DirectX SDK – New Release Schedule

When going through the SDK Readme you will now find that the DirectX SDK now has a new Release Schedule.


Starting after the August 2007 release of the DirectX SDK, Microsoft will deliver future updates four times per year. The next five releases now planned for delivery are:

  • August 2007
  • November 2007 (instead of October and December)
  • March 2008 (instead of February and April)
  • June 2008
  • August 2008

This delivery schedule will continue our strong track record of regularly releasing new features and tools, while allowing for longer technology development cycles.


Cross Post from www.virtualrealm.com.au

DirectX SDK – August 2007 released

The Microsoft DirectX SDK August 2007 Release has been uploaded to the Microsoft Downloads site, and it is early.


From the Readme…


Direct3D 10.1 Tech Preview

Direct3D 10.1 is an incremental, side-by-side update to Direct3D 10.0 that provides a series of new rendering features that will be available in an upcoming generation of graphics hardware.

  • TextureCube Arrays which are dynamically indexable in shader code.
  • An updated shader model (shader model 4.1).
  • The ability to select the MSAA sample pattern for a resource from a palette of patterns, and retrieve the corresponding sample positions.
  • The ability to render to block-compressed textures.
  • More flexibility with respect to copying of resources.
  • Support for blending on all unorm and snorm formats.

This tech preview provides an early look at these features and the handful of new APIs that support them. The August 2007 Direct3D 10.1 Tech Preview requires the Windows Vista SP1 Beta which will be available to MSDN subscribers once it is publicly released.

XAudio2 Beta: New Cross-Platform Audio API

The August release includes Beta 1 of XAudio2. XAudio2 is a new cross-platform audio API (Windows and Xbox 360) that is based on the Xbox 360 XAudio API. XAudio2 is a low-level audio signal processing library for Windows XP and Windows Vista providing a fully modern audio pipeline, including:

  • Multi-channel and surround-sound support with full per-channel volume and mapping control.
  • Programmable, cross-platform DSP effects framework.
  • Per-voice filtering, arbitrary submixing, and multi-rate processing.
  • Multicore optimized, non-blocking API design.
  • Pluggable and generalized 3D spatialization support, with a full-featured implementation provided by the independent X3DAudio math library.

XAudio2 is designed to be the game-audio API that will replace DirectSound.

Please visit the Microsoft Connect XAudio2 Beta website for feedback, bug reporting, links to discussion forums, and an audio feedback survey.

XACT Session Windows

The XACT UI has a new feature, Session windows. Session windows allow a sound designer to create multiple virtual mixing consoles that are comprised of sounds and categories. By using a Session window, a sound designer can easily access volume controls for multiple sounds or categories with the look and feel of a multi-track mixing console. Sounds can be individually auditioned from the Session window. They can also display basic sound status, such as whether a sound is actively playing, or the number of instances of the sound. As part of the Session window functionality, auditioning Mute and Solo are now supported for categories, which allows sound designers to more easily mix sounds in their games.

GDFTrace Tool

GDFTrace.exe is a new command-line tool that displays Game Explorer metadata contained in a binary and highlights any warnings.

New and Updated Articles

This release has both new and updated articles.

  • Games for Windows Technical Requirements and Games for Windows Test Requirements have both been updated for the August 2007 release with some minor requirements changes, significant clarifications, and additional supporting material.
  • The article, Debugging with Symbols, provides a high level overview of how to best use symbols in your debugging process. It explains how to use the Microsoft symbol server, and also how to set up and use your own private symbol server. These best practices can help increase your effectiveness and ability to debug issues, even in cases where all the symbols and executable files that are related to a problem are not located on your computer.

New and Updated Samples

This release has both new and updated samples.

  • The XAudio2BasicSound sample demonstrates how to initialize the XAudio2 library and play a variety of sound files.
  • The ContentStreaming sample was rewritten to better demonstrate streaming content in the background. This is useful for applications that need to display more data than can fit in video or system RAM at any given time.

Cross Post from www.virtualrealm.com.au

Getting Started with Blender 3D and XNA

Installing Blender


The first thing that you need to do is install the Blender system and get it running, to download the latest version of Blender go to www.blender.org and go to the main downloads page. At the time of this article the current version is Blender 2.44. When you do download the package you do have the choice of downloading the Installer Package for most operating systems for my work I will be focusing all of my work using the Windows Operating System.


Download and install the application, but what you might want to do is to also download the Zip of the package. In the past I have used this to recover script files that I have changed. The install process for Blender is pretty painless, during the process you are asked a couple of questions but normally I just select the default options. In summary the main option you are asked is the location of the working files for the application, you can change this later but for the leave the settings as default.


The last thing that you need to do to complete the install is to install the python system. You do not have to do this step but if you do want to use any plug-ins that are not shipped with the product, or customize the ones that are you will need it.


Setting up Python for use with Blender


You will not be able to download the python system from the Blender Site, you will have to go to http://www.python.org/ and download the package from there. Download the Python 2.5.1 system from here. Once you have finished installing Python you will need to restart your machine.
Final Steps


Ok now you should be able to start Blender and start working. One thing that I do like to do is to change the file locations for some of the data I use. To do this you will have to open the settings window and configure the paths. To do this use your mouse and move it just below the main toolbar. From there you should be able to drag down the toolbar to revel the main settings for the application. I will leave the file locations up to you, but normally change the temp locations and move them to another drive.


Exporting Your First Model from Blender


With Blender now fully up and running we will need to have a model and export it so that we can use XNA to display the model. With this article I do not want to show you how to model (That will come Later) all I would like to do is to show you how simple it is to export a model and display it on the screen using XNA.


When you first start Blender you are presented with a small Cube in the centre of the screen, this is the model that we are going to use. The first step is to make sure we are in “Object  Mode”. In object mode you are able to select and manipulate complete objects. You can make sure you are in Object mode by Pressing Tab, and looking at the mode selector on the toolbar for the main design window.


Note: For a list of the Different Keyboard shortcuts used in Blender have a look here.


To start make sure that the cube is selected, you tell that an object is selected because the object will be highlighted with a pick outline. Next select the File -> Export menu item and select “Autodesk FBX” as the export type. This will bring up a dialog that will ask you to select a file location and name. Make sure that you put the files in a place where you will be able to find them later.
That’s it for the Blender part, open up Game Studio Express and create a new Windows Game Project called “BasicModel”, this will be the small example program we will create that will display and rotate our model that we have just exported.


Displaying the Model Using XNA


Start the application by Adding a new Folder called “Content” and then adding another one underneath that called “Models”, now add an existing item and add your Exported model to the Application.


With the content Added here is the Game1 class that I use for the sample.


[code language=”C#”]


#region Using Statements
using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using Microsoft.Xna.Framework;
using Microsoft.Xna.Framework.Audio;
using Microsoft.Xna.Framework.Content;
using Microsoft.Xna.Framework.Graphics;
using Microsoft.Xna.Framework.Input;
using Microsoft.Xna.Framework.Storage;
#endregion


namespace BasicModel
{
    /// <summary>
    /// This is the main type for your game
    /// </summary>
    public class Game1 : Microsoft.Xna.Framework.Game
    {
        GraphicsDeviceManager graphics;
        ContentManager content;


        // Set the position of the model in world space, and set the rotation.
        Vector3 modelPosition = Vector3.Zero;
        float modelRotation = 0.0f;


        // Set the position of the camera in world space, for our view matrix.
        Vector3 cameraPosition = new Vector3(0.0f, 0.0f, 10.0f);
        Matrix projectionMatrix;
        Matrix viewMatrix;


        // Set the 3D model to draw.
        Model myModel;


        // The aspect ratio determines how to scale 3d to 2d projection.
        float aspectRatio;


        public Game1()
        {
            graphics = new GraphicsDeviceManager(this);
            content = new ContentManager(Services);
            aspectRatio = (float)GraphicsDeviceManager.DefaultBackBufferWidth /
                (float)GraphicsDeviceManager.DefaultBackBufferHeight;
        }


        /// <summary>
        /// Allows the game to perform any initialization it needs to before starting to run.
        /// This is where it can query for any required services and load any non-graphic
        /// related content.  Calling base.Initialize will enumerate through any components
        /// and initialize them as well.
        /// </summary>
        protected override void Initialize()
        {
            // TODO: Add your initialization logic here
            projectionMatrix = Matrix.CreatePerspectiveFieldOfView( MathHelper.ToRadians(45.0f), aspectRatio,
                1.0f, 200.0f);


            viewMatrix = Matrix.CreateLookAt(cameraPosition, Vector3.Zero, Vector3.Up);
            base.Initialize();
        }



        /// <summary>
        /// Load your graphics content.  If loadAllContent is true, you should
        /// load content from both ResourceManagementMode pools.  Otherwise, just
        /// load ResourceManagementMode.Manual content.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name=”loadAllContent”>Which type of content to load.</param>
        protected override void LoadGraphicsContent(bool loadAllContent)
        {
            if (loadAllContent)
            {
                // TODO: Load any ResourceManagementMode.Automatic content
                myModel = content.Load<Model>(@”Content\Models\Test”);
            }


            // TODO: Load any ResourceManagementMode.Manual content
        }



        /// <summary>
        /// Unload your graphics content.  If unloadAllContent is true, you should
        /// unload content from both ResourceManagementMode pools.  Otherwise, just
        /// unload ResourceManagementMode.Manual content.  Manual content will get
        /// Disposed by the GraphicsDevice during a Reset.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name=”unloadAllContent”>Which type of content to unload.</param>
        protected override void UnloadGraphicsContent(bool unloadAllContent)
        {
            if (unloadAllContent)
            {
                // TODO: Unload any ResourceManagementMode.Automatic content
                content.Unload();
            }


            // TODO: Unload any ResourceManagementMode.Manual content
        }


        /// <summary>
        /// Allows the game to run logic such as updating the world,
        /// checking for collisions, gathering input and playing audio.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name=”gameTime”>Provides a snapshot of timing values.</param>
        protected override void Update(GameTime gameTime)
        {
            // Allows the game to exit
            if (GamePad.GetState(PlayerIndex.One).Buttons.Back == ButtonState.Pressed)
                this.Exit();


            // TODO: Add your update logic here
            modelRotation += (float)gameTime.ElapsedGameTime.TotalMilliseconds * MathHelper.ToRadians(0.1f);


            base.Update(gameTime);
        }



        /// <summary>
        /// This is called when the game should draw itself.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name=”gameTime”>Provides a snapshot of timing values.</param>
        protected override void Draw(GameTime gameTime)
        {
            graphics.GraphicsDevice.Clear(Color.CornflowerBlue);


            // TODO: Add your drawing code here
            // Copy any parent transforms.
            Matrix[] transforms = new Matrix[myModel.Bones.Count];
            myModel.CopyAbsoluteBoneTransformsTo(transforms);


            // Draw the model. A model can have multiple meshes, so loop.
            foreach (ModelMesh mesh in myModel.Meshes)
            {
                // This is where the mesh orientation is set, as well as our camera and projection.
                foreach (BasicEffect effect in mesh.Effects)
                {
                    effect.EnableDefaultLighting();
                    effect.World = transforms[mesh.ParentBone.Index] *
                        Matrix.CreateRotationX(modelRotation) *
                        //Matrix.CreateRotationY(modelRotation) *
                        Matrix.CreateRotationZ(modelRotation) *
                        Matrix.CreateTranslation(modelPosition);
                    effect.View = this.viewMatrix;
                    effect.Projection = this.projectionMatrix;
                }
                // Draw the mesh, using the effects set above.
                mesh.Draw();


                base.Draw(gameTime);
            }
        }
    }
}


[/code]


Cross Post from www.virtualrealm.com.au

Free Printable Keyboard Shortcut sheets for Art and Design

I came across this post this morning and thought I would post it on.


When using most of the modern design applications or even programming IDEs I always find myself resorting back to the Keyboard shortcuts for most functions, generally I can remember them but more then often I find myself looking the net to try and find shortcut shhets for the applications in question. So today I found this link which has keyboard shortcut sheets for Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator CS, Macromedia Freehand, Cinema 4D and 3D Studio Max.


I hope you find them handy.


Here is the link to the original Post and the source.


Cross Post from www.virtualrealm.com.au

Silverlight – Resources, Articles and Tutorials

I had some more time today to play some more with SilverLight. While I was doing some searches I came across the following post.


In the post the author supplies us with a really good list of different resources for SilverLight Development, included in the list are tutorials and Community Blogs.


Silverlight is a proprietary runtime for browser-based Rich Internet Applications, providing a subset of the animation, vector graphics, and video playback capabilities of Windows Presentation Foundation. Version 1.1 also includes a complete version of the .NET Common Language Runtime, so that Silverlight applications can be written in any .NET language. Silverlight aims to compete with Adobe Flash and the presentation components of Ajax. It also competes with Sun MicrosystemsJavaFX, which was launched a few days after Silverlight”


“I have collected number of resources on Silverlight which are listed below. I hope it will save your time and money. List will be updated continuesly when i find new resources.”


Here is a link to the original Post, as well as a link to a post I made earlier that lists 50 Sample SilverLight Examples for you to try…


Cross Post from www.virtualrealm.com.au

Xbox 360 Premium recall at EB Games Australia

I am a little late with this one, but it looks like EB Games Australia is recalling all Xbox 360 Premium packs.


“The recall, which affects the premium and not the core Xbox 360 consoles, is assumed to be related to a faulty batch of HDDs rather than to the widely-reported “red rings” issue. New premium consoles will apparently be back in the market channels by Wednesday.”


At least this recall looks to be a problem with the Hard Drive Units and not the Red Rings :)


“Sources within the company have confirmed that two weeks ago (approx June 29) store managers were first asked by Head Office to test every unit in-stock for errors, but were then ordered last week to return their entire inventories of the console, as well as remove all 360 promotional material and dummy boxes from their stores. The recall is believed to be due to a faulty batch of HDDs, as it did not include Core units.”


Here is the link to the original Kotaku post, and a post on gameindustry.biz.


Cross Post from www.virtualrealm.com.au

XNA Example – Controller Pointer

 When developing the Mouse Component I new that it was only going to be for the Windows System, but as time goes by I new that I would need a simular system that would work on the Xbox 360. So what I have come up with is the following small example, I will be building on this and trying to make it better.


 


“This is a small example that allows you to use the controller as a pointer in the same way you would a Mouse. The Controller Pointer has been set up as a Drawable Game Component that will draw the pointer and react to the actions of the controller. This example will allow you to move the pointer with the left thumbstick, and have the pointer change color in resonce to the Buttons pressed on the Controller.”


Here is the direct Link to the file Download. Virtual Realm – Controller Pointer


Cross Post from www.virtualrealm.com.au

XNA Example – Clickable Sprite

I have just completed another small example, this time it’s a Clickable Sprite Example.


In this Example I show you a simple method to use the Mouse (Using my Custom Mouse Pointer Game Component) to click on a Sprite. This example also uses a Per Pixel Method that will make sure that you can only click on the full sprite and not on a Transperant area.


 


Download the Virtual Realm – Clickable Sprite.


Cross Post from www.virtualrealm.com.au

On my way to TechEd 2007 and Ready to talk XNA

Well I have just finished all the booking and finalizing the details, it’s official I am on my way to TechEd. I have been going over the session details tonight and having a quick look at what is going on, and with no surprise there is nothing happing with XNA… :) do not get me wrong there are lots of sessions that I would like to drop in on, for example the Powershell, exchange and SQL Server sessions.


But as I am going to be there if anyone would like to site down and talk about XNA or any game Development, drop me a line and we can set it up.


Just a reminder guys if you are thinking of going, it is selling out quick, and here are the top 10 reasons why you should be going


Cross Post from www.virtualrealm.com.au