By Christer Kaitila
Published November 2011 List Price:$49.99, Your Amazon.com Price: $44.99
Amazon.com Sales Rank:2,566,017 Availability: Usually ships in 24 hours
Adobe'''s Stage3D (Molehill) is a set of 3D APIs that has brought 3D to the Flash platform. Being a completely new technology, there were almost no resources to get you acquainted with this revolutionary platform, until now.
This book will show you how to make your very own next-gen 3D games in Flash. If you have ever dreamed of writing your own console-style 3d game in Flash, get ready to be blown away by the hardware accelerated power of Stage3D. This book will lead you step-by-step through the process of programming a 3D game in Actionscript 3 using this exciting new technology. Filled with examples, pictures and source code, this is a practical and fun-to-read guide that will benefit both 3D programming beginners and expert game developers alike.
Starting with simple tasks like setting up Flash to render a simple 3d shape, each chapter presents a deeper and more complete videogame as an example project. Right from a simple tech demo, your game will grow to become a finished product - your very own playable 3d game filled with animation, special effects, sounds, and tons of action. The goal of this book is to teach you how to program a complete game in Molehill that has a beginning, middle, and game over.
As you progress further into your epic quest, you will learn all sorts of useful tricks such as ways to create eye-catching special effects using textures, special blend modes for transparent particle systems, fantastic vertex and fragment programs that are used to craft beautiful shaders and much more. You will learn how to upload the geometry of your 3D models to video RAM for ultra-fast rendering. You will dive into the magical art of AGAL shader programming. You will learn optimization tricks to achieve blazingly fast frame rate even at full screen resolutions. With each chapter, you will '''level up''' your game programming skills, earning the title of Molehill Master ''' you will be able to honestly call yourself a 3D game programmer.
This book is written for beginners by a veteran game developer. It will become your trusty companion filled with the knowledge you need to make your very own 3D games in Flash.
GDNet Staff Review:
Flash has been repositioning itself lately as more of a general game development runtime. And the latest extension in that direction is Stage3D. While Flash has had a few minor forays into 3D, the new Flash 11 Stage3D is the first real genuine hardware-accelerated 3D for Flash. The rest were little hacks or software renderers built on Flash's 2D pipeline. With Stage3D, Flash's 3D capabilities are roughly on the same plane capability-wise as Unity 3D and WebGL.
But Stage3D is something entirely "other" than Flash's existing graphical pipeline. While Stage3D shares the existing AS3 scripting as Flash, it is otherwise a 3D engine built into Flash with its own pipeline and API. So you have some new learning to do. And that's where Adobe Flash 11 Stage3D (Molehill) Game Programming comes into play. It's an end-to-end tutorial on how to build a 3D game in Flash using Stage3D (codenamed "Molehill", hence the long-winded title). And it is a good start for people who may know Flash but don't know their 3D. Stage3D is a very capable thing if you've seen the demos, but it's also not something you can just enable by renaming your DisplayObject-based hierarchy to something else.
The book was clearly written and released before Stage3D went gold. And, at the time of this review, Stage3D is still awaiting general release for standalone mobile games. So there are a couple of URL links that point to beta information that may or may not still be there. In any case, Stage3D-enabled Flash is now in general release, so a little googling will find you all of the tools the author mentions.
I do have one quibble with Adobe Flash 11 Stage3D Etc., and that's with its selection of tools. One thing I like to see in a book is usage of free tools if they are available and high quality. And the book is written so that you can build the examples with the (free) Flex SDK and (free) FlashDevelop as well as the (not free) FDT and Flash Professional. But the author doesn't extend this courtesy to 3D tools. All the examples are done with 3DS Max even though the author says that Blender 3D will also work. And even if 3DS Max is a superior tool for getting the job done, you're doing the reader a service if you let him build a "proof of concept" without much cash outlay. A couple of pages on connecting Blender with Stage3D would have been welcome.
That said, this book is a very well-done tutorial. As a bit of kitsch, the book is structured like a game, with each chapter covering a "level" of the 3D programming adventure. The chapters are well structured without any further cutesy-ness. Despite its size (350+ pages, big for a Packt title), it still doesn't cover everything, but it does cover enough to build a complete game, a spaceship/alien shooter. Some things, like the shader language, are covered to the extent that you can get started and with a link to further information if you want it. The author also shows how to make existing Flash 2D content work with Stage3D. And that's awfully handy for building your surrounding score/health UI, HUD display, main menus, etc. After all, if it's there and it works, there's not much point in abandoning it.
Adobe Flash 11 Stage3D (Molehill) Game Programming is, like many Packt titles, a pretty narrowly-focused work that intends to cover one topic comprehensively. And it does that well.