Monday, 31 December 2012

Game Engines

So all those pretty games we play are all developed within game engines, they bring together all the elements of a game such as art assets, animation, AI, GUI, sound, networking and programming and they make the final product you play. They’re pretty cool things.


Game engines are Marmite.

I think no one will deny the fuzzy warm feeling of accomplishment you get when you get your model running in engine, and you know that’s exactly how it’ll look in a game. And then having the ability to run around you model and shoot at it is great. Love it.


But to get to that point is like climbing a mountain in a wheelchair. The interface of these engines is so confusing, loaded with icons and words left, right and centre. After importing your model its then a game of problem solving trying to figure out why this and that doesn’t work and why you’re getting error messages nonstop,  nothing ever runs smoothly. Hate it.

There are many game engines on the market to pick from, from hobbyist, to indie, to professional. But I’m going to focus on the three main engines on the market (UDK, Cryengine and Unity) and list the pros and cons of each.


The biggest player out of the three, also been round the longest.

Games using UDK : Gears of war, Mass effect, XCOM, Borderlands, Medal  of honour, Dishonored.

Costs : Free for non-commercial license. $99 upfront then 25% in royalties after the first $5000 for commercial license

  • Large developer community and documentation – easier to solve any issues you run into.
  • Very versatile  shaders – ability to create any sort of art style you want, from cell shaded (borderlands) to photo realistic (Medal of honor)
  •  Work on a variety of platforms – Pcs, consoles and iOS.
  •  Monthly updates – new features are being added all the time to stay ahead of the competition
  •  Low cost license fees make it ideal for indie companies

  •  Confusing interface
  •  Before playing your level you have to build paths, lighting, AI etc. Can take a very long time.
  •  Poor lighting systems – only allows 4 dynamic lights (Better for indoor scenes)


The new kid on the block, but packs a punch.

Games using Cryengine:  Crysis, Mechwarrior, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2

Costs : Free for non-commercial license. Contact Crytek for upfront cost then 20% in royalties for commercial license.


  • WYSIWYG editor – ability to see the final results of your assets in the viewport in realtime, no  need to build paths/lighting. Quicker Workflow.
  •  Better lighting systems - a lights are dynamic (Better for outdoor scenes)

  •        Limited to PCs and Consoles
  •        Small community and documentation
  •        Editor can run slow due to realtime viewport.
  •       Need to be connected to the internet to run


Not eveyones first choice, but is worth taking a look.

Games using Unity: Temple Run, Castle Story, Battlestar Galactica Online

Costs: Basic version is free. Pro version is $1,500 (plus any additional add-ons).

  •       Largest developer community and documentation out of the three – any issues can be answered
  •      Works on many platforms – PCs, Consoles, iOS, Andriod and Web browsers
  •       No royalties for any commercial release

  •      Additional costs if you need more advanced features or need to develop for mobile platforms
  •           Lighting/rendering not as advance as UDK/Cryengine


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