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nekitusan

Unity Current state of custom and commercial game engines as of 2014

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As a game engine developer myself, I was wondering about the need of custom game engines, the state of commercial engine offers and also about game engine engineer job offers scarcity.

We can all observe how the game engine market has changed since Unity started to occupy a major part of it and also after UE4 was released to the public, that started the "war" for the user, for affordable game engine technology.

I'm seeing the current distinct parts of the game engine market or area of game software technology:

  1. hobby custom game engines, very few probably aimed at 3D anymore, a several 2D oriented ones usually written for specific indie games;
  2. custom proprietary game engines, used in-house by some game studios such as DICE's FrostBite,  Kojima's FoxEngine, SquareEnix's Luminous, and others;
  3. hobbyist game engines from the last generation, or the pre-unity, pre-UE4, with ok features but not really AAA grade, and we have here (in no particular order biggrin.png) Leadwerks, NeoAxis, Torque, C4, Shiva3D, Esenthel, Gamestart, Gamecore, etc., some better than others. Some might get upgraded in the future, but not a certainty;
  4. top hobbyist game engines, here we have the well known players Unity3D and UnrealEngine4, plus some more obscure or not so much used ones like Unigine, CryEngine, and others I don't remember;
  5. open source game engines, there are some notable ones like Panda3D, Delta3D, Polycode, OGRE(rendering), Blender GameEngine, and others;

So, one of my questions is, is it worth still to make a custom game engine for yourself or even to think about making it open source or commercial ?

Open source might be a nice thing and an experience for learning new stuff, but since the big commercial players are doing a relatively good job, commercial might not be a doable idea, unless you have a big or veteran team of experienced programmers.

Another topic is the scarcity of engine tech development, I can only see few jobs related to that of few companies, due to the aforementioned monopolization of the commercial engine market. Jobs of that kind one might find at No. 2 and No. 4, sometimes No.1.

And yet another topic is the relative lack of low level and techniques/new tech tutorials or articles, as they're not so many as they were years ago. This is also a byproduct of the game engine/tech developers, due to this new segregation of the market.

This is more of a rant, an open discussion for how the market for game engine technology and man power and competences has changed in the last lets say 10 years, since I dont see anyone bringing this into discussion, people being more busy on how to cash in the AppStore and how to create the next big 2D game X clone or Minecraft clone.

A dilution of the engineering competence is happening I think, since its not so needed anymore, the big game engine guys have the manpower and money to overshadow most of the emerging game engines that might try to pop out (Bitsquid, Offset, RealityEngine, etc), which are usually bought by big companies.

Things have changed, how does an (oldish biggrin.png) game engine developer copes with this change?

Basically, should I continue on my game engine or use just the tech above and make games... smile.png

I hope some of you had/have this problem and can talk about it.

 

Feel free to rant on the subjects above, I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Bonus content: I see all the cool rendering features being added to top tier engines like PBR, deferred in many flavors, custom GUI for editors, publishing to a gazillion platforms, asset stores, tons of middleware added, etc.. and I feel a "little" bit overwhelmed and I wonder if I should stay a tech-oriented developer or go to the actual game developer side, where you actually make games and not tech. But I like to build engines and editors, yet for what purpose since the tools are already given up for free by the other companies. Yes, its a personal crisis :).

Edited by nekitusan

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So, one of my questions is, is it worth still to make a custom game engine for yourself or even to think about making it open source or commercial ?

 

Very unlikely, forking an open source engine to make your own may be a good idea, but I can't really think of a good reason to do so, also many have licenses that would forbid that you add features without releasing them as open source.

 

The point on this whole topic is that it has been a long, long time that people have started developing engines, so they have a giant upper hand against anyone who wants to start now. I support open source engines and am quite active on development of tools, tutorials and answer question to the one I like (shameless hook: look at my signature to check the engine), but I am very aware that if I wanted to create a serious game (to earn money to keep myself alive, not as hobby) I wouldn't go for an open source solution, specially if we are talking about 3D.

 

As for your own situation, I think this is the best time ever for you. Since most engines work with plugins, you can definitelly work on a commercial plugin and make a decent amount of money with it.

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And yet another topic is the relative lack of low level and techniques/new tech tutorials or articles, as they're not so many as they were years ago. This is also a byproduct of the game engine/tech developers, due to this new segregation of the market.

Must disagree with that. If anything, there are more low level techniques being shared than ever, IMO.

 

Anyway, if tool dev is your thing, I guess you'll have to come up with something that hasn't been done yet, or at least something you could do better. Without knowing your experience, it sure would be nice to have a good dynamic music creation tool available, for instance. Point being, there are tons of niches that haven't been filled yet...

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Another topic is the scarcity of engine tech development, I can only see few jobs related to that of few companies, due to the aforementioned monopolization of the commercial engine market. Jobs of that kind one might find at No. 2 and No. 4, sometimes No.1.


There are few companies that are using pre-made engines and don't also have in-house engine developers.

The pre-made engines aren't out-of-the-box amazing wonderful perfect solutions. In many, many ways, the big popular engines have various quite severe deficiencies. Most game companies have to spend rather significant resources "fixing," maintaining, upgrading, and porting engines in order to actually ship a game on all the target platforms (some of the popular engines will for instance support a platform just enough for them to check off the "supports Foo" checkbox in their marketing material, but the support is far too incomplete, buggy, or slow for a shipping AAA game). A lot of the big commercial engines have cool-sounding features that are utterly unusable in practice and have to be ripped out or completely rewritten in order to ship a game. Unity doesn't give most studios the option of modifying the source; many studios using UE or the like though will spend very considerable time and money turning it into something usable for their project (this cost is still often less than starting from scratch, but there's definitely still a need for hardcore engine development).

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I've worked at Crytek as CryEngine's Sandbox Editor developer and architect for editor's future. Left the company to pursue the personal dream of developing an engine and other things. After UE4 and Unity5 announcement I was feeling overpowered to continue on my work, not to mention the limited time and funds available smile.png. Started a blog a while ago http://7thfactor.com some quite old screenshots http://7thfactor.com/showroom/nytro/history and a previous blog http://7thfactor.com/nytro/blog.

Edited by nekitusan

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And yet another topic is the relative lack of low level and techniques/new tech tutorials or articles, as they're not so many as they were years ago. This is also a byproduct of the game engine/tech developers, due to this new segregation of the market.

Must disagree with that. If anything, there are more low level techniques being shared than ever, IMO.

 

Anyway, if tool dev is your thing, I guess you'll have to come up with something that hasn't been done yet, or at least something you could do better. Without knowing your experience, it sure would be nice to have a good dynamic music creation tool available, for instance. Point being, there are tons of niches that haven't been filled yet...

 

yes, I am also following those blogs and some more, but its not enough :), at least in the "old" days there was more down-to-the-metal information in forms of tutorials than now, imho. Sure, we have the whitepapers and slides from the big companies and various hobbyists or employees from the big or little companies, but I find them scarce or my google skills are underdeveloped :). Either way, I still believe there are more Unity programmers being "produced" than hardcore ones, and that happens because of this engine monopoly.

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Well i love writing tools to make games more than making games, so as a hobby i am mostly making very simple game engine and toolkit then i try to squeeze as much milk as i can out of them. So far i never finished a proper game. The truth you realize is, while programmer will always be necessary, the tools are in place today for an artist without much programming knowledge to make decent a game. Game engine now are more like fetched out integrated creation toolkit or scene maker than actual code framework. Cryengine is the most shocking example. But personally when i use something such as Unity or Cryengine i find that my creative side is taking over and i feel like modding or hacking instead of making.

 

EDIT: I am by no mean a professional, but what i mean is it depend on the path you want to take and the experience you want to live.

Edited by FFA702

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So, one of my questions is, is it worth still to make a custom game engine for yourself or even to think about making it open source or commercial ?

 

Commercial? Probably not. Open Source? A community of good programmers can go a long ways. And even surprass some of the Professional level stuff. Look at what Blender used to be, and became. It has some features in it that would cost a fortune in Maya.

 

Your own custom game engine specifically tailored to your game? Well, most certainly.

 

A few reasons in my opinion.

 

A. Legal Issues. You can saunter out of a lot of legal issues without any problems, and you most certainly don't have to pay a thousand dollar licensing fee if you developed your own engine.

 

B. Specialization. Pre-built engines tend to have their own ways to do things. You can modify the source, after paying a fortune to get it. But at that point, it might have been more efficient to build your own engine from the ground up. Say you want your game to specialize in tile movement, but had a huge world to explore. You could use Cry engine, but it's not really designed for that. And modifying source code would be a pain.

 

C. Then finally. You'd probably become more well known of a programmer or game developer should you use your own engine, and make something impressive.

 

There are also a lot of problems however.

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