Unity3D to Add Support for Molehill

Another hugely exciting announcement that happened yesterday came from Unity3D as they announced that they will add the ability to export projects to Molehill. This is excellent news for Flash developers as the Unity tool is an awesome environment for building games.

Using the Unity tool you will be able to program in either ActionScript 3 or using one Unity’s existing languages such as C#, Boo, or JavaScript. There is no word yet on a time frame for these features. Go on over to the Unity blog to read all the details.

Molehill 3D Now Available on Adobe Labs

I’m sure everyone in the world is already aware of this but I need to post this regardless. Thibault and I had the honor of announcing the first public preview of the Molehill 3D API on Adobe Labs. We did it as the keynote for the Flash Gaming Summit, which was very fitting. The excitement generated by this announcement has been truly overwhelming. In addition to the Molehill API many of the 3D frameworks like Away3D and Flare3D have also released early versions of their APIs that target Molehill. This is especially important for people like me who don’t want to write OpenGL-style code.

This preview release is part of a new program called the Adobe AIR and Adobe Flash Player Incubator. Here is the official description of the program from the Adobe Labs site:

“The Adobe® AIR® and Adobe Flash® Player Incubator is a technology preview program for more adventurous developers who are willing to experiment with Flash Platform runtime features that are in early development stages. Test the bleeding-edge capabilities of runtimes and contribute to the future of the Flash Platform. Please note that the capabilities in the Incubator builds may or may not be supported in future releases of the runtimes.”

You can obviously expect a lot of Molehill-related content on this blog from here on out. I’m planning a getting started tutorial and will also showcase some great examples. Later today I’m interviewing a company who ported their Wii game developed in C++ to Molehill in one week. Simply amazing!

So run over to the Adobe Labs site and get started!

Videos of 3D Flash Molehill in Action

Tanki Online 2.0 by Alternativa Platform

Zombie Tycoon by Frima

Play online: http://molehill.zombietycoon.com/ (Requires Flash Player Incubator Build)

Ultimate Race by Flare 3D

MAX Racer Multiplayer by Alternativa Platform

Play online: http://www.alternativaplatform.com/en/demos/maxracer/ (Requires Flash Player Incubator Build)

Ostrova Online by Alternativa Platform

Metro 2033 by Alternativa Platform

Molehill/Away3D 4.0 Fluid Simulation

Demo available here: http://infiniteturtles.co.uk/projects/away3d/broomstick/ShallowWaterDemo.html (Requires Flash Player Incubator Build)

Away3D & Evoflash – Disconnected

Fractal Tree by Away3D

Molehill 3D GPU accelerated APIs for Flash Player Available Now

We’ve just released on Labs the first public preview of the “Molehill” APIs for 3D hardware acceleration in Flash Player/Adobe AIR. In case you missed it, we first demoed this technology last year at Adobe MAX 2010. Molehill relies on DirectX9 and OpenGL (depending on the OS platform); it has a software fallback in case the GPU rendering is not available, for example, when the GPU driver is incompatible. This API is accessible to developers from ActionSript 3 and you’ll be able to do things like: programmable vertex and fragment shaders.

What does this all mean? Well, developers will be able to build games that run full screen in HD resolution at 60fps with 3D scenes, everything being GPU accelerated. Do you fancy some kick-*** 3D first person shooter or a car race :D? In terms of performance, using the existing features you’d be able to render thousands of  triangles at 30 Hz. With Molehill you can do hundreds of thousands, full HD, at 60 Hz.

Here are some videos demoing a number of games built using this technology: MAX Racer game, Frima Studio Demo, Underground Scene, Flare3D, and Away3D fractal tree demo.

While this preview is for desktops only, we are working to bring this technology to mobile devices too. Until then, you can download the bits from here and read Thibault’s blog post for more details about its inner workings.

Changing the web, again.

Zombie Tycoon with Adobe Flash Player using MolehillA few years ago, the Flash Player team introduced video in Flash Player, and today, we know how the Flash Player changed the web for video distribution. Today, we are happy to introduce the public availability of the Molehill (3D GPU accelerated) APIs through the Incubator builds available here.

You cannot imagine how the team is excited to imagine what you guys will do with Molehill, definitely a game changer.

But first, what is this Adobe AIR and Flash Player Incubator thing ?

The AIR and Flash Player Incubator is a place for the Adobe Flash Runtimes team to share with developers features that are under development or experimental in order to get early participation, testing, and feedback from the community.  It is targeted at you guys that are interested in testing out the bleeding edge of runtime capabilities and contributing to the future of the platform. Keep in mind that the capabilities in Incubator builds may or may not be supported in a future release of the runtimes.

We will use the new Adobe AIR and Flash Player releases blog to share announcements about new Incubator builds. I will also relay the info here. For each new Incubator drop, we will highlight the features we are looking for feedback on. Incubator builds will contain features under consideration, development, or just experiments. By providing feedback on the features, use cases or things you will create, you will help us shape the future of the Flash runtimes.

As a developer, the Incubator program is extremely valuable, first, because you get to see features under consideration or development, but it also allows you to test your content against our builds. This way, you can track early in our development process if a current feature you rely on breaks, to make sure your content performs perfectly on the new version of the runtimes.

The Incubator builds are watermarked on the top bottom right of the stage, so that makes things easier to know if you are using an Incubator build or not. Watermark for Incubator builds

Here are the key two features available in the first Incubator builds :

  • “Molehill” 3D APIs for Flash Player and AIR — A new set of low-level, GPU-accelerated 3D APIs that enable advanced 3D experiences across devices through the Adobe® Flash® Platform runtimes.
  • Cubic bezier curves — Using the cubicCurveTo drawing API, developers can easily create cubic beziers without custom ActionScript code required.
We worked closely with most popular ActionScript 3D frameworks so that anyone can get started with Molehill, not only advanced 3D developers. The following frameworks are already Molehill enabled today :

On the top left of this post you can see the amazing Zombie Tycoon game developed by Frima Studio, they took this existing game produced for the Sony PSP and made it a web game with Molehill. You can play to the game by clicking here, of course make you have installed the latest Incubator build.

NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits using MolehillI am sure other companies will follow quickly by adapting more and more games and make them available inside your browser. We just received a few days ago from the Mandreel company, they ported this beautiful game called NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits (screenshot on the right) from the Wii to Flash Player using Molehill.

The power of Molehill does not stop to 3D. You should think about it as a new rendering engine tied to the GPU. If you architect your application, website, or game correctly (by using classic techniques to leverage the GPU) you will be able to use Molehill in many situations. If you develop games on the GPU already you know exactly where I am going. Think about using a sprite sheet that is uploaded to the GPU, where you can sample the frames in your big bitmap and use them as UV textures on your 2D plane, and you’re golden — 2D on GPU.

But it is important to note that this new capability is not limited to games. Again, Molehill is not a gaming engine, just pure raw GPU APIs. You can imagine 2D components or 2D animations used as transitions running on Molehill in any website or application.

Molehill for 2DI will cover more details on this in a forthcoming article. On the picture on the left, we have those animated characters exported from Flash Pro as a series of bitmap, merged into a sprite sheet and then displayed. The same movie running in the display list uses about 150% CPU, but uses about 7% CPU on Molehill with no tearing at all, just great.

Check 2D animation with the display list (check your CPU usage)
Check 2D animation with Molehill (check your CPU usage)

I am pretty sure some popular 2D gaming engine frameworks like Cocos2D will be quickly ported to ActionScript to allow simple workflow with Molehill with 2D use cases. Of course, new ones will emerge and not only for games.

The team is excited to be able to work with the broader community at an earlier stage of development through the Incubator program, and we hope to bring you more exciting features and ideas as the program ramps up. Come and interact with us through the forum and have fun! Exciting times ahead ;)

Let the games begin

I start the week bright and early (Sunday 5:30 am in San Francisco ) getting ready for 6 days of non-stop gaming.

Today I will spend the day at the Flash Gaming Summit. Organized by Mochimedia, this event brings the best of the best in Flash game development together in one single location. Looking forward to the keynote and the other sessions throughout the day.

But the big event of the week is obviously the Game Developers Conference starting this coming Monday. It will be my first GDC show and I am really excited about it.

The gaming industry has changed a lot lately, and with the recent shift and advancements in mobile/tablet devices, and the omnipresence of the word “social”,  this show is going to be super interesting.

As I said…let the games begin!!!

E-

HTCSense.com severely overloaded – HTC “working hard to improve”

htcsense.com
A few days ago, I wrote a review of my new HTC Inspire smartphone. One of the features that I really like about the HTC Inspire (and other HTC phones) is HTCSense.com, a free online service that allows you to locate your phone, force it to ring at full volume, lock it, erase it, forward text messages and forward calls. The service is a great idea and a good response to similar features that iPhone users enjoy with mobileme. However, as I have been playing around with HTCSense.com, I found that a lot of times is simply doesn’t work. For example, last night the locate my phone feature was not working at all. I click refresh location a few times but nothing happened. I then tested the “Lock Phone” feature, but nothing happened (although, early this morning, the phone did lock – so it took several hours).

I went to the HTC “Contact Us” page and left a message explaining my issues with htcsense.com. To my pleasant surprise, I received a response this morning (a Saturday!). Since I know that many others are experiencing the same issues, I thought I would share the response from HTC:


Dear Greg Wilson,

Greg, I am sorry to hear about the issues you are having with HTC Sense.

Due to greater than anticipated demand for the HTC Sense.com services, some of our customers are experiencing stability and reliability issues that are unacceptable. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused; please be assured that HTC treats this as a very important issue and we are working hard to improve the experience for everyone.

We hope to have improvements to the service out in the very near future to help some of these issues and we will continue to communicate with our customers throughout the process. Thank you for your patience.

To send a reply to this message or let me know I have successfully answered your question log in to our ContactUs site using your email address and your ticket number 11USCWxxxxxxx2270.

Sincerely,

Samantha

HTC


I think that’s a decent response and shows a proper sense of urgency. If they do indeed fix the problem in the next week or two, I’ll be happy.

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Interactive Storytelling Using the Flash Platform

Combining the magic of a classic story book with Adobe technology, Made in Me, a U.K.-based educational multimedia publishing company, has created an interactive, digital learning experience for kids with the “The Land of Me” story book. Built with Adobe Flash Platform and Creative Suite technologies and a 2010 MAX Awards finalist, “The Land of Me” story book engages children and parents with an imaginative world filled with colorful creatures, exciting adventures and learning around every corner.

Adobe AIR was a key component in developing the story book as Made in Me didn’t want it to be browser-based. With AIR, the creators marketed the story into downloadable parts, providing strong revenue to the company.  As a result, Made in Me’s sales have doubled month to month since its startup. AIR also allowed the creators to easily extend “The Land of Me” to other platforms, devices and screens while offering offline viewing functionality. Made in Me’s story book has gained some buzz in the UK – from getting the attention of the BBC to having several local preschools launch pilot programs based on its educational value.

Check out the video below for a sneak peek of “The Land of Me.” The first chapter is downloadable for free with additional chapters available for purchase on Made in Me’s site. You can learn more about how Made in Me used Adobe technologies to develop the story book here.

The Land of Me – Shape, Size & Colour from Made in Me on Vimeo.

The future of tablet computers, an alternative view

During the past few months, I’m seeing tons of tablet computers. I have three myself for demos and such. However, a few days ago, I was in a meeting with some executives at a large company and watched as they pulled out their iPads and start taking notes. A few of them also pulled out wireless keyboards and propped up their iPads at about a 45-50 degree angle. Seems like a good setup, right?

Suddenly, I had a vision of the future!

WHAT IF we combined the keyboard and the tablet? Imagine if the screen of the tablet were approximately the same size as the keyboard and there was a hinge connecting them so that the screen could be folded down on top of the keyboard. This would allow the tablet and keyboard to be carried as a single unit while simultaneously providing sturdy support for the screen!

Now we have a new challenge. It seems time consuming and frustrating to me to be constantly reaching over the keyboard to interact with the screen. Well, I have a genius idea to solve this issue as well. I’m thinking that we could put a small touch surface with the same aspect ratio of the tablet on the keyboard… maybe under the spacebar so it’s easily accessible. When I touch, swipe or make gestures, the screen could respond as if I was touching it directly. Since the aspect ratios match, I think most users would quickly adjust and we may find that this new mini-touch surface could provide even more efficient interactions than touching a large screen.

Something like this!

Brilliant, huh?! Does anyone else have these crazy futuristic visions or am I the only one?

Ok, ok – I’m joking, but it does make you think… Either way, I do love tablets for casual reading and surfing. ;)

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Configure Flash Media Server for optimum performance

Choppy video. No one likes it. To stream video smoothly, start by tuning Flash Media Server for your situation. Are you streaming on-demand (recorded) or live video? If you’re streaming live, which is more important to you, scale (reaching as many people as possible) or latency (the time elapsed between the live event and when the viewer sees the live event)?

In the Configuration and Administration Guide, FMS engineers provide tuning recommendations for on-demand and live streaming: