The Away3D Team & The Away Foundation are pleased to announce the first release of the next major Away3D iteration. Imaginatively titled Away3D 4.1 Alpha, this update represents a significant leap forward, both in terms of performance and features. Many updates have come at the request of our community, while some have been added in order to enhance the multiplatform potential of the engine, setting the stage for what we hope will be a prolific period for Away3D games and apps across devices.
One big new feature comes in the form of multipass shading, enabling more complex effects and higher fidelity lighting for computers with more powerful GPUs. The demo above highlights some of the benefits – multiple-lightsources and cascading shadows are now easily possible and open the door for even more varieties of shading effects in the future, adding to our already bulging toolset. The use of multipass materials is a choice the developer can make at runtime, allowing seamless management of the overall experience between differently matched client machines.
To offer more options when creating photo-realistic scenes, several new materials have been created to simulate the application of realtime reflections on the surface of an object. The demo above demonstrates the use of such techniques in a scene where a desert landscape and R2D2 droid are beautifully reflected in the surface of the shape. We have also introduced an entirely new material texture type to allow the use of ATF textures in an Away3D scene. ATF textures are specially compressed for GPU use and as a result provide much better performance than traditional textures – for more information on how to use these in your project please check out our new ATF texture tutorial.
With the initial introduction of GPU-based animation in Away3D, we saw an impressive increase in animation performance across web and mobile applications. The new particle animation system extends this idea to a highly configurable GPU-based particle API – creating thousands of new and exciting visual effects possibilities. We feel as though we have only scratched the surface on what this system can do, and look forward to posting more tutorials and demos showing off the variety of effects that can be achieved with this new feature. The above example also exists as source files in the examples repository on github and serves as a good primer to this incredibly powerful addition to Away3D. Or you can check out our new Introduction to Particles tutorial.
With many of the features above focusing on visual quality, we don’t want to forget about another important aspect to this new update – performance. Aside from the introduced ATF texture options, there have been several updates to the core internals of the engine that are less immediately apparent but nevertheless focus specifically on getting more out of your GPU. One of the most significant is in the way we handle our vertex data uploads which now use a single, ultra-fast compressed stream for all geometry info. We have also introduced a new experimental feature for the dynamic culling of large-scale 3D scenes, which we will be revealing more on very soon.
Recognising that features are nothing without good support, we have set about completely revamping our tutorials section, creating a new wiki-style approach to tutorial authoring, and posting a bunch of new content. Browsing to http://www.away3d.com/tutorials, you will now be presented with an overview of the tutorials on offer, as well as standard wiki features such as catagorisation, recently changed pages and search function. If you are already a member of our forums, you can even request edit access on the wiki for submitting your own tutorial content – something we will be encouraging as our community grows. For more information on writing tutorials, please visit http://away3d.com/tutorials/Authoring_Tutorials_on_Away3D.com
As this is an Alpha release, you’ll find the main update in github inside the dev branch of away3d-core-fp11 rather than the more usual master branch. Of course, there are also the obligtory zip downloads for the source and examples files, available from our downloads section in case you prefer not to do battle with git, and a version will also be uploaded very soon to our legacy googlecode repo for all you diehard svn fans out there. As well as the downloads, each one of the examples above can have ther source directly viewed and downloaded, simply by clicking on the view with the right-mouse button and selecting “View Source” from the menu.
Enjoy the new release!