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Simple 3D game developed in Unity during Global Game Jam 2014.
Simple 2D game developed during Global Game Jam 2013, for Windows.
|FX Batch Compiler 1.1|
This Windows application supports compilation of FX effect files and HLSL shader files using fxc command line compiler included in DirectX SDK. You can compile many files at time or one file with different settings.
My first Flash game. Coded with FlashDevelop in ActionScript 3.
Universal library for C++, created especially with game programmers in mind. Includes: math module (vectors, matrices, quaternions, planes, rich set of collision functions and more), string operations, conversions, smart pointers, configuration files handling, date and time module, exception class hierarchy for error handling, file system handling, stream class hierarchy, FreeList - free memory allocator, complex logger, profiler, library for threading and synchronization, tokenizer, wrappers for compression with zlib.
Language: C++. Platforms: Windows and Linux. License: GNU LGPL. Optional support for Unicode. Optional integration with D3DX. Documentation made with Doxygen.
|Aqua Fish 2|
Game for children - clone of PacMan. Player swims as a fish and collects points, as well as special items. Player also have to run away from enemies or destroy them. 60 maps in 6 different titlesets. Low hardware requirements. See also YouTube videos: , . Game was published by Play Publishing company.
Calculator for game programmers. Basic data unit is a vector of 1-4 floating point numbers, which can be treated as (x,y,z,w) vector or (r,g,b,a) color. Next to basic calculations like addition, multiplication or sinus, vector operations are also available, e.g. vector normalization, conversion between degrees and radians, color conversion between RGB and HSB, finding linear an quadratic function coefficients and much more. Instead of entering single number, here you can see all the history of your calculations in form of stack and all operations are performed on that stack. Data can be entered and retrieved in different formats, like "D3DXVECTOR4(0.0f, 0.5f, 0.752f, 1.0f)" or "0xFF0080C0". Platform: Windows. Language: C#. License: GNU GPL.
Inceptionism - Graphical Effect from Neural Networks
Convolutional neural networks are artificial intelligence algorithms used in image recognition. Two weeks ago engineers from Google showed how it can be used to generate or modify images in a novel style. They called it "inceptionism". Since then lots of people and websites posted about it.
I would like to play around with this technology myself, but I don't have much knowledge about artificial intelligence algorithms and I don't have much free time right now, so at least I hope to follow developments in this new graphics technique and update this list of related links.
Lower-Level Graphics API - What Does It Mean?
They say that the new, upcoming generation of graphics API-s (like DirectX 12 and Vulkan) will be lower-level, closer to the GPU. You may wonder what does it exactly mean or what is the purpose of it? Let me explain that with a picture that I have made few months ago and already shown on my two presentations.
Row 1: Back in the early days of computer graphics (like on Atari, Commodore 64), there were only applications (green rectangle), communicating directly with graphics hardware (e.g. by setting hardware registers).
Row 2: Hardware and software became more complicated. Operating systems started to separate applications from direct access to hardware. To make applications working on variety of devices available on the market, some standards had to be defined. Device drivers appeared as a separate layer (red rectangle).
Graphics API (Application Programming Interface), like every interface, is just the means of communication - standardized, documented definition of functions and other stuff that is used on the application's side and implemented by the driver. Driver translates these calls to commands specific to particular hardware.
Row 3: As games became more complex, it was no longer convenient to call graphics API directly from game logic code. Another layer appeared, called game engine (yellow rectangle). It is essentially a comprehensive library that provides some higher-level objects (like an entity, asset, material, camera, light) and implements them (in its graphical part) using lower-level commands of graphics API (like mesh, texture, shader).
Row 4: This is where we are now. Games, as well as game engines constantly become more complex and expensive to make. Less and less game development studios make their own engine technology, more prefer to use existing, universal engines (like Unity, Unreal Engine) and just focus on gameplay. These engines recently became available for free and on very attractive licenses, so this trend affects both AAA, as well as indie and amateur game developers.
Graphics drivers became incredibly complex programs as well. You may not see it directly, but just take a look at the size of their installers. They are not games - they don't contain tons of graphics and music assets. So guess what is inside? That is a lot of code! They have to implement all API-s (DirectX 9, 10, 11, OpenGL). In addition to that, these API-s have to backward compatible and not necessarily reflect how modern GPU-s work, so additional logic needed for that can introduce some performance overhead or contain some bugs.
Row 5: The future, with new generation of graphics API-s. Note that the sum width of the bars is not smaller than in the previous row. (Maybe it should be a bit smaller - see comment below.) That is because according to the concept of accidental complexity and essential complexity from famous book No Silver Bullet, stuff that is really necessary has to be done somewhere anyway. So lower-level API means just that driver could be smaller and simpler, while upper layers will have more responsibility of manually managing stuff instead of automatic facilities provided by the driver (for example, there is no more DISCARD or NOOVERWRITE flag when mapping a resource in DirectX 12). It also means API is again closer to the actual hardware. Thanks to all that, the usage of GPU can be optimized better by knowing all higher-level details about specific application on the engine level.
Question is: Will that make graphics programming more difficult? Yes, it will, but these days it will affect mostly a small group of programmers working directly on game engines or just passionate about this stuff (like myself) and not the rest of game developers. Similarly, there may be a concern about potential fragmentation. Time will show which API-s will be more successful than the others, but in case none of them will become standard across all platforms (Vulkan is a good candidate) and GPU/OS vendors succeed in convincing developers to use their platform-specific ones, it will also complicate life only for these engine developers. Successful games have to be multiplatform anyway and modern game engines do good job in hiding many of differences between platforms, so they can do the same with graphics.
DirectX 12: What We Already Know?
I am very excited about the upcoming DirectX 12. I have always been standing on the side of PC, Windows and DirectX. Currently I code in DirectX 11 on Windows 7 at home. Upcoming Windows 10 with free upgrade from version 7 and 8 (and the Start menu back on its place) looks like a good system. Together with it, a new version of DirectX will be released. Let us summarize general information about this new graphics API that are publicly available at the moment.
Here are some interesting links:
First and foremost: Direct3D 12 Graphics @ msdn.microsoft.com. Microsoft says "these information relate to pre-released product and may be substantially modified before it's commercially released", but you can already find there all Direct3D 12 Programming Guide and Reference, so basically the whole API is already public and you can start learning it.
Slides and videos from conferences:
Videos and screenshots from some working applications already shown:
The Importance of Good Debugging Tools
Robert L. Glass wrote an interesting article "Frequently Forgotten Fundamental Facts about Software Engineering". While I am aware he is far more experienced than me and he has sources to backup his opinions, I dare to disagree with following paragraph:
T1. Most software tool and technique improvements account for about a 5- to 30-percent increase in productivity and quality. But at one time or another, most of these improvements have been claimed by someone to have "order of magnitude" (factor of 10) benefits. Hype is the plague on the house of software.
I think that having good tools is one of the most important (and sometimes underrated) factors in programmers' efficiency. From comfortable chair, through fast desktop PC, big monitors, fast Internet connection, to good software, including IDE (editor, compiler, debugger etc.) and auxiliary applications (like Total Commander for file management) - they can all make big difference in how developers feel about their job and how fast the work is going.
Of course, "tools" is a broad term. If by choosing good tools we mean changing used programming language or libraries in the middle of the project, then sure it is usually a bad idea. Writing a script to automate some task that can be done manually in just few minutes or even an hour is usually not worth doing as well.
But what is always worth investing time and money in (either buying or developing your own, learning to use them) are tools that help with debugging. As debugging is the hardest and most time consuming part of programming, any improvement in that process can make as big difference as between minutes and weeks - often in the most critical time, close to the deadline.
So in my opinion, being able to interactively debug executing program (or its trace) - to setup a breakpoint and preview current value of variables (as opposed to relying only on some debug text prints, analyzing logs or some command-line tools) is an absolute minimum to be able to call any programming environment reasonable, mature and eligible to write any serious software in it. If you are the one who writes a program and you have to treat that program as a black box while it is running, without a possibility to peek inside, then something is wrong. AFAIK that is the case with some technologies that deploy program to a server or an embedded device.
How is it in graphics programming? John Carmack once tweeted:
gl_FragColor.x = 1.0; is the printf of graphics debugging. Stone knives and bearskins.
While I share his frustration with such primitive methods of debugging, the reality of today's GPU programming is not all that bad as we could only render red pixels to see any debug information. NVIDIA Nsight offers debugging of a GPU, and so does Intel Graphics Performance Analyzers (GPA). Finally, there is a vendor-agnostic debugger for DirectX developed by Microsoft. Originating from Xbox (that is where its name comes from - Performance Investigator for Xbox), PIX used to be available for free as a standalone application. Recently, they have integrated it as part of Visual Studio called Graphics Diagnostics. It was available in commercial versions of Visual Studio only and not in free Express edition (very bad news for all amateur DirectX game developers), but finally they shipped it for free together with the new, fully-functional Visual Studio Community edition.
With these tools, there is no explanation for whining "nothing renders and I don't know why" - just go debug it! :) The future also looks bright. DirectX 12 will offer Debug layer. Vulkan also claims to support debugging tools and layers and LunarG company even started working on such tool - GLAVE.
Nothing Renders - Why?
"I have a blank screen" or "nothing is rendered" is probably the most frequent bug in graphics programming. It's also quite hard to debug because there are many possible causes. Graphics pipeline is compilated, so there are multiple things that can be wrong at each stage. Few years ago I've written a short article about this, in Polish, titled Nic nie widać. This is translation of that article. It provides a list of questions you should ask yourself while considering the most frequent reasons for why nothing appears on the screen. It is dedicated for Direct3D 9, but it can also be applied to OpenGL (only some things are named differently) and, to some degree, to newer graphics API-s.
First of all, please clear your background to some color other than black, e.g. gray or blue. Maybe your geometry is rendered, but it is black. It is a frequent bug, especially if you have lighting enabled (and it is enabled by default) while you didn't setup any lights.
Are you sure you correctly setup all matrices - world, view and projection? Did you create them using correct functions? Is the camera located in the right place and looks in the desired direction? Maybe your object is in the same position as camera or behind the camera, which is pointing backward?
Is the size and position of your object correct? Is your object too close or too far from the camera, relative to the minimum and maximum Z value set in projection matrix? Isn't it too small to be visible?
Do all the calls to DirectX functions return a value meaning success? Do you even check that value? Please also launch "DirectX Control Panel", enable Debug Layer for your application and analyze Output for any error or warning messages.
Do you use correct vertex format? Did you define a structure describing your vertex correctly and compatible with the FVF/vertex declaration that you use? Are all the fields in the correct order and of the right type? Do you tell DirectX what vertex format you want to use by calling SetFVF/SetVertexDeclaration before rendering?
Do you pass correct parameters to the rendering function? In the most basic case, all offsets should be 0 and "stride" is the size of your vertex structure, in bytes, like sizeof(SMyVertex). Do you pass correct number of primitives to render?
Do you fill your vertex and (optional) index buffer correctly? Do they have correct number of elements? Do you fill all of them? If you use transformed coordinates XYZRHW, the RHW component should be set to 1.0 and never to 0.0.
Maybe your geometry is totally transparent. Is the alpha channel set to maxium (1.0 or 0xFF, depending on type) and not to minimum in all of these: vertices, texture, material (only if you use lighting)?
Maybe the triangles you want to render are ignored as "back facing" the camera, because they have wrong winding (clockwise or counterclockwise)? Try to disable backface culling to check that.
Did you setup blending on all texture stages correctly? Did you correctly setup all rest of the states of graphics pipeline? Maybe the problem appears only when you render some objects in a specific order? That means states set before rendering one object remain in the pipeline and break rendering of the next one.
If you use some advanced rendering features, your graphics card may not support them. Set reference software rasterizer during creation of the device object (D3DDEVTYPE_REF instead of HAL). Your program will run very slowly, but everything should be drawn as expected. Query device object for capabilities of your GPU (device caps).
If you use depth buffer, remember to clear it as well, together with backbuffer. In 3rd parameter of Clear function bitwise OR following flag: D3DCLEAR_ZBUFFER. Without it, you won't see anything on the screen or you will see artifacts. Value to clear Z-buffer to is 1.0f (not 0.0f).
Finally, there are ways you can actually debug how data and state look like on subsequent stages of the graphics pipeline while this bugged draw call is executed, using Graphics Diagnostics in Visual Sudio or other GPU debugging tool.
Installing Visual C++ Redistributable Package from Command Line
You may think that unless you explicitly use some external library (like FMOD), your program will not require any additional libraries to work, but when coding in C++ using Visual Studio, this is not the case. The functions of standard C/C++ library are implemented in a package of DLL-s called Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable Package. Each version of Visual Studio has their own set. For example, version for Visual Studio 2013 (Release configuration) consists of files: msvcr120.dll, msvcp120.dll.
You can make your application not requiring this library by setting your project options in Configuration Properties > C/C++ > Code Generation > Runtime Library to "Multi-threaded [Debug]" without the "DLL" part, which makes it statically linked. Alternatively, you can distribute these DLL files (although I'm not sure if this is legal) or the whole library installer together with your application. The library is small and free, available to download from Microsoft website:
The question is: can you launch the installer of these packages with some special parameter so the user doesn't have to go through all the setup wizard, confirming each step? The answer is yes, but as Microsoft likes to change everything very often :) the exact command line is different depending on version. Here is the whole set:
Visual Studio 2005:
Visual Studio 2005, x86 (32-bit version):
vcredist_x86.exe /q:a /c:"VCREDI~1.EXE /q:a /c:""msiexec /i vcredist.msi /qn""
Visual Studio 2005, x64 (64-bit version):
vcredist_x64.exe /q:a /c:"VCREDI~2.EXE /q:a /c:""msiexec /i vcredist.msi /qn"" "
Visual Studio 2005 SP1, x86:
vcredist_x86.exe /q:a /c:"VCREDI~3.EXE /q:a /c:""msiexec /i vcredist.msi /qn"" "
Visual Studio 2005 SP1, x64:
vcredist_x64.exe /q:a /c:"VCREDI~2.EXE /q:a /c:""msiexec /i vcredist.msi /qn"" "
If you would like to install it in unattended mode (which will show a small progress bar but not require any user interaction), you can change the "/qn" switch above to "/qb". Unattended mode + disabled "Cancel" button is "/qb!".
Visual Studio 2008: Just pass one of these parameters:
/q - quiet mode, no user interface.
/qb - unattended mode, shows progress bar but no user interaction required.
/qb! - unattended mode with "Cancel" button disabled.
Visual Studio 2010 and 2012:
/q /norestart - quiet mode
/passive /norestart - passive (unattended) mode
Visual Studio 2013:
/install /quiet /norestart - quiet mode
/install /passive /norestart - passive (unattended) mode
To quickly install all of these libraries on the machines where lots of different applications are launched that may require them, I gathered all the libraries in one directory and I have written following BAT script:
"2005 SP1\vcredist_x86.exe" /q:a /c:"VCREDI~3.EXE /q:a /c:""msiexec /i vcredist.msi /qb"" "
"2005 SP1\vcredist_x64.exe" /q:a /c:"VCREDI~2.EXE /q:a /c:""msiexec /i vcredist.msi /qb"" "
"2008 SP1\vcredist_x86.exe" /qb
"2008 SP1\vcredist_x64.exe" /qb
"2010 SP1\vcredist_x86.exe" /passive /norestart
"2010 SP1\vcredist_x64.exe" /passive /norestart
"2012 Update 4\vcredist_x86.exe" /passive /norestart
"2012 Update 4\vcredist_x64.exe" /passive /norestart
"2013\vcredist_x86.exe" /install /passive /norestart
"2013\vcredist_x64.exe" /install /passive /norestart
Watch out for reduced precision normalize/length in OpenGL ES
GLSL language for OpenGL ES introduces concept of precision. You can annotate variable declaration (both float and int/uint) with a precision qualifier:
mediump float a = 3.0;
You can also specify default precision qualifier by using precision statement. Language specification defines minimum required range and precision for each precision qualifier.
highpbasically means normal, single-precision, 32-bit float (IEEE 754), as we know it from CPU programming.
mediumpis said to have have range of at least -2^14 ... 2^14 and relative precision 2^-10, so it can be, for example, implemented using a 16-bit, half-precision float.
lowpis said to have range at least -2 ... 2 and absolute precision 2^-8, so basically it can be stored as a 10-bit, fixed-point number.
GPU vendors are free to use more precise data types, or even full 32-bit float for all of them. What exact precision is used depends on specific GPU and maybe even operating system or graphics driver version. Using smaller data types can occupy less memory, calculate faster and consume less battery power. But it comes at the price of reduced precision and range of these numbers. Tom Olson wrote interesting articles about this: "Benchmarking floating-point precision in mobile GPUs": Part I, Part II, Part III.
In this post I'd like to warn you against a specific problem related to it - usage of
distance() functions. Using smaller data types not only limits precision in terms of number of significant digits, but also available range (over which the value will saturate to -INF/+INF). For mediump, this range is defined as +/-2^14, which is only 16384.
This may still look like a lot, but let's remember that calculating vector length involves intermediate value that it sum of squares of this components. This can grow very big before a square root is applied. For example, for 3D vector:
length(a) = sqrt(a.x*a.x + a.y*a.y + a.z*a.z)
If you do this operation on a mediump vector, the term
a.x*a.x + a.y*a.y + a.z*a.z can exceed maximum value for vector as small as (74.0, 74.0, 74.0). It can be very dangerous if you do something like this in your fragment shader:
precision mediump float;
uniform vec3 light_pos;
vec3 dir_to_light = normalize(pos - light_pos);
// Calculate your lighting and so on...
You might ask: Why isn't this intermediate value stored in high precision before taking its square root to avoid this overflow problem? Obviously it could be, as precision in any place of the shader is free to be higher than the minimum allowed in that place, so some GPU vendors can do it this way, but you shouldn't rely on this. GLSL specification clearly says that the shader is free to use same, reduced precision for intermediate values.
The precision used to internally evaluate an operation, and the precision qualification subsequently associated with any resulting intermediate values, must be at least as high as the highest precision qualification of the operands consumed by the operation.
Conclusion is: When you write shaders for OpenGL ES, watch out for operations that involve calculating vector length (or dot product) like
highp precision for vectors involved and remember that what works on one GPU due to using precision higher than minimum required, may not work on another GPU and it’s still an application issue.
My visuals on Headrush party in Protokultura, Gdańsk
Next Saturday, 2015-04-11, you can see my music visualizations on Headrush party in Protokultura club in Gdańsk. There will be 3 scenes with various genres of electronic dance music, and the club is big and very good, so I'm sure it will be great party. My visuals will be shown on psytrance scene. Unfortunately I can't be there myself, but I'm sure my friends Wooffer and Brain Massage will handle setup of this system very well. Some random screenshots: