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Steam Dev Days 2016

Josh

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I got back last night from Steam Dev Days 2016 in Seattle. This year focused heavily on VR, with Valve mentioning they are working on a new unannounced title built for VR. Valve also announced Steamworks will begin supporting the PS4 controller, with other controller support in the works.

 

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This was also an opportunity for me to meet with a bunch of people on the Steam dev team and chat with other developers. I got a lot done! We're getting our Steam controller integration fixed, as I presently can't upload controller configurations in the backend.

 

I also talked to several Valve people about the friction we're seeing in the Workshop Store. I used quotes from this forum and your comments on my blog to show them how customers were reacting and where the problems were. I hope to keep simplifying the purchase process of these items so that your Workshop Store items sell as well as our DLCs. Being able to show graphs of DLCs versus Workshop Store sales, together with customer feedback from this forum made a convincing presentation. Below are a couple of my slides.

 

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My recommendations to Valve are as follows:

  1. Add a Steam browser protocol call to open an item page in the Steam client.
  2. Streamline the checkout process for inventory items.
  3. Add a mechanism for sales discounts in item store.

 

The first item is the simplest to implement, and will make an immediate difference because you will be able to complete purchases through the Steam client instead of having to log into your Steam account with a web browser.

 

Unlike previous GDCs and Steam Dev Days 2014, which was after Leadwerks launched on Steam, at this conference everyone knew about Leadwerks. I met with ReepBlue and got to play his Blue Portals mod, and also talked to the Black Mesa Source devs about map design and art, which was awesome.

 

And of course the afterparty was a blast:

 

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  • Blog Entries

    • By Josh in Josh's Dev Blog 3
      Previously I described how multiple cameras can be combined in the new renderer to create an unlimited depth buffer. That discussion lead into multi-world rendering and 2D drawing. Surprisingly, there is a lot of overlap in these features, and it makes sense to solve all of it at one time.
      Old 2D rendering systems are designed around the idea of storing a hierarchy of state changes. The renderer would crawl through the hierarchy and perform commands as it went along, rendering all 2D elements in the order they should appear. It made sense for the design of the first graphics cards, but this style of rendering is really inefficient on modern graphics hardware. Today's hardware works best with batches of objects, using the depth buffer to handle which object appears on top. We don't sort 3D objects back-to-front because it would be monstrously inefficient, so why should 2D graphics be any different?
      We can get much better results if we use the same fast rendering techniques we use for 3D graphics and apply it to 2D shapes. After all, the only difference between 3D and 2D rendering is the shape of the camera projection matrix. For this reason, Turbo Engine will use 2D-in-3D rendering for all 2D drawing. You can render a pure 2D scene by setting the camera projection mode to orthographic, or you can create a second orthographic camera and render it on top of your 3D scene. This has two big implications:
      Performance will be incredibly fast. I predict 100,000 uniquely textured sprites will render pretty much instantaneously. In fact anyone making a 2D PC game who is having trouble with performance will be interested in using Turbo Engine. Advanced 3D effects will be possible that we aren't used to seeing in 2D. For example, lighting works with 2D rendering with no problems, as you can see below. Mixing of 3D and 2D elements will be possible to make inventory systems and other UI items. Particles and other objects can be incorporated into the 2D display.
      The big difference you will need to adjust to is there are no 2D drawing commands. Instead you have persistent objects that use the same system as the 3D rendering.
      Sprites
      The primary 2D element you will work with is the Sprite entity, which works the same as the 3D sprites in Leadwerks 4. Instead of drawing rectangles in the order you want them to appear, you will use the Z position of each entity and let the depth buffer take care of the rest, just like we do with 3D rendering. I also am adding support for animation frames and other features, and these can be used with 2D or 3D rendering.

      Rotation and scaling of sprites is of course trivial. You could even use effects like distance fog! Add a vector joint to each entity to lock the Z axis in the same direction and Newton will transform into a nice 2D physics system.
      Camera Setup
      By default, with a zoom value of 1.0 an orthographic camera maps so that one meter in the world equals one screen pixel. We can position the camera so that world coordinates match screen coordinates, as shown in the image below.
      auto camera = CreateCamera(world); camera->SetProjectionMode(PROJECTION_ORTHOGRAPHIC); camera->SetRange(-1,1); iVec2 screensize = framebuffer->GetSize(); camera->SetPosition(screensize.x * 0.5, -screensize.y * 0.5); Note that unlike screen coordinates in Leadwerks 4, world coordinates point up in the positive direction.

      We can create a sprite and reset its center point to the upper left hand corner of the square like so:
      auto sprite = CreateSprite(world); sprite->mesh->Translate(0.5,-0.5,0); sprite->mesh->Finalize(); sprite->UpdateBounds(); And then we can position the sprite in the upper left-hand corner of the screen and scale it:
      sprite->SetColor(1,0,0); sprite->SetScale(200,50); sprite->SetPosition(10,-10,0);
      This would result in an image something like this, with precise alignment of screen pixels:

      Here's an idea: Remember the opening sequence in Super Metroid on SNES, when the entire world starts tilting back and forth? You could easily do that just by rotating the camera a bit.
      Displaying Text
      Instead of drawing text with a command, you will create a text model. This is a series of rectangles of the correct size with their texture coordinates set to display a letter for each rectangle. You can include a line return character in the text, and it will create a block of multiple lines of text in one object. (I may add support for text made out of polygons at a later time, but it's not a priority right now.)
      shared_ptr<Model> CreateText(shared_ptr<World> world, shared_ptr<Font> font, const std::wstring& text, const int size) The resulting model will have a material with the rasterized text applied to it, shown below with alpha blending disabled so you can see the mesh background. Texture coordinates are used to select each letter, so the font only has to be rasterized once for each size it is used at:

      Every piece of text you display needs to have a model created for it. If you are displaying the framerate or something else that changes frequently, then it makes sense to create a cache of models you use so your game isn't constantly creating new objects. If you wanted, you could modify the vertex colors of a text model to highlight a single word.

      And of course all kinds of spatial transformations are easily achieved.

      Because the text is just a single textured mesh, it will render very fast. This is a big improvement over the DrawText() command in Leadwerks 4, which performs one draw call for each character.
      The font loading command no longer accepts a size. You load the font once and a new image will be rasterized for each text size the engine requests internally:
      auto font = LoadFont("arial.ttf"); auto text = CreateText(foreground, font, "Hello, how are you today?", 18); Combining 2D and 3D
      By using two separate worlds we can control which items the 3D camera draws and which item 2D camera draws: (The foreground camera will be rendered on top of the perspective camera, since it is created after it.) We need to use a second camera so that 2D elements are rendered in a second pass with a fresh new depth buffer.
      //Create main world and camera auto world = CreateWorld(); auto camera = CreateCamera(world); auto scene = LoadScene(world,"start.map"); //Create world for 2D rendering auto foreground = CreateWorld() auto fgcam = CreateCamera(foreground); fgcam->SetProjection(PROJECTION_ORTHOGRAPHIC); fgcam->SetClearMode(CLEAR_DEPTH); fgcam->SetRange(-1,1); auto UI = LoadScene(foreground,"UI.map"); //Combine rendering world->Combine(foreground); while (true) { world->Update(); world->Render(framebuffer); } Overall, this will take more work to set up and get started with than the simple 2D drawing in Leadwerks 4, but the performance and additional control you get are well worth it. This whole approach makes so much sense to me, and I think it will lead to some really cool possibilities.
      As I have explained elsewhere, performance has replaced ease of use as my primary design goal. I like the results I get with this approach because I feel the design decisions are less subjective.
    • By Josh in Josh's Dev Blog 25
      Current generation graphics hardware only supports up to a 32-bit floating point depth buffer, and that isn't adequate for large-scale rendering because there isn't enough precision to make objects appear in the correct order and prevent z-fighting.

      After trying out a few different approaches I found that the best way to support large-scale rendering is to allow the user to create several cameras. The first camera should have a range of 0.1-1000 meters, the second would use the same near / far ratio and start where the first one left off, with a depth range of 1000-10,000 meters. Because the ratio of near to far ranges is what matters, not the actual distance, the numbers can get very big very fast. A third camera could be added with a range out to 100,000 kilometers!
      The trick is to set the new Camera::SetClearMode() command to make it so only the furthest-range camera clears the color buffer. Additional cameras clear the depth buffer and then render on top of the previous draw. You can use the new Camera::SetOrder() command to ensure that they are drawn in the order you want.
      auto camera1 = CreateCamera(world); camera1->SetRange(0.1,1000); camera1->SetClearMode(CLEAR_DEPTH); camera1->SetOrder(1); auto camera2 = CreateCamera(world); camera2->SetRange(1000,10000); camera2->SetClearMode(CLEAR_DEPTH); camera2->SetOrder(2); auto camera3 = CreateCamera(world); camera3->SetRange(10000,100000000); camera3->SetClearMode(CLEAR_COLOR | CLEAR_DEPTH); camera3->SetOrder(3); Using this technique I was able to render the Earth, sun, and moon to-scale. The three objects are actually sized correctly, at the correct distance. You can see that from Earth orbit the sun and moon appear roughly the same size. The sun is much bigger, but also much further away, so this is exactly what we would expect.

      You can also use these features to render several cameras in one pass to show different views. For example, we can create a rear-view mirror easily with a second camera:
      auto mirrorcam = CreateCamera(world); mirrorcam->SetParent(maincamera); mirrorcam->SetRotation(0,180,0); mirrorcam=>SetClearMode(CLEAR_COLOR | CLEAR_DEPTH); //Set the camera viewport to only render to a small rectangle at the top of the screen: mirrorcam->SetViewport(framebuffer->GetSize().x/2-200,10,400,50); This creates a "picture-in-picture" effect like what is shown in the image below:

      Want to render some 3D HUD elements on top of your scene? This can be done with an orthographic camera:
      auto uicam = CreateCamera(world); uicam=>SetClearMode(CLEAR_DEPTH); uicam->SetProjectionMode(PROJECTION_ORTHOGRAPHIC); This will make 3D elements appear on top of your scene without clearing the previous render result. You would probably want to move the UI camera far away from the scene so only your HUD elements appear in the last pass.
    • By Marcousik in Marcousik's Creations Blog 5
      I updated the moto I was working on and now the physics let having fun with this.
       
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