Updates to the NDK Tooling: Momentics IDE 2.0 for BlackBerry and Visual Studio Plugin 2.0 Beta

Game Development

Momentics IDE

I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone in this blog post to announce new updates to both our Momentics IDE and Visual Studio Plug-in. (I mean this figuratively, not literally – no birds were actually harmed in the drafting of this post.) In this post, I’ll walk you through the highlights of our new tooling updates.

A New Versioning Scheme for Momentics IDE

First, we’re moving to a new versioning scheme for our Momentics IDE. In past releases, we coupled the IDE releases with our NDK releases.  For example, our NDK release 10.0 shipped together with a version of Momentics and when you downloaded the SDK, you were downloading both the IDE along with the API level. With this style of packaging, we didn’t have a good versioning scheme for Momentics – we just used the NDK versions (10.0, 10.1, 10.2, etc.) to loosely refer to both the SDK version and Momentics version. As of release 10.2, we decoupled the IDE from the SDK and introduced the concept of API levels.

Starting this October, we are also moving the Momentics IDE to its own release cadence,  which means that we will not necessarily release a Momentics IDE at the same time as we release an NDK.

This new release mechanism has required us to rethink the way we version our IDE and disassociate it completely from the API Level versioning. We have therefore decided to officially version the Momentics IDE starting with 2.0. Why 2.0, you ask? We could have called it version 10.3 or 11 (to build on the previous version which was 10.2), but that would have caused confusion with the API Level numbering scheme. Therefore, we decided to reset the version to 2.0, indicating that this is a refreshed version of an existing product (that’s why we didn’t call it 1.0).

A New Look for Momentics IDE

Finally, along with the new versioning changes, our designers from TAT in Sweden redesigned the new icon to give it a more modern and fresh look as you can see in the figure above. We hope you like the new look!

New Features in Momentics IDE

While it’s neat to know about some of the versioning changes we’ve made, I’m sure many of you are really interested in the new features we’ve added in this release and why you should be downloading this new version.

First, we have made some optimizations to our deploy times so you should see a noticeable improvement in deploy times compared  to earlier releases – particularly if you are developing a Cascades app or a game with a lot of assets.

Another cool feature that should help streamline your development is the new DevelopmentSupport class.  This class emits a signal that allows QML updates from the Momentics IDE to be sent to your BlackBerry device, which means that any QML updates that you make in the QML editor will be automatically reflected in your running app. It will now be easier to test and prototype changes to your QML based UI using this class. Note that in order to benefit from this new class, you need to be developing on a physical device and using a 10.2 API level. In the future, we hope to add simulator support as well.

Templates for headless apps have also arrived. Currently, developing a headless app on BlackBerry is a multi–stage, manual process. It certainly can be a bit tedious, and we were keen in providing a template in Momentics to simplify the process and reduce the amount of code you have to write.  The template that we provide will generate both the service and UI component of the headless application and make the necessary modifications to the bardescriptor so you don’t have to manually do this yourself.

In our previous release, we added Accessibility support to Momentics. We added a few more improvements in this release, including a new QML Accessibility Problems view.

QML Accessibility Problem View

As you can see in the figure, the new view lets you see all accessibility issues in one place. It also provides a link to the accessibility guide online. Along with this new view, we also provide a quick-fix option that allows you to quickly resolve accessibility issues in the editor.

Visual Studio Updates

On the Visual Studio front, we are releasing a new Beta of our Visual Studio plug-in for BlackBerry. For those who are not aware of this plug-in, it’s basically an open source plug-in that allows you to use your favorite Visual Studio editor for BlackBerry native development. It is intended primarily for game developers, many of whom use Visual Studio as their editor of choice. We released version 1.0 of our plug-in earlier this year, and the feedback was promising. We are now providing a 2.0 Beta release that adds several new features to the plug-in.

One of the key features of this release is to decouple the Visual Studio IDE from the NDK API Level, just like we did with Momentics in the previous release. This means that you only have to download the plug-in, and the plug-in will pull in the appropriate API Level for you based on what you select for your project. Additionally, we’ve removed the dependency of this plug-in on Momentics so you do not need to install Momentics in order to use this plug-in. All you need installed is a version of Visual Studio Professional.

We also released several new features and enhancements to go along with this release. We now handle many project types and configurations which should simplify the porting effort. We also added in support for the new signing process, which means no more manually storing debug tokens. We also added support for Visual Studio 2012; the earlier release only supported 2010.

Ironically, Microsoft just released Visual Studio 2013. We need more time to test our plug-in with Visual Studio 2013, and so for now are not advertising support for Visual Studio 2013 just yet. However, Visual Studio 2013 support is on our roadmap, and we hope to get a version out in a couple of months that has VS 2013 support.

I hope you like the new updates we’ve made to our tooling. We hope you download the new versions of our tools from our developer site and start using them; you will not be disappointed!

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