Ashley 1.0.1 released

Hi, it’s David Saltares aka @siondream.

What? You don’t know what Ashley is? Here is a brief, straight from GitHub.

A tiny entity framework written in Java. It’s inspired by frameworks like Ash (hence the name) and Artemis. Ashley tries to be a high-performance entity framework without the use of black-magic and thus making the API easy and transparent to use.

Long story short: Ashley is awesome.

Stefan Batchmann started the project on February 2013. Since he is rather busy making actual games, he asked me to look after the project and I gladly accepted.

Entity systems are really cool and can help you write cleaner game code, avoiding the classic inheritance hierarchy hell. This article does a pretty good job at explaining the benefits of entity systems.

It’s funny how strongly opinionated developers seem to feel towards entity systems. Some love them, some hate them. Have a read, experiment with Ashley and decide for yourself.

The readme will help to you get started. Please, do not hesitate to open an issue if you find any problems. If you send a pull request, you will have our unconditional love.

During the past couple of months me and a bunch of awesome collaborators have been working on a proper Ashley release and now it’s done. Here is the list of the new shiny features.

Mind that some of them break the previous API. However, this is our first official release, we’ll push hard to keep the API backwards compatible from now on.

  • Gradle: we got rid of the Eclipse projects and now use Gradle to manage our dependencies and build process.
  • Maven Central: Ashley is now available from Maven Central, which makes it dead easy for your project to depend on it. In Gradle, add the following dependency: compile “com.badlogicgames.ashley:ashley:1.0.1″.
  • Jenkins build: Mario kindly offered us some server time to make sure Ashley is always stable.
  • Unit tests: there are unit tests for pretty much every component in Ashley. They are run after every commit by our Jenkins job.
  • Immutable collections: core Ashley classes now return ImmutableArray and ImmutableIntMap references, making it harder for client code to break the system.
  • Family filtering: now we get the collection of entities that have a set of components, have at least one component from a given set and do not have a single component from another given set.
  • GWT compatibility: you can now use Ashley for HTML5 games through the magic of GWT and Libgdx.
  • Depends on gdx core: this has allowed us to remove all the duplicated optimised container classes and gives us a GWT compatible reflection API. Some might say it’s a big dependency but we do believe the pros outweigh the cons.
  • Cleanup and bug fixes.

I try to keep an up-to-date TODO list with a very informal roadmap. Here is what to expect next:

  • Performance tests and comparison with Artemis
  • Make javadocs available online
  • Complete wiki

Thanks!

Ingress launches on IOS – powered by libGDX

Google’s augmented reality game Ingress has launched on iOS. It appears to be using libGDX on iOS as well, which means it either runs on the old Xamarin backend or our more stable and faster RoboVM backend (performance seems to indicate the latter). Here’s a pic of the credits on my old iPad2:

It’s gonna be interesting to follow the reviews on the App Store.

Google I/0 2014

As every year, i’m gonna summarise what i found most interesting about this year’s I/O. Sadly, there isn’t a lot of public material relevant to game developers. According to the schedule there have been a few hands-on talks with Intel, Nvidia, ARM etc. on performance tuning, but no videos are available on that. So, breaking with the tradition a little, i’ll highlight what i found interesting from a more general point of view. Here’s the keynote (danger, very long, very robotic, kinda boring):

New Android version “L”

Now, hold your horses. The new version is still in the making and will be released this fall. However, you can get preview release images for the Nexus line of devices and emulator images. A lot of new features went into this one, some are quite interesting for us libGDX folks:

  • Dalvik’s out, ART is in. Starting with L, ART is the new default VM on Android. Dalvik has been completely removed from L, which is a good thing. Preview builds of ART didn’t work with libGDX due to some JNI issues on ART’s side. Those have been resolved and merged into L.
  • Separate rendering thread. Previously the UI toolkit thread did both processing and rendering. Not anymore, there’s a separate rendering thread to which the UI toolkit thread is sending display lists essentially.
  • 64-bit support. This has been long coming, and it must have been pain to fix up the class library which used 32-bit ints to store pointers to native peers. While this mostly opens up the possibility of more addressable RAM, it also may give us some new instructions/registers ART and native code can exploit.
  • OpenGL ES 3.1 support and Android extensions pack. It appears that most GPU vendors in the Android ecosystem are now pushing for OpenGL extensions for tessellation, geometry and compute shaders (and still not OpenCL…) as well as things like ATSC texture compression. We’ll see how that pans out, i’m not sure it’s to relevant for libGDX at this point.
  • USB audio. Not sure if they finally fixed the audio latency, which i guess is part software/driver part hardware related.
  • Project Volta. Aims at giving users more control and insight into battery usage. There’s also a method level kind of battery profiler called Battery Historian which is really awesome! Here’s the talk on Project Volta which i haven’t seen yet.

There’s of course a metric ton of other additions, but i didn’t feel that those were to relevant for game devs. Check out Chet Haase and Adam Powell’s talk on what’s new in Android L:

Material Design

Most of Android’s current design was introduced with Ice Cream Sandwich, with iterations in Jelly Bean and and KitKat. With the new Android release called ‘L’ we get a new iteration called Material Design. Apart from the nitty gritty design principles you should follow, the big obvious things for non-designers like me where:

  • Shadows: every view now has an elevation value (z-coord), based on which the framework can draw orthographic soft shadows. It looks awesome, and gives us a back a bit of the the feel before everybody went insane with “flat” designs.
  • Animations: everything is animated. I’m not a super big fan of this as it’s easy to overuse it. But the things presented so far looked very non-intrusive while giving things a nice natural touch. I especially like the new activity transitions, which can take a few of the activity that’s being left and animate it into the activity that’s being started.

Quite a few talks have been given on Material Design. My favourite is of course the Romain Guy/Chet Haase. They are giving a bit of a behind the scene talk, with Romain explaining how the shadow rendering works. They also tell us why Romain was fired from the Android team and is now working on boring robots instead.

Chet Haase and Adam Powell also gave a nice round-up talk on how to write Material Design apps for Android. Adam will likely replace Romain in upcoming I/Os, which is sad, sorta.

Android Wear, TV and Auto

Introduced in the keynote, Android Wear is what you expect: smart watches that can hook up to your Android devices and desktops/laptops. Definitely not for me, but some people seem to like to order their pizza with those things (as demonstrated in the keynote video). Android TV is a bit more interesting, as it means that TV set vendors may start using Android as the OS running the TV. This is sorta like a death blow to Ouya and other micro consoles and may indicate that Google is not interested in playing the console game after all. Android Auto must have been the most underwhelming thing next to wear. While Google was able to round up a few manufacturers that will ship their 2015+ line ups of cars with Android Auto, i can’t really find the appeal. Similar to wearables. You hop in your car, then have your phone hook up to the console of your car. Maybe i’m just to old, so all i really need is Android TV.

Android Fireside Chat

I always look forward to the fire side. Some insights:

  • Java 8, no comment. This led me to believe that Google may pull a Swift on us (though very unlikely given the investment in Java within the framework)
  • Google’s not gonna pull a Swift on us, so says Dianne Hackborne. Neither will Scala become the new lang for Android.
  • Eclipse support is on it’s way out according to Xavier Ducrohet and David Burke, though improvements in the Gradle Eclipse integration should keep Android working in Eclipse. Somewhat.