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Making VisualStudio 2003 run on Vista

Visual Studio 2003 doesn't work correctly on Vista: It would crash every now and then. Instead of patching this, Microsoft obviously decided to show a message box with text like 'This program is known to cause problems in Vista jadajadaja'. If you open the Find/Replace dialog in VisualStudio 2003, it will crash nearly always, for example. A simple workaround is to disable the Aero Window manager in Vista: Visual Studio will then run like a charm, even (or maybe especially) without SP1 applied.
Which makes me wonder: What the hell are they doing in that Find/Replace dialog? Or what is Aero doing behind the scenes at that piece of code? Very strange.

Crysis Demo Review

This seems to be the season of game demo releases: This weekend, I tried out the Crysis Demo. Crysis is the latest game created by Crytek, the german company which became popular with their first game 'FarCry', which is also based on the CryEngine (Crysis is based on the CryEngine 2).
After starting the demo on my DX10 capable Vista PC, the game set all graphics options to 'low', reducing the beauty of the announced nice-looking world in Crysis to a minimum. So I changed all settings to 'high', and to my surprise the game still was running smoothly with a high fps count. Needless to mention that the graphics looked astonishing impressive: Niceley animated blurred shadowmaps everywhere, cool lighting effects, impressive water waves with reflections/refractions, post processing effects full of atmosphere and so on. Great.

It was very nice to be able to play around with the graphics settings of that game: In Crysis you can open the options menu and change almost every setting while the game is running, without a significant reload or waiting time. Some other things about the demo I liked were: All in all, a very great demo and I didn't regret to have downloaded the more than 1 GB sized package. I had expected Crysis to be a boring 'Farcry with better graphics', but Crytek really made something out of this.

DVW and audio

die verbotene welt DVW, short for the german title 'Die Verbotene Welt' is one of the bigger, and popular german hobby game development projects, which is under development for some years now at Sechsta Sinn. Matthias Gall is the lead programmer of this team and recently blogged a comprehensive review of sound libraries, which he condsidered to be used for DVW's sound output. For their project, irrKlang is missing one small feature still, but it is planned to be added in the next release. Sechsta-Sinn switched to irrKlang nevertheless already as it seems, which is nice from my point of view of course.
I am really looking forward (for some years already) to DVW to be released, and hope that irrKlang will help them to do this ;)

Checking out FLTK

I've been using a lot of UI libraries in the past, from pure Win32 C code to MFC, AWT, SWT, Swing, Irrlichts own gui stuff, Qt, wxWidgets, and a lot more. Today I wanted to write a small test program for my game audio library which would need some simple user interface, and all of these libraries didn't really meet my requirements. I also wanted to make the test program open source as example program later, so the requirements for the UI library I had were the following: Small, fast, simple, with all the basic widgets, based no C++ or C, free or LGPL at maximum and cross-platform: Because irrKlang runs on these platforms I needed it to work on Linux, MacOSX and Windows. Sounds though, but I found some candidates, and after studying the web pages of them, I decided to give FLTK a try.

I downloaded it, and after very short time, I had a basic program with a window, some buttons and other widgets on it running, as can be seen on the right. The program should already compile and work on all three platforms, but I only tried it out on Windows yet. FLTK doesn't seem to use native widgets and does everything itself. The result is that the API is a bit unusual (you have to care for widget redraws for yourself for example), and that the widgets look somehow a bit strange, but for small applications, FLTK really is a good choice IMO. It features a UI Designer which generates C++ code, you only need some very few lines of code to set up your UI and the programs created with it, even if statically linked are very small - so there is a reason why it is named 'Fast Light Toolkit'. ;) I think I will use it for other small UI progams in the future too, because it is really handy.

Irrlicht Beginners Manual

Dejai just started to write an Irrlicht Beginners Manual in the Irrlicht Engine wiki, a compendium which would include all the information from getting started with the engine, assuming it is a persons first API. Some people already started to help out, and I think this is a very good idea. If you think so too, it would be cool if you would help out (related irrlicht forum thread).

Now blogging from Windows Vista

I'm running Windows Vista for about one week now. Some people already noticed this when I blogged about the Unreal Tournament 2003 demo. ;) I've not really used Vista and the new machine for 'real' work - aka programming C++ - yet, but used it for websites updates, mail writing, gaming, customer management, testing and similar already, and so I think it is time for a short review:

I've read and heart a lot of rants and negative reviews about Windows Vista before I actually used it myself, so I was expecting the worst, but actually I am pleasantly surprised: Windows Vista is not that bad:

So, I'm going to blog about Vista some weeks later again, when I gathered more experience with it.

Privacy 2.0

Starting in 2008, the police will be able to search your hard disks without your knowledge when you are online, Austrian politicans just decided today (german link). That's that idea named Bundestrojaner, copied from the even nearly comparable clueless politicans in Germany.

Bugfixing: irrKlang 1.0.1

irrKlang 1.0.1 is out now. This release fixes some minor bugs and improves the documentation.

One of the more severe bugs which I fixed in this release was a deadlock which occurred quite rarely under special circumstances: It could occur for example when playing back a lot of music streams like for example 50 mp3s at the same time and stopping them all again, at the same time. Yes, this sounds like nobody would ever do that, but something like this happened. I think the jirrklang port had this problem too. And yes, irrKlang is able to play that much streams at the same time :) But this problem is also solved now, and irrKlang is officially bug-free again.

UT3 Beta Demo Review

The Unreal Tournament 3 Beta Demo has been released this weekend, so I had to try it out: Apart from a short glimpse at Gears of War and Bioshock while somebody else was playing it, I had never seen the Unreal Engine 3 in action yet.
Midway or Epic had decided to make the demo available only for Fileplanet subscribers on the first days, so it only was available on some few servers and very difficult to get, but I was lucky. After I had finished the ~700MB download and had installed the game, I was greeted with the nice modernized Unreal music theme, which maked me feel like home :) Then I played the game of course, and here is a short review:

Gameplay: It's just like UT 2004, there is no real difference. In short: It feels like the took they UT 2004 code, replaced the graphics and extended the levels and made some minor additions and changes here and there like adding some game modes and some vehicles. It's a sequel game, after all, right. I don't know if this decision was good or bad, but for me personally, it decreases the value of the game because I already played UT2004 to death and so UT3 ist not that exciting any more because there is not much new in it. But apart from that, I think the gameplay is fun. The darkwalker, a War-of-the-Worlds like tripod, which appears in the deathmatch game of the demo is absolutely cool, of course.

Graphics: The main reason I tried out the demo was because I wanted to see the Unreal Engine in action, expecting that Epic would use the game as showcase and sales assistant for their Unreal Technology. I hoped to see some of the advertised key features of the Unreal Engine 3, but I was a bit disappointed: Appart from a higher polygon count, more detailed textures and some post processing effects, the game seems to look like UT 2004. Then I noticed that the details seem to be turned to low by default and I set them all to the highest possible value, and the situation improved a bit. Characters now had shadows, and there where normal maps everywhere, but I was still missing the promised cool light effects and shaders such as parallax mapping. Also, the characters still did not have much detail. But the game looked really nice, and maybe I had expected too much.

So the demo didn't really come up to my expectations, but it only was a Beta Demo, who knows what the real game will be like.

Update: Yep, I'm running the game on Vista, with a DX10 graphics card. I've now seen screenshots from the demo on other websites, and they look better then the game on my system, strange.

Bolzplatz 2008

The german hobby game developer site developia recently featured a news article about Bolzplatz 2008 or Slamsoccer, the sucessor to Bolzplatz 2006, the game of which I own the T-Shirt. ;)
The European Championship will take place in Switzerland and Austria, where I live, and Bolzplatz 2008 will be adapted to this, of course. Very nice, I am really looking forward to this, although I am not a football fan at all.
The game is open source and based on Irrlicht via jirr, and after shortly browsing the svn, it also looks like it is using irrklang. They are currently looking for help with the project, by the way.

if !password goto jail

If you are planning to travel to Great Britain in the near future, better don't take your notebook with you. Since last week, they now have their Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) in action: You now can choose between giving them your password of your encrypted hard disks or goto jail for 5 years. More about it on heise security.

Game Development Tutorial

I already linked this on irrlicht.sf.net, but posting it here again in case you missed it: tutorial on how to create a computer game, it is intended for beginners and uses Irrlicht et al.

Divus Armada

BMF just finished his game Divus Armada. It uses Irrlicht for 3D graphics and irrKlang as 3D game audio engine, and was made for the shmup-dev.com competition (related irrlicht forum thread)

Looks nie, IMO. This is the type of game I always wanted to create myself, but when I wrote full games all by myself years ago, most of them were set in a medieval fantasy environment :)

Parking Pond

Damn, I forgot I promised to fill this blog a bit more with non-Irrlicht content. So here is a picture I took when walking to work this morning. No cat content, but duck content on this blog at least. :)

Yep, that's just a wet spot on the ground, and there is a crowd of ducks, misinterpreting this as a lake. Also, notice the realistic environment reflection mapping on the water surface! :)

Free Burma Day

Today is Free Burma' day: Some bloggers refrain from posting to their blogs on October 4th (today) and will only put up a 'Free Burma' banner instead. Read more about this here: www.free-burma.org.
I think this is a good idea, altough I doubt it will change anything. Who cares about a hand full of bloggers. Most politicans don't even know what a blog or the internet is ("Emh... 'browser'? What's that again?" source, german). Which is also one of the reasons why they passed the resolution to start full surveillance of the internet in the EU.
Back to Burma: Of course it is not nice what is going on there, for years now. But Burma is not the only place we should look at, at all. I could instantly count at least 4 or 5 where states people should look at too or increase media coverage about. And we shouldn't forget about or own states as well: Don't give todays politicans a change to turn our countries into police states just like some of them seem to plan this already.

Irrlicht 1.4beta out now

Yee-ha, Irrlicht 1.4beta is out. A short excerpt from the news on irrlicht.sf.net, what's new:

  • A rewritten unified skeletal animation system with some more sophisticated long awaited features such as manual joint animation.
  • Irrlicht's own file format: .irrmesh, for static meshes.
  • Mesh writing support: Write collada, .stl and .irrmesh files. Irrlicht now can also read .stl files and be used to convert any file it can read into these file formats.
  • Enhanced Particle System reintegrated from the irrSpintz fork
  • Improved GUI: Keyboard control support (tab, shift etc), SpinBox
  • PointSprite support
  • Improved collada, .obj, .my3d and loaders

Read full text here

Yes, this release is a beta, not the final 1.4 version yet, so be careful. I also updated the Irrlicht team page a bit, for those who are interested.
Thanks to all who made this release possible!