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difference cheap and not cheap game engines

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Hi

I need to select a game engine for my project.

There are a lot of cheap (even free) engines, and there are
expensive engines and a lot in between.
A lot of people say that the graphics quality of the game you make does
not depend on the engine but the content and quality of the artists.
But in what respect do these cheap and expensive engines differ then?

Do the expensive engines make the work of the artist easier?
I know for good graphics you need to do a lot of tricks.
Are these tricks handled in the expensive engines more or less automatically so
that you do not have to deal (to much) with it?

Is it true that an more expensive engine will pay itself back because you spend
much less time creating the game? Where will you save development time?
Artists level? Creating the worlds? Coding special situations?

Any input on this is very welcome.

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In general the engine doesn't affect artists much at all, The main advantage of expensive commercial engines is support, stability and performance. (Stability and performance might be just as good in a cheap engine, but most expensive commercial engines have gone through insane amounts of testing and have been used in successful products allready thus they're fairly safe bets)), there are also big differences when it comes to how easy an engine is to work with (This mostly affects programmers though) but cheap doesn't necessarily mean bad here either.

The engine can have some impact on graphic quality (mainly special effects and procedurally generated animations (water, particle systems, hdr, dynamic light and shadows, etc) but bad art will look bad no matter what and with good art you can make things look good with pretty much any engine.

The time saved by using an engine is primarily in the programming area (If you didn't use an engine you'd have to write alot more code). Its not the special situations you save time on , its the generic groundwork.

Lets take a simple example like a 2 player networked pong game,

With some engines you basically only need to write code to create one paddle for each player, position them appropriatly, assign a box model to them, write a bit of code to make them move when the player presses the buttons, create a ball and 2 walls in the same way, give the ball a velocity towards one side as the game starts and tell the engine that the ball bounces against paddles and walls and then you're set. (you'd have to write code to check if the ball goes past a paddle, increase scores , etc aswell i guess). (Exactly how much you have to do yourself depends on the engine you choose)

Without an engine or libraries you'd have to write code to parse the model file and much more. (simply getting a 3ds model from a file on the harddrive to RAM in a format that is suitable for rendering requires far more code than you'd need for that pong game with a decent engine, and having a model loaded in ram is still a long way from having it drawn on screen or moving around responding to player input). (In general this means that a good engine can save several millions in labour costs for an AAA project)

Basically, let the programmers choose the engine, they are the ones who will be working with it anyway, a cheap or free engine is still a huge help even if you have to do a bit more work yourself. (With expensive engines you'll generally also pay for alot of features that you won't even use)

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Expensive engines generally come with more tools, or more fully-complete/tested content pipelines. Writing engines is easy, writing good tools is hard (so this is what you're paying for).

This decision has a huge impact on the workflow of content producers (mostly artists) so they should be involved in the evaluation of the different options before making a choice.

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In my eyes the best games (and the games that have the best ROI on a tight budget) are ones that don't concentrate on physics engines and graphics so much as a FUN concept and good, tight gameplay. Analogy: movies that are all about special effects but have no plot never do as well as ones that have a great plot and acting but no effects.

[Edited by - Beverly Mcadoo on September 8, 2010 8:46:21 AM]

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Thanks all, for the information.

So I think I have to go for a stable engine with a good toolset.
I agree that game fun and content is more important then game effects.

Thanks

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Beware which one you choose. I've tried a few engines some free some not free and to be honest I've got so fed up with them I've gone to writing my own small engine to do only what I need just for me.

There's always something missing, something not explained properly, something asking you to become an IDE settings expert (who the hell wants to do that?) something that won't import your models properly and god knows what else.

Choose very carefully, buy the best you can. Maybe try contacting the makers first see how helpful they are. Ask specific questions to them before buying. I think engines are a bit like the gold rush, more made money selling tools than striking gold etc...

Choose wisely! Alot depends on it.

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Quote:
Original post by adder_noir
Beware which one you choose. I've tried a few engines some free some not free and to be honest I've got so fed up with them I've gone to writing my own small engine to do only what I need just for me.

There's always something missing, something not explained properly, something asking you to become an IDE settings expert (who the hell wants to do that?) something that won't import your models properly and god knows what else.

Choose very carefully, buy the best you can. Maybe try contacting the makers first see how helpful they are. Ask specific questions to them before buying. I think engines are a bit like the gold rush, more made money selling tools than striking gold etc...

Choose wisely! Alot depends on it.


Well that is reason I ask.
I'm already searching the web for information for a week or so.
But it is only getting worse because I still find new engines each day.

Very difficult to choose.

So maybe it would be better to focus on good documented and good qualigy code.
But how to know this in advance? You will find out when working with it.

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While there is a lot of info on the web, you won't know for sure if it fits your needs until you get your feet wet. So go ahead ad try four or five different ones and see whether they do what you need them to do. Generally I believe that it is not worthwhile to invest in an expensive engine unless you have a large budget or cash to burn. The open-source and otherwise free solutions include some very strong contenders (you just have to sort them from the trash). Free support on forums and from tutorials is often available - professional paid support is something that is necessary for studios on a tight deadline, not for hobbyist developers.

I don't know what kind of game you're making, but the Unity engine has been getting a lot of good rep lately. I've looked at it myself briefly and I was impressed by the quality of the documentation/tutorials and the great toolset. I recommend you take a look if you'll be evaluating some engines more closely.

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