Triple A console companies such as Activision and EA (Electronic Arts) are using Web Driver to allow players to play via the Internet.
The Web Driver consists of a downloadable component of about 1 MB and includes an updater mechanism to provide an easy way to distribute new versions with additional functionality and maintenance fixes. The user only has to install the Web Driver once, and after that the updater will automatically update the Web Driver when the computer is connected to the Internet (via a background process that uses idle or unused bandwidth), preventing the need for further delays and downloads at the time the content is viewed. The updater also provides information to WildTangent about error conditions on the user’s machine, as well as relevant hardware information necessary to reproduce and fix the issue. With the updater, we can be extremely proactive about fixing issues and implementing new features so that we can ensure that the user experience remains a positive one.
The Web Driver is designed to connect the ease of distribution of the Internet with the power of the latest video hardware. The Web Driver is built upon DirectX, the current standard in 3D technology. This enables the use of hardware acceleration from just about every video card on the market. The Web Driver also includes a fast software renderer that emulates video features if they aren’t present on a user’s system.
The Web Driver’s modular architecture also allows it to be easily extended. New features can be added to the engine without requiring major changes to the way the Web Driver is built.
The Web Driver will run on any Windows-based operating system from Windows 98 on and offers support for Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, AOL, and Opera.
The Web Driver API and tools were designed with rapid development in mind for a fast developer learning curve, smooth art path, short product development cycle, and stable application deployment.
The API is designed to remove as much low-level code development as possible from the content developer, allowing the rapid development of high-performance applications. Difficult procedures such as scene initialization, hardware detection and implementation, and setting of video modes is done by the Web Driver internally with just a few lines of code needed from the developer.
User input via keyboard, mouse, and joystick is easily exposed through event callbacks. The event interface also exposes the time of the event’s firing so that the content developer doesn’t need to use the system clock directly for measuring event times.
WYSIWYG scene design is made possible with WTStudio, a powerful and easy-to-use scene editor. You can view the scene as you build it with real-time lighting and display of 3D objects and animations. No compile step is necessary! Scenes can also be quickly displayed in a browser through WTStudio’s HTML exporter.
The Internet experience is enhanced via a smart download of resources. Resources are downloaded asynchronously, and the developer has control over which resources to download first, how many resources can download at once, and at what point enough resources are downloaded to start the application. Other resources can continue to download as the application is being used so that the user is presented with a minimal load time before viewing the content. Level lightmaps and binary trees can be set to be either included in the level file (for optimizing processor time) or generated by the client (for optimizing download time).
Resource files used by the Web Driver may be compressed and encrypted with WildCompress, not only providing for shorter download times but also protecting your art assets from being modified or appropriated for other applications.
Objects in the scene are arranged in a frame of reference hierarchy through the Web Driver’s scene graph. Objects can inherit position, rotation, scale, visibility, and collision properties of their parent objects, allowing easy construction and management of elaborate scenes.
The Web Driver uses hardware acceleration by default if it’s available. If it’s not, a powerful software renderer is used. Hardware is accessed through DirectX’s hardware abstraction layer, so your application will support the latest DirectX compatible video cards. If necessary, information about the user’s system can be explicitly obtained (with the user’s permission) through the WTSysInfo object.
Features of the rendering window include easy access to full-screen video modes, support for multiple cameras and viewports, distance fog, mouse and viewport picking, and automatic conversion between 2D and 3D space through worldToScreenPoint and screenToWorldPoint functions.
Collision detection is exposed through the API, giving access to bounding-box or polygon-level interaction between scene objects. The returned collision information object contains information about the collision normal (angle of face hit), position of object at point of collision, and a reference to the object hit. Collisions can be optimized through the use of 32-bit collision masks, giving a fine level of detail for collision filtering.
WTStudio provides your scenes with access to very flashy visual effects, such as skyboxes, mirrors, 3D text, particle systems, AVIs, dynamic shadows, specular highlights, environment mapping, particle systems, and procedural textures.
The performance of scenes created in WTStudio is optimized through binary space partitioning (BSP), improving efficiency of collision detection and visibility culling. Visibility can be further optimized through explicit use of visibility portals.
Smooth-skinned skeletal animation effects are achievable through the Actor object. Actor geometry and motions can be exported from 3D Studio Max and Maya, with other exporters on the way for other modeling packages. Access to the actor’s bone hierarchy is available in script for the purpose of attaching objects to actor bones.
Like the Web Driver, the multiplayer toolset is an abstraction layer that provides access to underlying services (in this case, multiplayer networking functionality). The multiplayer API gives access to multiplayer functionality, which is provided by a range of possible multiplayer modules. By supporting an extensible modular approach, the system can make use of a variety of network transports, communications systems, and lobby systems and implement additional multiplayer functionality in the future.
The API supports basic network messaging, lobby/matchmaking, and framework functionality. Basic network messaging functions can be accessed via a generic API (which has similarities to DirectPlay). This may be supplied by one of a number of plug-in communications modules. Lobby/matchmaking functionality brings together players without the need to explicitly enter user-unfriendly network addresses. The lobby functionality is also modular, enabling the use of a range of different lobby services.
Personal Use: Use of the Web Driver is always free and can start immediately upon downloading the SDK without any other contact with WildTangent. However, when posting or publishing the developed content, securing a technology license is required regardless of the intended use. If the ultimate plan is to post or publish your Web Driver-developed content on a personal (noncommercial) web site, the license will be free of charge.
Commercial Use: Use of the Web Driver is always free, however we require a technology license and adherence to the appropriate terms prior to posting or publishing. If the ultimate plan is to post or publish your Web Driver-developed content on a commercial web site, you must secure a commercial technology license.
Affiliate Program: If you’re interested in learning about participating in WildTangent’s Affiliate Program, eliminating tech licensing fees, and having WildTangent distribute your content through the Broadcast Games Network, please e-mail your name, your company’s name (if any), the URL where your Web Driver game is currently located, and a game design document to email@example.com.
WildTangent’s technology is currently available to content and application developers for free. SDKs, white papers, forum access, FAQs, and documentation are all available at no cost. Developers may build content and applications without being subject to technology licensing fees. However, a developer that publishes its WildTangent-developed content will then be subject to the terms noted in the appropriate technology licenses as mentioned above. All licensing terms are subject to change, so contact WildTangent to lock in for the current version of the Web Driver.
The LithTech engine supports environment mapping and detail texturing, skeletal animation, weight deformation, animation blending, specular maps, dynamic bump mapping, and programmable vertex and pixel shaders. Lip-synching is a feature of the usability of the engine and not the engine itself. The LithTech engine allows programmers using modeling and animation to access the models and modify the lighting properties, texture maps, and texture properties in real time (on the fly). Using the 3D Studio Max and Maya tools, the export features are expanding. Artists can control the LOD (level of detail) and the lighting effect on a model.
The current version of the engine is called the Jupiter system and is being used to power the sequel to No One Lives Forever. Being explored in future releases is FFD (free form deformation) and IK (inverse kinetics) for animation and parametric and subdivision surfaces for geometry. Also coming is hardware lighting, including the full Blinn lighting models. Also, new networking and server architecture, especially for gaming the high performance networking that is modular, is being added in future releases.
Games utilizing the LithTech Engine include Aliens vs. Predator 2, Blood 2: The Chosen, Kiss Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child, Legends of Might & Magic, No One Lives Forever, Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, Atlantis, Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza, and Global Operations. Future games to be released are TRON 2.0, No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.’s Way, and the Matrix MMP.
The Nocturne Engine includes bump mapping, dynamic LOD, reflections, and real-time shadow mapping. The seamless transitions from outdoor to indoor levels were considered early on in the engine’s design since the outside considerations were addressed first.
In project Blair Witch, vertex weighting, lip-synching, and facial expressions were used. Future releases will address the higher polygon counts and more detailed characters. An AI algorithm feature called “Cram Tex” optimizes the textures, making every pixel in the map used and visible on characters and objects.
Nocturne’s chief advantage is portability, since it has been used on the PC, the Mac, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 and 3, the Xbox and Xbox 2, the Nintendo Cube, and Hypercube.
The Nocturne Engine supports 16-bit or 32-bit color rendering (supporting one billion visible colors), real-time lights and shadows, and great reflections including ones made as characters walk past a mirror. The Nocturne Cloth Engine makes long trench coats flow as the wearer walks confidently down the street and turns the corner swiftly—a strong wind can generate a realistic cloth response, taking into account the cloth’s material and weight. The Nocturne Sound Engine is state of the art with 3D positional audio attached to moving objects, full surround sound support, and legacy support for stereo.
The Serious Engine supports bump mapping, “true” reflection and environment mapping, detail texturing, and dynamic level of architectural detail to create a rich and eye-pleasing game. The engine supports large open-space terrain, and through a custom visibility algorithm combined with an extensive LOD for model and the world, enables games to have both indoor and outdoor aspects on the same level. A fast LOD algorithm, an advanced Serious Engine feature, allows for a high number of models to be visible on the screen at one time.
Level editors have tools that can create realistic open-space environments utilizing both directional and subtle ambient lighting with flexible and detailed backgrounds. To prevent texture repetition (or tiling), multilayered texturing is used.
The CroTeam has utilized their engine on Serious Sam: First Encounter and Serious Sam: Second Encounter.
The Serious Engine by CroTeam is a 3D game engine and has a graphics editor for creating models called Serious Editor, which includes full engine and tools source code, Serious Demo and Serious full-game source code, direct technical support via e-mail with the engine’s creators, and online manuals for the Serious Editor and Serious Modeler.
The Serious Engine includes intuitive tools, rendering and 6DOF (degrees of freedom) physics, and exceptional technical support from the CroTeam.
The Unreal Engine is a complete, evolving game framework that has powered such games as Epic’s Unreal Tournament, Ion Storm Austin’s Deus Ex, Electronic Arts’ Harry Potter, and the U.S. Army’s America’s Army game. It features a suite of authoring tools, physics, AI, collision detection, multiplayer networking, high-polygon object rendering, a surface shader system, skeletal animation, and terrain rendering. It interfaces to 3D Studio Max and Maya through provided data-export plug-ins.
The authoring tools include UnrealEd, a real-time level design tool based on constructive solid geometry that is optimized for building real-time 3D environments and fully integrates with the Unreal Engine, providing actual camera views, all lighting, placement of textures, and geometry operations that immediately work, giving the level designers extremely fast feedback.
The Unreal Engine is fully supported on Windows, Xbox, PlayStation 2, and GameCube, and ports are available for Macintosh and Linux.
Unreal’s AI has intelligent “bots” that know how to move using all player movement options, weapons and inventory, and switches and navigate on platforms and open doors.
The path AI navigation system has complex evaluation, alarm points, and static states algorithms.
The Unreal development system provides licensors with the complete source code, the editing tools including UnrealEd and the 3D Studio Max and Maya plug-ins, and access to the support web site and mailing lists. The complete source to Epic’s latest game, currently Unreal Tournament 2003, is included for reference. Updates with new features are provided every two to four months.