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  1. Hi folks, It's been over 1.5 years and 700+ posts at VPF, so I thought why not start a new thread to summarize things. Visual Pinball Engine, or VPE, is a port of Visual Pinball to C# and Unity. It's open source and compiles for Windows, macOS and Linux. We've had it running on Android and iOS as well, but that's currently not our focus. There are three main reasons why we've started such an endeavor: Tooling. By extending the Unity editor, creators can work in a full 3D environment while creating tables. Scripting. A lot of code that authors paste into their tables could be included in the engine, making the need of custom scripts minimal. Rendering. Unity's HDRP delivers fantastic visuals and is continuously maintained and updated to work with new hardware features. So here we go. It's still work in progress, but let's dive into it. Physics We've decided to port Visual Pinball's physics to VPE. It works, but there are few performance bottlenecks that need to be fixed, and of course, a few bugs. So far we have implemented native support for nFozzy's flipper physics, and we are working on adding his other improvements as well (rubber dampening, flipper tricks). Using VP physics means backwards compatibility and realistic flipper behavior, but also a few drawbacks, mainly: Static environment - Moving colliders need to be duplicated. This is fixable but has a performance cost. More optimization work is needed here before addressing this. Incompatibility with other engines - We can't easily use let's say PhysX for Junk Yard's wrecking ball or any other simulations on the playfield. File Format VPE can read and write the VPX file format. This is nice, because you can use the Unity editor for your VPX table, work on it, export it, load it back into VPX, and it works. We don't know yet what the final file format will be. My best guess is a new .vpe format based on .vpx that keeps VPX-compatible data within the VPX structure. There will also be an authoring format. Rather than a file format, this is a version control friendly file structure used during table creation, that allows quick import and saving. I'm fairly certain that the authoring format is going to be Unity's project structure, since it's made for exactly that. So importing a binary would create that structure automatically which would be the "source of truth", so to say, for exporting. Having an VCS-compatible format is a big deal in my opinion. It allows working much more transparently. "Small" table tweaks could end up in pull requests in the original table repository instead of new mod releases, and this might result in the community working closer together with less friction and conflicts. Graphics VPE uses Unity's new Scriptable Render Pipelines, which consists of URP and HDRP. While we try to keep URP "working", we're currently focused on HDRP. @Pandeli is the boss here, and he's working on a HDRP project with good defaults (today we propose to use the default scene, which isn't ideal). Currently he's looking into how to deal with transparency. Here a shot of CFTBL, which is particularly hard to deal with, due to the numerous plastic ramps. There's still many things to do, namely inserts and GI, but it's already looking pretty awesome. Here a video showing how the indirect reflection and planar reflection all contribute to the scene. This took quite some time to set up, and Pandeli is working on automating most of it, and document parts that are difficult to automate. Here another video from @Rowlan who put two tables into a nice environment: Note that this is an unmodified import from VPX, and the quality of materials will significantly improve once creators start spending time with Unity and get the hang of how HDRP works. Final note concerning graphics: Right after posting these kind of shots, people usually ask what about specs and framerates. For us, the goal is to get 4k at 60Hz on previous-gen hardware (currently Nvidia Pascal), and we consider that doable. This is of course with all the bells and whistles turned on. Unity supports multiple quality settings, so apart from reducing resolution, you'll be also able to turn off specially power-hungry features. Personally I have a GTX 1080 in my cab which runs at 1080p, so there you have it, the current recommended requirements. Scripting Scripting in VPX is somewhat unpleasant, to put it mildly. In VPE, scripting is split into two parts: game logic and physics. For game logic, VPE provides multiple game logic engines (we call them GLEs), but you can also write your own in C#. This game logic is really what would be running on the CPU of your real pinball machine. It: Takes in switch changes Toggles lights and coils Drives displays and sound effects That's really it. And because it's so simple and standardized, we provide graphical tools to set it up easily. Examples of GLEs that VPE provides are PinMAME (doc in progress) and MPF. Physics scripting is more difficult. This is about simulating the various mechs and toys, like a spinning wheel on the playfield, or more complex stuff like JY's wrecking ball, or CV's ring master. The idea here is to provide a few of those mechanisms as re-usable components, and work with table creators dealing with more exotic requirements whether to include them as well, split them into smaller re-usable components, or ship them as table-specific code. Tooling We've spent a lot of time on tooling. In fact, most of the work spent so far were efforts to make the creation process as good as possible. First of all, we replicated most of the editor features of Visual Pinball. That means you have editors for materials, images, layers, collections, and sounds. Properties of all the playfield elements are editable in the inspector. This should enable creators to virtually replace Visual Pinball for (.vpx) editing work. Secondly, since VPE has a standardized way how the game logic interacts with the playfield, we have written tools that facilitate linking playfield items to the game logic. So far we have: A Switch Manager A Coil Manager A Lamp Manager A Wire Manager As mentioned above, these interfaces replace the game logic part that creators need to script today. Mechanisms There are around a dozen mechanisms coming from Visual Pinball that you can put on the playfield and configure through a UI (flippers, bumpers, gates, etc). However, these are very basic and most games use additional mechanisms which creators today implement via scripting. For example, nearly all games use a trough. In VP, this is implemented in core.vbs, and I don't know how creators do it, but for me, a lot of trial and error was involved in order to getting one to function. VPE provides a trough component out of the box. You drop it on the playfield, set the size and the type, link up the switches and coil(s) in the inspector, and that's it. No coding required. The trough is the first of hopefully many more mechanisms that VPE will ship with. In terms of scripting, they fall under physics scripting. Displays All pinball games have either score reels, segment displays, DMDs, or some sort of high resolution LCD. VPE currently supports segment displays and DMDs. That means you put a display into the scene, and VPE handles the rest. You can of course customize the look, but you don't need to script anything. More infos here. To give you an idea how easy it is to setup displays, check this lengthy video. Note that the ROM selection is being worked on and will be much more comfortable, since we can query infos about all supported games from PinMAME directly. Plugins We've internally talked a lot about plugins and how we can keep VPE open to third parties without having to know about them. So here's how this is going to work: Per definition, a plugin is optional software VPE loads during runtime. It might be required by a certain table, but it's not required to create a table. Plugins need an interface, also called "API", so VPE knows how to talk to them. And there are different subjects to talk about. One plugin might be interested in looking at (or even manipulating) DMD data because it adds colors. Another plugin might needs to receive coil changes in order to trigger some hardware in the cabinet. So we're going to have a bunch of different APIs where third parties can hook into VPE. The first of these APIs is called IGamelogicEngine, and you guessed it: Game logic engines are plugins in VPE. Documentation And lastly, as you've surely noticed by now, VPE has... documentation! The goal is really to have high quality, up-to-date documentation that is delightful to read. So whenever we merge a feature into mainline, documentation is part of it. It's part of our source code, and anybody can easily suggest changes via GitHub directly. What's next? I'm currently working on the import and export process, make editor tooling more stable, and finally see what we can do about physics performance. Order may vary and I'll probably get interrupted by other things, but those are the main points. @jsm174 is currently working on getting PinMAME more easily set up . @Pandeli is working on the render pipeline. Thanks! Finally, this is not a one man show. While I'm somewhat the main developer/coordinator of the project, there are many others, so thank you @ravarcade for your shader assistance and many other things, @shaderbytes for sharing your Unity know-how, @hoopybox, @ecurtz, @VroOnsh and @Rowlan for all kind of editor- and runtime code, @jsm174 for his work on PinMAME and cross platforms, and of course @Pandeli for his rendering contributions and overall VFX expertise. Additionally, we wouldn't be near anywhere we are today without the collaboration of @toxie on both PinMAME and VPX side. Also, there are many table creators now giving feedback and insights about how they work, specially @bord and @rothbauerw and other VPW folks, so thanks a lot for that! Lastly, there is one new contributor some of you might remember: @BilboX, creator of Unit3D Pinball, a Unity based pinball simulation coming from the Future Pinball ecosystem, has availability again, and started contributing to VPE. This is specially awesome because he started working on v2 of Unit3D Pinball (named UP2) several months ago, before he learned about VPE. Turns out we've had many very similar ideas, and unfortunately, some of UP2's new features were already completed in VPE by the time he noticed. But many others are not, and it's still my hope that these features will make it into VPE eventually. Bienvenue mec! If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. I'm sure you're wondering how long until you can play a demo. Subscribe to this thread and you'll know! Cheers, -freezy.
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