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engine for a true beginner (12-year-old)?

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I am looking to give my son a better taste at game development that he can expand upon as he learns programming. He has spent over a year playing around with things like Pivot, Morrowind and Oblivion construction sets, and a freeware click-and-drag 2-D game maker. With Oblivion, he is quite good at developing dungeons and has been learning its scripting. I can see him using the TBD engine to play around with simple physics, doing rule-based animations and eventually building an avatar that hacks up another avatar resulting in a variety of bizarre death animations. He is fairly artistic and is interested in mesh generation, textures and such so it is time for him to start putting together pieces beyond click-and-drag. I have been a professional real-time programmer, algorithm developer, adaptive control theory developer... for over 15 years so I can provide some good guidance. I just don't know the tools of the game developer trade. Having browsed here and other forums, I am zeroing in on 3d Game Studio and DX Studio with about a $150 budget to run on higher-end Vista (32-bit) PC. I have started the process of downloading the trials to see for myself what would work. The write-ups for 3d Game Studio are intriguing in that they advertise the flexibility to get a novice started but the complexity to allow an experienced programmer get at the guts. Desirable features I forsee him needing include level/world editors, a library of models/textures/objects, pre-packaged behavior scripts, and pre-packaged game systems (e.g. a combat system) that he can build upon as he learns more. 2D and 3D (1st & 3rd person) are desirable. In addition to the tools, are there and good books to get him going? I would appreciate any feedback I can get! Thanks!

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Within the past two weeks, both Unity3D and Epic Games have released free versions of their toolsets, and they are both utterly fantastic.

Unity - http://unity3d.com/
* Full WYSIWYG editor
* Scripting in multiple languages - C#, javascript, or Boo
* Develop for web browsers, PC, Mac, or iPhone
* Free version is lacking a few advanced features, such as dynamic shadows, but you can still get great looking results with it
* Several "starter packages" are available on Unity's website, an example being a 3D platformer

UDK - http://udk.com/
* Full WYSIWYG editor
* Scripting in UnrealScript and Kismet (a visual drag and drop system)
* Develop for the PC
* Latest bleeding edge version of the Unreal engine
* Tons of resources available from the huge Unreal modding community

Both are awesome. Unity allows you to develop for a wider amount of platforms, but isn't quite as advanced graphics capability wise. It is built to be fast to prototype with and has a reasonably easy learning curve. With the UDK you're limited on platforms to develop for, but get one of the industry standards for game creation at your finger tips. Developing for it has a slightly higher learning curve, but there are a ton of learning resources available, for free even.

Both of the toolsets are used for the development of top notch products. If your son has been modding games such as Oblivion, he'll probably be pretty disappointed with 3d Game Studio or DX Studio.

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Thanks for the responses!

I will check into Unity and UDK.

From a 12-year-old perspective, I think the blank editor that launches with 3D Game Studio may be more intimidating than the complex UDK world editor that pops up on launch. It's a difference between no information and an excess of information.

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BlitxMAX, its a wonderful language, it reads like BASIC, but its specifically designed for games and has good advanced features if you want them. I loved the program, it helped me learn alot about how a game is put together without needing to trudge through c++ and API's. It handles sound and input and everythign you need to get going fast.

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Quote:
Original post by wifesbane
From a 12-year-old perspective, I think the blank editor that launches with 3D Game Studio may be more intimidating than the complex UDK world editor that pops up on launch. It's a difference between no information and an excess of information.


The nice thing about UDK is that there is an excellent user community. The editor can be complicated, but you can start with very basic modifications. And, there are step by step tutorials to learn from.

If your son is motivated enough, there are plenty of Unreal mods out there that he could get involved with, to gain experience. This experience can lead to a job (or contract work) within the industry.



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