Issue 17 - May 2004 The Game Creators Newsletter Issue 17 - click for a larger cover image
Click for larger cover image


02TGC May Survey
03Advanced Terrain
04gameSpace SP1
05gameSpace Video Tutorials
06gameSpace for Free!
07Mikes Book Review
083D Canvas 6.5
09.NET Plugin
10Super Sprite Pack
12FPS Creator Insider
13DTSP Car Winner
14RagDoll Physics
15Operation IE v2
16Limefly Contest
17Swedish Game Contest
18Snowball Fight
19X-Quad Editor
20This Months Winner

We seem to be enjoying somewhat of a heatwave here in England at the moment and the gorgeous weather is certainly making it challenging to sit inside infront of a computer. But we do it because we love our work and if the contents of this packed newsletter is anything to go by - we're not the only ones! This month also seems to be the month of cool free things - just take a look at the superb Terrain plugin or the completely free version of gameSpace now available. But it's not all work, why not "relax" with a frantic round of Blastroids or the amusing Snowball Fight. Until next month, happy reading!

TGC Survey - Win FPS Creator

Your feedback from last months survey was fantastic and the responses have already lead to us planning out a brand new range of items. There was an overwhelming call for "more tutorials" and "a decent book about DBPro!" - so that is exactly what we're focusing on. The authors for the book have been selected and work is well under-way. We will also address the tutorials issue shortly and you'll see the results of this next month.

In our survey this month we're looking at pricing of products and how you pay for things. You results could directly influence how we charge for software in the future - so please take a few moments to answer our survey. You can optionally enter your email address at the end to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of FPS Creator upon release.

Take part in the survey here:

Advanced Terrain

There is a very good reason for featuring a gorgeous landscape shot on the front cover of this months issue. It is because what you see are the results of our work on a new Terrain Plug-in for DarkBASIC Professional. As you can see from the sample images below - this is far more powerful than the current terrain commands allow.

The best part of all is that this plug-in will be made available to you all FREE OF CHARGE. That's right, the standard version of the Terrain plug-in (which was used to create the images you can see here) will be given away free to all DarkBASIC Professional users.

The standard terrain expansion pack included with Upgrade 5.3 offers many improvements over the current terrain commands that were released with the first version of DarkBASIC Professional. You can now create large terrains from heightmaps. After creating the terrain it's essentially the same as any other 3D object so commands like "position object" can also be applied to the terrain. This makes things much more streamlined and easier to use.

Creating a terrain is a fairly simple process. To begin with you must first create a heightmap that will be used to represent the terrain. From there you can load this into DB Pro using the new commands. The process is started by calling "make object terrain" and passing in the ID of the object. Then properties of the terrain can be set - scale, split, tiling, heightmap, texturing and lighting. These properties control the way in which the terrain is created. The scale property of the terrain is used to determine how the polygons that construct the terrain are scaled. You can also call "scale object" on the terrain later on.

Instead of creating one large mesh the terrain is split up into a grid of meshes - this is where the split value comes in. As an example if you set the split value to 8 the terrain will be divided up into 8 x 8 meshes so ending up with 64 meshes. This is useful as parts of the terrain can be occluded automatically by DB Pro and by doing this the drawing process can be speeded up as we're likely to be drawing less. The tiling property is used to control how detail textures are tiled on the terrain. Setting this value to one will fit the detail texture onto each quad of the terrain. Using higher values will stretch the detail texture over larger patches of quads. Setting the heightmap determines which file is used to create the terrain.

When setting the terrain texture you can pass in an image ID for a base image and a detail image. While it's also possible to use "texture object" for this the command specifically for terrain changes the texturing to create a result better suited for terrain. By changing the light properties of the terrain you can control shadowing and end up having different coloured light applied.

Once all of the properties of the terrain have been set a call to "build terrain" will finalise everything and create the terrain and it will then be displayed on screen. Other commands included in the standard terrain expansion pack allow for loading and saving terrain files, retrieving the ground height and more.

Terrain Plus

The terrain plus expansion pack comes with a whole host of features that allow you to take terrain much further. Level of detail (LOD) commands are provided with the Terrain Plus expansion pack and these can be used to reduce the amount of polygons being drawn. This can make a significant difference to a game and greatly improve the frame rate. The way this works is that the terrain in the distance will be reduced to a lower polygon count as it's not necessary to draw all of the detail. The distance at which the LOD is used can be controlled and you can also specify the polygon reduction of meshes.

The heightmap generation commands allow you to create random, natural looking heightmaps. It's possible to control the size of the heightmap and by adding in some extra parameters you can have more control over the results. These heightmaps can then be saved as images and then later used when creating your terrain.

Creating textures for the terrain can be achieved using the texture generation commands. These allow you to create a texture that can be applied to the terrain from an input list of textures. As an example you might have 4 textures containing different materials e.g. rock, mud, grass and snow. These are loaded into DB Pro and passed into the terrain commands. When you call the command to generate the final texture the input textures will be taken and applied to different areas of the terrain e.g. the rock is shown at the lowest points of the terrain, the mud further up, the grass above the mud and finally the snow at the highest points. The size of this final texture can be set and then can be saved out to be applied to the terrain.

Imagine the camera directly in front of a large hill. We know that we can't see behind this hill yet the terrain behind will still be drawn. This is a situation we want to avoid as we're drawing polygons that can't be seen. This is where the potential visibility set (PVS) comes in. When building the terrain you can call commands to add in this extra visibility data and the whole process is carried out within a few minutes. This can later be saved so that the visibility calculations don't have to be carried out each time. The visibility data will help to eliminate parts of the terrain from the drawing process. Now with the camera in front of a hill the parts hidden behind will no longer be drawn. Other commands in the expansion pack include the ability to create patches of water that can be placed on the terrain.

Details about Terrain and other new plug-ins will be announced shortly. For now here is a larger size screen shot for you (125KB 800x600)

gameSpace Service Pack 1

Caligari is pleased to announce the release of Service Patch 1 for gameSpace1.5!

This patch addresses several issues including: Problems when moving or gluing items within the Scene Editor fixed. Problems with the Anti-Alias for sprites fixed. Viewpoint and Shockwave support fixed.

To download, please visit the gameSpace updates page - you will need your username and password so be sure to have them ready!

gameSpace Video Tutorials

Caligari are now offering two downloadable video courses to aid in the use of gameSpace. The Polygonal modeling course shows you the most fundamental of modeling techniques, as it takes you through how to edit vertices, edges and faces so you can shape your object with the precise control required for games, where poly count is critical!

The KFE Animation course then introduces you to animation in gameSpace, including how to use the KeyFrame Editor to edit the animation sequences which will bring your creations to life!

Sample chapters can be viewed at:

The full videos can be purchased on-line at:

gameSpace for Free!

Our final piece of gameSpace news this month is the most exciting - Caligari have produced a special Light version of gameSpace which you can download completely free of charge. gameSpace Light is not just a trial copy of gameSpace, but a functional package in its own right.

You can work on models using all the modeling and animation tools from gameSpace, and save models of up to 650 polygons so that you do not have to do everything in one go. You can save to standard gameSpace format, and industry standard .X format, so your can use your models in DarkBASIC/DarkBASIC Professional. gameSpace Light is designed to let you get started in creating 3D content for games, so you can find out if it is for you, get a head start in learning about 3D modeling and animation, or even start creating your game or a game prototype, all without the need to worry about cost.

There are no removed modeling or animating tools, and no time limit - you can use gameSpace Light for as long as you choose! Read all about it here:

DirectX 9 Graphics Programmers Guide

Book Review by Mike Johnson / TGC

This book covers everything you need to know about programmable shaders when using DirectX 9.

To begin with there's an introduction to vertex shaders explaining what they are and how to use them within DirectX. This is all useful background information. From here the book moves into more detail explaining all about the vertex shader virtual machine, layout of shaders, registers and all of the instructions you will need to know. Moving on from this chapter the third chapter builds on the knowledge learnt in the first two chapters and provides several examples and explains how they work.

Following on from the chapters on vertex shaders are two chapters on pixel shaders which follow a similar format with explanations and examples. Part two of the book covers high level shader language (HLSL). This makes writing shaders easier as you can use C like functions instead of assembly like code. Several examples are covered and you will get to see how some basic things are controlled.

In part three of the book effect files are introduced. This section of the book will be particularly useful to those who want to implement shaders in DB Pro as shaders written in HLSL and placed in effect files can be used in DB Pro. The last section of the book is a collection of appendices covering vertex processing, asm shader instructions, HLSL reference and an effect reference.

While this book is more aimed at developers wanting to use the DirectX 9 SDK and C++ it may prove to be useful for those wanting to write their own shaders for use in DB Pro.

You can buy the book from Amazon by clicking here.

3D Canvas 6.5 Released

Amabilis have released a significant update to their top budget-3D package, Canvas 3D. Version 6.5 (which is a free upgrade to all registered users) boasts the following enhancements:

  • Enhanced Boolean Operations - Boolean operations now produce fewer faces and points.
  • Renderer Improvements - The 3D Canvas renderer now displays multi-layered translucency and transparency.
  • Improved Divide Operation - The Divide operation has a new option to allow for horizontal and vertical divisions.
  • Enhanced Crease Operation - The Crease operation now creases faces that have collinear edges.
  • New Repair Geometry Operation - The new Repair Geometry operation corrects problems with model geometry such as collinear edges and concave facets.
  • New Merge Triangles Operation - Automatically merges triangles where the resulting faces are planar and convex.
  • Reduced Memory Usage - Memory usage is reduced for scenes with large numbers of layers.

Plus many more. You can purchase 3D Canvas Pro on-line or download a free trial from our web site at: //

DBPro .NET Library Plugin

DBP_NETLIB is a plugin for DarkBASIC Professional that provides over 40 useful functions written in Visual Basic .NET for use directly within your DarkBASIC Professional programs. It requires the .NET Framework 1.1 (a free download) and the functions include Type Conversion, DirectX functions, Date and Time functions, String functions, File functions and a set of General functions such as directory dialogs, message boxes and more.

Download for free from:

Super Sprite Pack

A new Super Sprite Pack is available to buy from Black Rogue Software. These sprites have been lovingly crafted and wouldn't look out of place in any decent 2D game. There are 826 separate images in total and the various packs on offer include Midi files, FX, bitmapped fonts, source code (for a viewer) and an animation processor. We really like the sprites, they remind us well of the 16-bit ST/Amiga era and there are samples you can download.

For more details visit:

Cover Game: Blastroids

Created by Grant Clark with DarkBASIC Classic, Blastroids is as you may have already guessed, an asteroids styled game. This one is just that little bit special however. Take a look at the screen shots below and then read the reviews from the TGC staff.


Raveys Review:
"I am sure not many will be shocked to learn Blastroids is derived from a very old (and dearly loved) arcade game called Asteroids. The objective is simple - stay alive as long as you can (which I guess is most people's object in real life!). You are equipped with a stylish spaceship that is armed with asteroid pulverising lasers and able to turn on a 5 pence piece, James Bond would be proud of this baby. However, you have managed to wander into the biggest asteroid field since The Empire Strikes Back (must be the lure of the dark side!) and it seems the only way to survive is to blast the asteroids into a million pieces before they smash you into the same."

"Blastroids is presented in a very slick manner, from the twitching "Press Space Bar" music to the subtle spinning of the planet in the background. The presentation gives you that feeling that someone has put a lot of care and attention into every aspect of the game. Upon playing it immediately becomes fun due to the great feeling of blowing up the asteroids - those things really go when you blast them! The spaceship control feels good, you never have that feeling that you have completely lost control of your ship like you do in a lot of similar games. If anything I thought the game was slightly too easy, personally I would like the pace quickened slightly sooner and at a steeper rate just to maintain that initial hooked feel. All in all a very well polished game that has been carefully and lovingly created."

Mikes Comments:
"Blastroids is a remake of Asteroids. The gameplay is essentially the same as the original. You can move the ship around with some simple controls and from there you have to destroy all of the asteroids. There's all sorts going on when you get in the game and it starts to get fairly frantic as you progress through the levels although to begin with there's only a few asteroids to get rid of and it won't take long to get past the first few levels - after that it starts to get much harder."

"Graphically the game looks great. There's loads of animations in there and the explosion effects when you blow up an asteroid are excellent. The presentation is good as well and things are laid out clearly. Overall would give it 7 / 10. Good game to play but could do with some more variation. Looking forward to seeing what will be in the final release as it's very promising."

Download from: //

FPS Creator Insider

FPS Creator

From the 17th of May to the 19th we had a TGC company meeting in the sunny north of England. For pretty much the whole of the 2nd day our lead developer Lee Bamber demonstrated the latest version of FPS Creator to the whole team. While sat in a gloriously gothic looking hotel, surrounded by pictures of the Battle of Waterloo, Lee showcased a far more high-tech level of warfare raging on-screen.

He first played with the Map Editor, showing how you can click together entire rooms intelligently. By selecting a wall segment and literally painting onto the grid the walls all locked together correctly, even when moving in different directions. There is no need to "hollow" or "carve-out" boxes with the FPS Creator Map Editor - you literally draw the rooms directly. Dropping in a stairwell and a couple of lights, Lee switched into 3rd person view mode to check there was enough area to play in and then saved the map out. Imagine if you will a relatively large square shaped room with different coloured spot-lights in each corner and a tall column in the centre of the room (which can be walked around but is high enough to obscure your line of sight). In the corner he scattered a selection of boxes and a weapon power-up.

Switching into game mode the level flickered into life. The lights cast an eerie glow down onto the scene and the gun reflected it with a green tinge. As he walked down the corridor the colours blended seamlessly and the 3D positional sound of distant footsteps could be heard. It was the enemy character he had placed. A quick flick through the weapon inventory selected the should-mounted rocket launcher, primed and ready for action.

Click for higher resolution image
An enemy re-calcs their waypoints (the green line)
In the high-res version you can make out the enemy FOV coming from their eyes

The enemy walked slowly around the column scanning the room, head turning left and right. From his vantage point behind the column Lee emerged and the enemy detected him with their next sweep of the room. Then all hell broke loose. The enemy rushed forward, crouched and started blasting away. Beating a hasty retreat back behind the column worked for a few seconds, but the enemy path-finding AI had kicked into action and it had plotted a new waypoint and was now homing in again. Just as the enemy should have appeared in view it suddenly ran off - at first this action seemed rather random and confused us, until we realised she had seen the weapon power-up in the corner, had figured out it was a more powerful weapon than the one currently held and was running off to pick it up.

Now was a perfect time to strike - Lee rolled a number of grenades into the area and they all exploded sending the enemy and boxes flying across the map. Rushing around the corner he fired off a couple of rockets finishing the job as they exploded with a glorious "boom" leaving a giant scorch mark on the floor where the enemy had been.

Click for higher resolution image
A corridor scene with Pixel and Vertex Shader effects
creating bump mapping on the walls/weapons

Although still only in its first incarnation, the AI in FPS Creator is already very good. The enemies can be assigned to waypoint paths and will traverse them, scanning the room cautiously. They can also plot new paths directly to the player last known location and jump from a status of "calm" to "alert". Using a special debug mode we were able to see the waypoints being plotted in real-time as the enemy stalked the room and that is what we've got to show you this month in these exclusive screen shots.

Next Time...
There is still much work to be done on FPS Creator and we are determined to not release until we are happy it is a killer title, but from what we saw demonstrated this is getting closer with every day. Next time we will return to the Question and Answers session - so if you have any not previously asked, please send them to:

DTSP Car Winner and Awards

Several issues ago we announced details that the publishers of Driving Test Success PRACTICAL and WH Smiths were giving away a brand-new Vauxhall Corsa car. Well 35,000 entries later and the lucky winner was selected.

Nick Storey, South West Area Manager, WHSmith presented 19 year old Amy Davies of Feniton with the keys to the brand new Vauxhall Corsa she won in a competition run by the retailer and Focus Multimedia. The competition, which promoted Focus Multimedia's Driving Test Success PC CD-ROM software range aimed at learner drivers, received 35,000 entries. Amy's parents entered her into the competition when they bought her a copy of Driving Test Success Hazard Perception, to help her pass her test. Amy's prize included personalised number plates and a year's free insurance.

In further news about Driving Test Success PRACTICAL we are pleased to report it has picked up even more awards - this time a 9/10 rating in Windows XP Made Easy magazine. DTSP continues to ride high in the charts and in the latest MCV trade publication it is number 5 in the overall PC CD-Rom Budget Price. That's higher than Sonic 3D, Lemmings for Windows, Theme Park World, Sim City 3000 and Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2.

You may wonder why we keep going on about Driving Test Success PRACTICAL in this newsletter. Well apart from the fact that we (The Game Creators) made it - it was created entirely in DarkBASIC Classic. It just goes to show that an award-winning package capable of topping the software charts and selling thousands upon thousands of copies is totally possible with DarkBASIC.

Find out more about Driving Test Success PRACTICAL here:

RagDoll Ahoy!

The hottest buzzword in PC games today is "RagDoll" - meaning the ability to blow away an opponent and watch as they fall and tumble around the map in an accurate and realistic manner :) This month sees the release of a new demo for DarkBASIC Professional that showcases impressive ragdoll support so you don't have to start messing with the complex physics involved.

Released by Wolf this demonstration is great fun to just sit and play with, never mind showing off just what is possible. Join in the action here and try it for yourself:

Operation: Invasion Evasion V2

Lots of you will probably remember this fun little game from the Alienware Competition where it came a healthy 5th place. Well author Andrew Vanbeck has updated it to include a bunch of new features he didn't have time to cram into the original.

There are several improvements and gameplay tweaks, probably the most important being the inclusion of WASD screen scrolling - makes things much more fun, that and the map make for an easier game, so now the camera has to stay close to a dude, no more surveying the whole level before making a move :)

You can download this new version of the game from here: (16MB)

Limefly Contest #1

Limefly is a web site offering collections of textures and other media for games. They are having a contest where you have to produce the best technical demo you can using any of their free media. Various prizes up for grabs including free web hosting and more. There are not many days of the competition left however, the end date being June 4th - but if you've got some spare time then why not give it a shot?

Full details can be found here:

Swedish Make a Game Contest

If you speak Swedish then this competition might interest you. Swedish Television are running a competition where you can win a Playstation 2 and copies of This is Football every week. All you have to do is create a fun game. Full details (in Swedish of course) are available here:

Snowball Fight Beta

There is something about this game that I just really love - but I'm not sure entirely what. It could be the super-slick presentation, the cute and effective graphics or the fact it just feels so darn weird having a snowball fight in the middle of summer?! But that is what this game is all about - try and avoid the AI and get flinging! Whatever the reason - this great game is well worth downloading.

Programmer Walaber has done a terrific job and the current version features 2 levels to play in, 2 characters to select from, 6 different power-ups, 1 or 2 player modes, customisable screen/controls, great special effects and more.

View the current forum thread about Snowball Fight by clicking here, why not test it and leave your comments so it can be improved further? You can visit the Snowball Fight web site here:

X-Quad Editor

Our Gaellic DarkBASIC friend Frederic has been busy! The X-Quad Editor is an editor that will help you create games easier and faster which includes both an editor (and source code) with all the usual features available from a map/level editor. Those features include:

  • Map sizes support 128x128 tiles large
  • Each tile can support: 1 object + 1 item + 1 ground (lights and 3D sound aren't linked to tiles)
  • Light positioning, color, range, halo, effects (like flames, flags, waves) are available
  • 3D sound positioning and parameters available (volume, repeat, delays, waves)
  • Objects can be walls, doors, platforms and special ones
  • Items can be: keys, switches, bonuses, weapons
  • Switches activate a chosen tile when player is on it
  • Bonuses available: Extra points, extra time, extra life, HP bonus, invulnerable, invisibility, extra speed, extra jump
  • Weapons: 8 global weapons that can be FULLY customized (type of projectiles, speed, shot rate, and more) + 2 extra bonuses: Extra power and Extra Ammo
  • Ground can be: Normal, Sliding, Teleport for others maps, player positionning, music changer and more ...
  • Support for ambient sounds that can be used for door opening (objects), bonus taking, footsteps and others...
  • Music support to allow music in-game and music can change depending on where the player is in the map...
  • 4 kind of views available: FPS View (First person shooter), REAR View (like Tomb Raider), TOP View (like Alien Breed), FIX CAMERA View (like Resident Evil)
  • Players can be fully customized (3D object used, animations, jump height, player sizes, kind of HP)
  • Map visual: Support for FOG (range, color), ambient light, skybox, real-time skybox (real-time world speed can be changed), water
  • Support multiple camera setting for games like Resident Evil (many cameras can be positionned in the map and oriented to give special ambient)
  • Object and item properties allow users to see real time changes (sizes, effects, properties)
  • Support for scripts for futures entities

Here are some screen shots of the X-Quad Editor and a game:

Frederic has a few bugs to iron out and then it'll be fully translated to English and released. The objective of the project is to provide a full and independant game creation program for RPG, FPS and other kinds of game from one single package. Having tested out a demo version of a game produced with X-Quad I can state quite definitely that this has real promise - the real-time weather/sky effects were gorgeous and everything ran smoothly.

This Months Winners

We've plucked one lucky subscriber to our newsletter and for you a completely free copy of DarkBASIC Professional is yours for the asking. The winner is ????pot@prawnworks.??? - just email us and a free copy of DarkBASIC Professional is yours.


Got something you want thousands of people to read about in the next issue? Then get in touch! Email me: or use our Feedback form.

Famous Last Words: "Computer, end this program."
(C) Copyright The Game Creators Limited 2004