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About this blog

Learn about game development technology

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Vulkan 1.2 Dynamic Rendering

The VK_KHR_dynamic_rendering extension has made its way into Vulkan 1.2.203 and I have implemented this in Ultra Engine. What does it do? Instead of creating renderpass objects ahead of time, dynamic rendering allows you to just specify the settings you need as your are performing filling in command buffers with rendering instructions. From the Khronos working group: In my experience, post-processing effects is where this hurt the most. The engine has a user-defined stack of post-pro

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Direct Lighting with Sparse Voxel Octrees

Previously I described how I was able to save the voxel data into a sparse octree and correctly lookup the right voxel in a shader. This shot shows that each triangle is being rasterized separately, i.e. the triangle bounding box is being correctly trimmed to avoid a lot of overlapping voxels: Calculating direct lighting using the sparse octree was very difficult, and took me several days of debugging. I'm not 100% sure what the problem was, other than it seems GLSL code is not quite

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Better Voxelization

My initial implementation of mesh voxelization for ray tracing used this code. It was good for testing, but has some problems: It's slow, using an unnecessary and expensive x * y * z loop No support for per-voxel color based on a texture lookup There are mathematical mistakes that cause inaccuracy, and the math has to be perfect My solution addresses these problems and only uses an x * y loop to generate the voxels. It does this by identifying the major (largest magn

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Sparse Voxel Octrees

Previously I noted that since Voxel global illumination involves calculation of direct lighting, it would actually be possible to do away with shadow maps altogether, and use voxels for direct and global illumination. This can eliminate the problems of image-based shadows like shadow acne and adjusting the shadow map size. I also believe this method will turn out a lot faster than shadow map rendering, and you know how I like fast performance.  The sparse voxel octree node structure consume

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VXRT Progress

This is an update on my progress of our voxel raytracing system. VXRT is designed to provide all the reflection information that PBR materials use. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this counts as a 5000 word article. Direct lighting: Global illumination: Specular reflection: Skybox component: Final combined image:

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Editor Scripting API

The Ultra Engine editor is designed to be expandable and modifiable.  Lua script is integrated into the editor and can be used to write editor extensions and even modify the scene or the editor itself in real-time.  We can create a scene object entirely in code and make it appear in the scene browser tree: box = CreateBox(editor.world) box.name = "box01" o = CreateSceneObject(box) --make editor recognize the entity and add it to the scene browser o:SetSelected(true) We can even

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KTX2 Texture Support

A while back I wrote enthusiastically about Basis Universal super compression. KTX2 is a texture file format from Khronos, makers of the Vulkan and glTF specifications. Like DDS files, KTX2 can store multiple mipmaps, as well as memory-compressed texture formats like DXT5 and BC7. However, KTX2 now supports Basis compressed data as well, which makes it the all-in-one universal texture format. glTF has an official extension for KTX2 textures in glTF files, so it can be combined with Draco mesh co

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Analysis of Google Draco

Google Draco is a library that aims to do for mesh data what MP3 and OGG did for music. It does not reduce memory usage once a mesh is loaded, but it could reduce file sizes and improve download times. Although mesh data does not tend to use much disk space, I am always interested in optimization. Furthermore, some of the NASA models I work with are very high-poly, and do take up significant disk space. Google offers a very compelling chart showing a compression ratio of about 95%: Ho

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glTF Export

The glTF importer took a very long time to develop, but it much easier to write a glTF save routine. In one day I got an exporter working with support for everything except skinning and animation. To save a model in glTF format, just call Model::Save("mymodel.gltf") and it will work! Entire scenes can also be saved in glTF format.Here is a model that was loaded from Leadwerks MDL, MAT, and TEX files and saved as glTF. The textures are converted to PNG files. (Microsoft has an official extension

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Built-in Shaders

In Leadwerks, required files were always a slightly awkward issue. The engine requires a BFN texture and a folder of shaders, in order to display anything. One of my goals is to make the Ultra Engine editor flexible enough to work with any game. It should be able to load the folder of an existing game, even if it doesn't use Ultra Engine, and display all the models and scenes with some accuracy. Of course the Quake game directory isn't going to include a bunch of Ultra Engine shaders, so what to

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Project Launch Settings and Mod Support

The new editor is being designed to be flexible enough to work with any game, so it can be used for modding as well as game development with our new 3D engine. Each project has configurable settings that can be used to handle what the editor actually does when you run the game. In the case of a game like Quake, this will involve running a few executables to first compile the map you are working on into a BSP structure, then perform lightmaps and pre-calculate visibility. You can also

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Package Plugins

Many games store 3D models, textures, and other game files in some type of compressed package format. These can be anything from a simple ZIP file to a custom multi-file archive system. This has the benefit of making the install size of the game smaller, and can prevent users from accessing the raw files. Often times undocumented proprietary file formats are used to optimize loading time, although with DDS and glTF this is not such a problem anymore. Leadwerks uses built-in support for encr

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Plugins and File Formats

At last I have been able to work the plugin system into the new editor and realize my dreams. The editor automatically detects supported file formats and generates thumbnails for them. (Thumbnails are currently compatible with the Leadwerks system, so Leadwerks can read these thumbnail files and vice-versa.) If no support for a file format is found, the program just defaults to the whatever icon or thumbnail Windows shows. The options dialog includes a tab where you can examine each pl

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A First Look at the New Editor

I've been wracking my brain trying to decide what I want to show at the upcoming conference, and decided I should get the new editor in a semi-workable state. I started laying out the interface two days ago. To my surprise, the whole process went very fast and I discovered some cool design features along the way. With the freedom and control I have with the new user interface system, I was able to make the side panel extend all the way to the top and bottom of the window client area. This g

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Ultra App Kit 1.2 Released

Ultra App Kit 1.2 is now available on our site and on Steam. This is a bug fix update that resolves numerous small issues reported in the bug reports forum. To download the latest version, see My Purchases.

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Animated Textures

One of my goals in Ultra Engine is to avoid "black box" file formats and leave all game assets in common file formats that can be easily read in a variety of programs. For this reason, I put a lot of effort into the Pixmap class and the DDS load and save capabilities. In Ultra Engine animated textures can be stored in a volume texture. To play the animation, the W component of the UVW texcoord is scrolled. The fragment shader will sample the volume texture between the nearest two slices on

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Vulkan on Mac with MoltenVK

When it comes to complex projects I like to focus on whatever area of technology causes me the most uncertainty or worry. Start with the big problems, solve those, and as you continue development the work gets easier and easier. I decided at this stage I really wanted to see how well Vulkan graphics work on Mac computers. Vulkan doesn't run natively on Mac, but gets run through a translation library called MoltenVK. How well does MoltenVK actually work? There was only one way to find out...

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Vulkan on AMD Graphics Cards

I have procrastinated testing of our new 3D engine on AMD hardware for a while. I knew it was not working as-is, but I was not too concerned. One of the promises of Vulkan is better support across-the-board and fewer driver bugs, due to the more explicit nature of the API. So when I finally tried out the engine on an R9 200 series card, what would actually happen? Would the promise of Vulkan be realized, or would developers continue to be plagued by problems on different graphics cards? Read on

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The Year of the Linux Desktop is Here

One month ago I began work to investigate what it would take to bring Ultra App Kit, the foundation for our new generation of game development tools, to Linux. Today I am happy to share my progress with you and discuss some of the things I have learned. Developed by MIT in the year 1984, X11 is an interesting beast that is easy to start with, but can become quite difficult once you get into the details. (Wayland support is of course an obvious step in the not-too-distant future but I have t

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Linux, You Changed Man

I recently fired up an install of Ubuntu 20.04 to see what the state of development on Linux is now, and it looks like things have improved dramatically since I first started working with Linux in 2013. Visual Studio Code looks and works great on Linux, and I was able to load the Ultra Engine source code and start compiling, although there is still much work to do. The debugger is fantastic, especially after using the Code::Blocks debugger on Linux, which was absolutely sadistic. (They're both u

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Focus

You know how I keep saying that focusing everything on one specific niche is much better than trying to be all things to all people, and that VR was going to be our primary technology focus going forward? This is a battleground we can win in.

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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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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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