A Word on Game Engines
Games…Thousands of people are addicted to them, millions love them and there are hundreds of titles released every year; but what if you are one of those people who are driven to make one? Hopefully, we can shed some light on that very subject.
Commercial or not?
We really suggest that you get ahold of an engine (for non-commercial use) and start learning the program. As always, the question that keeps coming up is “where do I get one and which one do I get”? Everybody has their own opinion, but I will lay this out (in referring to the “active three”) in the most logical sense.
All three of these engines are free for non-commercial use (and I believe) they are available for pc and Mac. Downside is (and keep in mind) you may only be able to produce games for PC or Mac. Typically PS3, 360 and Wii based games require a commercial license.
3d Model Info
Another thing to keep in mind is the sizes and complexity of your models. Large models with a ton of polygons can slow engines down to a crawl. You will have to either perform a reduction, clearEdges, shrink wrapping or (preferably) just create low poly models.
Most of the time, you’ll have to keep in mind, engines will perform their own tessellation on models. So, for example, let’s say that you have a model that has 9,000 polys; you perform a clearEdges function in Maya and manage to drop the poly count down to around 1,000 polys; after taking it into your engine, don’t be surprised if it actually counts upwards of 3,000 polys or more inside the engine.
Graphics and add ons
Although I cannot say a lot about Unreal’s UDK; I have heard a lot about the comparable graphics between UDK and CryEngine. Now I will say as far as Unity 3d, it’s graphics are not the greatest.
With the UDK and Unity (I believe) you will have to download either Havok, Physx or Apex for physics mods (such as ragdoll, destructible models and heavy clothing effects.
CryEngine does have imbedded physics but Apex is a good download to get. So is the Nvidia DDS plugin for Photoshop; CryEngine does use its own Tif plugin that comes with the UDK download.
Although, as far as I know, Apex cannot be directly imported into CryEngine (at this time) and I am not sure about the other easily available engines; but I personally feel that it is a program that should be obtained and experimented with.
For those who are interested in possible (time saving techniques), you can research Autodesk’s 123d Catch which is a ’emulated’ 3d scanner. It basically uses Autodesk’s Cloud to create 3d models based on several (strategically shot) reference photos. Although I wouldn’t suggest using this method in order to substitute ‘hands on’ modeling creation, you can use it for instances that may be beyond certain capabilities (such as accurate (or true to scale) objects such as weapons, contoured pieces or possibly even faces of people). Please keep in mind though, this is definitely not a platform for motion capture, only for model creation.
As far motion capture platforms (or mocap), that will have to be a discussion for another posting since we have yet to dabble in that field.
As far as “non-commercial” output from engines such as CryEngine and Unity; once you have your game finished, you will be looking to output your game to others. I mean that’s the whole point right? With your non-commercial game, in order for others to play them, they would also need to either download the game’s SDK package or plugins. For those out there that wish to output an executable package (just like the games that we buy from the store or online), you have to get into a form of commercial tier. Unity’s output is a bit different because it only requires plugins, but is fairly cheap for their pro engine (about $300). Other engines such as Unreal and CryEngine may have a price tag that looks extremely frightening to the independent artists out there, but there may be a much more enlightening option for those artists in near future.
For example, CryTek is planning on offering a royalty based commercial option for independent artists and micro-companies. This option basically waives the expensive initial purchase price of the engine itself and only charges a 20% royalty fee on every unit sold.
At the time this is being written, I am unsure if the other engines and their respective companies offer a tier or platform such as this.
Game development is a very time consuming and tedious task and you will have to keep this in mind and think about this before seriously attempting to take it on. Although it can be taken on by one person, it is honestly not suggested. Get out there and collaborate with others; come up with an interesting concept and branch from there. You’ll want to keep track of (and notes) on everything…no matter how small it seems. Our new project for example is still in the pre-production phase; we have our script & story line laid out, our “bible” being compiled and some of our assets being created. Just a small chunk out of the long road ahead.