29 Jan 2013

Away Foundation roadmap & releases

by Rob Bateman

Over the last few weeks, there has been much internal discussion around our development roadmaps for the various libraries of the Away Foundation. We can confirm that Adobe is continuing its role as strategic sponsor of the foundation, and as we move forward this year, one of the core areas of management we will be focusing on improving is the synchronization between Away Foundation and Adobe Gaming activities.

As Adobe Gaming annouce their own roadmap for the year, there are some exciting times ahead for Away Foundation projects. The key areas of development we have planned so far are outlined below.

Away Builder workflow tool

The recent inclusion of Away3D in the Adobe Gaming SDK has provided us with a strong platform on which to further develop our resource libraries. As part of this ongoing relationship, we are preparing a brand new development stream for the creation of an open source AIR tool for the preview and preparation of Away3D content. The work will combine several of our existing strands of development in this area, including our work carried out so far on the highly optimised AWD format, with the intention of establishing a new project called Away Builder that will smooth the 3D production workflow between design and development. Some of the features of the first Away Builder release will include:

  • An import mechanism that accepts a variety of industry-standard formats and provides preview and export functionality

  • A WYSIWYG scene editor that will simplify material and light setups for Away3D, exposing core engine settings & functionality at the design stage

  • An updated format specification for AWD allowing the Away3D engine to recreate many more Away3D scene elements and settings from exported data.

  • An asset manager to easily tweak and optimise all aspects of the content contained inside individual AWD files, not just those visible on the stage.

The focus for development will be on easy of use and optimising output, and should make Away3D asset preparation a much easier prospect for 3D designers & developers in future. The Away Builder tool interface will be built on Adobe AIR and Apache Flex, and will be subject to the same Apache 2.0 licensing as the Away3D engine, making community contributions and / or bespoke company alterations and additions as easy as downloading the source and getting stuck in.

Away3D 4.1 Beta & Gold

Building on the 4.1 Alpha release towards the end of last year, the Away3D 4.1 engine will receive two further updates this year. A beta release will finalise the featureset and consolidate some of the feedback and fixes proposed by our community, while the production-ready gold release will perform a final sweep on stability and optimisations, accompanied by further updates and improvements to documentation, tutorials and reference material.

In terms of features, we are looking to prioritise the following for Away3D 4.1 Beta

  • Completion of Constrained Mode Stage3D support

  • Expanded animation engine to enable more complex animation trees

  • Additional animation types for GPU accelerated modifiers

  • Expanded texture options to provide more choice for texture types

  • Expanded post-processing options for advanced realtime effects

As the number of different platforms enabled for Stage3D publishing increases, we become ever more aware of the importance of flexible optimisation options for Away3D projects. The primary goal of our work on the gold release will be to increase our options in this area, in order to provide a truly multi-platform engine that delivers the optimal performance for 3D, whatever the underlying hardware.

Away Physics

A significant announcement in the Adobe roadmap blog post is the removal of licensing requirements from the XC APIs (formally Alchemy). This is great news for the Flash community, and will hold special significance for the Away Physics project which will no longer require an Adobe premium features license in order to be used in the Flash Player. We will be taking an in-depth look at what we can do in the near future to get Away Physics to production release status and hopefully have more information on our roadmap in this area very soon.

Timescales for release

As before, we are setting release dates for the above Away Foundation work so that our partners can plan ahead for when such releases will be available. We intend to release Away Builder 1.0 Beta alongside the Away3D 4.1 Beta at the beginning of May 2013. The following Away3D 4.1 gold release will occur at the end of July. Exact dates will be revealed closer to time.

As always, our outlines for work contain the general direction for us over the next few months, but this doesn't mean that we are no longer looking at user patches and pull requests. If you have an improvement that you feel should be included in the official release, or some area that is currently causing trouble in your Away3D project, please get in contact via the Away3D forums or github issues list and we can include you in the discussion.

COMMENTS

30 Jan 2013 03:16 PM

dlx said:

Hi,

All this are awesome news ! The Away Builder tool is something that I've been waiting for a VERY long time...
However, will it be based on the existing Prefab tool, or will it be built from scratch ?
thanks,

31 Jan 2013 12:44 AM

Rob Bateman said:

@dlx

As we are creating an open source framework for Away Builder, we won't be reusing any Prefab code. However, you'll certainly be seeing some similarities in the featureset, details of which are due to be released soon.

03 Feb 2013 01:10 PM

TrueSign said:

That Away Builder workflow tool will be something like Unity?

04 Feb 2013 01:43 AM

Rob Bateman said:

@TrueSign Think of it more as a visual asset manager. You will still use your favourite AS3 editor to code - Away Builder will be used to optimise assets, modify their properties, arrange them in a scene and produce a single AWD file that is ready for use in your game.

22 Feb 2013 07:46 PM

TrueSign said:

This is great! I was looking for something like this when developing my first projects in Away3d. Great job so far guys. Away3d is amazing!

25 Feb 2013 06:34 PM

John Brookes said:

Just watched the stage3d conference.
So AwayBuilder wont have fbx support. And Away have always hated collada.
Sort of wonder what industry standard filetypes means?

Anyhoo main point.
Whats going to happen to the plugins for Maya Max?
Are they going to be updated when the new AWD spec is released.
There has never been a download version of Maya AWD.
The compile on windows will fail and if it wasnt for others there still woulndt be a plugin.
http://away3d.com/forum/viewthread/2447/P30/

Sorry I had a few months where I was unable to use 4.0 due to the change in AWD spec and im beginning to fear the same is going to happen.

26 Feb 2013 08:55 PM

Rob Bateman said:

@JohnBrookes

The update to AWD will not be replacing anything that currently exists in the spec, so older AWDs created with the exporters should be compatible with Away Builder and we will of course be testing this as we go

In terms of upgrading the exporters, this will most likely be the focus after the initial release of Away Builder 1.0 in May. The problems you experienced in 4.0 were unfortunate but due to bugs in the importer that were fixed in that release, breaking some compatibility with older AWD files. We realise now that this was an error, so will endeavour to ensure that all upgraded importers / exporters will be backwards-compatible with the current AWD version

FBX support is not ruled out for the future, we just can't promise it in 1.0 because it will be quite a lot of work. We will be re-approaching Autodesk about this in the coming weeks to see if they are interested in assisting the Foundation with this aspect of support.

As far as Collada goes, we have supported importing Collada files since 4.0 gold. But yes, we do hate it wink

26 Mar 2013 09:53 AM

gaharasan said:

Hi, you said, "The primary goal of our work on the gold release will be to increase our options in this area, in order to provide a truly multi-platform engine that delivers the optimal performance for 3D, whatever the underlying hardware." Does it mean including the optimization for mobile devices? Thanks~

27 Mar 2013 06:56 PM

Rob Bateman said:

@gaharasan

Correct - mobile optimisation is something we are looking at closely for the Gold release, although as always, developers will need to follow best practice considerations in order to take full advantages of work on mobile optimisation. Our documentation & tutorial content will be augmented in order to cover these considerations

17 Apr 2013 02:30 PM

yohann said:

Are you still on track for an early May release of Away Builder 1.0?

17 Apr 2013 04:22 PM

Rob Bateman said:

Yes, we should be announcing something at Adobe Max. Although bear in mind that the tool will be a beta build, so development to the first production version will most likely continue until July when Away3D 4.1 Gold will be released

18 Apr 2013 04:10 PM

yohann said:

Great!...looking forward to that. Last question: Will the Away Builder tool configure asset/scene physics too, or will physics remain something that must be setup manually via AS3?

18 Apr 2013 05:37 PM

Rob Bateman said:

Physics will not be covered in this version of Away Builder. However, we aren't necessarily ruling it out in future versions - just have to make priority decisions somewhere wink

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