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