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Zadd

What are the basics to making a Game Engine?

9 posts in this topic

Hello everyone.

To get straight to the point, I have been coding inside building games for a while, things like LUA, and VB.NET. I have thought about it for a while now, and I have decided I want to create my own Game Engine.

I have searched upon the topic. And obviously it's not the simplest thing to do.

From various sources, I have heard many things, but not a clear straight answer, so I decided to make this thread not only for my help, but perhaps others who trail along the subject.

I really wish to know, the simple question, "What do I need to get started?" I've heard of some programs that can assist in making things like a game engine, but is there a 100% professional way? I have also heard that some do not like to simply make a game engine because it could take years to make, which in a reaction could deform your social status.

So tell me, if I am speaking to anyone who has ever made an engine of their own. How did YOU do it? How did YOU get started?
I would like to see some unique and helpful answers from you guys.

Thanks for your help!
-Zadd
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If you've been coding inside other games for a while, then you know what an engine gives you -- all the stuff you had when you were working with those other games...

There's 2 main parts:

[b]* the runtime[/b]
** Usually a library of code / an SDK that will be linked into a game's exe.
** This includes all the common utilities that the game needs: rendering, physics, asset loading, timers, multi-threading building blocks, language bindings (e.g. Lua), etc...

[b]* the tool-chain[/b]
** First you've got to figure out which DCC applications your artists/content-creators want to use.
** This includes the compilers/importers/exporters/scripts for getting models, textures, audio, etc into a format that the runtime can use.

N.B. I'm not of the opinion that it's a bad idea to make an engine. Instead, I put it in the category of "[i]if you need to ask, then you aren't yet ready[/i]" -- you should use other engines to make games until you're able to answer the question yourself. Edited by Hodgman
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a good step on the way would be to make a simple game using an existing "lowish" level framework (Such as XNA, SDL, SFML, etc) without worrying about the engine abstraction, (Something like pong is a good starting point) and just go from there.

Once you're able to make reasonably big games without engines you should be able to see the path fairly clearly.
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a game engine is collections of frameworks combined together.
here are the some frameworks you may use,

graphics renderers ( DirectX, OpenGL, SDL, XNA, Ogre3d, etc...)
physics ( bullet, physx, havoc, etc...)
sound (fmod, openal, etc..)
scripting (lua, python, angelscript...)
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This is a diagram that is posted in the book "Game Engine Architecture" which is pretty much everything a game engine needs (give or take, it's a good enough estimate in my opinion and serves as purely an example. Variety is always there)

[img]http://www.bennychen.cn/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/RuntimeGameEngineArchitecture.png[/img]

This is pretty much everything you will need and well.. obviously it is a bit overwhelming at first glance. I've been wanting to create a game engine myself, but it is a lot of work so instead I decided to focus myself on just a "subsystem" for the time being. Creating a render engine. In my mind, once I am "done" with the render engine and I can easily/efficiently draw stuff on the screen to my liking (it's something personal, so no need to worry about others) I would be able to implement something else like Audio or Physics or whatever I want.

If you really want to make a full fledged game engine, take small steps! So in my case, I started with OpenGL, made sure I understand it (at least most of it) and try to make it as efficient as I wanted it to be. I used my teachers site which explained most of the stuff I needed to know to get started with OpenGL (http://3dgep.com/) and I would be able to continue with other stuff after that.

This might or might not be the best way, but it works for me!
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Here is what I learned from my path to making something that resembles a "game engine":

1) you need a very solid "core" (math, some custom containers if needed (array,....), memory allocators, timers,...)

2) make modules totally independent of one another (module = renderer, asset loader, physics)

3) use a scripting language for the actual game

4) it will take a lot of time, so go this way only if you are interested in low-level system programming and can you live without making a game for a very long time

5) use a library for loading 3d models in the game (eg. assimp), I wrote my own c++ plugin for 3ds max but eventually I dumped that (you can later save the model loaded from assimp in your own format for performance reasons)
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@Drew_Benton:

Thank you for your post.
I guess your right about the game engine being too out there for now.
I brought it up originally, because I just wanted a super simplistic engine. Nothing too fancy. Not even mesh inputs.
I basically just wanted 3D, Physics, Colored Shapes, and Player controls.

So now that we have that, where do I begin making a simple game such as this?
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I have written game/rendering engines both for fun and professionally. I don't always have a use case for my engine, but when deciding on what features I'll develop, I focus on those that are needed in games like Half-Life or Deus Ex, because some day I want to be part of a team working on something like that. In the mean time, I sometimes do small indie games using my engine so I get to learn game development and not just engine development. Doing real games using your own engine is a good way to test its power.

When developing an engine, I do it in the perspective of the engine's user, and try to make everything as seamless as possible for them. First I write API calls into a tech demo, then I implement them, so it's kind of a top-down process for me.
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