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Blender 2.33 Re-enables Game Engine 198

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the back-in-business dept.
fforw writes "One and a half year after becoming free software, the Blender Foundation has released a new version of Blender which finally enables the game engine again. When Blender became free software. the game engine had to be disabled because SOLID, the collision library was not free software. After SOLID's author Gino van den Bergen changed his mind, Blender has now restored all functionality from the closed-source period."
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Blender 2.33 Re-enables Game Engine

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  • Some Blender Games (Score:5, Informative)

    by c_oflynn (649487) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @11:20AM (#9027563)
    A quick Google revealed a few examples of some games that use this engine, see http://www.spinheaddev.com/gameexpose0.html (NOT HTML clicking to help reduce load on server a tad...)
  • that's nice to have the functionality again... but it's something more to learn for newbies in blender. As if blender wasn't complex enough... I appreciate the gesture though, but there's really going to be a need for a complete rewrite of the online doc... most of it dates from the 2.2 era. So get those renders and movies and now games coming along! It's time for it now...
    • by zaphod_bee4 (752609) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @11:36AM (#9027625) Homepage
      Their is complete documentation for the 2.3x release available in several formats: http://www.blender3d.org/cms/Using_Blender.80.0.ht ml
    • As if blender wasn't complex enough

      WTF? Compared to what? Softimage [softimage.com]? Maya [alias.com]? 3D Studio [3dstudio.com]?
      • Despite my extensive experience using 3d studio, Lightwave, Softimage, and Houdini, Blender still makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. The interface is STILL horrible, only prettier with the more recent releases, and feels like a kludged together compsci project. It doesn't flow like a good 3d program should. Even though Houdini and Lightwave have really messed up workflows, they make sense once you use them long enough. I've been using Blender on and off for about 4 years now and I still can't do anything worth a da
      • by bob_calder (673103) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:40PM (#9029260) Homepage Journal
        The newbies seemed split on it - I checked them last semester.
        (That was a joke for those who wish to report me to the purity patrol.)

        I needed to have interactive design students look at something they had never seen - so I gave them Blender. Half had used 3D Studio Max. The rest, just Adobe and typical high school student fare. There were 17 students. They had to write a tutorial on creating an object that wasn't just a primitive.

        Half of the 3D Studio Max users loved it, the rest were irritated, but found it usable. There was only one student who copped out of the assignment and the rest *really newbies* were able to do a credible job.

        The general consensus was that the interface was different but good if you are a macro stroke user and a pain if you use menuing. I think they were saying 'different' compared to things like Photoshop. Of course 3D is a different interface, so their expectations could not be met. As with anything else, everybody has an opinion! Mine is, as we all know, irrelevant and uninformed, so please, I have a headache. Curtman, I obviously have no idea about Soft Image and others. I can't even remember the name of the first one I used in the mid eighties. I am still amazed by meshes.

        What I can't believe is that Photoshop users think that there have been these great leaps forward in bitmap editing programs because they no longer have to open Illustrator to make type flow on a path. Maybe Zanax would help.
  • by JaF893 (745419) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @11:23AM (#9027578) Journal
    This is good news - its not exactly a giant leap forwards but it is important all the same. Improved collison detection is not just good for games its good for modelling. For example a physics teacher could teach his students about the ideal gas law using a series of blender animations.
  • Great F/OSS (Score:5, Informative)

    by mastergoon (648848) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @11:27AM (#9027588) Homepage
    Blender has got to be right up there among the best of the F/OSS software. It may not have all the features of 3d studio max, but for beginner and intermediate modellers, or people with no artistic talent, it kicks ass!

    The controls are a bit hard to learn, though the interface has been getting better recently. In the end, once you read through the tutorials and learn all the keyboard commands you will find them to be great.

    • True, true. Blender provides a whopping surprise in the quality of the models, and the tools to make those models. The new rendering engine is nice, and an external renderer/ray tracer has been integrated. I've also combined 3D models with video streams for some really fun clips; the video editor isn't bad at all.

      In my spare time, I've been utilizing Blender's Python bindings to write a mesh exporter, and do other things.

      If one has an interest in 3D modeling and animation, Blender should be looked at.
    • Re:Great F/OSS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vivian (156520) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @12:29PM (#9027825)
      Which unfortunately highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of many OSS projects.

      Blender can be used to do pretty much anything you want in 3d animation, and has a fantastic set of features and great potential - but it is simply painful to use. It takes days to learn the shortcut keys that are essential for basic editing, especially if you are also trying to use other 3d programs or 2d programs along side it that have their own shortcuts that the artist has to remember too, witout getting them crossed.

      Ideally, there should be a visible navigable menu for every command, even if they are nested a few deep, with the shortcut Key written next to the command! Better yet, the shortcuts would be assignable to functions, so you could set up the key mapping to what works best for the artist.

      Blender suffers from the same problem that the first CAD I wrote has - only the programmers know all the hotkeys and commands, and they make 100% sense to the programmer, but not neccesarily to the end user.
      Eg. I like to work in 3d by basically selecting a point, and draging it in the screen's 2d plane, and rotating the object to a different view if I want to move the point outside the initial plane. Ideally, left dragging would move the point and right dragging would rotate the object. If it was possible to map the input interfaces (ie. mouse dragging/clicking,buttons and keystrokes) to program functions ( eg. rotate target, drag target , scale, rotate, zoom,copy, etc) then I could set it up the way that works best for me in the same way that Blender brilliantly allows you to completely customise multiple views and panels.

      The lack of a full undo (ie. multiple steps, on all functions) really holds blender back. I hope this gets done before anything else. It really holds discourages experimentation and steepens the learning curve beause a mistake can screw your model, or cause problems for alignment (eg. no undo for having rotated the view)
      Other than that, I think it's great and would be a much stronger challenger to 3d Studio Max if these things were implemented.

      • Hopefully someone will mod you up. Great insight!
      • Re:Great F/OSS (Score:5, Informative)

        by dcuny (613699) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @02:10PM (#9028601)
        I agree. However, there's been a lot of work to redo the Blender interface, and that work is continuing. For example, the Blender Funboard newsgroup was put together for this purpose.

        Unfortunately, this newsgroup hasn't proved entirely successful. One problem is that long-time users are loathe to have their beloved interface changed, since they feel that it's just "dumbing it down", and any changes will also slow them down.

        Another issue is that coders would rather add new features (ambiant occlusion, new texture models, etc.) than work on the UI. Ton (the primary architect) has been working on the Blender Book, and the other major coder has been off on vacation.

        I recently tried to learn RVKs. What's an RVK you might ask? They are Relative Vertex Keys, but the rest of the world calls them Morph Targets. And where the rest of the world allows you to actually select a named morph target and drag a slider, Blender insists that you create IPO curves (interpolation, not initial price offering) - somehow remembering that RVK curve #7 was a left blink, and RVK curve #8 was the phoneme "o" - and then ctrl+click on the IPO curve and drag to create a spline for the RVK ...

        It's a freaking UI nightmare!

        The refusal to use common nomenclature and standard UI tools here pretty wells sums up the problems with the Blender UI.

        Still, William Reynish (aka Monkeyboi) has put together a great set of proposals to fix the UI, and many of his prior suggestions have been incorporated. So I'm hoping that Ton and others concentrate on getting the remainder of Blender UI out of the "dark ages" so the rest of us can use it.

        • Re:Great F/OSS (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by black mariah (654971)
          I have a feeling the Blender team would sooner gouge out their own ass, goatse-style, than do anything like a REAL production-level 3d program does things. EVERYTHING seems like it's there only to be different, and that's not good. While the galleries on the Blender site make it clear that it can produce some damn fine work, it probably takes twice as long as it would in any other program.

          I wish I had the skills to rewrite the interface my damn self. I like the direction they're going with it, but I KNO
        • Oh that's funny, I must be imagining this, then [optusnet.com.au].

          Please, there's enough disinformation about Blender's interface in this article already.
          • I certainly wasn't posting any disinformation. I had tried this out five days ago, going to the Blender Community Documentation pages and looking for online RVK tutorials. It's not in the latest and greatest version of the Community Documentation, either.

            As for your screenshot, what version of Blender are you running? These features aren't noted in the 2.3.3 changelog - heck, I can't find them documentated anywhere. So either:

            • You're running a custom build, in which case it's not really a Blender feature
            • Sigh. I owe FunkyChild an apology - these features do indeed exist in the current release of Blender. I was irritated because I had spent so much time struggling with the IPO curves, and hadn't seen anything about the sliders posted in the 2.3.3. changelog.

              But he's right and I'm wrong about this: 2.3.3 allows IPO curves to be named, and the Action Editor has sliders.

              You can't edit the names of the curves in the IPO Curve Editor. Instead, you have to go to the Action Editor and change them their. And ye

      • Re:Great F/OSS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by agentk (74906) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:51PM (#9029334) Homepage
        It takes days to learn the shortcut keys that are essential for basic editing, especially if you are also trying to use other 3d programs or 2d programs along side it that have their own shortcuts that the artist has to remember too,

        This is true for every serious modeling & animation package there is. And any other highly specialized software with a million features and a very tight and fast workflow.

        • Re:Great F/OSS (Score:4, Insightful)

          by dcuny (613699) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @05:10PM (#9029814)
          The problem isn't that there are hotkeys. Hotkeys are a great thing, and are a necessity. For example, g to grab an object, and then x to constrain it to the x axis. Nice and fast.

          The problem is that for many critical features in Blender, the UI offers no clue that a particular option might exist, or what hotkey/mouse combination you need to press if you knew it existed, but forgot which hotkey it was. Given Blender's roots - an in-house production tool - this sort of interface isn't unusual. But now that Blender's gone "open source", there's been agreement from Ton and others that the UI is broken and needs to be fixed.

          Take a look at Art of Illusion [sf.net] or JPatch [sf.net] for examples of open source applications that are "user friendly" - they support hotkeys, but any important functionality can be reached through the UI. When you are in a particular mode, the status bar at the bottom of the window displays hotkey modifiers and mouse options that are available. (I don't include Wings3D [wings3d.com] because it's pretty much specialized for modelling).

          I'll readily that the example programs are currently less capable than Blender (and Art of Illusion is due for a UI overhaul in a few releases), but they show how these sorts of things can be added to the UI, even for complex processes.

          And while Blender's made a lot of progress in making the UI better, but it's stalled in the last couple months - especially in critical areas like RVKs. Hopefully, people will get back on track with overhauling the UI.

          • The problem is that for many critical features in Blender, the UI offers no clue that a particular option might exist, or what hotkey/mouse combination you need to press if you knew it existed, but forgot which hotkey it was.

            Could you please give an example of some of these many 'critical features' that aren't already in the pulldown menus since Blender 2.32? Better yet, post them on the blender.org forums soo, so the oversight can be remedied.
      • Why do people keep blaming open source for this? Blender used to be closed source, but back in those days people didn't complain about it's user interface. Now that Blender is open source, people start complaining it, and start blaming open source for it's user interface. That's just rediculous.
        • Re:Great F/OSS (Score:3, Insightful)

          by be-fan (61476)
          People complained about blender's interface way before it was open source.
          • true. but everyone here was blissfully unaware of such complaints. Now that it's open source, we hear the complaints.

            Just like I hear far far more complaints about linux than I do of windows, since I have a selective input.

      • Wow, but wow, here comes the ignorance.

        Blender's interface wasn't designed by open source developers. It was made commercially.
      • Re:Great F/OSS (Score:3, Informative)

        by FunkyChild (99051)
        It takes days to learn the shortcut keys that are essential for basic editing, especially if you are also trying to use other 3d programs or 2d programs along side it that have their own shortcuts that the artist has to remember too, witout getting them crossed.

        Ideally, there should be a visible navigable menu for every command, even if they are nested a few deep, with the shortcut Key written next to the command! Better yet, the shortcuts would be assignable to functions, so you could set up the key mappi
  • by SavedLinuXgeeK (769306) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @11:28AM (#9027592) Homepage
    As a Highschool Student I did an entire project in Blender's 3D Engine. It essentially had the ability to navigate look around and view objects in all dimensions. While this may seem a little base, as it was, it was not too difficult for a 17 year old to pick up and run with.

    It actually gets even deeper when you combine the python scripting with the game engine, as opposed to using the built in object functions. The games can get really complex, and with the inverse kinematic options for human body(mapping theh way the human joints move), it makes for some really interesting possibilities. Personally as I am learning python now, I may go back to the blender engine, and see what havoc I may be able to create.
  • Collision detection (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @11:32AM (#9027605) Homepage
    It's nice of Gino to make SOLID free software.

    Good collision libraries are fun. I've written one, as part of Falling Bodies. [animats.com] I think I was the first, back in 1996-1997, to use axis-oriented bounding boxes with GJK, which is what SOLID, and everybody else, uses now.

    Lin and Canny are the ones who really cracked this problem. Before Lin and Canny, algorithms for collisions in a space with N objects with M faces each were O(N^2) * O(M^2). They got that down to slightly worse than O(Nm), where Nm is the number of moving objects. Very clever.

    I-Collide [unc.edu] was the first generally available package for this. The original version was in LISP, which was translated to C, retaining much of the LISP style. They used axis-oriented bounding boxes with a linear programming package. This had some problems with numerical error, and the linear programming package was rather bulky. But it demonstrated, back in 1996, what was possible. Then everybody (well, the half dozen or so people into this stuff) went to work and built better systems.

    Actually, collision detection is a pain to code, but well understood today. Collision response, the actual physics, is much harder.

    The end result of all this is that games can now have really big worlds with working collision detection.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      It would be nice to see ODE [sourceforge.net] integrated into Blender instead of SOLID. ODE is a complete dynamics simulator, not just a collision detector.

      SOLID is a nice library, but its license terms are still unfriendly to commercial products. The author wants a couple thousand dollars to license it for even a shareware game, which is just silly when ODE is free under a BSD-style license. ODE's collision subsystem isn't quite as, well, solid as SOLID, but it's good enough for many applications.
      • ODE is still at version 0.039, and not improving much.

        Reliable dynamics simulators are hard. If you want one for a commercial game, there's Havok 2 [havok.com]. All the free stuff is very limited.

        It takes years of hard work to write a physics engine. If you're competent, in six months you'll have something that sort of works. From "sort of works" to "works" is years of effort. And it's not patches. It's theory. So the open source process doesn't work very well.

        • by afd8856 (700296)
          I hope you know about the great future ODE has :). Softimage has incorporated hard-body dynamics into the brand new version 4 of their flagship product Softimage XSI, by including ODE. One guy has worked on it and they are going to give back the changes. There was also talk about Softimage's customers (think ILM), who, having access to the source code, are going to modify and contribute to this library.
        • Rats. That means Half Life 2 will suck since it uses ODE ;)
      • by fforw (116415) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:33PM (#9029213) Homepage
        It would be nice to see ODE integrated into Blender instead of SOLID. ODE is a complete dynamics simulator, not just a collision detector.
        ODE [sourceforge.net] is mainly a rigid body physics engine. ODE offers built-in collision detection based on the geometric primitives (Ground, Cube, Sphere, Cylinder etc.) out of which the rigid bodies consist. Triangle collision is only avaible via plugin mechanisms. Currently there is an OPCODE [codercorner.com] plugin. It may be possible to write a plugin which drives SOLID.

        Maybe SOLID should be replaced by a ODE/OPCODE combination - but that would be incompatible with the existing blender games.

        • Collision detection for convex polyhedra is incredibly cheap when done right. Polygon soups are inherently more expensive, but there's been considerable progress in that area.
    • Actually, collision detection is a pain to code, but well understood today. Collision response, the actual physics, is much harder.

      Not really. Good, robust collision detection routines are a pain in the ass, but once you have them written (to the point where you can get accurate collision data, including exact time/location/vector of collision) the physics routines themselves are easy.
      • Bouncing balls, yes. Bouncing humanoid figures with joints, friction, and multiple contacts [animats.com], no.

        I'm the inventor of "ragdoll physics". More of my physics videos. [animats.com] Those are from work done in 1996-1998. (The videos are overcompressed; everybody had less bandwidth back then.)

        The difference between "sort of works" and "works as well as that" is non-trivial. That's why I collect royalties on the technology.

        • Bouncing balls, yes. Bouncing humanoid figures with joints, friction, and multiple contacts, no.

          I hate to argue with you, especially since (if you are who you claim to be) you know what you're talking about. But I'm a game developer, and I'm responsible for the physics simulator in our engine, among other things, so I know what I'm talking about too - physics simulation is just not that hard. The collision detection is what gave me the most problems. Once the collision routines are giving accurate c
          • I'm John Nagle, owner of Animats, and you can reach me through the addresses on the Animats web site.

            If you have to handle the hard cases, like multiple simultaneous sliding contacts, the Baraff-type LCP solutions don't really work too well, or at least they didn't a few years ago. I realize there's been some progress. I prefer spring/damper simulators, because you can handle frictional contacts right and you don't have the zero-time bounces (the "boink problem") of impulse/constraint systems. The CPU l

            • by Dr. Sp0ng (24354)
              I'm John Nagle, owner of Animats, and you can reach me through the addresses on the Animats web site.

              Very cool. I'm Matt Spong, lead developer/CTO of Elemental Productions. We're a game company, about 1.5 years into our first project (multiplayer RTS type, Win32/OS X/Linux, potentially Xbox). I'm in charge of coordinating development of the engine, as well as writing a majority of it.

              Physics simulation is something that's really caught my interest over the course of writing this engine - I'm actu
  • Reaching back (Score:2, Insightful)

    by metallikop (649953)
    These games look like they came right off the store shelves back in 1998. You get what you pay for.
    • These games look like they came right off the store shelves back in 1998. You get what you pay for.


      Well, since I stopped buying new games about 1998, when I moved to free software and stopped using unfree software, that sounds great to me! Onward and upward!!!

  • by JessLeah (625838) * on Saturday May 01, 2004 @11:55AM (#9027694)
    It needs GOOD DOCUMENTATION. I'm a pretty smart person, if my test scores are to be believed, but I find Blender's interface to be completely inscrutable. And I have managed to work with other 3D modelling programs before...
  • by sahonen (680948) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @12:12PM (#9027759) Homepage Journal
    I firmly believe that shifting the focus of Blender to the gaming engine at the expense of the rendering engine is what killed NaN in the first place. When Blender went OSS and the game engine had to be taken out, Blender took on new life as new features were added to the rendering engine including the much-requested raytracing. Now that the gaming engine is back in, I fear that Blender will soon fail again.

    It was nice having it while it was around.
    • by zaphod_bee4 (752609) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @12:19PM (#9027787) Homepage
      Being a contributor and hanging out with the Primary Dev's I can reassure you that the Rendering engine is still a high priority. Not to mention the new emphasis on Yafray integration. I doubt you will have to worry about this being neglected.
      • Since I made that post I looked around the Blender site and checked out the new features. I take it back, the game engine is the least of what's been introduced in the latest version. I love the reworking of the material system. Given all the amazing stuff I've been able to do with just clouds I can't wait to try out the new texturing modes.
    • That's the difference between the cathedral and the bazaar though, isn't it? In a small company certain aspects might get neglected at the expense of others. In an open development model, people can code what they want. I doubt there'll be a sudden shift of rendering engine developers to the game engine; rather, its becoming free just opens it up for extra developers who want to work on game engines to work on it. This sounds like good news (though I wouldn't really know as I'm another of those people who'v
    • since it IS opensource, the developers that wish to further improve the game engine can, and those that want to improve the other aspects of Blender(like the raytracind and other features you mentioneD) can aswell... It isn't a single company shifting focus, it is the adding of a new feature into an open program that now has room in new markets where it didn't use to.
    • Yep, just like that Linux kernel, eh?

      When they added IA64 support my x86 just wasn't fun to work on anymore and I fear the whole project is heading the way of the dodo. Oh well. *sigh*
      • The more proper Linux Kernel metaphor would be more like, ever since they implemented IA64 support, x86 support was completely ignored for the next year. When Blender got the gaming features, the rendering side was completely ignored until NaN went bankrupt.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2004 @12:16PM (#9027779)

    The best collisions in life are free. Like, for example, Porrasturvat and Rekkaturvat.

    http://jet.ro/dismount/

  • Bring it on! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by t_allardyce (48447) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @12:50PM (#9027972) Journal
    Woohoooh!!! ive been checking the blender site almost everyday for the next point release. 2.32 seems to have a very annoying memory leak in win2k. This program is really showing great potential, if you start it up for the first time you'll be lost, but once you hit the learning curve its great. Theres layers and layers of functionality all inside that tiny binary, oh wait.. its slashdotted. :(
  • restored all functionality from the closed-source period

    Does this mean the browser plugin is back too? Or does that not count because it never left beta?
  • by Wizard Drongo (712526) <wizard_drongo.yahoo@co@uk> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @02:26PM (#9028728)
    OK, it's nice that blender has a game engine again, which is something I feel is lacking in Lightwave 7.5 (i know game sdk exists, but it would be nice if it was a little more intergrated). However, the point is, what is Blender trying to be? An open source alternative to the big hollywood rendering soloutions, capable of doing boradcast level animation and compositing? Or is it trying to be an open source alternative to 3d Studio Max, a sorta half-game, half-studio, totally lame program that does neither modelling nor rendering very well? If you look into a lot of production games, modelling these days is done increasingly in Maya or Lightwave. Not 3ds max. Surely basing it's development model a little on max is a road to distaster? At the end of the day, Mx is neither fish nor fowl, nor good red herring. It doesn't really do anything very well. For games development, it's fairly good, but rendering in it is horrible, and modelling in it's a joke. I sincerely hope that Blender, which as someone rightfully said is one of the gems of the OSS world, does not follow Max down that road now it's got it's game engine back.
    • I'm not sure what the hell you're talking about. 3ds max has some of the best modelling tools this side of Mirai. I agree that its native rendering is usually craptacular, but you can't fault it in its modeling capabilities.

      Blender isn't trying to be anything. It's trying to be everything, which is why it will always be practically nothing.
    • However, the point is, what is Blender trying to be?
      It's just trying to be what its users want it to be. I know that sounds ridiculous, but sit behind someone who *really* knows how to use it and watch them in action. It's magical. I feel like less of a man because I don't understand it, and I keep telling myself that *this summer* I'm really going to sit down and learn it.
  • Now we can only produce our own Naughty Nurse spanking simulators! (no, really).
  • You know what Blender's Game engine has never had support for? Joysticks and other input devices. If they would just add a general serial port, parallel port, USB and game port interfaces, it would be a nearly perfect platform for VR and simulation uses.

    I keep waiting, while looking at other possible solutions...

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