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Leadwerks Engine SDK 2.3 released

Josh

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Leadwerks Engine 2.3 has been released. This major update includes a new editor, Lua script integration, forest rendering, roads, and more.

 

Lua Script Integration: Write object scripts and write your game in any programming language, or you can write your entire game in Lua.

 

New Editor: Leadwerks Editor is our new tool for creating enormous terrains, placing objects, and creating worlds. You can even edit scripts and see the results instantly.

 

Forest Rendering: An advanced new rendering algorithm makes it possible to render hundreds of thousands of trees and plants, at playable framerates. Make dense forests that stretch for miles.

Roads: Build spline-based roads and paths in the editor. Roads can branch, stretch, and fade out. You can even go for a drive on your highways and byways in the editor.

 

Terrain Holes: Remove patches of terrain and go underground with caves and bunkers. This feature brings a new subterranean dimension to your games.

 

High Dynamic Range (HDR): Brights are brighter, and darkness is darker. High dynamic range allows a greater range of color to be displayed, with automatic iris adjustment to correct for the ambient lighting environment.

 

Animation Improvements: Characters can have up to 256 bones, with fast hardware skinning performed on the graphics card.

 

Rendering Framework: It's easy to toggle advanced effects on and off, in any combination, with commands like SetBloom() and SetHDR().

 

On Lua

Like many programmers, I used to consider scripting languages to be a "toy": They are nice and easy to use, but ultimately I thought it was just programming for people who don't want to install Visual Studio. I started playing with Lua back in June of 2009, and the potential for this wonderful language quickly became apparent. Our integration of Lua allows script to be written on both a global and per-object basis; You can write your entire program in Lua, like you would with C++ or another language, or you can write a script specifically for one object class, with different predefined functions to be called during the program. There are functions that can be called when an object hits something, when it is created, or once every frame to update the object. Object scripts can be used together with C++ or another programming language. This means that anyone who uses Leadwerks Engine, with any language, can download a scripted object, drop it into their program, and have the same behavior working in their own game. The implications of this are immense.

 

Suddenly we found that instead of being a collection of a few hundred individual programmers, the community suddenly became a collaborative, collective group. If one developer writes a script for a scary monster and posts it online, another user can download it, drop it into the editor, and see the results, with no code changes. You can even edit the script in Leadwerks Editor, save it, and instantly see the results. For the first time, developers could easily work together and share their creations, and still use whatever programming language they preferred. Lua has changed the whole feel of the community to a more social and cooperative group.

 

Keeping it Real-time

Our design philosophy for Leadwerks Engine is that everything should run in real-time, and thus be editable in real-time. Lighting and physics are already editable in real-time with instant feedback, but it took some time before I realized we can extend this approach to something else: programming. The new editor has an integrated script editor. To edit an object's script, you simply double-click on its node in the scene tree. You can view all the code that makes the object to whatever it is doing. You can also make changes to the script, save it, and the object's behavior is instantly updated! The lack of a compiling phase allows you to fine-tune behavior to get it just the way you want. Plus, it's a just lot of fun to use. For an in-depth description of our Lua implementation, see here:

http://www.leadwerks.com/files/Tutorials/Lua/Getting_Started_With_Lua.pdf

 

The Road to Perfection

Roads look nice, but the reason I really like them is they allow new dimensions of gameplay. When I started off writing the road editor, I had a few requirements. I wanted the roads to be written entirely with Lua object scripts. This was a challenge, and forced me to add several features to the script integration to make it work. I also wanted roads that aligned perfectly to the terrain, like they do in Crysis. First I wrote the mesh generation routine that makes a spline-based road. This is fairly simple, but it is only part of the problem. The biggest challenge was slicing the road up by the terrain grid, so that every vertex on the road lined up along the terrain, and the whole road lay perfectly snug. UV mapping the tessellated road was another major challenge, but a clever solution was found after many attempts. The resulting roads look great and conform perfectly to the terrain. And they're fun to go driving on!

 

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

The forest rendering algorithm is my favorite new rendering feature. The bulk of this was written in the spring of last year, but there were a few details I didn't complete until recently. I spent hours playing with the Crysis editor and trying to figure out how they heck they were able to render so much foliage. I read article after article, but no one seemed to have a good approach. Most of the forum discussions on graphics development sites seemed to amount to just saying "use billboards". The problem is that rendering 100,000 billboards is still a major challenge. The solution was found by analyzing what format data the GPU will render most efficiently, and then working backwards to find a way to get the vegetation in that format. The solution is elegant, and seamless to the end user. There's no baking or pre-processing. You paint as many trees and plants on the terrain as you want, and it just works. I still have some more ideas to implement, like destructable trees and even better efficiency, but I am quite happy with how it turned out.



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  • Blog Entries

    • By Josh in Josh's Dev Blog 2
      I started to implement quads for tessellation, and at that point the shader system reached the point of being unmanageable. Rendering an object to a shadow map and to a color buffer are two different processes that require two different shaders. Turbo introduces an early Z-pass which can use another shader, and if variance shadow maps are not in use this can be a different shader from the shadow shader. Rendering with tessellation requires another set of shaders, with one different set for each primitive type (isolines, triangles, and quads). And then each one of these needs a masked and opaque option, if alpha discard is enabled.
      All in all, there are currently 48 different shaders a material could use based on what is currently being drawn. This is unmanageable.
      To handle this I am introducing the concept of a "shader family". This is a JSON file that lists all possible permutations of a shader. Instead of setting lots of different shaders in a material, you just set the shader family one:
      shaderFamily: "PBR.json" Or in code:
      material->SetShaderFamily(LoadShaderFamily("PBR.json")); The shader family file is a big JSON structure that contains all the different shader modules for each different rendering configuration: Here are the partial contents of my PBR.json file:
      { "turboShaderFamily" : { "OPAQUE": { "default": { "base": { "vertex": "Shaders/PBR.vert.spv", "fragment": "Shaders/PBR.frag.spv" }, "depthPass": { "vertex": "Shaders/Depthpass.vert.spv" }, "shadow": { "vertex": "Shaders/Shadow.vert.spv" } }, "isolines": { "base": { "vertex": "Shaders/PBR_Tess.vert.spv", "tessellationControl": "Shaders/Isolines.tesc.spv", "tessellationEvaluation": "Shaders/Isolines.tese.spv", "fragment": "Shaders/PBR_Tess.frag.spv" }, "shadow": { "vertex": "Shaders/DepthPass_Tess.vert.spv", "tessellationControl": "Shaders/DepthPass_Isolines.tesc.spv", "tessellationEvaluation": "Shaders/DepthPass_Isolines.tese.spv" }, "depthPass": { "vertex": "Shaders/DepthPass_Tess.vert.spv", "tessellationControl": "DepthPass_Isolines.tesc.spv", "tessellationEvaluation": "DepthPass_Isolines.tese.spv" } }, "triangles": { "base": { "vertex": "Shaders/PBR_Tess.vert.spv", "tessellationControl": "Shaders/Triangles.tesc.spv", "tessellationEvaluation": "Shaders/Triangles.tese.spv", "fragment": "Shaders/PBR_Tess.frag.spv" }, "shadow": { "vertex": "Shaders/DepthPass_Tess.vert.spv", "tessellationControl": "Shaders/DepthPass_Triangles.tesc.spv", "tessellationEvaluation": "Shaders/DepthPass_Triangles.tese.spv" }, "depthPass": { "vertex": "Shaders/DepthPass_Tess.vert.spv", "tessellationControl": "DepthPass_Triangles.tesc.spv", "tessellationEvaluation": "DepthPass_Triangles.tese.spv" } }, "quads": { "base": { "vertex": "Shaders/PBR_Tess.vert.spv", "tessellationControl": "Shaders/Quads.tesc.spv", "tessellationEvaluation": "Shaders/Quads.tese.spv", "fragment": "Shaders/PBR_Tess.frag.spv" }, "shadow": { "vertex": "Shaders/DepthPass_Tess.vert.spv", "tessellationControl": "Shaders/DepthPass_Quads.tesc.spv", "tessellationEvaluation": "Shaders/DepthPass_Quads.tese.spv" }, "depthPass": { "vertex": "Shaders/DepthPass_Tess.vert.spv", "tessellationControl": "DepthPass_Quads.tesc.spv", "tessellationEvaluation": "DepthPass_Quads.tese.spv" } } } } } A shader family file can indicate a root to inherit values from. The Blinn-Phong shader family pulls settings from the PBR file and just switches some of the fragment shader values.
      { "turboShaderFamily" : { "root": "PBR.json", "OPAQUE": { "default": { "base": { "fragment": "Shaders/Blinn-Phong.frag.spv" } }, "isolines": { "base": { "fragment": "Shaders/Blinn-Phong_Tess.frag.spv" } }, "triangles": { "base": { "fragment": "Shaders/Blinn-Phong_Tess.frag.spv" } }, "quads": { "base": { "fragment": "Shaders/Blinn-Phong_Tess.frag.spv" } } } } } If you want to implement a custom shader, this is more work because you have to define all your changes for each possible shader variation. But once that is done, you have a new shader that will work with all of these different settings, which in the end is easier. I considered making a more complex inheritance / cascading schema but I think eliminating ambiguity is the most important goal in this and that should override any concern about the verbosity of these files. After all, I only plan on providing a couple of these files and you aren't going to need any more unless you are doing a lot of custom shaders. And if you are, this is the best solution for you anyways.
      Consequently, the baseShader, depthShader, etc. values in the material file definition are going away. Leadwerks .mat files will always use the Blinn-Phong shader family, and there is no way to change this without creating a material file in the new JSON material format.
      The shader class is no longer derived from the Asset class because it doesn't correspond to a single file. Instead, it is just a dumb container. A ShaderModule class derived from the Asset class has been added, and this does correspond with a single .spv file. But you, the user, won't really need to deal with any of this.
      The result of this is that one material will work with tessellation enabled or disabled, quad, triangle, or line meshes, and animated meshes. I also added an optional parameter in the CreatePlane(), CreateBox(), and CreateQuadSphere() commands that will create these primitives out of quads instead of triangles. The main reason for supporting quad meshes is that the tessellation is cleaner when quads are used. (Note that Vulkan still displays quads in wireframe mode as if they are triangles. I think the renderer probably converts them to normal triangles after the tessellation stage.)


      I also was able to implement PN Quads, which is a quad version of the Bezier curve that PN Triangles add to tessellation.



      Basically all the complexity is being packed into the shader family file so that these decisions only have to be made once instead of thousands of times for each different material.
    • By Josh in Josh's Dev Blog 0
      I'm back from I/ITSEC. This conference is basically like the military's version of GDC. VR applications built with Leadwerks took up about half of Northrop Grumman's booth. There were many interesting discussions about new technology and I received a very warm reception. I feel very positive about our new technology going forward.

      I am currently reworking the text field widget script to work with our persistent 2D objects. This is long and boring but needs to be done. Not much else to say right now.
    • By Josh in Josh's Dev Blog 4
      Here are some screenshots showing more complex interface items scaled at different resolutions. First, here is the interface at 100% scaling:

      And here is the same interface at the same screen resolution, with the DPI scaling turned up to 150%:

      The code to control this is sort of complex, and I don't care. GUI resolution independence is a complicated thing, so the goal should be to create a system that does what it is supposed to do reliably, not to make complicated things simpler at the expense of functionality.
      function widget:Draw(x,y,width,height) local scale = self.gui:GetScale() self.primitives[1].size = iVec2(self.size.x, self.size.y - self.tabsize.y * scale) self.primitives[2].size = iVec2(self.size.x, self.size.y - self.tabsize.y * scale) --Tabs local n local tabpos = 0 for n = 1, #self.items do local tw = self:TabWidth(n) * scale if n * 3 > #self.primitives - 2 then self:AddRect(iVec2(tabpos,0), iVec2(tw, self.tabsize.y * scale), self.bordercolor, false, self.itemcornerradius * scale) self:AddRect(iVec2(tabpos+1,1), iVec2(tw, self.tabsize.y * scale) - iVec2(2 * scale,-1 * scale), self.backgroundcolor, false, self.itemcornerradius * scale) self:AddTextRect(self.items[n].text, iVec2(tabpos,0), iVec2(tw, self.tabsize.y*scale), self.textcolor, TEXT_CENTER + TEXT_MIDDLE) end if self:SelectedItem() == n then self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 1].position = iVec2(tabpos, 0) self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 1].size = iVec2(tw, self.tabsize.y * scale) + iVec2(0,2) self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 2].position = iVec2(tabpos + 1, 1) self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 2].color = self.selectedtabcolor self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 2].size = iVec2(tw, self.tabsize.y * scale) - iVec2(2,-1) self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 3].color = self.hoveredtextcolor self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 1].position = iVec2(tabpos,0) self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 2].position = iVec2(tabpos + 1, 1) self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 3].position = iVec2(tabpos,0) else self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 1].size = iVec2(tw, self.tabsize.y * scale) self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 2].color = self.tabcolor self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 2].size = iVec2(tw, self.tabsize.y * scale) - iVec2(2,2) if n == self.hovereditem then self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 3].color = self.hoveredtextcolor else self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 3].color = self.textcolor end self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 1].position = iVec2(tabpos,2) self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 2].position = iVec2(tabpos + 1, 3) self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 3].position = iVec2(tabpos,2) end self.primitives[2 + (n - 1) * 3 + 3].text = self.items[n].text tabpos = tabpos + tw - 2 end end  
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