03 June 2012

www.cartoonsmart.com - Blender Logic Blocks - Video Tutorial Review

I see a trend in the Blender universe, in that book publishers and websites are finally catching on to the fact that Blender is worth making educational material for, as more and more books and videos are being produced at ever faster rates. I have been waiting for this to happen.

CartoonSmart can be said to have got into the Blender educational trend earlier than most. They have been releasing Blender tutorial videos for sometime. Well it seems that they have been at it again and this time with a video tutorial covering the use of the Blender Game Engine.

Product Stats Below:
  • Blender - Logic Bricks - Running Time - 3 Hours - Price - $20
Good tutorials on Blender aspects such as its modeller are getting more and more common but one area of Blender this is woefully under documented and demonstrated is Blender's Game Engine (BGE). So I was very keen to checkout CartoonSmarts take on BGE.

First things first, a bit of background on what BGE is and does.

BGE is a feature of Blender that allows you to make Interactive Environments that can react to external events, such as key presses and various other events, and then take those events and do things like moving a cube or a multitude of other tasks.

There are many ways to interact with the BGE, the main ways being:
  • Using a programming language called Python.
  • Using a graphical Interface where you connect various items together to produce interactivity, those things you connect are called Logic Blocks.
CartoonSmarts video covers making a simple interactive game using the second method of game creation, that being the Graphical Logic Block method of interaction with the BGE. An animated mouse is also given the BGE treatment so it can be controlled by the user and walk around the environment.

The video is another one by John Nyquist (a Blender Foundation Certified Trainer). In this video he is fairly clearly spoken and well paced, although occasionally he has the habit of introducing long unnecessary pauses while he is thinking how to proceed in a video tutorial.

The video tutorial is split up into 3 parts each being roughly an hour or so long.

Nyquist starts off with a brief introduction to the topics he will be covering within the tutorial and then explains what the BGE is and what it can be used for.

The first project the video goes through is to explain how to make a default cube in Blender respond and be controlled by keyboard events using Logic Blocks. This was a very simple but very clearly explained section and I found it very useful for getting to grips with BGE.

I have almost no experience with BGE other than using it for an architecture visualisation walk through, yet I was able to follow along and produce the same results as shown in the video, easily.

Along the way the various interface buttons for keeping the Logic Blocks organised and manageable are explained.

Once the keyboard controllable cube had been successfully made the video moved on to explain how to have the cube react to physical forces, using the Blender physics support. This resulted in a sphere being added and the processes by which we would make that sphere react to being pushed by the cube were explained.

After this, more advanced topics, such as adding conditional logic items in the BGE Logic Blocks section were demonstrated. Clear explanations were given as to how information could be used within Properties to make BGE objects react differently depending on the values of Properties and other external events. How to use the BGE debugging features were demonstrated and this feature was used extensively and made seeing what was going on under the hood of the BGE much easier.

At the end of this part of the video what you end up with is a bouncing cube which can fire another object at a target and detect collisions and react to them.

I really liked part 1 of the video, it was clear and easy to understand and follow along with.

In part 2 of the video the previous work is extended and improved, by showing how to replace the cubes with a spaceship and showing how to make a cube keep track of how many times it has been in collision and have it change its colour to keep count. Linking using proxy objects is shown as well as how to unlink an object so that it can be edited.

The discombobulation script is also demonstrated though Nyquist admits it's not really related to the BGE, but it is used to give a good stylist effect to objects with the mini game that is being constructed.

Another feature I really liked was taking the time to show how to copy the Logic Block information from the cube to the newly linked and imported Spaceship object. This was really handy to know.

This part of the video ends with you having a ship which can be controlled and keeps track of how many times it has been hit by an enemy object that is firing missiles at the ship in a random fashion.

This was also a very good section packed with lots of information, and for the most part pretty clear apart from in one place about angular velocity, other than that it was a good part 2.

Part 3 of the video took at change of scene.

It described how to take a walkcycle from a character (made in previous a Blender Basics video) and use that walkcycle in the BGE to create a controllable character which walked in a required direction.

Also covered was how to make cameras follow a target in BGE and make other objects send messages that can be acted up to to make objects respond (in the example in the video, a Cube was made that when it was touched, it made part of the environment the mouse was in rise up into the air, allowing the mouse to walk over it. Sound was covered and how to add it to the animated character and get it to talk when a particular event was encountered.

Lastly how to package and distribute the BGE game that is created is discussed, though the explanation given to the licensing issues was very unclear, it didn't really detract from the rest of the video however, but Richard Stallman probably should explain the licensing issues better to Nyquist.

I wasn't expecting much from this video because I was skeptical about how much could be done without doing any programming in Python, and I also was a bit worried that 3 hours was not really enough time to make something usable. I am glad to say that I was wrong on both counts. The Logic Blocks of Blenders game engine were shown to be very flexible, a lot of functionality was covered and useful things made.

Even though the video is only 3 hours in length it covered enough topics to make it well worth the time.

Obviously a video of 3 hours can only scratch the surface of what the BGE is capable of, but the major functions were covered and anyone should be able to use the BGE with the information provided.

I look forward to seeing more BGE videos from CartoonSmart, especially if they go into detail about the Python side of the BGE. If this one is anything to go by they will be very good.

As far as I know this is the first commercial BGE video, and there aren't any books (that are current) that cover BGE (out yet, they are coming) and therefore CartoonSmart should be congratulated for a really good effort. Now if only the rest of the community producers could make good BGE videos and documentation, a lot more people will start to use it. This would be a good thing as BGE is extremely powerful.

Excellent Video, anyone wanting to start out in BGE development should get it.

CartoonSmart are just getting better and better at doing the training materials for Blender.

Review Score 90%