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AirborneAR

Question about Open World Survival Game Engines

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If you were trying to design a game like DayZ, WarZ, Rust, or H1Z1 from scratch, which engine would you use?

 

I understand that it's suggested I put this in "for beginners" but I'm not looking for beginner advice.  I'd like to know what the pros would use.

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If you were trying to design a game like DayZ, WarZ, Rust, or H1Z1 from scratch, which engine would you use?
 
I understand that it's suggested I put this in "for beginners" but I'm not looking for beginner advice.  I'd like to know what the pros would use.

It's not the most useful question -- what the pro's use is only the right choice for them because of their situation. Do you have a team of a dozen senior engineers who you're paying $100k a year, and a budget of $10M to spend on your game? If not, then the right choice for you will be different to the choices made by "the pros".

 

Personally, I'd probably build one from scratch specific to these requirements :P
...But I've spent 8 years working as an engine programmer, so I've got a lot of reasons to make that choice. If your team didn't have an experienced engine programmer, it would be a much more crazy choice to make.

 

If your team all have 5 years experience with Unity, then that would be a sane engine to choose. They're probably able to bend Unity to their will enough to pull off a DayZ.

 

If you've got experience with Unreal, that would be a good choice.

 

If you're an experienced Arma modder, then you could copy what DayZ did and start out as an Arma Mod!

 

A pro team would evaluate all their options and weigh up the pros/cons specific to their situation. One of the biggest weights in this is how much experience their team has with each of the engines. If engine B is slightly more popular in this genre but the team has previously shipped 5 titles using engine A, they're very likely to just continue using engine A and to perform any customization/extension required to make this next game.

 

 

Thanks for your feedback!

 

I'm actually not a coder, and there is no team yet :)  Please don't stone me to death yet!  lol

 

What I do bring to the party is a crap ton of business experience, marketing, finance, and a titanic amount of knowledge about the survival games industry.

 

I'm trying to find a team to bootstrap (no funding), a semi-functional game (enough to demo it), to start some sort of kickstarter or other funding campaign to fully flesh out the game.  A game that is from day 1 built to the consensus desire of a gaming community.

 

I've seen all the devs in the past fail, and the reason why is.........they don't talk to / listen to their customers.  Sure they might take occasional stabs at community outreach, make a few posts in reddit, or do livestreams where they answer 10 random questions, but they don't really take the time to sit down and UNDERSTAND their customer base.  That's what I can do.  I can actually go and find out what the customer base is EXACTLY looking for, then tailor the game to that need.

 

Edit:  Sorry, got into the marketing pitch and didn't really followup on what we were both talking about.....lol  What I really meant to say was "since there are no coders yet, what game engine do you think would be the best suited to a game in this genre (ability for coders to make it, features, cost, etc).  That way I can focus on looking for coders for "game engine X" instead of trying to find coders only to find out the game engine they code in isn't a good fit.

Edited by AirborneAR

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You're going about this completely backwards. Normally seeing you gather a team of engineers based on your pitch (and proper compensation of course), and you let them decide what technology to use for the project, since they'll be able to make a much more educated decision than you ever will.

 

The problem is I don't have a team yet.  And if I randomly assemble a team without choosing the engine first..........I'll get 3 unity guys, 4 unreal engine guys, 2 cryengine guys, and 1 guy who works on some smaller indie engine.

 

Can 3 unity guys, 3 unreal guys, 2 cryengine guys, and 1 random engine guy all code on any engine?  So if the team chose unreal, all 9 of those guys can do unreal?  If so, then I am coming at this completely backwards.

 

I apologize for my ignorance either way :)  I'm a business guy trying to assemble a team of rocket scientists, without knowing anything except "rockets go whoosh into sky"....lol

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And if I randomly assemble a team without choosing the engine first..........I'll get 3 unity guys, 4 unreal engine guys, 2 cryengine guys, and 1 guy who works on some smaller indie engine.

 
 

 

 
Well then you've failed at putting together a team. Recruit two or three highly skilled technical people for your lead types. You will need somebody to handle art, somebody to handle game design, and somebody to handle code and engineering. You can usually find people who are highly skilled at two out of three of these, thus two to three people (although sometimes you can get away with not having one of those three areas well-covered). With that core team, decide on the direction to go technology-wise based on your game concepts. This may involve evaluating and prototyping in several engines.
 
Then decide. Then recruit the rest of the team as needed.

Can 3 unity guys, 3 unreal guys, 2 cryengine guys, and 1 random engine guy all code on any engine? 
 

 

If they are any good, yes, they can learn the other tools.
Edited by Josh Petrie

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A relatively experienced engineer will easily be able to adapt to any tool, especially if it's a well documented tool like Unity, Unreal or CryEngine. The tool should be chosen for the benefit of the project first, previous experience with the tool comes second.

 

Focus on what you know and do best, leave the technical decisions to the people who have the technical background.

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You're going about this completely backwards. Normally seeing you gather a team of engineers based on your pitch (and proper compensation of course), and you let them decide what technology to use for the project, since they'll be able to make a much more educated decision than you ever will.

 

The problem is I don't have a team yet.  And if I randomly assemble a team without choosing the engine first..........I'll get 3 unity guys, 4 unreal engine guys, 2 cryengine guys, and 1 guy who works on some smaller indie engine.

 

Can 3 unity guys, 3 unreal guys, 2 cryengine guys, and 1 random engine guy all code on any engine?  So if the team chose unreal, all 9 of those guys can do unreal?  If so, then I am coming at this completely backwards.

 

I apologize for my ignorance either way :)  I'm a business guy trying to assemble a team of rocket scientists, without knowing anything except "rockets go whoosh into sky"....lol

 

 

Since you're a business guy you wont be assembling a team of engineers.  You have no idea who to interview and how to interview them.  What you need is to get a lead engineer with experience leading teams and let him or her to the team building for the engineers.  Same for the artists and designers.

 

Out of curiosity, how do you plan to get a team of people to make this game?  You say you have lots of business and finance experience but no money.  I'm really curious how you intend to do this because I've been in a similar situation of trying to put together a team without money.  It's not easy.

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Since you're a business guy you wont be assembling a team of engineers.  You have no idea who to interview and how to interview them.  What you need is to get a lead engineer with experience leading teams and let him or her to the team building for the engineers.  Same for the artists and designers.

 

Out of curiosity, how do you plan to get a team of people to make this game?  You say you have lots of business and finance experience but no money.  I'm really curious how you intend to do this because I've been in a similar situation of trying to put together a team without money.  It's not easy.

 

 

Roger, got it.  First thing is to get leads for the major programming departments.

 

The team will have to be recruited on vision.  The vision is there is a desperate need for this title in this one specific genre because so may developers have delivered up titles that didn't even come close to meeting the needs of the community.  The developers really don't understand the community, especially that it's a split community, with each segment wanting something different.  And they don't take the time to really find out deep down what the community wants.

 

Anytime you find a niche in the marketplace that is being underserved, there's money to be made there.  I could try to make the next Call of Duty, no way, I'd never even get close.  I could try to make some simple mobile game, no to that too, that market has too many different options / way too many competitors.  But in this one genre, because of what the devs have done to the gaming community, there is a vast unmet need that could be filled.

 

The no money thing is a problem, that's for 100% sure.  But when there is the promise of earning a large market share "in this one niche", there's also great rewards to be had.  So people will be doing some "free work" for the chance at "great rewards".  The structure of the company won't be "salaried" positions.  It'll be based on profit sharing.  Get more people in the game, get more money.

 

My biggest fear isn't finding people to help.  I know there are a lot of programmers that may have tried or may want to try to accomplish a survival title like DayZ.  

 

My biggest fear is keeping them working on it, getting it accomplished in a reasonable timeframe, and what to do with the "this guy worked 5000 hours on the game" but "this other guy worked 50 hours on the game".  When it launches, we can't bring everyone on board.  5000 hour guy is obviously in.  But what do you do about 50 hour guy?  I have to find a way to structure it so people know up front that if they put the full effort in, they're in for the full rewards.  But if they're not in it full time, then they get some money and are sent on their way?

 

I'm thinking that the leads of each department would determine who gets the positions once the company launches.  So the lead art guy would choose X number of artists, and we bring those on staff.  Everyone else just gets a smaller payout and moves on.

 

What do you think?

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For a professional project I would see if I could license Forgelight 2 (that's the SOE/Daybreak engine used in PS2 and H1Z1).

Next I would look at Unreal 4 and determine the work it would take to scale to large worlds - ARK is progressing albeit with some issues.

Practically speaking Unreal 4 is way easier to "get off the ground" with than wooing Daybreak to license FL2 to a vaporware team - especially when the plan is to create a competing project.

 

Programmers will be the least of your problems.

(There are a lot of programmers with boring day-jobs that will be willing to moonlight on an interesting project.)

The biggest problem is core business organization and project management.

There is no demonstrated way to complete such a project *on schedule* without an operating budget.

Mods, total-conversions, get made but they are generally not completed according to the original schedule.

The next major problem is the creation and integration of high-quality artwork and sound.

 

For structuring such a thing I would create a bitcoin-mining-like value generation and then assign it to the people working on it.

There's some software infrastructure to create for tracking (e.g. a tray-icon tool you click to clock-in/clock-out, detect away, detect screwing around on reddit, et. al.) and just that infrastructure could be its own company.

By bitcoin-mining-like I mean I would track the time people put in and have accomplishment of milestones unleash value that is then distributed among the people that contributed time to make it happen.

That amount becomes how much of the company they own (e.g. issue private stock).

Edited by Shannon Barber

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Roger, got it.  First thing is to get leads for the major programming departments.

 

The team will have to be recruited on vision.  The vision is there is a desperate need for this title in this one specific genre because so may developers have delivered up titles that didn't even come close to meeting the needs of the community.  The developers really don't understand the community, especially that it's a split community, with each segment wanting something different.  And they don't take the time to really find out deep down what the community wants.

 

Anytime you find a niche in the marketplace that is being underserved, there's money to be made there.  I could try to make the next Call of Duty, no way, I'd never even get close.  I could try to make some simple mobile game, no to that too, that market has too many different options / way too many competitors.  But in this one genre, because of what the devs have done to the gaming community, there is a vast unmet need that could be filled.

 

The no money thing is a problem, that's for 100% sure.  But when there is the promise of earning a large market share "in this one niche", there's also great rewards to be had.  So people will be doing some "free work" for the chance at "great rewards".  The structure of the company won't be "salaried" positions.  It'll be based on profit sharing.  Get more people in the game, get more money.

 

My biggest fear isn't finding people to help.  I know there are a lot of programmers that may have tried or may want to try to accomplish a survival title like DayZ.  

 

My biggest fear is keeping them working on it, getting it accomplished in a reasonable timeframe, and what to do with the "this guy worked 5000 hours on the game" but "this other guy worked 50 hours on the game".  When it launches, we can't bring everyone on board.  5000 hour guy is obviously in.  But what do you do about 50 hour guy?  I have to find a way to structure it so people know up front that if they put the full effort in, they're in for the full rewards.  But if they're not in it full time, then they get some money and are sent on their way?

 

I'm thinking that the leads of each department would determine who gets the positions once the company launches.  So the lead art guy would choose X number of artists, and we bring those on staff.  Everyone else just gets a smaller payout and moves on.

 

What do you think?

 

 

Yes, I've been in a very similar situation.  Here's your problems:

 

Without money you cant hire people fulltime, which means anyone you try to get to work on this fulltime will be paying out of their savings.  Most good engineers are already working and wont quit their jobs to join you, even if this were best-case scenario, which it's not.  They dont know you or your vision.  And they probably have families to feed and mortgages to pay.

 

This means that your pool of people who might work with you full-time is very, very small.

 

Then you have the option of getting people to work with you on their spare time.  I can also guarantee you that if you get these people you cant really rely on them to produce that much.  Working on your own personal projects on your spare time is bad enough.  Working with others on someone else's project is harder.

 

You also have the problem that if you gather a group they'll most likely be scattered around the country, or world.  This is another major problem for game development.  You could certainly do it, but having a team that's all together on-site is your best case situation.  

 

I hate to be the one throwing the wet blanket on your hopes, but without any money you're chances of getting anywhere with this are very small.

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You're going about this completely backwards. Normally seeing you gather a team of engineers based on your pitch (and proper compensation of course), and you let them decide what technology to use for the project, since they'll be able to make a much more educated decision than you ever will.

 

I actually disagree. Just like running a guild, you have to pick the game and schedule first then recruit people that fit and want it.
If you just grab a bunch of people because they are good at X/Y/Z you will end up with a group of talented people that have no feasible way of working together.

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Shannon you actually made me laugh out loud when you said Forgelight 2.....lol  I would not want any engine even remotely associated with H1Z1 :)

 

Good insight on the Unreal Engine.  I'm looking at Ark too.  While it's not my cup of tea per say, what they've done with Ark is amazing, and their customers like it.

 

And you said it perfectly:

Man I think you are right though - my buddies and I try all the zombie games out there and frankly (mod'd) Minecraft has the most staying power. The rest of them are trainwrecks.

 

That's the thing about that market, all the developers are taking a "stab at it", but they're not doing the customer focused research to actually produce what survival players WANT :)  Hardcore players want substantially different things from PVE players.  That's the simplest part of the process, just go ask people.  Ask a lot of people.  Keep asking people what they want until they won't talk to you anymore.....lol  THEN go build your game based on that information.

 

--------------------------

 

OrOd:

 

I agree with you that I can't get people to do it full time for free.  It's going to have to be part time.  It's going to be hard.

 

Don't worry about the wet blanket.  Since I've started wearing a wet blanket full time 24/7.  I've got myself 50% convinced this is a complete failure before I even start, and 50% convinced we're going to make a game so successful that will make DayZ look like a flop.  If I were betting though, I'm betting on the 50% fail :)

 

--------------------------
 
Josh:
 
Thanks for those articles about equity.  That really opened my eyes quite a bit.  Being a sole proprietor meant I never really had to look at equity for anything.
 
Maybe some form of profit sharing would be more in-line?  But do you think I can get by with profit sharing alone?
 
What would you think of this?  With no future equity changes allowed.
Me - 51% equity, 10% profit sharing
3 Programming Leads = 29% equity, 10% profit sharing each
7 Programmers = 20% equity, 8.5% profit sharing each
 
That way I don't end up like the D&D creator that had the company stolen from him, but I can still motivate the core base with a combination of equity and profit sharing.
 
Or would you suggest something different?

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What would you think of this?  With no future equity changes allowed.
Me - 51% equity, 10% profit sharing
3 Programming Leads = 29% equity, 10% profit sharing each
7 Programmers = 20% equity, 8.5% profit sharing each

 

 

First, it's reasonable enough to classify equity as a percentage, since equity is ownership (of the company, in this case). It's not so reasonable to classify profit sharing as a percentage, because "profit" can be computed in many different ways. Your 10% profit and my 10% profit can be exceedingly different numbers in practice. Define what profit is, accounting-wise, how profit accrues, when it is paid out, and so on.
 
Second, 51 + (3 x 29) + (7 * 20) is 278%, so I don't understand your equity numbers. Similarly, 10 + (3 x 10) + (7 x 8.5) is 99.5%, so I don't understand your profit sharing numbers.
 
(And no, the point I was trying to make is that profit-sharing alone is a bad base compensation plan. I think it's a brilliant additional compensation plan, when clearly spelled out, but in the context of the project your describing I think you're only hope is to get people with salary (alone) or equity (alone), depending on the kind of people you need. Profit sharing (alone) is a fool's errand.)
Edited by Josh Petrie

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Recruiting on vision is a dangerous gamble, to put it lightly. I might go so far as to say it's a guaranteed disaster, although that's a tiny bit more absolutist than the situation really deserves.

There are many things that motivate different people. Money, fame, completion of a project, good social interactions with peers, etc. etc. - read up on the literature on psychology of motivation. You'll want to find ways to attract people who don't share your vision.

Why?

Because nobody else has your exact vision. And chances are damn near 100% that you will never get another person to have an identical vision, ever. There will always be "creative differences" to reconcile. If your plan for resolving those differences is "my way or the highway" then you are already failing.



You flat out aren't gonna attract good people with money, because you don't have any, and because any decent engineer knows better than to work for free in today's economy.

Fame might be a good draw, if you can convince people that their execution of your vision will be as successful as you're expecting it to be.

Completion is another good draw, if you can prove that you have the ability to deliver - both you personally, and, as your team grows, the rest of your crew.

Socialization is probably your best bet frankly, of the motivators I named, because you can play to people's common interests in the genre as well as the bonding experience of building a product together.


I'd strongly suggest looking for business structures that help you motivate your team with tools that are not purely financial. If you strike it big later on, good for you - and certainly you should have a contingency plan for doling out the wealth - but don't make it your #1 reason to join up.

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Second, 51 + (3 x 29) + (7 * 20) is 278%, so I don't understand your equity numbers. Similarly, 10 + (3 x 10) + (7 x 8.5) is 99.5%, so I don't understand your profit sharing numbers.

 

 

The equity number was total, but the profit sharing was each.  I'll put it out as all each:

 

Me = 51% Equity, 10% Profit Sharing

3 Programming Leads = 9.6% Equity, 10% Profit Sharing

7 Programmers = 2.8% Equity, 8.5% Profit Sharing

 

I can do the profit sharing easy.  I've done that with employees I've had in the past.  There wasn't much issue with it.

 

How would you do it?  I can't afford to give away the equity, because I don't want to get put out of the project that I started.  But I want to make sure I'm taking care of the people who did the heavy code lifting.  I think the coders should have a big stake in how well the game does AND benefit from it.

 

My ideal end state would be.

1.  Happy me working for the company earning a decent living

2.  Happy programmers working for the company earning a decent living

3.  A game that the customers REALLY enjoy, leading to future value for both the brand and subsequent titles.

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The equity number was total, but the profit sharing was each.  I'll put it out as all each:

 

Me = 51% Equity, 10% Profit Sharing

3 Programming Leads = 9.6% Equity, 10% Profit Sharing

7 Programmers = 2.8% Equity, 8.5% Profit Sharing

 

 

 

 

All programmers and 1 business/vision guy?  You need some artists and at least 1 designer in the mix.  Also I'd suggest just 1 programming lead.  You need one person in charge of your tech, not 3 that will fight with each other and come to you to make decisions, because you're not able to tell them what tech decisions are right or wrong.  Also finding 3 senior-level engineers to work on this wont be easy IMO.

 

I can understand the instinct to keep 51% for yourself, but first answer this: What do you bring to the table that warrants 51% of the equity?  If you came to me and asked me to be your lead engineer (and I had the time, interest, and belief in the project) I would probably not jump in for anything less than 20%.  The reason is that you really cant make the game without me (or someone else like me), it'd be a big time investment for me and I'm assuming I'd do most of the engineering work early on, and lastly I'm not sure why I couldnt just do the project on my own and recruit my own team.

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What I bring to the table is industry and customer base knowledge.  How to draw additional knowledge from that customer base, translate it into actual game development, and make that the profit driver for the business.  How to make your customers happy, and make more money doing it.

 

Before you say that's not worth much......WarZ Devs (failed)....DayZ Standalone Devs (failed)....H1Z1 Devs (failed).  So you've got the gambit from CCC to AAA development companies, full of devs, full of marketing people, full of various other support people, that all failed.  They didn't fail because they were bad coders, artists, and level design.

 

By all means, the combat in WarZ was actually pretty good.  DayZ Standalone was really beautiful art.  H1Z1 was a mix of the two.  Coding wasn't why they failed.

 

What about this:

 

Me = 20% equity, 12% profit sharing (with overall 100% control for business decisions)

Lead = 20% equity, 12% profit sharing

9 x Coder, Art, Level = 6.6% equity, 8.4% profit sharing

 

So I still have control, but you own more of the company?

Edited by AirborneAR

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What about this:

 

Me = 20% equity, 12% profit sharing (with overall 100% control for business decisions)

Lead = 20% equity, 12% profit sharing

9 x Coder, Art, Level = 6.6% equity, 8.4% profit sharing

 

So I still have control, but you own more of the company?

 

I'd really start with a smaller team.  Seems like already planning for you + 10 people is very... optimistic.  Also, you dont know what recommendations your tech lead will make as far as how many coders you'll need.   Personally I'd start with: you (business + design), 1 tech lead, 1 art lead.   If you dont want to do design at all, then add 1 design lead.   Start with that, make some progress, grow the team, repeat.   You'd also want to decide how much equity you'll give initial recruits versus subsequent ones.  Logically you want to give more equity to early hires than later ones.  And of course some recruits should get more depending on their experience, how much time they can contribute, etc.  It all gets fairly complicated very quickly, but you need a plan that all the initial founders have agreed to... because all that equity will come from everyone's share.

 

I would also really talk to a lawyer because there's probably all kinds of considerations like what happens if you give someone 10% initially and then they drop out after a month?  You dont want to just give away equity unless someone has actually contributed, so you might want to make sure the equity vests over time.

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What I bring to the table is industry and customer base knowledge

 

 

 

Okay, so how do you demonstrate that (or the value it brings) to a potential business partner? What games you have leveraged this knowledge to ship, and how can you show you did so? That's going to be one of the first questions anybody you approach is going to ask.

 

Before you say that's not worth much......WarZ Devs (failed)....DayZ Standalone Devs (failed)....H1Z1 Devs (failed).  So you've got the gambit from CCC to AAA development companies, full of devs, full of marketing people, full of various other support people, that all failed.  They didn't fail because they were bad coders, artists, and level design.

 

 

 

I'd be very curious to know what your definition for "failure" is, here. And why you think that (at least some of) those cited examples didn't have people with "industry and customer base knowledge." 

 

 

What about this:

 
I don't think you need that many people. I think you need a very small core team of partners who between them cover the abilities required to make some kind of functional prototype or proof of concept and you need to use that to leverage a funding source so you can pay the rest of the team (which consists of a makeup to be determined later, once you have a solid prototype and a better idea of what the hell is going on).

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I haven't shipped any games yet.  And I understand that might be a deterrent to some.  But if they understand the vision, they'll get why what I'm saying is crucial to the development of the game.

 

Failure is a big initial sales release, only to have the game crater into the ground as a failure at the end.  For me personally I will never buy another title from anyone ever associated with WarZ (Infestation), DayZ Standalone, or H1Z1.  Those are customers they had, but won't ever give them another look because of the way the game cratered.  So yes, they did win by getting a large amount of money up front.  Congrats to them.  But they lost their customer base for future titles.  You don't build successful companies by making your customers so angry they won't come back for more.

 

I really don't know how many people I need.  Truly ignorant there :)  But talking to you guys is making me less ignorant   :)

 

Again thanks for everyone's help on this!

 

p.s.  OrOd that is one of the things I'm worried about.  The team on Day 1 will probably not be the same as the team on Release Day.  Figuring out how to compensate those who "helped" but didn't "stick with it" is going to be a huge part of how much or how little legal trouble we will have.....lol

Edited by AirborneAR

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I haven't shipped any games yet.  And I understand that might be a deterrent to some.  But if they understand the vision, they'll get why what I'm saying is crucial to the development of the game.

The thing is that there's a big difference between having a vision and executing that vision.  Having previously shipped games, especially ones where you took your idea from start to finish, shows that you can execute over the development period and you understand all that's involved.  This goes as well for finding your partners, like your tech lead for example.  Someone who's an experienced engineer is nice, but someone who's shipped multiple titles or developed their own game is much better.

 

 

p.s.  OrOd that is one of the things I'm worried about.  The team on Day 1 will probably not be the same as the team on Release Day.  Figuring out how to compensate those who "helped" but didn't "stick with it" is going to be a huge part of how much or how little legal trouble we will have.....lol

 

Yup, I would consider a vesting schedule that goes from 0 to whatever % that person gets over a reasonable time-frame, or perhaps based on milestones, or both.

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If you were trying to design a game like DayZ, WarZ, Rust, or H1Z1 from scratch, which engine would you use?

 

I understand that it's suggested I put this in "for beginners" but I'm not looking for beginner advice.  I'd like to know what the pros would use.

 

 

Well a student's opinion... Anything that can be quickly updated. Which... honestly doesn't change your options much... Most people would roll their own engines, and it's designed specifically to their specifications. It's possible to do this with any pre-made engine that works only as a framework. Because it's all about data handling and delegation.

I wouldn't use Unity for something like this, as adding content would be a severe hassle. Unreal, Cry, and Lumberyard would do just fine as the data can just be loaded from outside. But going on with others, I'd still make my own engine. The code base won't be nearly as massive, and the engine would be designed specifically for the game. Which means that the Client is just a viewer that sends command buffers. And the Server handles all the logic. The server handles all the logic and sanity checks, which means that updating the game and bug tracing won't be such a bastard. You can log everything that happens, restart the server to apply updates, or dynamically change the world at run time.

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