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.
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.