Google’s Game Builder turns building multiplayer games into a game

Google’s Area 120 team, the company’s in-house incubator for some of its more experimental projects, today launched Game Builder, a free and easy to use tool for PC and macOS users who want to build their own 3D games without having to know how to code. Game Builder is currently only available through Valve’s Steam platform, so you’ll need an account there to try it.

After a quick download, Game Builder asks you about what screen size you want to work on and then drops you right into the experience after you tell it whether you want to start a new project, work on an existing project or try out some sample projects. These sample projects include a first-person shooter, a platformer and a demo of the tool’s card system for programming more complex interactions.

The menu system and building experience take some getting used to and isn’t immediately intuitive, but after a while, you’ll get the hang of it. By default, the overall design aesthetic clearly draws some inspiration from Minecraft, but you’re pretty free in what kind of game you want to create. It does not strike me as a tool for getting smaller children into game programming since we’re talking about a relatively text-heavy and complex experience.

To build more complex interactions, you use Game Builder’s card-based visual programming system. That’s pretty straightforward, too, but also takes some getting used to. Google says building a 3D level is like playing a game. There’s some truth in that, in that you are building inside the game environment, but it’s not necessarily an easy game either.

One cool feature here is that you can also build multiplayer games and even create games in real time with your friends.

Traditionally, drag-and-drop game builders feel pretty limited. The Area 120 … Read the rest

Apollo raises $22M for its GraphQL platform

Apollo, a San Francisco-based startup that provides a number of developer and operator tools and services around the GraphQL query language, today announced that it has raised a $22 million growth funding round co-led by Andreessen Horowitz and Matrix Partners. Existing investors Trinity Ventures and Webb Investment Network also participated in this round.

Today, Apollo is probably the biggest player in the GraphQL ecosystem. At its core, the company’s services allow businesses to use the Facebook -incubated GraphQL technology to shield their developers from the patchwork of legacy APIs and databases as they look to modernize their technology stacks. The team argues that while REST APIs that talked directly to other services and databases still made sense a few years ago, it doesn’t anymore now that the number of API endpoints keeps increasing rapidly.

Apollo replaces this with what it calls the Data Graph. “There is basically a missing piece where we think about how people build apps today, which is the piece that connects the billions of devices out there,” Apollo co-founder and CEO Geoff Schmidt told me. “You probably don’t just have one app anymore, you probably have three, for the web, iOS and Android . Or maybe six. And if you’re a two-sided marketplace you’ve got one for buyers, one for sellers and another for your ops team.”

Managing the interfaces between all of these apps quickly becomes complicated and means you have to write a lot of custom code for every new feature. The promise of the Data Graph is that developers can use GraphQL to query the data in the graph and move on, all without having to write the boilerplate code that typically slows them down. At the same time, the ops teams can use the Graph to enforce access policies and … Read the rest

GitHub gets a package registry

GitHub today announced the launch of a limited beta of the GitHub Package Registry, its new package management service that lets developers publish public and private packages next to their source code.

To be clear, GitHub isn’t launching a competitor to tools like npm or RubyGems. What the company is launching, however, is a service that is compatible with these tools and allows developers to find and publish their own packages, using the same GitHub interface they use for their code. The new service is currently compatible with JavaScript (npm), Java (Maven), Ruby (RubyGems), .NET (NuGet) and Docker images, with support for other languages and tools to come.

GitHub Package Registry is compatible with common package management clients, so you can publish packages with your choice of tools,” Simina Pasat, director of Product Management at GitHub, explains in today’s announcement. “If your repository is more complex, you’ll be able to publish multiple packages of different types. And, with webhooks or with GitHub Actions, you can fully customize your publishing and post-publishing workflows.”With this, businesses can then also provide their employees with a single set of credentials to manage both their code and packages — and this new feature makes it easy to create a set of approved packages, too. Users will also get download statistics and access to the entire history of the package on GitHub.

Most open-source packages already use GitHub to develop their code before they publish it to a public registry. GitHub argues that these developers can now also use the GitHub Package Registry to publish pre-release versions, for example.

Developers already often use GitHub to host their private repositories. After all, it makes sense to keep packages and code in the same place. What GitHub is doing here, to some degree, is formalize … Read the rest

Microsoft’s IntelliCode for AI-assisted coding comes out of preview

IntelliCode, Microsoft’s tool for AI-assisted coding, is now generally available. It supports C# and XAML in Visual Studio and Java, JavaScript, TypeScript and Python in Visual Studio Code. By default, it is now also included in Visual Studio 2019, starting with the second preview of version 16.1, which the company also announced that.

IntelliCode is essentially the next generation of IntelliSense, Microsoft’s extremely popular code completion tool. What makes IntelliCode different is that the company trained it by feeding it the code of thousands of open-source projects from GitHub that have at least 100 stars. Using this data, the tool can then make smarter code-completion suggestion. It also takes the current code and context into account as it makes its recommendations.

By default, IntelliSense would provide the developer with an alphabetical list, which is useful but too often, the code you need would be a few items down in the list.

It’s worth noting that startups like Kite offer similar smart code-completion tools that work across development environments, though Kite currently only supports Python code.

The promise of tools like Kite and IntelliCode is to make a developer’s life easier, increase productivity and reduce the likelihood of bugs. As these tools get smarter, they’ll likely be able to look ahead even further and maybe even suggest to auto-complete larger part of a program’s code based on the context of what you’re trying to achieve and it’s knowledge of how others have solved similar problems. Until then, though, they are already a pretty good way to avoid a few trips to StackOverflow.

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