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About this blog

Learn about game development technology

Entries in this blog

Website Changes

I want to streamline some of this website. We went through a lot of changes since the release on Steam in 2014 and learned what works and what does not. The "Marketplace" is just called the default "Downloads" name now, and that literally is what it is for. It's a place to keep a permanent copy of your files. Paid files are still supported, and any purchased items are still available to download, but I do not have any aspirations of building this up unless it just happens spontaneously. Ins

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Welcome to ultraengine.com

You probably have noticed that our entire community has been migrated from the leadwerks.com domain to our new ultraengine.com domain. In this article I am going to describe recent changes to our website, the process by which these decisions were made, and the expected outcomes. These are not just superficial changes, but rather it is a fundamental restructuring of the way our business works. This is the execution of a plan I have had for several years. When we first starting selling on Ste

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Final Thoughts on Ultra App Kit

Breaking the new engine up into sub-components and releasing them in several stages is something new. The reason for trying this was twofold: Steam now incentives competition for digital shelf space, unlike when Leadwerks was first released on Steam in 2014, when I was trying to build up my quality of presence and promote one app ID on Steam. I would like to get some new software out early before the full engine is finished. The beautiful thing is that Ultra App Kit all con

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Ultra App Kit beta updated

A new update is available on Steam for Ultra App Kit. A TEXTFIELD_PASSWORD style flag has been added and is used for the password entry form: A WINDOW_CHILD style flag has been added. I found this was necessary while implementing a Vulkan 3D viewport in a GUI application. You can read more about that here. Pressing the Tab key will now switch the focus between widgets. The "Learn" tab in the project manager has been moved in front of the "Community" tab. The Visual

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Vulkan Viewport in a GUI Application

Before finalizing Ultra App Kit I want to make sure our 3D engine works correctly with the GUI system. This is going to be the basis of all our 3D tools in the future, so I want to get it right before releasing the GUI toolkit. This can prevent breaking changes from being made in the future after the software is released. Below you can see our new 3D engine being rendered in a viewport created on a GUI application. The GUI is being rendered using Windows GDI+, the same system that draws the

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Cryptocurrency Now Accepted in Store and Marketplace

We now accept popular cryptocurrencies in our store and Marketplace through Coinbase Commerce. That's right, you can now buy software like Ultra App Kit using Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dai, or Bitcoin Cash (if you can figure it out!). Right now it's a novelty, but it's worth trying. Maybe by 2022 it will be your only option? Sadly, Dogecoin is not one of the currently supported coins. Soon?

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Three technology products you should be using in 2021

Note: This article contains some referral links for affiliate systems that I added after writing it. My purpose for including them is so that I can learn how these systems work by participating in them, because I am interested in possibly implementing one of our own in the future. The article was written because these are all things I am using and recommend and I am very bored with the same old things. Except for VR, the last decade of technology has been pretty yawn-inducing. I think Silic

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Last Call for API Modifications

I'm finalizing the Ultra App Kit API, which is going to be the basis of the new engine's API. Naming commands themselves is always a bit of an art unto itself. Some things are named a certain way because it is common convention, like Stream::Seek() instead of Stream::SetPosition() and ACos() instead of ArcCosine(). Other times we have holdovers from old APIs or BASIC syntax like Stream::EOF() or String::Mid(). Should a class that has no SetSize() method use GetSize() or Size() for a me

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Ultra Engine Player Input Features

There are three new features in the upcoming Ultra Engine (Leadwerks 5) that will make game input better than ever before. High Precision Mouse Input Raw mouse input measures the actual movement of the mouse device, and has nothing to do with a cursor on the screen. Windows provides an interface to capture the raw mouse input so your game can use mouse movement with greater precision than the screen pixels. The code to implement this is rather complicated, but in the end it just boils

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Ultra App Kit beta updated with DPI scaling support

An update for Ultra App Kit beta on Steam is now available. This finishes the user interface scaling to support HD, 4K, 8K, and other resolutions. My original plan was to force an application restart if the scale setting was changed, but I found a way to dynamically resize the interface in a manner that gives natural results, so it now supports dynamic rescaling. That is, if the user changes the Windows DPI setting, or if a window is dragged to a monitor with a different DPI setting, the applica

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Ultra App Kit Beta Updated

An update is available for the Ultra App Kit beta on Steam. Menu open / close behavior is finished and is now working bug-free. Fixed problem where list boxes were only showing the first item. A submenu item is demonstrated in the example program. A progress bar widget is added in the example program. A label widget is added in the example program. A second radio button is added in the example program. Still to do: Work out some scaling i

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2020 Year in Code

2020 was the most intellectually challenging year in my career. Many major advancements were invented, and 2021 will see those items refined, polished, and turned into a usable software product. Here is a partial list of things I created: Streaming hierarchal planet-scale terrain system with user-defined deformation and texture projection. Vulkan post-processing stack and transparency with refraction. Vulkan render-to-texture. Major progress on voxel ray tracing.

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Scenes, prefabs, and the Lua state serialization that loves them

The beta testers and I are are discussing game programming in the new engine. I want to see C++, Lua, and C# all take a near-identical approach that steals the best aspects of modern game programming and ditches the worst, to create something new and unique. To that end, we are developing the same simple game several times, with several different methodologies, to determine what really works best. One thing I realized quickly was we really need a way to load prefabs from files. I started im

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Voxel Ray Tracing and Physically-Based Rendering

Light is made up of individual particles called photons. A photon is a discrete quantum of electromagnetic energy. Photons are special because they have properties of both a particle and a wave. Photons have mass and can interact with physical matter. The phenomenon of "solar pressure" is caused by photons bombarding a surface and exerting force. (This force actually has to be accounted for in orbital mechanics.) However, light also has a wavelength and frequency, similar to sound or other wave

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Leadwerks 5 Editor Extension Example

Our new editor is being designed to support user-created extensions written in Lua. I want Lua to work in our new editor the way MaxScript works in 3ds Max, to allow an endless assortment of new tools you can create and use. Now that the editor GUI system is well underway, I want to start thinking about how user-created extensions will work with our new editor. I'm going to lay out some theoretical code for how a road creation tool might integrate into the editor. First we declare a st

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Leadwerks 5 Beta Update

A new update is available for beta testers. This update focuses on the GUI capabilities, mostly for interfaces created directly on a window, rather than 3D interfaces. We are moving from a Lua-driven GUI system to one coded more explicitly in C++. This will provide us with better documented behavior, easier portability, and a more responsive interface. Changes: GUI widgets no longer use Lua scripts. Each widget type has a C++ class, a creation command, and style constants. A

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Forum Software and Theme Updated

Our forum software and theme have been updated. The new theme is just the default Invision Power Board skin, with our own header and footer added. In the past I put a lot of effort into getting the forum to look exactly the way I wanted, and I don't think that effort was a very good use of time. Each forum update requires us to redo the skin, and I just don't feel like it is that important. I can fine-tune the appearance of the user interface in the Leadwerks Editor, but this web stuff is o

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GUI Work

The terrain streaming / planet rendering stuff was the last of the feature creep. That finishes out the features I have planned for the first release of the new engine. My approach for development has been to go very broad so I could get a handle on how all the features work together, solve the hard problems, and then fill in the details when convenient. The hard problems are all solved so now it's just a matter of finishing things, Consequently, I don't think my blogs are going to make any

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Reflection Colors

An update is available for Leadwerks 5 beta on Steam that adds a World::SetSkyColor() command. This allows you to set a gradient for PBR reflections when no skybox is in use. I learned with Leadwerks 4 that default settings are important. The vast majority of screenshots people show off are going to use whatever default rendering settings I program in. We need a good balance between quality and performance for the engine to use as defaults. Therefore, the engine will use SSAO and bloom effe

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Terrain Deformation

In games we think of terrain as a flat plane subdivided into patches, but did you know the Earth is actually round? Scientists say that as you travel across the surface of the planet, a gradual slope can be detected, eventually wrapping all the way around to form a spherical shape! At small scales we can afford to ignore the curvature of the Earth but as we start simulating bigger and bigger terrains this must be accounted for. This is a big challenge. How do you turn a flat square shape into a

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Leadwerks 5 Beta Update Available on Steam

A new update is available for Leadwerks 5 beta. This adds the ability for to use post-processing effects together with render-to-texture. The SpriteLayer class has been renamed to Canvas and the Camera::AddSpriteLayer method has been renamed to Camera::AddCanvas. The beta has been moved to Steam and updates will be distributed there from now on. Beta testers were sent keys to install the program on their Steam accounts.

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Streaming Terrain Data Fetching

Previously, I showed how to create a terrain data set from a single 32768x32768 heightmap. The files have been uploaded to our Github account here. We will load data directly from the Github repository with our load-from-URL feature because this makes it very easy to share code examples. Also, even if you fly around the terrain for a long time, you are unlikely to ever need to download the complete data set. Think about Google Earth. How long would it take you to view the entire planet at full r

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Streaming Terrain Data Preparation

Being able to support huge worlds is great, but how do you fill them up with content? Loading an entire planet into memory all at once isn't possible, so we need a system that allows us to stream terrain data in and out of memory dynamically. I wanted a system that could load data from any source, including local files on the hard drive or online GIS sources. Fortunately, I developed most of this system last spring and I am ready to finish it up now. Preparing Terrain Data The first st

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Optimizing the Vertex Pipeline

In my work with NASA we visualize many detailed CAD models in VR. These models may consist of tens of millions of polygons and thousands of articulated sub-objects. This often results in rendering performance that is bottlenecked by the vertex rather than the fragment pipeline. I recently performed some research to determine how to maximize our rendering speed in these situations. Leadwerks 4 used separate vertex buffers, but in Leadwerks 5 I have been working exclusively with interleaved v

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Leadwerks 5 Beta Update Available

A beta update is available. The ray tracing system is now using a smaller 128x128x128 grid. There is still only one single grid that does not move. Direct lighting calculation has been moved to the GPU. The GI will appear darker and won't look very good. Additional shader work is needed to make the data look right, and I probably need to implement a compute shader for parts of it. The system is now dynamic, although it current has a lot of latency. GI renders only get triggered when somethi

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