Saturday, July 11, 2009

What’s new with Silverlight 3

The wait is over. On July 10, 2009 Microsoft officially announced the release of Silverlight 3. So what’s new with Sliverlight 3 and why is it awesome?

Hardware Acceleration

This makes Silverlight applications run much faster because it utilizes your graphics hardware. A few occasions  where hardware acceleration is used are:

  1. Playing video, now supports full screen High Definition (720p).
  2. 3D image rendering – Expect real 3D games available soon on Silverlight 3.
  3. Pixel Sahder effects, create shadows, blurring, explosions and others definitely improves gaming visual effects.
  4. Writable bitmap where you can directly modify each pixel of an image. Great for creating particle effects.
  5. Text rendering and animation.

Example of writable bitmap

Example of pixel shader effect

Video and Audio

In addition to native support for VC-1/WMA, Silverlight 3 now offers native support for MPEG-4-based H.264/AAC Audio. With the new Raw AV pipeline, Silverlight can easily support a wide variety of third-party codecs. Audio and video can be decoded outside the runtime and rendered in Silverlight, extending format support beyond the native codecs. Videos can also be played full screen at 720p high definition.

Out of Browser?

Silverlight 3 applications now pops out of your browser, so you can run your application without those annoying “file, edit, view” and navigation buttons on top… This basically makes Silverlight 3 applications run on your desktop, with or without internet connection. You can make shortcuts / place and item in the start menu that links to your Silverlight 3 application. This opens up a great potential to create large scale full screen games.

Example out of browser application

Improved Data Support

Although less relevant to Silverlight game design, this is nevertheless a great improvement in Silverlight 3. New features include:

  1. Data forms control which provides data validation, better layout controls, and paging through data.
  2. Element to element binding – lets you manage UI element properties to data more effectively.

What to expect for Silveright 3 games?

First off, hardware acceleration definitely helps make Silverlight 3D games much smoother. With custom pixel shader effects and writable bitmaps to create particle effects, we can expect awesome visual effects in Silverligth 3 games.

Also, with out of browser support, games and run on your desktop (and I think this would increase performance as it reduces the overhead of browser processing?) in full screen. As such Silverlight 3 games could extend out of the boundary of online casual games into real serious hardcore games.