The Lowdown: Are All Game Engines Created Equal?
Ready to unleash your product into the gaming world? Well, you’re about to embark on a wonderful journey for one thing, and deciding which free game engine to use will impact the success of your game in a huge way.
The most sought-after gaming engines today are CryENGINE, Unity, Unreal Engine 4 and UDK. All of these engines are considered extremely powerful and versatile, having their unique strong suites. Well, how do you decide which one to exploit?
This squarely depends on your game design and/or concept. For example, are you working on a first-person shooter? Is it a mobile-only game? Will the environment be 2D or 3D?
Every game engine brings with it licensing fees so you also need to determine which one lives up to your budget.
Even though the engines we’re covering are relatively inexpensive, you’ll be dealing with royalties and licensing fees to be paid, the moment you’re ready to sell your game.
CryENGINE’s graphical oomph is on the same level as Unreal 4, while surpassing that of UDK and Unity. You can expect to get cutting-edge lighting effects, a complex animation repertoire, ultra realistic physics and a lot more. If you want to check out the latest installment utilizing CryENGINE’s glory, take Ryse: Son of Rome for a spin.
Much like its UE4 and UDK counterparts, CryENGINE’s powerful and intuitive level design tools make it a stellar choice for new-gen console and PC game developers.
Are there any downsides or hurdles you might run into? Even though the sheer power speaks for itself, it is an engine with a steep learning curve and requires prior game engine experience if you’re looking to fully exploit it. As long as you don’t feel the need to have your game looking as visually stunning as Ryse: Son of Rome or Crysis 3, you can safely go with a more user-friendly game engine instead.
One of Unity’s most standout features is the easy-to-learn interface. With a plethora of features and cross-platform support, it’s an absolute breeze to port games to the most popular mobile platforms including Windows Phone 8, iOS, Android and Blackberry. In addition, it can also be used to design games on the Xbox 360, Wii U, Playstation 3 and web-based games.
Unity extends support to many popular 3D applications including but not limited to Maya, 3ds Max and Blender – there’s virtually no restriction on the type of file formats that are supported. The recent Unity 4.3 release brings native 2D support, adding sprites and 2D physics – an ideal no-brainer choice for developing 2D games.
Even though Unity supports practically every 3D application, its engine editor functionality leaves a lot to be desired. Apart from a select few primitive shapes, you can’t do any real modeling or build features out of those preset primitive shapes; you’ll need a 3rd party 3D application for additional capabilities.
Not all is gloomy though: Unity has a fairly large asset library – you can either purchase or download a broad spectrum of assets. The asset author determines the pricing.
As far as licensing fee goes, there’s a Pro version which costs $1500 or $75 a month as of now. You’d be very hard pressed not to get the Pro version as it offers highly valuable features the free version doesn’t have: global lighting, a custom splash screen, Mecanim IK rigs or render-to-texture, just to name a few. Another reason you may want to skip the free version is the watermark that remains enabled by default.
Visit the Unity pricing page to get more details on their licensing plans.
With Unity 5 out right now, the possibilities are going to be very exciting indeed.
If you’ve played the “epic” Gears of War exclusive trilogy on the last-gen Xbox 360, the name Epic Games should instantly ring a bell.
Epic’s UE4 engine is the next in line after UDK. Its graphic capabilities can be only described as mind-numbing; advanced dynamic lighting features and an awe-inspiring particle system that can render a million particles in a scene at any time. This is a 3D designer or game artist’s ultimate dream come true.
The important thing to keep in mind is that UE4 has seen drastic changes since UDK, and there’s going to be a learning curve as you come to terms with the new engine. However, this is not to discourage UDK developers – these changes are quite welcoming and as always, UE4’s easy-to-use interface makes it highly appealing for aspiring game designers.
The changes include UnrealScript being replaced by C++ while the highly intuitive Blueprint system has replaced Kismet. Unfortunately, another change is no longer having the ability to make last-generation console games, as UE4 currently supports iOS, Android, PC, Max, Playstation 4 and Xbox One only. If developing for last-gen consoles is a priority, then you should go with UE3.
In any case, UE4 is an excellent choice for developing mobile, PC/Mac or new-gen console games, weather you want to make a game with exceptional visuals or a simple old school side-scroller.
As of March 2015, UE4 is officially free though the 5% royalty still stands, every time you make money off your game.
Generally known as UDK, the Unreal Development Kit by Epic Games is the Unreal Engine 3 free edition. UE3 was a very popular choice for many AAA titles including all three of the Gears of War games. The graphical suite is impressive to say the least, and you can use it to develop mobile games as well. As opposed to Unity, its toolset can be used to work on level design directly in the game engine.
The Unreal engine was originally developed to make FPS games – the classic first-person shooter Unreal brings back many wonderful gaming memories. Since then it has evolved into being used for developing a host of games including RPGs (role playing games).
The scripting language utilizes object-oriented programming that’s quite similar to C++ and Java.
Much akin to Unity, UDK can be used to make games on several platforms including Android, iOS, Windows Phone 8, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Playstation Vita and Playstation 3. Unfortunately, a bit of a downer is the fact that the unpaid version of UE3, UDK, only supports Mac and PC. If you’re eyeing consoles, you’ll need to purchase the full UDK license which unlocks the UE3 feature set.
UDK is free to use right up to the point when you’re ready to publish your game. A $99 license fee along with a 25% royalty fee is required, once you’ve scored $50,000 in revenue. Visit the UDK licensing page to get more info.
In a Nutshell
CryENGINE – Brilliant graphical prowess, next-gen console features and with a reasonable pricing model.
Unity – Great choice for mobile, 2D and 3D games.
UE4 – Lets your create stunning, photo-realistic graphics, in additional to simpler side-scrolling games in 2D.
UDK – Good for making immersive first-person shooters and completely free until you start shipping out your game.
There’s no shortage of game engines today; there are several other too though we felt these four were the most mention-worthy. We’ll leave it up to you to decide which one best fits the bill.
Talk to our mobile game devs about your upcoming game and let us know what you think of these four game engines in the comments section below.