SoftImage to start to animate it. Once the animation is roughed in and looking good, the animator then opens it in MotionBuilder to refine the animation and maybe add some effects (dust, etc.)

OK, so I may have exaggerated the process a bit, but in this example there are 6 pieces of software needed to create the character! SIX! Why can't it be one? Why can't you build, sculpt, paint, animate and create effects in one solution? Well, with Modo you can. And it costs around $1500 instead of close to $9000 (if you buy the full Entertainment Suite with 3DSM and Maya).
That was the focus of the demonstration and how you can create amazing 3D content with 1 application. There is currently a 15 day trial available, but I'm not sure how long it is available for.

Talking Characters and Animation for Games (Reallusion - Sponsored Session)
The presentation by Reallusion was fantastic! They demo'ed their application iClone and it is an excellent product and is currently priced at under $200. Their application integrated with the Kinect SDK so you can use the Kinect sensor (only 1 at a time at the moment) to capture raw motion to be applied to characters. They also have lip-synching tools that will lip sync from an audio file. You can also zoom into portions of the face and manipulate it to get the desired emotion to match the lip-synching.
I went to the Reallusion booth the next day and they were very friendly and took the time to give me examples of their product, and then how to get them into Unity.
They also have an "asset store" where you can buy characters and animations.

Your next modeling tool... (Autodesk - Sponsored Session)
I said I'd get to Autodesk again :) The previous section on Modo was not meant as an Autodesk bashing rant, not in the slightest. It would be still worth $9000 if Autodesk rolled all their products into one suite. I've always wanted 3DSM or Maya. ALWAYS. And this session made that dream come closer to realization. What was highlighted in this session was MayaLT 2014. Yes, a light version of Maya aimed at Indie developers and with a price tag to match: $795!! MayaLT allows you to create, rig, animate, shade (limited shaders compared to the full version of Maya, but this is a light version afterall) and create effects all in one application! Yay! They also offer a subscription service where you get major release versions, etc., but you don't need to buy a subscription. They also offer a Rental service and a monthly cost of $50/month! Learn more about pricing here.
I was so excited that I downloaded the 15 day trial as soon as I got back to my hotel and installed it. Yes, only 15 days though. That is the trial duration for all the Autodesk tools I've looked at.

Analyzing engagement in F2P games (Game Analytics - Sponsored Session)
The Game Analytics team were very friendly at their booth and gave a great presentation. Their product captures in-game statistics so that you can determine key statistics about how players are playing your game, even down to where they're spending their money.
They recently went live with a Free version of their product which you can checkout on their website here.

Unite 2013 Day 1

Day 1 of Unite 2013 in Vancouver kicked off with  Keynote Speech from David Helgason (CEO) and Joachim Ante (CTO). The Keynote was very exciting and talked about new features in the upcoming version 4.3 of the Unity engine as well as the newly created 2D components and GUI features (the 2D components will be available in 4.3, but the GUI features were later announced as coming in version 4.x of Unity. So that's a little disappointing, but there are GUI solutions available in the Unity asset Store in the mean time.

Also announced was Unity Cloud which is a new Ad Service for in-game advertisements. At the moment they are in beta phase and targets iOS and Android only.

Also mentioned was the new Subscription model that Unity launched earlier this year as well as mentioning that the Android, iOS, etc., tools for the Free version of Unity are also free now (previously each component was $400).

If you want to see the Keynote for yourself (as I know there are some things I have missed here), then the folks at Unity put it online and you can view it here.

*** The following are notes on the sessions I attended and do not represent the full schedule of events at Unite 2013 ***

Introducing 2D in Unity 4.3 & The State of (New) GUI in Unity 4.x
These 2 sessions followed on from the Keynote by further exploring the 2D and GUI features that were announced in the Keynote.
The 2D component was demonstrated live and the toolset fully explored. The Unity Learn Team have put a video on the Unity Blog that describes the new component here.
The new GUI feature was also presented live. The GUI editor allows you to create 3D menu systems such as like in the Unreal and CryTek engines.

Photon : Realtime Multiplayer with Ease (Exit Games - Sponsored Session)
This session by Exit Games addressed the features of Photon and how they are solving the problem of online games for developers large and small. I found it interesting how the went from just developing an SDK that you ran on your own servers, to implementing a full solution hosted by themselves.

Create Game-Ready Characters in seconds with Mixamo and Substance (Mixamo & Allegorithmic - Sponsored Session)
Mixamo are providing fantastic resources for small teams that may only have a 3D modeller who cannot rig, or animate, or for a team that has no 3D artists at all. Mixamo provide 3D Characters (some of which are free and others you purchase with credits (1 credit = $1 so you know how much you're spending, but you can buy packs of credit and the information on that is here) as well as a service (Auto-rigger) that animates your character. Simply upload your (humanoid) character to their site and apply the animation pack you require. Again, some of the animations are free, but most are purchased using credits.
Mixamo also have a product called Face Plus that provides the real-time capture of facial expressions (via your web cam) and maps them to your character for voice-over and animation. Face Plus is a plugin for Unity, however you have to get the All Access Pass to utilize Face Plus and that is (at time of writing) $1499 a year. However, that price gives you access to other features, not just Face Plus. The demo of Face Plus was amazing! As soon as the presenter called up Face Plus it immediately began registering his facial expressions and mouth movement and mapped them to the character.

Rapid Level Creation with Procedural Tools: Introducing Houdini plug-in for Unity (Side Effects - Sponsored Session)
The Houdini session concentrated on their "Houdini Engine" which was quite impressive, however, no date has been announced for the tool so I'm not going to go into too much information here. You can read an article about the Houdini Engine here on their website.

Bringing Unity to Consoles
I really can't remember this session right now (I really wish I'd written these notes on the day). As soon as I remember, then I will update this post.
I do remember that the presenters mentioned the difficulties when you can be approached 2/3 through a project by a hardware manufacturer that demands a version of your game to run on their new platform.

Targeting Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 with Unity
This session was presented by an indie developer who had been one of the first to go through the process of making a game for the Windows 8 store. The presentation was engaging as he used content from his game to make the presentation rather than PowerPoint to make the presentation.
It was great hearing about the process from someone who'd been through it, rather than it being a pitch on how great the Windows Store is.

Unite 2013 Training Day

While Day #1 of Unite 2013 kicked off yesterday in Vancouver, Tuesday was the Training Day and it was fantastic! The session was run by two of the guys from the Learn team: Ben Pitt & Will Goldstone. To start you off you were handed a nice 8GB USB key (with the Unity logo on it) that contained the installers for Unity 4.2 (required for the Training Day, which was nice as I had 4.1.5 installed) and then all the content needed to follow along with the tutorial and create a game.

There was A LOT of content covered in the course, so I apologize of parts of this post are vague.

The session started off with an introduction to the Unity Editor which took you through all the components of the Editor and customization options such as changing the colour of the Editor when in Play mode.To do this, follow these steps: 

1. Launch Unity then click on "Edit > Preferences".

2. Click on the "Colors" tab on the left-hand side and you will see the "Playmode tint" option under the "General" heading.

3. Click on the colour bar (in green above) and you will be presented with the colour picker. You can either pick your colour, or type in the RGB code.

4. Once done, click the "X" in the top right hand corner of the box, then click the "Play" button in the Editor to check your change.

After the Editor Refresher came some instruction on Adding Assets and then Level Prototyping. The Level Prototyping took us through how to quickly build up some floor spaces and using the Duplicate tools.The floor space we laid out was the start of a castle that was the game play area for what we were creating.

Then it was on to Editor Scripting. A handy script surrounded the floor with the provided walls and towers and we were good to go. Below is a screenshot of the finished castle that was provided.

Another handy part of the training was that the team provided us with pre-built scenes so if anything went horribly wrong, or we were struggling to keep up, then we could just load the relevant scene.

Once the walls were created we moved on to lighting and using sky boxes before a break.

The session started again with physics and creating a basic 3D capsule that was used as the basis for our main character, with some controls added. Boxes were added to the scene, and also had physics applied so that the player could knock them over.

After this came cameras and we attached a camera to the model to follow around the player. This camera was later replace by a more advance camera that chased the player and had collision detection so that it would avoid walls, etc.

Then we made some Coin objects that the player could pick up, and prefabs were introduced to take care of this. Then a basic GUI was created to display the amount o coins remaining to be collected. The coin collection was then expanded upon by creating a particle effect that would display once the coin was collected.

Once this was complete it was time for lunch!

We returned to talk about Character Animation and the (now integrated) Mecanim features were shown off. It was amazing to see that animations could be imported into Unity, and then applied to models. This is a great time-saver as you do not have to create the same animations on all your characters when you create them, but just import the animation into Unity and then apply the one animation to all your characters. This is backed by State Machines so you can state which animations feed into each other.

You can also layer in animations so that if you want a player to be able to complete 2 actions at one (for example: run and throw) then you can layer the 2 animations so that they can still play at the same time. You do this by selecting which parts of the character you want to exclude from the animation, for example: if you are using a throw animation (like we did) then you will layer the throw action over whatever other animation is playing, but to display both the animations then you would only want to display the parts of the body that are affected by the throw action, such as the head, torso and the arm that is doing the throwing.

Here's more on animation.

Oh, and there's also Blend Trees for animation too!

To complete the animation portion we replaced our sphere with the Ethan character that was provided (this was simple to do) and then apply the animations.

After that it was the introduction of Hazards. The ability to tag components in Unity really comes handy here as you can script your character so that if they come in contact with anything tagged "Hazard" then the character will die. So we added this script and added in a call to the Die animation, then respawn the player.

Then it was on to Enemies and Projectiles and we were done! Phew! As I wrote earlier, it was a LOT of content. There were no hold-ups as everyone in the room kept up (there were also multiple "helpers" around the floor to help people out where needed), but the instructors were rushed to get us finished in time.

We were given a link to the training slides, I wasn't told we couldn't give out that link so here it is! I apologize to the Unity team if we weren't supposed to share it, but let me know and I'll take down the link. Also, for readers I cannot say how long the content will be available.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Easter Seals

We all like to do what we can to help in our communities because without community we lose part of our own identity. At the moment Jennifer has decided to help out the Easter Seals by JUMPING OFF A BUILDING! OK, so that's a bit dramatic! Jennifer will be abseiling down the Sun Life Tower in Downtown Calgary. Please join us in helping this worthy cause by donating at Jennifer's Donation Page.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Unite 2013

Unite is the name for the Unity convention that usually happens in Europe every year, but this year is different as the Unite conference goes on a world tour! The tour hits up the following locations:

Canada (Vancouver)

I've got tickets to the Vancouver Unite so I'm pretty excited. The conference is prefaced by a Training Day which teaches you the essentials of Unity.

To learn more about Unite 2013, click here.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Adobe's Creative Cloud

So I've been looking into cost-effective ways of getting access to professional tools. I'm not talking piracy here, just trying to maximize my VFM while trying to get access to the best tools for the job (hence previous posts about 3D modelling tools). One solution I stumbled across was the Creative Cloud from Adobe. For a relatively small amount a month you can get access to "the entire collection of CS6 tools.." which include (full list is later):

Photoshop Extended
Flash Professional

More details can be found here:
Details about pricing are here:

Adobe also produce some game developer tools based on the Flash platform. Some of the tools are free with a Creative Cloud account (which is free to sign up for). Find out more here:

Adobe Application Manager

Access to the Adobe applications is granted via the Adobe Application Manager, and this is where you will download and install the Adobe products as well as install Updates. To install a product, I just click on the "Try" link and the software downloads and installs. The products I have access to under my trial account are:

Photoshop CS6
After Effects CS6
Adobe Premier Pro CS6 Family
InDesign CS6
Flash Professional CS6
Illustrator CS6
Fireworks CS6
Dreamweaver CS6
Audition CS6
SpeedGrade CS6
Prelude CS6
Flash Builder
Edge Animate
Adobe Acrobat XI Pro
Creative Cloud Connection (for managing files you store on the Adobe Cloud)
Touch App Plugins

Here is a screenshot of the Application Manager:

All software has installed on my C drive and I'm guessing it does this as that's where I've installed the Application Manager. However, you can change the installation location if you start to run out of space, or you want those apps to run off a solid state drive (for example).

Free Trial

You can sign up for a free trial (Adobe do not ask for Credit Card details when you create your Cloud account) and you get access to 30day trials of all the software offered. With the price of Adobe CS6 being roughly 2500CAD the monthly price doesn't seem bad. I signed up for an individual account (though once you go paid for all apps then they expect a 12month agreement) and this can be converted to a Team Account if you increase your team (at time of writing, this information can be found on the FAQs page under the "Creative Cloud for teams" section). The individual account starts at 29.99CAD per month and you get access to only one application, but for 49.99CAD per month you get access to the whole suite. Team accounts are 69.99CAD per month per user.

Software in the Cloud??

At first I was skeptical and wondered how they would be able to deliver software via the cloud and what the restrictions would be (from previous experience using Microsoft's OneNote in the web interface, I much preferred the thick client). However, the software is installed on your machine so you are not trying to create art via a web-page.

But what if my Internet goes down?

With the software being installed locally, then your connection matters for these reasons:

1) to create your account in the first place
2) to download the required software
3) your machine has to connect to the Internet at least once every 30days so that it can check that you have a valid subscription (probably the same sort of mechanism in Windows Vista and up that check you have a valid version of Windows)

So if your Internet connection goes down, or you're using your software on a laptop and you don't have Internet connectivity, then you can still get your creative grove on.

Any storage?

As with all things cloud related, you do get space on the Adobe cloud to store work so that it is accessible wherever you have Internet access. At time of writing, you get 20GB with a personal plan (2GB with the Free plan), and 100GB per user on the Team/Business plan. This is also supposed to be a great way of sharing files in a team and will save excessive load on mail servers and avoid file restrictions on email.

First thoughts

I'm really pleased with what Adobe are offering here, and I think it's very well priced for individuals who want to learn either a specific Adobe product, or the full suite without having to shell out thousands of dollars all at once. 20GB of storage is great (though I guess it depends on the size of your creations as to how good you may think this is) and a good off-site backup in case of system failure. Also, add in the fact that updates are made available to you (I'm guessing this will also be full version updates too) and that you can change your installation directory make it a really neat solution.

A couple of the negatives I can think of are:

1) You have to commit to a year's subscription to get access to all of the Creative Suite
2) There's no middle option where you could pick maybe 3 or 4 applications so it seems a quite "all or nothing" approach

With a free trial offering, why not give it a try?

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Project Shield

The guys at NVidia have been working on a awesome project: Project Shield. It is a full size game controller with built-in screen and runs an Android OS. This means that Android developers will be able to target the Shield when developing too. It looks like you will have to use the Tegra tools to target the device. More info can be found by clicking the links below:

Project Shield:
NVidia Zone In (more info on Tegra):

I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on one, but it looks like we'll have to wait a bit longer for it to be released.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Microsoft Abandoning XNA ... say it ain't so!!!

I was very excited when I heard about XNA. The thought of Microsoft producing a toolset that would enable anybody to develop games for the XBox sounded like a dream, but there it was: XNA. Add into that the fact that Microsoft bought a 3D modelling company called Caligari and my excitement became unmeasurable. My imagination went wild with the thought of this well crafted game development toolset which included and 3D modelling and animation tool seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, it seems it was too good to be true. After Microsoft bought Caligari, they shelved whatever plan they had for it, but XNA kept going.
With version 4 you were able to develop for WIndows Phone! Super Exciting!! I went to a Windows Phone development camp and was blown away by the power of the Windows Phone emulator that emulates the full accelerometer, etc. Tie that in with XNA Game Studio 4 and the sky seemed like the limit. Again my imagination ran wild with thoughts of developing games that would sync between your XBox and your Windows Phone so that if you left the house, then you could carry on the game right where you left off. In short I imagined GAMING NIRVANA!
Now for disappointing news through LinkedIn (here is the link: that Microsoft is going to end XNA. That makes me very sad :( I went to the Developer Hub and all seemed normal there, but there was more of a prescence for Direct X. Direct X was only a mention in the downloads section previously as you needed the Direct X SDK, now it has it's own section. There has been talk on various forums about the demise of XNA. I think that this was prompted by the fact that Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 came out and there was no XNA version 5.
But what does a life without XNA mean? Something has to be brewing with Microsoft as I can't imagine them dumping Indie Developers (some of whom who have made good money for themselves and Microsoft) like that. My imagination is spinning about a game engine toolset built around Direct X at it's core. Giving this kind of engine away for free would put Microsoft in direct competition with Unity, UDK, Torque and other engines out there. But to gain big popularity, then it would have to be capable of supporting OpenGL as well so that it could be adopted on other platforms (but maybe Microsoft wouldn't care, and that's fine by me).
Anyway, something is coming. The XBox 720 (or whatever it will be called) is on it's way, and hopefully it will support DirectX 11. Phones are getting more and more powerfull and even the first Windows 7 Phones, like my LG Optimus Quantum, had a seperate CPU and GPU for added gaming power. Microsoft-based tablets are finally a reality (I know we've had them before, but with Windows 8 and new processor & storage technology they are better than before) now with Windows 8, which also runs under Direct X 11 (yes, even on the Surface RTwhich has the CPU/GPU NVIDIA Tegra chip (I just checked on my Surface RT to confirm)). So SOMETHING has to be brewing. I'm a big Microsoft fan, so my view is biased, but they can't miss out on the opportunity to do something great for the Indie Developers and the gaming community at large. Maybe the time is not for sadness, but renewed excitement. I await the coming months with baited breath, how about you?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

More on 3D tools - Houdini

So after my rant on 3D products a few posts ago, I did some more research into industry standard 3D modelling tools and stumbled upon a tool call Houdini. Although Houdini seems to be primarily based on the movie industry, it does have a free personal learning edition called Apprentice. The free edition is limited and has a water-mark on what you create, but it is supposed to be full-featured. There is an Apprentice HD version that has more options and is $99 per year per workstation and has no watermark and is built so that you can export into Torque 3D (so the website says).

Here is a link to the downloads page:

The main page is here:

The full version of Houdini starts at just under 2000USD, for more details see this link:

The ZBrish 4 trial is over, so it'll be interesting to see if they offer a free trial of their next version. However, ZBrush is 699USD so a lot cheaper than everything else out there (apart from the free editors, obviously) and you can buy a 5-license pack for the same price as the single-user license and has a 5-seat minimum restriction on it. More details are here:

For a list of games/studios using ZBrush, then check here:

Friday, 18 January 2013


Pixologic (the makers of ZBrush) have released a free 3D modelling program called Sculptris. It starts you off with a sphere that you can manipulate. It also has a simple paint feature that lets you paint right onto the model you create (as well as being able to export to ZBrush). A quick 20-minute play (so don't judge) resulted in the following:

The list of system requirements are here:

The gallery is here:

And the features list is here:

There downloads link on the site, I couldn't post it here as it launches a pop-up which asks you to choose your OS.

Anyway, it's free so have a play! :)

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Game Engine Feature List

In an earlier post I promised to post the feature lists of UDK, CryEngine and Unity 4 ... wellllll...... I wish I hadn't! I copied all the features of UDK 3 into a document and they take up 15 pages!!! 15 pages!! Seriously! Wow! I'm also thinking that posting the feature list here would break some kind of ownership law, so a link is here:

The features are split down into 17 sections that include:

Artificial Intelligence
etc, etc

As for CryEngine 3, there is a great list of features on Wikipedia here:

The features for Unity 4 are a bit harder to compile as you have to look at the features for Unity 3, then add the new features of Unity 4 on top.

So here are the Unity 3 features:

And here are the Unity 4 features:
The Unity 4 website didn't launch fully for me on IE9, Chrome or Firefox so hopefully they'll fix that soon.

*** Edit ***
One big difference to note between the 3 engines is that CryEngine runs in DirectX 11 mode (at least it did on my install) by default, whereas Unity and Unreal start with DirectX 9 as the default but you can change this to DirectX 11.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

War of the engines

So I've started looking into game engines to see which one is the best one for our needs. The 3 I've been looking at are:

Unity 4

I've played with a couple of versions of UDK and Unity, but CryEngine is new to me. Examples of UDK and CryEngine in games are easy enough to get a hold of (any Unreal Tournament game or the Batman Arkham series for UDK, and Far Cry and Crysis for CryEngine). Both engines are beautiful to look at and have a pile of features and both are the full version of the engine. UDK for professional game development studios like Rock Steady Studios (the Batman Arkham series developers) is at version 4, while the free UDK is version 3.

The CryEngine is so pretty :) This is the default level when you run CryLauncher

Unfortunately Unity is an up-and-coming engine so there aren't examples of AAA titles that have built using it. Version 4 has just been released and the way it handles animation is fantastic. You can create your animations in Unity and then map them to your 3D characters, etc. The beauty of this is that you are reproducing the same animations for each of your 3D characters in your 3D modelling tool, and them importing them: you are creating them in once place and applying them to the characters you need. Cool, right? Also, check out The Butterfly Effect demo reel and you'll know that Unity really is up-and-coming.

Unity 4 running the Angry Bots demo. The demo game plays right in the editor so no need to launch a separate utility like the examples for UDK and CryEngine.

I'm trying to dig up a full list of features so I can compare the 3 (I had heard that Unity 3.x did not have cloth or rag-doll physics support so it'll be nice to find out if Unity 4 addresses this), but all I've come across so far (and I haven't looked too deep yet) are just the sales level feature list rather than a full technical list. As soon as I get that comparison, I will post it here.

Unreal Development Kit looks good too. The default level when you run UDK Game.

If you want to know more about the engines mentioned above, then use the following links:

Unity 4

CryEngine 3


The good news is that all 3 engines are free to download, so you can download them and learn all about them without having to hand over a penny! Once you reach the stage where you are ready to deploy a game to market, then you'll have to look at paying the engine owners.

Side rant: it would be nice if 3D engine companies would do the same thing (let you use their software for free until you actual release something with it). I don't know about you, but a 30-day trial of 3DS Max is not enough to learn a product, and $3,675 is a steep price to pay for software!! Think I'm going to have to decide between Blender or Daz3D as they are both free. However, I think I still have the installers for TrueSpace and GameSpace that were awesome products from Caligari ... *sigh*

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Long time, no blog ... what's up??

Well 2012 was an "interesting" year for me. It started off with financial struggles, as with so many of us at the moment, and it was a struggle to put food on the table at times, so game development started becoming a distant dream. I was using my work laptop to try and develop, but it was not great as the graphics card was very underpowered for any 3D engines out there. Also, being financially challenged, I began working all the hours I could to provide for my family. This left me with only a little time to spend with my family, nevermind time to develop.
This all changed in April as i decided "enough was enough", so left my employer and started as an IT Consultant. To become a consultant I had to incorporate an organisation so I decided to use the Kirkley Entertainment Inc. name (not a very "IT Consultant" name, but I was thinking of the future and gaming, not IT Consultancy). So, in April 2012 Kirkley Entertainment Inc. became a registered incorporation within Alberta, Canada!
All of a sudden, I now had different options availble to me. For example, anything game related turned into a Corporate expense rather than a personal one. Working extra hours was still an issue, but that changed in October when I started my 2nd contract: no overtime, no on-call and no operations support!
So in October I was able to buy some equipment (an ASUS G75VW as a development machine as it has an NVidia GEForce GTX 670M processor in it so it can handle just about anything you can throw at it raphics wise). With this equipment my distant dream of game development started to get closer and closer.
So what's been happening recently? Well, I downloaded the latest UDK from Unreal, Unity 4 and CryEngine 3 to run evaluations so I can see which engine would suit our needs the best. Once an engine has been decided upon, things can really start to happen.
So game development feels like a phoenix rising from the ashes of 2012 and getting strength in 2013! So let's get this party started again.

All the best for 2013,