Bridging the Gap with C++/CLI

January 28th, 2016 No comments

A bit more than a week on and I’ve made some good progress on my project. I’ve spend a bit less time on adding things which while unfortunately does mean the screenshot in my last post is more or less unchanged but there’s been a number of changes behind the scenes.

  • The project has been split into three parts:
    • The engine DLL
    • An engine ‘runner’ / test application
    • Unit test project

This isn’t overly significant but provides a stable foundation for me to work with. One project is dedicated to all engine features and development, one for testing it, adding various custom binds and what not, and finally a unit test project that’ll ensure components of the engine remain in a working order.

Unit tests aren’t new to me but I haven’t actually used them before in C++. There isn’t much difference in implementation since Microsoft’s Unit Test Framework is solid and built right into Visual Studio.

Something that is entirely new to me however is C++/CLI. What I’ve been interested in doing for some time now is to develop a user interface with the engine running inside it as a small sub-region. This could be used for example, to create a level editor. C# .NET is excellent for developing user interfaces, however the engine is written in C++ language. There is the option of using COM Interop, but not only is this potentially slow, it’s also making things overly complicated.

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A C++/CLI project is essentially Managed C++, capable of interacting with both native C++ and managed code, making it ideal for creating a bridging interface between the engine and any potential C# applications.

So far I’ve ‘ported’ most of the engine’s API calls over and am able to almost entirely replicate the image in my last post with a few small exceptions (primarily the second image) as I’m investigating an issue with vertex buffers and/or transforms (an interesting combination, no?)

I’ve also looked into designing a VSIX project which would basically allow me to create a WPF or Winforms ‘Toolbox Control’ so I can drag and drop an ‘Engine component’ onto a form and have it load. Unfortunately after an uneventful night this proved unsuccessful possibly due to the native library dependencies involved.

Fortunately I’ve had better luck simply hooking the engine up to the window handle of a WinForms component. As WPF only uses a single window handle for the main window, I’ve used a WindowsFormsHost component to still allow the flexibility of WPF while allowing me to hook up to a handle for this result (UI design not final ☺!):

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DirectX 12

January 17th, 2016 No comments

It seems appropriate to start with a ‘Hello world’-style triangle:

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Ever since details of DirectX 12 began to surface, I became interested in learning about it as most of my recent programming has been done through C# rather than C++, and the last time I worked with DirectX was very briefly with version 11 which had more of an emphasis of creating an abstraction layer above OpenGL/DirectX than an actual engine and prior to that, DirectX 9.

My main problem was hardware capability as my 2009-released AMD 5870 was simply not compatible with DirectX 12, but after purchasing a GTX 970 the opportunity arose, bundled with a two week holiday off work which was particularly motivating as already doing 40 hours of full-time programming a week reduces my appetite for after-hour hobby code projects. Fortunately it’s now been two weeks since I’m back at work and I’m still going.

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This is the current state of the project. Visually it’s not very exciting and if anything makes me look awfully novice at any rate. Right now I’m putting most of my effort into developing a solid back-end that is capable of dynamically allocating resources when I request them, taking advantage of DirectX 12’s parallel capabilities where possible.

The latest feature implemented is the text renderer, which has the ability to either render to screen space or to world space. When rendered in screen space, it remains the same size when resizing the window and any transformations applied are done consistently through a Transform class object which is overridden for 2D positioning.

Buffers are particularly unique in this case, where I try to pool as much data as possible for a low frame overhead. In the above image there are three objects – 2 “squares” and 2 text objects. All are combined into a single index buffer, single vertex buffer and have each reserved a single constant buffer slot.

At the risk of overextending this post and allowing for future updates I’ll leave it at that, and rather than just posting about any progress I might go into further detail on some in-depth rendering techniques in the future as well.

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Toyota MR2 Spyder

January 2nd, 2015 1 comment

It’s been a year and a day since I’ve last posted. It’s 2AM and I’m not tired in the slightest so let’s write an update. Shortly after turning 21 I bought myself a new car that soon became a huge part of my life ever since. It was from this moment on that I first held a wrench, my first sports car, my first convertible, and essentially it became my most treasured possession, surpassing my previously most useful companion, a computer.

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Over the next few months I have started to personalise the car to my liking by modifying it in various ways, such as installing a high-flow dual mid exhaust, raising the MAF sensor, replacing the fuel injectors, installing a new radio, installing a new high-flow exhaust header and finally a spoiler before the end of 2014. I’ve participated in cruises taking me through rainforests, curvy mountain roads, city streets and tested out both my car and myself on a hill climb track.

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Driving the car has become part of my lifestyle and I see the car as a long-term asset. 2015 will be an interesting year for it, with a heavy duty clutch, extremely light weight flywheel (going from 6.8KG to 3.8KG) and at the end of the year a complete turbo kit which will bring up the engine performance from around 150 horsepower to ~360 depending on a stable level of boost. Further down the line I may look at additional enhancements such as a finishing bodykit and, an aftermarket coilover kit and strengthened sway bars.

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DNS Switcher

January 1st, 2014 No comments

I had a bit of play with streaming services today and was interested in getting Netflix working on a media server I’ve got set up. After some confusion, tinkering and satisfaction everything was eventually working. The only problem was that now Australian based streaming services were no longer available.

A workaround was to manually edit the DNS address on the device, but doing this with a TV remote isn’t the most sophisticated of methods. The next idea was to simply point the DNS address to the router and have that changed, much faster on a computer. There was still the repetition and problematic approach of having to log in and fetch one of the two DNS addresses aside from trying to memorise them.

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The solution ended up being a little C# utility, which would log into the router automatically and perform the necessary changes using the built in features of the WebBrowser class using a very simple 2 button interface. All I got to do now is fire up the program, hit the show I want to watch and after the router resets I’m good to go!

It’s interesting to program something that not only works but actually solves a real-world practical problem to make life easier. Here’s hoping there’s more where that came from.

Categories: Programming Tags: , , ,

Zuuse

December 21st, 2013 No comments

On the 9th of December I officially started work for a small software development company based in Brisbane, located on the western edge of the city in Paddington. It’s been an interesting few weeks, starting with a somewhat anxious feeling despite the relaxed environment and leading to a somewhat more comfortable work environment after beginning to realise the cheerful people and a dynamic set of work.

Having started  rather late within the year I’ve spent two weeks getting used to the software I’ll be working with and taking in all kinds of new knowledge straight away. Tasks have been varied and have ranged from setting up virtual machines on a server box to writing cross-language wrappers.

The company itself is relatively new and produces BIM software which, in a pretty rough summary means it specializes in software that allows engineering companies to review and monitor all the components within their projects as well as all the surrounding assets such as documentation.

More information about the company can be found on the company website.

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