TANX lives! Popular WebGL online game returns

In the early days of PlayCanvas, we published a game called TANX, an online multiplayer tank battle game.

To us, it was the perfect illustration of why the web makes such a great platform for gaming.

  • Bite-sized fun with drop-in/drop-out gameplay.
  • Nothing to download – just follow a hyperlink to stream the game in a couple of seconds.
  • True device independence – play on your phone, tablet or desktop.
  • Easy social sharing – get your friends into matches by posting your personal game URL to Twitter in real-time!

So we decided to keep developing the game. The first iteration above just had primitive tanks driving around an empty environment. v2.0 brought upgraded tank models, a new UI and a proper level:

And the game’s popularity continued to grow. It even hit #1 on Hacker News one lazy Friday afternoon!

By now, the PlayCanvas engine was rapidly evolving and had recently gained support for physically based rendering (PBR). We were desperate to upgrade the game to show off these new capabilities. So not long afterwards, we developed v3.0:

The game also leveraged PlayCanvas’ run-time lightmapper to generate the level’s shadows.

Not long after the upgrade, we decided to focus all of our resources on developing the core PlayCanvas engine. In the end, we didn’t have enough time to maintain the game and so, with heavy hearts, we took it offline.

Until today.

We’re really excited to announce that TANX is back! You can play it at:

https://tanx.io

Or alternatively, you can find the game hosted on Miniclip and Itch.io.

Keep your eyes peeled for a follow up article outlining how we rebuilt and deployed the game’s back-end!

A New UI for the PlayCanvas Editor

The PlayCanvas Editor has been around since 2011. Way back then, it was called the PlayCanvas Designer. It was built on Sencha’s ExtJS front end framework and looked like this:

As you can see, it sort of looks like a Windows XP application. If you think it looks retro now, it actually looked retro then! But you can more or less recognize it as PlayCanvas. The Pack Explorer is now the Hierarchy panel on the left. The Attribute Editor is now the Inspector. You can even see the ‘Who’s Online’ bar to the bottom right, which is still around today. We decided quite quickly to drop the WinXP aesthetic by adopting a darker theme in September 2013:

This refresh was definitely an improvement and it was the start of the Designer finding a personality of its own. But after this, the team was struggling to iterate quickly. We took the very difficult decision to throw away the entire ExtJS-based Designer application and rewrite it from scratch using the incredible Vanilla JS framework. And thus, by early 2015, the PlayCanvas Editor was born:

This initial version of the Editor should be much more recognizable. The toolbar and panels are all still in the same location. But today, the Editor packs in far more functionality and is much more powerful.

It was originally written in ES5 and a subset of CSS that would enable the Editor to work in browsers all the way back to IE11. Late last year, we embarked on the next major overhaul for the Editor, with the following goals:

  • Create a clean, structured underlying Editor API (more on this later)
  • Adopt ES6 (let’s get with the times!)
  • Adopt CSS grid to make managing the Editor’s layout easier
  • Refresh and refine the front-end design

We’ve slowly been phasing in the new front-end over the last several months, first deploying an updated Hierarchy Panel and then a new Inspector Panel. Today, we’re proud to announce the final step in the rollout – the new Asset Panel:

To the end user, the most obvious change is the addition of the Asset Panel’s Details View. As an alternative to thumbnails, you can now see a linear list of assets and even sort them on size and type.

We expect that this will rapidly become the default view for most PlayCanvas developers. No more mouse hovering to read long filenames!

So what’s next? Earlier, I mentioned that this completely rebuilt Editor front-end is built on a new, clean, object-oriented API. It is our plan to release this API publicly, once it is ready. This will enable you to write extensions and customizations to the Editor that will culminate in a full plugin system. Stay tuned for further details of that. But in the meantime, let us know what you think by joining the conversation on the forum!

Introducing the PlayCanvas Localization System

Are you shipping your PlayCanvas app or game in just one language? You may be preventing international users from enjoying it! Today, we are happy to announce the arrival of a localization system built right into the PlayCanvas Editor!

PlayCanvas-powered Bitmoji Party localized into English, Spanish and French

The system works in tandem with PlayCanvas’ text element component and it’s super-easy to use. The text element interface now provides a ‘Localized’ property and when checked, you can enter a Key instead of a Text string.

New text element properties for enabling localized text

The Key is the string used to look up a localized string based on the user’s currently selected locale. The localized string data is stored in JSON assets and is documented, along with the rest of the system, here. You can even preview your localized User Interface by choosing a locale in the Editor Settings panel:

Locale setting in the Scene Settings panel

We look forward to playing your newly localized games!