Developing Avoyd, an abstract six degrees of freedom First Person Shooter voxel game.
Juliette Foucaut - 31 Dec 2014 - edited 30 Apr 2016
Alongside PyCharm Professional Edition, JetBrains generously offers a free version of their IDE: PyCharm Community Edition. We've found that PyCharm CE can, with some effort, be made to work with Google App Engine (GAE). Although lacking in some features, it is still useful if all you're after is a python debugger and IDE for GAE.
This post details how to configure the free PyCharm Community Edition to enable debugging of python code destined to run on Google App Engine. Further, we explain how to enable smart code navigation and completion for GAE libraries. The final section explains how to use a PyCharm path variable to make the code more portable, which should help for distributed projects. Throughout the tutorial we'll attempt to use the PyCharm UI as often as possible, but we'll also explain how to do the whole configuration by editing the PyCharm files directly. The specific paths examples are from Windows, but they should also be applicable to other Operating Systems.
Note: Doug figured out the configuration settings described in this tutorial through trial and error, our experience with python GAE debugging with Visual Studio, and by looking at the open-source PyCharm CE code. If you want to enjoy the full power of PyCharm and save yourself some time, skip this tutorial and use PyCharm Professional Edition instead.
Doug Binks - 22 Oct 2014
In this post and video I'm going to cover the recent changes I've made to Avoyd's technology to add shadows, ambient occlusion and procedural texturing. I'll describe simple procedural texturing and its anti-aliasing, along with the use of voxel octree data to generate lighting and ambient occlusion using ray casts and 3D textures in the game Avoyd.
There's a good deal of information on all of these topics online, and they certainly aren't novel additions to a game - however in Avoyd I'm taking a slightly unusual approach so I thought it worth documenting. It's worth checking out the video before reading further.
Juliette Foucaut - 23 Aug 2014
Doug has recently made some changes to the visuals and the editing tool in Avoyd. On top of performance improvements, he added a spherical brush and started experimenting with procedural texture patterns.
(click to enlarge) Saturated colours in the distance, Spheres and texture patterns. Notice how the patterns are affected by the specular lighting.
We want to use texture patterns to show different properties of the materials in-game, such as health, culture (*), etc. as well as give a better idea of the scale of the world. At the moment we're playing with the patterns' shapes, colours, scale, periodicity and animation.
(* Note: the culture is related to a team's territory / area of influence).
Juliette Foucaut - 14 Aug 2014 - edited 12 Aug 2015
[Update 12 Aug 2015 - The methods described below do not work in Visual Studio 2015 PTVS with GAE 1.9.17 or above. We haven't found a new workaround. We've switched to using the free PyCharm CE which works great. See our tutorial to configure it.]
For python code destined to run on Google App Engine, we needed an IDE with comprehensive local debugging abilities, i.e. breakpoints, step-by-step execution and variables watch. PyCharm Professional Edition does all this [Edit 31 Dec 2014: for PyCharm Community Edition GAE configuration, see our tutorial], but we chose instead to use a free solution from Microsoft called Python Tools for Visual Studio (a.k.a. PTVS or PyTools). [Edit 28 Nov 2014: now Microsoft Visual Studio Community]
Sadly, due to a bug, breakpoints don't get hit when debugging dev_appserver.py. After lots of searching and trial and error, we found out that an acceptable workaround is to configure Visual Studio as follows:
Once setup, using it is no different from normal debugging. The downside is that some newer GAE functionality won't work.
Juliette Foucaut - 06 Jul 2014
Chris Priestman interviewed us and wrote an article about our work a couple of weeks ago on Warpdoor. We went into more depth about our plans than we have so far on our website, so do check it out if you want to find out more about what we're putting into Avoyd.
Juliette Foucaut - 20 Jun 2014
In this post I'll describe how to use Google App Engine to masked redirect a URL to a desired domain. Our proposed method of URL redirection involves a python script using the webapp2 framework running server-side on GAE. As a result of this setup, you can have visitors requesting content from one domain, say www.new-url.com, see content which is hosted on another such as www.old-url.com.
Doug Binks - 27 Feb 2014 - edited 27 Oct 2014
The video showcases three players zooming around at high speed in an environment being streamed from one player's PC to the other two, with the recording being done on one of the clients. This devblog post is about the steps I took to get this working smoothly.
Performance tuning is a large and varied topic, so I'm going to concentrate on one aspect which came up during development of the streaming system - framerate hitch removal. A framerate hitch occurs when one frame takes longer than most of the rest of the frames. To the player it can feel like a sudden start/stop. If frequent, the game takes on the feeling of being played on sandpaper.
Juliette Foucaut - 01 Feb 2014
How we started with a bug and ended up with a music video collaboration with the awesome nervous_testpilot:
Music by nervous_testpilot a.k.a. Paul Taylor of Mode 7, follow Paul on @mode7games
Juliette Foucaut - 23 Jan 2014 - edited 06 May 2017
[Update 06 May 2017 - We no longer maintain our presskit() for Google App Engine project. The Github repository is deprecated and the installer is no longer available.]
presskit() is a free, open-source tool that enables game studios to present information to the press in a unified format. However the current php implementation doesn't work on Google App Engine (GAE). Recently, Leonard Ritter started the ball rolling, showing it could be done and offering some code changes. After Rami Ismail mentioned that it would indeed be useful, and since we needed it ourselves, Doug and I decided to do the port.
If you would like to use presskit() on GAE, I'll explain in this post how to download and install our implementation. As an example see our presskit() at press.enkisoftware.com.
Warning: our code is in beta. We've only tested the installation ourselves, on Windows. Any feedback you can give us (use the comments below or email me), successful or not, would be very helpful: it'll enable us to fix remaining issues with the build or the documentation.
presskit() runs on Google App Engine
Doug Binks - 16 Jan 2014
This tech update video shows off multiple players rapidly and smoothly editing fairly large sections of the environment whilst in edit mode. Materials and rendering are all still simple debug visuals for clarity rather than beauty, but there's still a fair degree of artistic freedom available. It's a real pleasure being able to carve and paint geometry fluidly in a connected online world.
Getting this to work, and work well, took a fair amount of effort and I'll explain some of the technical details here.
Doug Binks - 14 Jan 2014
The post follows on from the earlier post on Octree Streaming. You should be able to read them out of order, but you get cake if you read part 1 first.
Our latest tech update video shows off players moving through the world shortly after joining the game - the video starts only a few seconds after where the last one ends, so about 30 seconds after loading. At this point large sections of the world are still being streamed to clients, but the prioritization of nearby regions ensures detail is present close to the player.
Doug Binks - 12 Jan 2014
The original Avoyd stored the internal voxel representation of its game world as a standard 3D array. At the time this provided a good trade off between performance and memory for the size of levels we required for a multiplayer PvP game with a fully modifiable environment. In the new version we wanted to increase the size of worlds we could handle, whilst maintaining large view distances.
Our second technology update video shows off how the voxel octree streaming gives rapid loading over the internet.