April 21, 2015

SuperTuxKart 0.9 released


It has been a rather long time since our last official release - nearly one and a half year. But we have not been idle during this, actually more the opposite. The 0.9 release contains some significant changes - especially (though not only) visual changes:
High res version of the poster available here.
French translation of this article available here

Celebrating the new rendering engine

Pictures weren't enough to show the progress done. So our lead artist Samuncle did a trailer to present the new version

Vlj significantly updated our rendering engine. While it is still based on irrlicht, it now uses a modern OpenGL shader based backend. But to avoid confusion with vanilla irrlicht we decided to give it its own name: Antarctica. A brief overview of the graphical features implemented are on the Antarctica pages. The usage of an improved rendering gave our artists significant opportunities to improve the looks of SuperTuxKart:


This release contains two completely new designed high-quality tracks


Grand Paradiso Island, a beautiful tropical island famous for it's sandy beaches and the Princess Sara TransContinental Airport with spectacular landings: 
Royal Cupcake jetliner landing

Cocoa temple, a track in Val Verde, a south American country with ancient pyramids and massive jungles.
Mirarosas water lock
Many other tracks have been improved as well to make use of the new features, for example Northern Resort:
Sara racing with her snowmobile in the alpine village

Google Summer of Code

While Vlj has done significant work on the rendering backend, the original work on improving the looks was actually started by Cand during the 2013 Google Summer of Code (GSoC). We have participated twice in GSoC - in 2013 and 2014. If you don't know what GSoC is: it is an initiative by Google to support and extend Open Source development. Mentoring organisation, such as SuperTuxKart, mentor students for over two months full time, and google pays the students during this time. This is the first SuperTuxKart release to include the work done by students over the last two years. Besides Cand starting with a shader based rendering engine, this release also includes the work of Unitraxx (online features and voting for addons), Leyyin (improved admin interface and bug tracker for our addons web page), and Solistice (different kart physics). We also had Mcsab working on a stand alone track editor, which is included in the windows and linux binary package. Even though we decided not to participate in GSoC 2015, we have more exciting work from students in the pipeline for the next releases.
While this is all very good news, the one thing we have not progressed enough with for a release is online racing. This release does include important base features necessary for online racing (like online account creation, friends, ...), but support for online racing will be added over the next release in the 0.9 series.

Gnu in the airport terminal of Gran Paradiso Island



Highlights of the 0.9 release:

  • Fully shader-based rendering engine 
    •  New tracks Cocoa Temple and Gran Paradiso 
    • Graphical improvements to many other tracks
    • New karts Amanda, Gavroche, Sara (as wizard and racer)
    • Improved tux, adiumy, Suzanne and Xue.
  • Online login which allows to: 
    • connect with friends and see when they are playing 
    • vote for addons 
    • collect online achievements
  • Different kart physics
  • In-game Grand Prix editor
  • Random Grand Prix generation
  • Achievement system

But as can be expected, the improved features will increase the minimum hardware specs necessary to run SuperTuxKart. We have spent a lot of time trying to iron out bugs (not only our own, but especially bugs in various OpenGL drivers), and to support lower end hardware. The graphics hardware must at least support OpenGL 3.1 (which is 6 years old). Based on our somewhat limited testing the following graphics adapters should be fast enough at low graphics settings (go into settings, video to increase or decrease the graphical details):
  • ATI/AMD Radeon HD 3650 
  • Intel HD 3000
  • NVIDIA GeForce 8600
We also recommend your graphics adapter to have at least 1 GB VRAM available when playing. Note that these are estimates and weaker hardware may be able to run the game, but perhaps not at playable framerates. You should also have at least 600MB free hard drive space, 1GB free memory, and a 1.2 GHz processor.

Gift package for donations

We have one additional news items. Since we now support free online accounts for all players and we utilise our own servers, we do need donations to pay for the ongoing running and development costs (e.g. hardware). Many people have already donated in the past. We have decided to offer a thank-you package for all donators (new and in the past). Samuncle has worked on a new track, and the package will include a sneak peek of this track. It is fully playable, you can use it already in the Grand Prix editor, and play any race mode on it - welcome to Antediluvian Abyss:



This track will be included in the 0.9.1 release of SuperTuxKart, though additional work will be done. The package will also include some concepts art, and a special version of Cocoa Temple: "Carnival del Cocoa", the version used in our trailer. All work in the gift package is released under CC-BY-SA-NC 4.0. Any donation from our donation page of $1.00 or more (sorry, otherwise paypal's fees are too high, and we actually get nothing) will get a link to the download page for this package. For all previous donators: please send an email to supertuxkart.official at gmail dot com with the email address you used in your donation, and we will send you the link.

Finally, please note that the addons website has now moved to addons.supertuxkart.net. The previous website (stkaddons.net) is now read-only. SuperTuxKart 0.9 will only support addons from the new website, so all help is welcome to port addons to the new engine and submit them to the new addons repository!

Oh, before we forget - the most important point: you can download binaries for Linux, Windows (Windows Vista and newer, though we provide an unsupported XP binary as well), OSX (10.9 or newer) on our download page.

We hope you enjoy this release of SuperTuxKart. As always, we welcome feedback (but please be aware that neither a blog nor twitter is the right place for bug reports or support requests, use either our forum or bug tracker for that).

Your SuperTuxKart Team

March 31, 2015

SuperTuxKart 0.8.2 aka 0.9rc released

Hello everyone !

It has been a long time since the last blog post and after weeks of hard work, we are happy to announce the first release candidate for version 0.9. Yes, you read this correctly, it is 0.9, not as we initially said 0.8.2. The main reason for this larger jump in version numbers is that besides of significant better look compared with the previous release, e.g.:


we also decided to break backward compatibility with older addons - they need to be updated and re-exported to work with the improved lighting our new engine offers.


The main new features since version 0.8.1 is the switch from Irrlicht to Antarctica a new graphical engine. OpenGL 3 is now required, and the minimum supported requirements include an intel HD 3000 integrated GPU. Quite a bit of work has also been done to take us closer to online multiplayer (networking), including features like logging in and managing an online account, and online achievements. However, don't get too excited just now because the actual networked multiplayer gameplay is not yet ready to use (this will come in a future version).



Also note that the old addons website (http://stkaddons.net) will be switched to read only and be replaced by a new upgraded website (http://addons.supertuxkart.net/) ready for the new version. All help is welcome to port and/or create addons for the new version of the game! You can read the official documentation here.

You might also be wondering about the delay with the release candidate. After all, beta2 was released over two months ago. Besides fixing bugs (we have fixed over 330 bugs), we also found some issues with supporting older hardware (e.g. automatic resizing of large textures did not work as expected), and we wanted to try our best to make SuperTuxKart run on older hardware. But as mentioned above, you do need a more recent graphics card and driver. Especially if you have a more powerful graphics card, adjust the video settings till you find one that offers the best combination of looks and frame rate.

As usual, please note that blog comments are not approriate to get support, and that the forum is preferred for discussions and feedback (e.g. what graphical settings worked best with what card/driver/os combination).

You may find downloads for all major platforms here : https://sourceforge.net/projects/supertuxkart/files/SuperTuxKart/0.9-rc1/

Please enjoy! Report any bug you may find on the forum or on github, and remember that you can always help us with translating SuperTuxKart into your language!

Version fran├žaise ici

January 30, 2015

SuperTuxKart 0.8.2 Beta 2 and project let's make a track together :)


Hello everyone !

It has been roughly one month since we released the beta.
 We hope to have vastly improved the handling of different graphics cards, hopefully we detect better now if a driver needs updating, and which options to disable for certain cards and driver combinations. So a big thanks to all people who tested our first beta. Hopefully, our second beta will run much smoother on most platforms.



We also implemented a new register screen, which should make it easier to see if you are creating a new online account, use an existing account or want to play offline. And samuncle did more work on the "Gran Paradiso Island" track.

Project "Let's make a track together \o/"


Having a new engine requires some compromises. Sadly old addons won't be compatible with the the new SuperTuxKart. To help you make great tracks and karts we have started to make a series of tutorials. The track will be made as a community project. It will replace the old Shiny Suburbs with an Asian high tech metropol.

The video presenting the project
If you want more information about the project, go to our wiki.

We are waiting to see your beautiful concepts. Don't just follow blindly this tutorial. Make your own concepts, use your own ideas.

If you want to submit art, please use our forum http://goo.gl/1x2rPe

If you want to test STK 0.8.2 beta 2


Binaries for Windows, Linux and OSX are on our download page:
https://sourceforge.net/projects/supertuxkart/files/SuperTuxKart/0.8.2-beta2/


Just remember it is still a beta, so there are still some known bugs - one of which is that it crashes on OSX when you have more than one kart when you exit a race, which we only discovered yesterday (but apparently our first beta already had that problem). As always, please report bugs here, or even better on our bug tracker at: https://github.com/supertuxkart/stk-code/issues.

December 17, 2014

Merry Christmas and a Beta :)

Merry Christmas to all of you who have been waiting for the new release!



So, better late than never, SuperTuxKart 0.8.2 beta has been released! This new version is the result of months of work from the SuperTuxKart team. Please note that this is a beta only, and we know that there are still some bugs around which we intend to fix before the 0.8.2 release (see our bug tracker for a list), but no major ones that would prevent you from enjoying the game. If you download the beta, we are mostly interested in any kind of feedback, particularly about the graphical side of thing. Please let us know if it works just fine, or if you had to disable certain features to make it look good. Report bugs in our tracks (URL see above, but please check that it has not been reported previously).

The main highlights include the first release of Antartica, the new graphical engine (more on that later). We have basically added a completely new, shader-based rendering engine - only things like loading meshes and textures are still done by the original Irrlicht. As a result of the new features which are provided by our engine, we have many tracks with significantly improved visuals. The main highlight on this front is two new massive tracks. First of all "Cocoa Temple" that replaces the old "Jungle" track:

And "Gran Paradiso Island" that replace the old "Island" track:

Thanks to samuncle for all the hard work!

Another new feature is the addition of online accounts, as a prelude to networked multiplayer. Just to make it very clear: networked racing itself is not ready yet, but will be our main focus once the release is done. Your account allows you to connect achievements, stay in touch with your friends, etc.

The new version includes many more new features - we still need to assemble the full list. But it includes different kart physics, based on this year's GSoC work, random Grand Prix, a Grand Prix editor and more.

The windows binary also includes a beta version of the track editor, developed this summer by one of our Google of Code Students (on other platforms, it can built from source). It's not fully polished yet, but you can also start playing with it

New engine

As has been mentioned above, SuperTuxKart 0.8.2 features Antartica, a totally new rendering engine, starting from the foundations of cand from GSOC 2013, and improved a lot by new team member vlj. The new engine features exciting new features like much improved rendering of lights and shadows (for more information, take a look at this page ).

An example of DoF (Depth of Field) in action with the snow falling



However, it is very important to note that this new engine uses at least OpenGL 3.1, whereas the previous STK version used very old OpenGL 1. This means that we are using many more advanced features of the opengl drivers, and as a result we have been suffering from various driver bugs already. During our development vlj did a marvelous job to work around most problems we have encountered so far. This is why your feedback is so important for us - we can't afford to get a set of different graphics cards to try to work around their specific problems. So we need as many people as possible to test this beta and provide feedback. We will provide some additional documentation about what you can try if this beta does not work as expected for you.

Also, using newer opengl features means that unfortunately, older computers may not be able to run the game correctly - we use the HD 3000 as a minimal supported GPU. Obviously you should make sure to update your drivers to the latest available version and, on linux, you may want to try the proprietary driver if the open source one does not work (a recent version of mesa may be required for some features).  That being said, don't panic! You can configure the graphical level in STK options, so if your computer cannot reach a good decent frame rate you can always reduce the graphical details, or the resolution.
 
An additional note: since this is a beta we have not yet updated the credits, nor declared a string freeze for translations either. We still expect some minor changes to the strings before our release candidate. We are also looking for help creating binary packages for other platforms - especially a static linux package would be great.

And in spite of all our testing, a first problem was already discovered :P the Christmas hats were switched on (that happens on the 17th of December), and some of the new karts now have the hats hovering ... around half a meter over their heads :)

Quick edit: users of Windows XP should be aware we no longer support it and the game will fail to install.

Giving Feedback

Please use the forum for feedback, as blog comments are inappropriate for support. You might also be especially interested in this post announcing the beta release. It includes details on how to unlock these new tracks, since initially they will be locked.

Getting the beta


French translation of this article available here

November 17, 2014

Awakening with a jolt; landing on a cushion

Zzz... *snort* *huff* oh, there you are! Sorry for the long hibernation in blog posts, but I became a bit too used to having GSoC students writing all of them. Bad excuse, and I will try to get back to a more regular schedule, so this post will try to catch up to what's happened the last couple months.

To begin with it's probably best to answer the question of when the next release is coming. 0.9 is still quite far off, so we decided to try making a 0.8.2 release as soon as possible, hopefully a beta/release candidate within the year. So you should have something to download in December; whether the final release will happen then or January is still left to circumstance (bugs, first and foremost). We still have about 100 open issues to either solve or postpone, so there's (more than) enough to do for everybody, and if you would like to try your hand at helping us we welcome you, especially if you have some programming or 3D modelling experience.

There have been many improvements to the new 3D engine we're using (less and less based on Irrlicht, and more and more custom), and while an image speaks a thousand words, a thousand images in the form of a video ought to be a whole essay. The following video is an engine demo made by our resident artist samuncle.


You can watch the video at http://youtu.be/9iklMiy_Y9U and download the "kart" here.

Our artist samuncle has been hard at work indeed; check out the improved versions of Adiumy, Sara and Xue, in the tracks Cocoa Temple and Gran Paradiso Island.





Here's Sara on her snowmobile, showing off the extra pizazz the nitro effect has gotten recently, lighting up the new version of the STK Enterprise station. I wouldn't want to be right behind those thrusters; who knows what kind of strange radiation they're giving off! Apart from awesomeness. ;)


Oh, now we know. Thanks, Sara!

In miscellaneous changes, there's been way too many to list them all, but I'll mention a few very quickly.
The main configuration files now have their own sub-folder, so this means that in the future you can have several STK versions running simultaneously without getting issues where one version of the game overwrites another's configuration.
Some performance improvements have been made; for example we discovered a certain OpenAL call were slowing things down so we have minimized its usage and also moved sound to its own thread.
Physics has been improved again, specifically in landing after jumps. Now the karts are being cushioned from impact so there should be less issues with the chassis hitting the road, and karts adhere better to the road. (Maybe something for the ESA team?)
The following image is of the new screen for when you start STK 0.8.2 for the first time. You can now log in immediately to our stkaddons server which will enable you to vote on addons, see whether friends are online and view their achievements. Obviously the use of this feature will be expanded later when we have online multiplayer support and other things finalized.



Note that we collect anonymous statistics from your client if you choose to log in, such as what version of the game you are running, which OS you are using and graphics capabilities of your hardware. Your privacy is important to us, and we don't collect personally identifiable information (actually, we don't want it either). The code is open for all to see, and if you absolutely don't want to share info to us you can toggle it off in the options. However, the statistics could help us to see which platforms with what graphics capabilities are most used, and when problems arise we have some way to quantify how many might be affected. Also it gives us a feel of where we might be able to aim to when it comes to graphics performance vs fancy effects, though we will still try to make that customizable. On a final note, if you don't trust us on some level, I'd advise you to not install anything from us either... just sayin'. ;)

Hope you all are having fun with 0.8.1, and look forward to 0.8.2 which is going to be a quite major minor release... yes, 'tis confusing but ignorance can be bliss, and a stitch in time saves nine, and don't take any wooden nickels, and... later folks, some men in white coats are here to talk with me.

French translation avaliable here

STK team