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Building a Modern 3d Game from the Ground Up a Realistic Goal?


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#1 VertexEdgeFace   Members   -  Reputation: 126

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 08:21 PM

Hello, the question I have is a little open-ended and a lot of factors could affect the answer, but I've been struggling with this question all through the preliminary design of the game I'm trying to get off the ground. My question is: Is it a realistic goal to develop my game without using an existing game engine? I have just about every aspect of the game's architecture mapped out in a massive hierarchical directed graph, and things such as gameplay elements and lore are extensively documented. So with the game's design stage coming to a close, I need to start considering my options for developing the game.

 

     The reason I'm considering developing the game without an existing proprietary engine is that my game has very specific graphical goals; which I think could be tailored to optimize performance. For example, many environments in the game will be completely statically illuminated, which would allow me to skip a huge amount of calculations for anything within a total-black location. Most proprietary engines such as Unreal Engine don't allow users to modify their core source files, so I would lose many opportunities for improving performance. There are also a huge amount of features that I simply don't need for the game concept. If I were to build the game closer to the metal; only implementing features that are necessary to the game, I feel that in the long-run I would save time and end up with a more streamlined game. Also, from a business standpoint, not having to license an engine and then paying royalties would definitely be beneficial.

 

     What are your opinions on this? Is the added workload of building the game from the ground up worth the potential advantages? And if the answer is yes; other things to consider: Java or C++?, also; what hardware abstraction graphics API to use for rendering system?


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#2 forseone   Members   -  Reputation: 112

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 12:10 AM

I was worked on such a game project, and the game engine is made by the master programmer from ground up  five years ago.

It is really a dirty work to maintain all of the code, and you also need to supply customer tools.



#3 AllEightUp   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4108

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 12:35 AM

In the long run, you are making a lot of assumptions which may or may not be true. There are many engines out there with fixed upfront licence costs so you need to look at a wider range of options.  Optimizing graphics, specifically the static lighting, is very common to most engines so I'm not sure why you think that is a custom engine win, Many engines have licensed the Beast lighting system which bakes out incredibly detailed lighting into static scenes to cover your first reason for a custom engine.  Finally, writing specific code is often just writing hacky stuff to get things done, you only pay (performance wise) for things if you "use" them in most engines and as such, you can utilize a lot of existing code and only have to write a small percentage of custom code to get to the finish line.

 

If you "want" to write everything custom, follow your plan.  If you want to actually ship a good game, re-evaluate your options.  I don't mean to be offensive but something like Unity would probably do everything you are imagining and costs a fix price for *all* features, no royalties involved.  The benefit is you can use the free version to make the "game" work, then upgrade to put in all the nice graphic bits.

 

Just my 0.02



#4 ChaosEngine   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2131

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 06:31 AM

Depends on what your expectations are.

How big is the game? What level of graphical fidelity are you aiming for? If you are thinking anything even remotely close to a AAA game released in the last 15 years, forget it.

But something graphically simple (think minecraft) is definitely achievable.
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#5 AgentC   Members   -  Reputation: 1220

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 10:31 AM

I would expect at least a man-year of added development time for basic 3D game "engine-level" features (maths, rendering, asset loading, animation, physics integration, simple UI, sound, input, scripting), possibly more.

 

Also I'm not talking about AAA quality, but a basic workable level of features, for example similar to what you'd get of open source engines like OGRE out-of-the-box.

 

I'm also assuming you would use existing libraries for hard problems wherever possible, for example Bullet for physics, and an existing scripting language if you need one. If not, multiply time estimate with anything from 3x to 10x.


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#6 akos   Members   -  Reputation: 107

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 11:37 AM

definitely use abstraction APIs.

i guess, at this point you are aiming for backed textures for the scene lighting, then http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MegaTexture - this little thing is relevant to you.

other then graphics- physics is easy to implement as well as UI, sound loading, input.

- the point is, get to a position where you work the least on the technical end of the game and more on the gameplay and content

 

one important advice i have, try out every bit of feature you want your game to implement. create 5-10 vaporware things with the only purpose of testing and note the numbers from the benchmark instances so you have the exact boundaries of your game. you may spend 3-6 months on this but i can't stress how important it is to have that level of intimate knowledge of APIs and your own libraries



#7 Petter Hansson   Members   -  Reputation: 583

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 12:08 PM

If your intent is to learn the underlying technology without risking skipping anything, programming your engine + game from scratch is an alright idea. It will however take a VERY long time. It will also still be a crap engine compared to something made by a larger team unless it's very specialized.

 

If you intend to make a fun game on your own in less than a life time which is what most new people aim for, it's typically a shit idea (barring really odd games for which no appropriate engines are available, such as Dwarf Fortress; in that case, you're still advised to use abstraction APIs such as OpenGL than trying to code your own rasterization system or whatever).

 

It really depends on what your career ambitions are, if you want to work as an engine programmer, obviously coding an engine in your spare time is more useful than if you want to be a gameplay programmer.

 

Also, learning how to work as a part of a team is likely more valuable than working alone (even though the latter lets you do whatever you want to do).


Edited by Petter Hansson, 30 October 2013 - 12:12 PM.


#8 VertexEdgeFace   Members   -  Reputation: 126

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 09:16 PM

Thank you all for your suggestions and recommendations, they were very helpful. I had never heard of the Beast middleware until now, and I'm very interested in seeing if I can integrate it into my game; I'm already using 3dsmax and since Beast is an Autodesk product I bet the asset pipeline would be seamless. Also, thanks for the MegaTexture link Akos, I've been looking for the correct terminology for what I had in mind and this helped a lot.

 

     I think I've decided on building the parts of the engine that I need to learn most about, and use middleware for the rest. The game I'm working on doesn't really need cutting-edge graphics, but it has a very serious tone, so I want the graphics to be able to support the storyline and not break immersion. Thanks again for all your input, I really appreciate it.


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#9 AgentC   Members   -  Reputation: 1220

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 07:35 AM

One thing you may also find enlightening for a game-from-scratch approach (which didn't remember when I posted my initial reply) is the blog by gamedev.net member spek about the creation of the Tower22 game:

 

http://tower22.blogspot.com

 

If I remember right the engine/project has been worked on since 2008, and still going strong. Of course, your plans may not be as ambitious as his.


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#10 spek   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 993

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 09:28 AM

Hehe, thanks for noticing.

 

The project is still going on indeed, and I can tell you, doing everything yourself is an infinite amount of work. I don't mind it because it's a big hobby, and it forces me to keep a bit up-to-date with modern technology. Or well, at least I try. It's sometimes frustrating to see you're always behind the facts. No matter how hard you work, AAA engines will be ahead, and smart guys write papers faster than you can implement. I always thought skill would be the crucial factor, but more important is the amount of time you can&want to spend on your project.

 

And at some point, it becomes so huge that maintenance is getting hard. A perfect engine would be made of modular 100% tested/documented -> working "blocks". But when doing it alone, you simply don't have time to make everything perfect. With as a result that I often waste hours/days on updating old code or tracing bugs in stuff I made a year ago.

 

In my case, another limiting factor is making the actual graphics. I can draw and model a bit, but certainly not on a professional level. Yet I try to make the game look as good as possible, so I'm dependant on the very limited time of a very small group of artists that is willing to help me in their free hours. You can program supercode, but without artists that generate maps, props, sounds or textures on the fly, you still have nothing. 60" flatscreen or an old tube, an ugly woman on the TV will always be an ugly woman.

 

 

 

That said, it all depends on the size, goals and eventual help you can get. Making a 2D platform game is far less complicated, and thus far more realistic. A 3D engine could be done as well, but be careful not to get sucked away in the graphics-black hole. If you can live with lower end graphics, life gets a lot easier :)



#11 mychii   Members   -  Reputation: 398

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 10:01 AM

Since you said you'll be very specific on your game engine, I think I don't mind for you to continue on. Of course, feature creep may get in your way so be careful for this, time will tell. I just hope it's just a hobby.

 

I think you should create a little risk management, but of course that depends on your goal. For example, if all you really want is the engine, you'll actually don't mind to give your life to make your specific 3D game engine. However, if your goal is the game, you'll set about X years phase for the game engine. If it's not quite feature complete/game development ready, you might want to switch to use current available game engines with extra 6 months of learning phase, or if the game engine is usable even at 50 - 75% completion, you can finally start the game development.

 

This way, since you've been dealing with the engine for a few years, fail or not, you know the scope of what specific graphics features are, and using someone's engine would be easier cause you know what you're looking for and you know how it works. So it's a win-win for you. Just set a deadline to motivate yourself on how long does the engine should be completed.

 

Trust me, no matter how many years/features you put on your game engine to be perfect, when you finally start creating the game using that engine, you'll always want to fix your engine where someone else could do the job. I've been there, and it's quite a long journey for one man's brain to go back and forth from engine to the game itself just to fix a little something (happens a lot and not to mention architectural/design failures; it's crazy, you might want to take a little vacation when that happen. which usually you'll end up letting it happen until the next big refactoring, the engine v2 roadmap).

 

Forgot: About Java/C++, since you want performance you might want to try C++. About the graphics API, that depends on your target platform.


Edited by mychii, 31 October 2013 - 09:49 PM.





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