Many new, exciting features have been added to the Ca3D-Engine, and it's a real pleasure to see it grow into an ever more powerful and under the hood more flexible engine. In fact, I've had so much fun with the recent updates that I had to make an effort to interrupt the current work to prepare and release the latest version.
Anyways, I'm happy to be able to put the latest and greatest release of Ca3DE so far into your hands now. Most of the new features have already been mentioned here in former News articles, or discussed at the forums. Nonetheless, here is an overview over the most crucial enhancements since the prior release:
- Augmented lightmap technology: Precomputed Radiosity illumination and dynamic lighting techniques have now been combined in new GPU shaders to obtain the best aspects of both worlds all-in-one: the high quality lighting with soft shadows of Radiosity, the great surface detail of normal-mapping and moving specular highlights, combined at the very high performance of only one virtual lightsource!
Make sure that you don't miss the new screenshots, but keep in mind that the screenshots only show still snapshots - the best demonstration is to move around the map in real-time.
- Very large map support: The "TechDemo" example map that comes with the demo features an outdoor terrain of 1 km^2 in size plus a multi-story underground building, all in one big, continuous map. All the screenshots of this release have been taken in the same map!
- The new Ca3DE GUI System is a window manager inside the engine. It is used to implement all kinds of interactive controls, like the console window, chat dialogs, Head-Up Displays, user settings etc. One great aspect of the GuiSys is that it can also be used for 3D world GUIs (as known from Doom3), so interactive in-game panels are easily added to any map.
Moreover, the GUIs are defined and controlled by scripts based on the famous Lua programming language, making them easy to write yet powerful and flexible.
The font-rendering subcomponent of the GuiSys produces high-quality, typographically pleasing results that even take font kerning into account.
- The new File System allows to virtualize all file access of the Ca3D-Engine. That means that similar to Linux operating systems, it is now easy to "mount" arbitrary devices into the Ca3DE directory tree. For example, zip archives or encrypted containers can now be accessed like files in a local path, local paths can be superimposed into other paths like hardlinks (useful for MODs that share assets from other MODs), and future releases will be able to show remote FTP or HTTP conntections like local files, a nifty feature useful e.g. for auto-updates.
- Bezier patches are now a fully supported map primitive - a feature that is prominently demonstrated throughout the new TechDemo map.
- Scene graphs have been introduced as the internal datastructural representation of Ca3DE worlds. This makes the code design a lot more flexible for future enhancements.
- The in-game console has been thoroughly revised. Well, in fact, it has been entirely rewritten. It too is Lua-based now, which means that now you can even write small Lua programs "online" at the Ca3DE in-game console. The possibilities are endless, and I'll continue in the next release to employ and refine them.
- Support for texture compression. This has been implemented in a way to always employ the latest compression technique that the graphics driver offers - even if it has been developed and released after the Ca3D-Engine!
Although it is certainly too early to talk about the release after this, here is a brief outlook on the upcoming features:
- To be released in early summer 2007.
- Will have map- and entity-scripting, based of course on the Lua programming language.
- Will have vegetation for the island.
- And anything else I can think of in the meanwhile.