Somos conscientes de que publicar exclusivamente en español restringe la audiencia potencial de esta bitácora tecnológica. Comenzando con esta entrada sobre Molehill, vamos a empezar a publicar también en inglés. El equilibrio entre posts en español y posts en inglés lo iremos decidiendo sobre la marcha, en función de los temas que tratemos, de la respuesta que obtengamos de los lectores del blog y del tiempo disponible.
Para ayudar a aquellos de vosotros que no leéis en inglés con comodidad hemos habilitado una herramienta de traducción automática; a partir de ahora podréis encontrarla en la parte superior de cada entrada en forma de enlace y con este icono →
If you keep yourself up to date with the world of Flash development by virtue of your position (be it AS3 or Flex — web designer, game coder or CTO) chances are that you have read plenty by now about the development releases of Flash Player 11 and AIR runtime 3 in the last days. The major addition being GPU-enabled, low-level 3D API‘s, a long-awaited feature, codename Molehill.
For a not-very-formal announcement, check out Thibault Imbert’s post about the release of Molehill.
At Cycle–IT we have dedicated our fair share of time to 3D in Flash and advanced visualisation for some of our commercial projects. Also, we have blogged in the past about the topic (in Spanish until now) to share tips, caveats and some of our experiments and benchmarks. We focused mainly on projects Away3D and Papervision3D, contributing with fixes or enhancements.
Needless to say, we are as excited as anyone out there about the advent of Molehill. Astounding as the existing 3D games and applications were, the ability of an upcoming production release of Flash Player to truly leverage the power of the GPU for 3D computations is going to be a game-changer. This qualitative improvement comes at a time when WebGL is slowly beginning to make its way into popular browsers, thus narrowing the gap between the capabilities of HTML5 and Flash. HTML5 and CSS3 are becoming slick and more versatile, but while the many stakeholders are painfully trying to agree on a spec, bury the “video codec hatchet” and actually adopt and implement the standard(s), Flash still wins in user penetration and cross-platform compatibility. With the ace of Molehill up its sleeve, we can expect that technological advantage to stay, or grow, for the next years.
What’s more interesting about Molehill, as the smart programmer knows, is that precious cycles of GPU can be used also for 2D computations, and even signal processing. Using Pixel Bender 3D or AGAL (“Adobe Graphics Assembly Language”) you can write your own shaders to crunch bytes fast. Whether those bytes represent 3D vertices, 2D sprites or audio samples, Flash Player 11 and your GPU could not care less. A consequence of this is that many of your normal 2D games, GUI toolkits and RIA‘s will get a beautiful performance boost in the next months. The fan and the battery inside your laptop will notice that, too.
From the many Molehill demos being posted and shared via Twitter and on the blogs, we would like to highlight a few. In our opinion, these show a broad spectrum of features and possibilities, while being fun and attractive. Note that to play these movies, you’ll need Flash Player Incubator 11, which you can get from Adobe Labs. (That is a development release, not intended for end users. It won’t break your computer, but you might get some funny behaviour here and there.)
When playing the demos, go full-screen on your largest monitor and take a look at the polygon count and frame rate.
Rob Bateman and his Away3D team have been quick at releasing some of the most impressive Molehill demos. Check out the beautiful “Shallow Water Demo”: seventy-nine thousand polygons of reflection mapping goodness running smoothly!
Also pretty illustrative is this hyper-realistic bust made up of 17K+ triangles.
In fact, Away3D have already announced the release of Away3D 4.0 Alpha, codename Broomstick. This new version of the popular 3D library is Molehill-enabled so it uses all the power of the low-level API’s. It is truly an exciting development for those who love 3D. And of course, the source code is available to learn and modify.
Another 3D library that was fast adopting Molehill was Alternativa. As we mentioned on an earlier post, they developed one of the first games using an earlier version of Molehill: Max Racer Demo. Until now, we only had the video that was shown during Adobe MAX 2010. Now, we can actually play the game.
Frima Studio, developers of the game Zombie Tycoon for the PSP, have recently ported the game to pure Flash. This port would have been simply impossible without Molehill, and it is a good peek into the future of Flash games.
That is all about 3D for now. Stay tuned for more Molehill goodness!