Monday, 8 July 2013

Choosing The Right Engine

Choosing the right game engine proved to be a rather interesting and challenging task. For those of you unfamiliar with engines and game creation tools, a game engine can be defined as:

" A system designed for the creation and development of video games".

As an independent developer, there are two main factors (amongst many others) that influence the decision making process: 

  • The costs associated with using an engine (e.g. upfront costs, team license extension, royalties e.t.c).
  •  The available manpower (e.g. coders, level designers, composers e.t.c.).

With that in mind, I set out to find an engine that wasn't prohibitively priced, but allowed a small team of coders and designers produce a title that exceeded all expectations. I wanted something that wouldn't restrict the creative vision of the project. 

For over a year, I have kept a very close eye on potential engines that meet those requirements. I have also been in touch with a few engine makers, got a lot of quotes, and even created a feature comparison chart.

The top three candidates that I had in mind were:

  • The UDK (Unreal Development Kit).
  • The CryEngine 3
  • Unity 4.0 

I went ahead to test some of these engines and even almost made a final decision, until I realized there was an engine on that list that I had always known of, but seemingly ignored. 

It was the Unity 4.0 engine.

The Unity 4.0 engine hit the nail on the head on many levels, however, as an independent developer, the following features greatly reduce the cost and manpower burden significantly:

  • Ease of Use.
  • Multi-platform deployment. The Unity 4.0 is capable of publishing to the following platforms: PS3, XBOX360, PS4, XBOX ONE, WEB PLAYER, NINTENDO Wii, NINTENDO WII U, ANDROID, iOS, LINUX, WINDOWS, AND MAC. This automatically eliminates the issue of manpower (Imagine the development efforts involved with porting a title to all those platforms).
  • The Cost: Unity 4.0 costs 1,140. The team license costs an additional 380. Relatively speaking, that is very cheap (believe me when I say I got quotes that gave me a huge shock). Some console manufacturers might charge a fee for publishing your title to their respective platforms, but such costs are minute when all other factors are considered.
  • The popularity: As of when this post was written, Unity 4.0 ranks as one of the most popular engines on the market today. And that popularity is growing due to how well the engine balances the cost versus performance issue.
  • Potential: The videos below will look at independent titles created using the Unity 4.0 engine. This should give you a better idea of its capabilities.

                          The Unity 4.0: Capabilities

The following titles were created using the Unity 4.0 engine:

Dreamfall Chapters: The longest Journey by Red Thread Games. 

"Dreamfall Chapters is the long awaited sequel to Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, and the next chapter in The Longest Journey saga.
Dreamfall Chapters is a 3D adventure game for PC, Mac and Linux, which follows three characters across two worlds -- a cyberpunk vision of the future, and a magical fantasy world -- as their stories and destinies intertwine."

                    Slender: The Arrival 

" A few months ago, Mark Hadley (AgentParsec) created a game that captivated gamers around the world. Slender: The Eight Pages was a short, experimental game that helped to breathe new life into the horror genre through its use of pure, unadulterated fear. "

The team is looking forward to using the Unity 4.0 engine, and we are confident it is capable of helping us realize our vision.

Mr O. Shonibare
Project Lead and Designer
Project Aella
InnerSanctum Games