Speakers' Corner - Tony McCrary

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1. What is Bling?
Bling3D is a commercial game development tool built on top of Eclipse 4. It takes the existing feature set of Eclipse and adds new capabilities for the purpose of creating games. Eclipse has a very broad scope: it provides tools out of the box for just about everything. We see Bling as a tool that focuses the power of the Eclipse platform onto a specific type of development, in our case video games.

With Bling, we’ve been working on plugins that introduce tools for designers, so they can visually design the types of interactive environments and characters you see in modern video games. Our tools also bridge the gap between programmers and designers, so they can be working with the same toolset from engine development to game design. Eclipse’s powerful team and collaboration facilities also allow our users to efficiently manage game projects, which are essentially complex software projects.

Here’s a work-in-progress screenshot of Bling.

2. Why did you choose to use Eclipse 4? Did you look at any alternatives?
Originally, we started working on a predecessor to Bling on top of the Eclipse 3 platform. We were working on a game and needed content creation tools for creating levels and other game elements. It quickly became apparent that it would be advantageous to build on top of an existing technology, instead of implementing our own framework from scratch.

By building on top of Eclipse, we gained the ability to tap into a huge reservoir of technology that we couldn’t possibly afford to implement on our own as a small indie game studio. In addition, because Eclipse has such a large user base, we automatically have a large group of people with extensive knowledge of Bling due to it’s Eclipse underpinnings. Our competitors in the game tools market have to convince customers to learn and adopt completely new technologies. With Bling, most of our users will already have considerable skills and capabilities related to Eclipse, along with extensive community documentation, books and other training resources.

We looked at other options to base our tools but many of them were either too commercial or too Open Source. Eclipse is very unique in that it’s balanced so well for both Open Source and commercial projects.

3. What do you like best about Eclipse 4 and what needs improvement?
Eclipse 4’s flexibility is fantastic. The new modeled workbench has made it much easier to accomplish many of our goals. For example, “re-envisioning” the user interface would have required a fork of the workbench with Eclipse 3. With Eclipse 4, we can simply supply our own custom widget renderers with the existing workbench code. The biggest issues we’ve encountered are compatibility and performance related but these problems will subside as the codebase becomes more mature. Eclipse 4 is a fairly radical change from the previous iterations but it’s already come very far since the first stable release.

4. How do you find using open source software and interacting with the community?
The Eclipse community is amazing. It’s great being able to interact and work with such a large group of talented people from all over the globe. Open Source acts as an equalizer that lets small companies like ours compete in ways that would not be been possible before.

5. Have you been to EclipseCon before? What are you looking forward too?
This is our first EclipseCon. Bling was featured in a presentation at EclipseCon 2012 but we were not able to make the conference in person. We are looking forward to seeing all the new technologies like Xtext, future Eclipse 4 developments and the great new mobile technologies that utilize Eclipse. We are also very excited to present our project, Bling.

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