Introduction to ParaEngine

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ParaEngine is a distributed 3D computer game engine. It aims to develop the next generation multiple-player online game, where the game world content and logics are distributed over arbitrary networks. Neural Parallel Language (or NPL) is an extensible programming language which separates code logics from its hardware network environment. It is a new programming standard designed to support (1) frequent code updates, (2) complex graphic user interface and human-computer interactions, and (3) reconfigurable code deployment in a distributed network environment. The language is tightly integrated with ParaEngine. The following table shows the features of ParaEngine.

ParaEngine Specifications

Supported OS:

Windows XP/2000/2003 server

API:

DirectX 9.0C

Language:

C/C++ (VS.NET 7.1)

Features:

Graphic engine:

  1. 3D scene management and rendering system, supporting 40,000m*40,000m continuous game world. It is suitable for RPG games with super large continuous map, many globally movable characters, complex scene triggers and story design.
  2. Advanced programmable pipeline for all renderable objects in the scene.
  3. Flexible shader management on a per object basis. One can dynamically change the shader program of any scene objects on a per frame basis.
  4. Fixed function pipeline support, which allows the game engine to run on older machines while retaining most of the graphics qualities. It can be mixed with the programmable pipeline to adapt to a wide variety of graphics cards on the market.
  5. Hardware-occlusion testing can be turned on in the rendering pipeline, if there are a huge number of small yet dense models in the game scene.
  6. Tile based ROAM/CLOD terrain engine. Because it is tiled, there is no limit to the size of the terrain. Terrain holes can be created dynamically, which allows game developers to build caves, tunnels or underground world directly in the same global terrain environment. In-game terrain editing supports height field modifications, unlimited multi-texturing on terrain surface, auto-breaking super large terrain texture files in to smaller ones, fast ray-tracing on global height field.
  7. FFT based ocean wave simulation with reflection and refraction mapping for both above and underwater scenes. Supporting real time shorelines and underwater scene blur effect.
  8. Unlimited ranged light sources can be put anywhere in the game world.
  9. Robust shadows: supporting both shadow volume and shadow mapping at the same time.
  10. Game resource management system: textures (dds, png, tga, bmp, jpg), 3D objects (x file, m2, ParaX file), 3D skeletal animation (X file, m2 and ParaX file), effect file (FX file), sound (wav, mp3), virtual file management (zip), database file management.
  11. A comprehensive 2.5D GUI engine, fully scriptable through the NPL language. Drag and drop controls, scrollable containers, three-state buttons, list box, slider bar, grid view, AVI video player, edit box, IME edit box supporting various language input methods, supporting GUI objects attached to 3D scene objects.
  12. Skeletal animation with customizable character appearance and reconfigurable equipment, such as hair style, skin color, clothes, etc. Settings can be made persistent by the pre-designed database. Supporting BVH motion capture export for biped based skeletons.
  13. Particle systems are supported in the animation systems
  14. Three customizable follow cameras modes and one free camera mode. The camera will automatically position itself to avoid collision with the view frustum and the physical environment. Thus, it is eligible for third-person RPG games.
  15. In-game movie recording in any movie format, such as AVI.
  16. Fast mouse ray-picking with 3D scene objects.
  17. [Effect] global sunlight simulation. It will affect shadows and scene illumination.
  18. [Effect] per-pixel lighting and fog can be turned on in each model shader.
  19. [Effect] For each renderable object, some other effects can be dynamically applied to it when necessary, such as object construction shader, occlusion shader, shadow mapping shader, etc.
  20. [Effect] Cubic environment map, animated texture, reflective texture, light map on a separate UV set, all of which can be exported to the game engine.

Scripting engine:

  1. The build-in scripting engine is powered by NPL language. It mimics the functioning of neural networks and codes the logics of distributed game world into files that could be deployed to arbitrary runtime locations on the network.
  2. In the NPL programming environment, it makes little difference between developing network applications and stand-alone ones.
  3. All API of the game engine are exposed through the scripting interface, including GUI, game events, 3D scene management, AI game logics, resource management, networking, database queries, etc. It is possible to develop a traditional RPG game through the scripting interface only. The scripting interface is well documented with over 20, 000 lines of source code examples.
  4. The new scripting paradigm implies new ways of game content development on the following aspects: online game and game society establishment and maintenance, non-linear stand-alone AI behaviors and networked AI behaviors, stand-alone game story development and network distributed story development, game cut-scene design and interactive game movie shooting, game map design/storage/transmission, visual scripting environment, etc.
  5. All network behaviors are written in NPL.

Middleware support:

  1. Polygon level physics effect middleware support [optional]: Novodex [Havok, ODE]
  2. Vegetation middleware support [optional]: [speed tree]

AI, physics, and others:

  1. Fast character simulation engine. It supports a large number of characters on a vast continuous game world (as long as 32bits floating point position vector do not lose accuracy). It integrates well with the global terrain and ocean engine. It provides interfaces for path-finding, perception, collision detection and response. It supports ray picking based character controller. For each character, quite a few character sensors can be turned on to process custom character AI logics in the NPL script callback functions.
  2. AI controllers: multiple hard-coded AI controllers can be parameterized and combined with each other or with character sensor scripts to efficiently emulate convincing AI behaviors. Supported AI controllers are: (1) Movie controller: it can record and replay character actions in a time accurate manner. This is an easy way to build in-game character cinematic. (2) Sequence controller: a list of AI commands to be executed one or several per frame. It can be used to perform general NPC logics such as patrolling, dialoging, etc. (3) Combat controller: such as attack, evade, flee actions. (4) Face tracking controller: rotate the character's neck to face a target. (5) Follow controller: follow another object.
  3. Biped state manager. It is a finite state machine which applies jumping, walking and swimming animation, etc and their transitional animations automatically, according to the physical environment.
  4. Mount system: characters can be mounted on other characters, such as a person be ing mounted on a horse.
  5. Local database support, supporting most SQL-92 standard.
  6. Debugging and logging can be turned on which tracks all aspects of the game engine status.
  7. [Game object] missile object. Firing a missile to any place in the game world.
  8. [Game object] D&D based RPG character object. Character attributes are exposed through the scripting interface and character data is made persistent by the database. This is a helper game object for building simple RPG game.

Tools and libraries:

  1. 3dsmax7&8 model exporters: both static and animated models are supported. Characters with multiple animation sequences are also supported.
  2. 3dsmax terrain, scene exporters: this is written in 3dsmax script, and we allow users to modify the source code to suit their needs in their own specific level design tools.
  3. Virtual world builder: This is a simple to use in-game game development environment. It comes with a free collection of game art data. There are no sophisticated interfaces in it; even children can learn to play with it. One can create a huge 40,000m*40,000m game world by just mouse clicking and editing simple game events (the latter is only for serious users). Editable entities in the world builder includes: terrain, ocean, models, characters, GUI, sounds, lights, scripts, etc. It also supports a powerful feature called world inheritance, in which a new world can be built by inheriting from multiple existing game worlds. Virtual world builder is written entirely by our proprietary NPL scripting language and we allow users to modify the source code to suit their needs in their own specific level design tools. Chinese version only. English version is planned at the end of 2008.
  4. World asset manager: managing resources used in a game title. Source code in C#
  5. In-game movie recorder: with source code in NPL
  6. In-game GUI IDE: with source code in NPL
  7. Third party tools: virtual file browser, deep exploration (3D model viewers), sqlite analyzer (database query builder), ultra edit (optional script editor).
  8. The game engine functionalities can be extended or customized through three set of API: (1) NPL scripting system (2) C++ API (3) .Net Framework API.
  9. ParaIDE: another IDE of the game engine completely written in C# using the ParaEngine .Net Framework API. Source code available. It features resource management, object property editing, game world management, client database management, etc.

Documentation and support:

  1. NPL scripting reference: (150 pages) English version only.
  2. Demo "Parallel World": It is a distributed game, built on top of ParaEngine. Player may have its own game world hosted like a personal website on its PC or other web severs. It is available on our website at the end of 2006.
  3. Artists' guide: (50 pages) both Chinese and English version.
  4. Book "Design and Implementation of a Distributed Game Engine": (approx. 350 pages) written by the main author of ParaEngine. Available in print in September 2006. English version only. Chinese version is planned at the end of 2008.
  5. ParaEngine design documentation: (approx. 3000 pages) only available for enterprise edition users. English version only.
  6. Website forums: http://www.paraengine.com/

Summary:

ParaEngine is a distributed 3D computer game engine. It aims to develop the next generation online games, where the game world content and logics are distributed over arbitrary networks.

License:

To be released in three editions:

  1. Personal Edition: ( Free of charge) Users can take the full advantage of NPL scripting language to construct their own virtual game world. The following is also available: source code of virtual world builder written in NPL language, documentation and tutorials of NPL, all ParaEngine related tools and libraries. It can be used for non-commercial uses and commercial uses with some limitations. Available now.
  2. Professional Edition: The personal edition plus partial source code of the game engine (including all tools' source code) and technical support. Available now.
  3. Enterprise Edition: The professional edition plus source code of the game engine and technical support. We can also modify the game engine according to your needs. Available now.
Topic revision: r1 - 2008-04-06 - LiXizhi
 
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