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Unity Are Third Party Game Engines the Future

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I am a programmer who is interested in the technology used to make games. I am developing a hobbyist game engine for learning purposes and plan to use UE4 for a commercial game in the future. I am interested in the current state of the industry. Most new game studios are using Unity and UE4 and some bigger studios such as Capcom Vancouver are moving from internal tech to UE4. Indie developers that choose to create their own engines for their games always mention source control as one of the major reasons for not using a third party engine. A famous example is Jonathan Blow and I wonder is this a case of not-invented-here syndrome. I can understand programmers wanting source access and that being a valid reason not to use Unity but seeing as UE4 gives source access, I don't see how not controlling the source would be a huge inconvenience. I understand that Epic could make an update that might conflict with an engine modification the developer has made but I can't see how this would happen too often or how it could not be easily addressed by the developer. It does seem to me that developers using this excuse are picking at straws but maybe I'm wrong.

 

As technology improves and third party tools improve, do you think that the bigger AAA game studios that have internal engines will eventually switch to using third party engines or will the industry continue as is for the foreseeable future? 

Edited by SephireX

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Thanks for the replies. 

 

When I said that AAA studios would use third party engines, I meant engines like UE4, Cryengine and Lumberyard that give access to source code and I meant that these studios would modify the engines as they needed. Therefore, there would still have to be engineers on the team that can write low level engine code.There are so many parts to game engines that are common. Core utilities, maths library, memory allocation, multi-threading and resource management to name a few; that may not differ depending on the game. If every AAA game studio was building things from scratch, surely that would take more time. EA let many of their studios use the Frostbite engine. Eidos Montreal took IO Interactive's Glacier engine as a base to create the Dawn Engine. Arkane Studios' Void engine is a modified Id Tech 6. Reinventing the wheel seems counter-intuitive.

 

"I never want to hear that all AAA game studios have halted work on their own tech and are now exclusively using UE4/Unity/CryEngine/<Insert Generic Engine here>. I feel that would slow down the development of game tech in general and reduce the number of people who know how to code lower level tech and tools."

 

Third party engine developers would hire more engineers in response to greater demand. Therefore I'd imagine the number of people working on low level tech and tools would remain the same. More and more developers are using third party engines and as the companies providing them make more money, they will expand and the tools and work flow of these engines will improve beyond what internal studios can keep up with. 

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Yeah it used to be that IDTech and Unreal were extremely popular in the AAA development space, now (to caricature the situation) CryEngine gets laughed at, Unreal gets derided for being Java-esque bloatware, and Unity still gets ignored by AAA devs.

Among the indie developers I know, CryEngine gets laughed at, Unreal has a small guild of zealous fans, and Unity is overwhelmingly popular (yet they all bitch about its flaws).

 

So if anything, proprietary engines in the AAA scene have kinda made a comeback in recent years!

Except behind the EA iron curtain, where Frostbite is basically their own internal "off the shelf engine" a la Unreal, which they've forced onto all of their studios, wiping out all their other proprietary engines in the process...

 

While I do not share the same experience with CryEngine being laughed at, I will say that (depressingly) nearly every indie team I join wants to use Unity to create their game, and every new team member almost immediately assumes we will be using Unity despite its cost and flaws. The last team I was on had the absolute worst asset chain I have ever had the displeasure of working with, all in an effort to bypass Unity "features."

 

Unity is a great product, but it has a way of turning the ideas in your head into clunky and unwieldy messes. It effectively turns small, simple projects into twisted nightmares, unless everyone on your team has some experience with the software, which is ironic because the push to use Unity usually comes from non-coders as well. I do not foresee it ever having a large presence in AAA game development.

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As technology improves and third party tools improve, do you think that the bigger AAA game studios that have internal engines will eventually switch to using third party engines or will the industry continue as is for the foreseeable future?


Engines and middleware save time and money, so they are here to stay.

The tools of the day are always changing and evolving. For example a project may use use FMod, WWise, or Miles Sound System, or some other audio product.

The choice of any particular technology is always in flux. If you're a true "bigger AAA game studio" then you've got enough millions of dollars that you have a license to use and modify the source of whatever engine and library technology you are using and bend it to your needs.  If you decide some technology doesn't work for you, you can adapt it and make it use different technology.

 

Game engines are not only the future, they are also the present.  They've been in the industry for many years already.

 

Exactly how you classify them, "third party engines" versus "in house engines" is not really relevant. Somebody makes them, it doesn't particularly matter who made them, only that the tools exist and can be used to build better products.

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@frob

I'm talking about a team's decision to use third party or an internal engine. The current trend is that AAA studios make their own and indie devs use third party. Tools are always changing but a team has full control over how an internal engine changes or evolves but do not have the same control over a third party engine. My point is that I believe in time AAA studios will sacrifice having this amount of control in favor of the better tools and workflow that third party engines will provide. 

 

@Hodgman

As far as Unreal Engine 4 being derided, I doubt that. A number of Microsoft studios are using it. Square Enix is using it for FF7 Remake and Kingdom Hearts 3. It was used by Namco for Tekken 7 and by Capcom for Street Fighter V. Sony Bend are using it for a PS4 exclusive. Respawn Entertainment are also using it for TitanFall sequel. The list goes on. The code in the engine is nicely structured and very readable. The codebase might be bloated because it supports many different platforms but the engine will only be compiled for the target platform so its not a big issue. Hot code compile in the editor speeds up iteration times and the engine has a nice C++ api. Blueprints is also a nice scripting language. Though I would prefer lua.

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a team has full control over how an internal engine changes or evolves but do not have the same control over a third party engine.

 

 

 

Not necessarily true. It's quite possible to get full-source licenses to several popular pieces of middleware, including Unreal. At that point you can do anything you want, generally (including not take further updates and evolve in whatever direction you choose).

 

One could make the argument that it's still harder because you didn't write the code and so you don't know it as well as code you'd write in-house, but it's usually pretty easy to learn, and that argument washes out as soon as the internal engine gets old enough that the original authors of pieces of code leave the company.

Edited by Josh Petrie

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Also, remember that if you're one or two people, you can make your own tech.  But you can't just tell 50 people to go get to work while you make the engine.  What are the artists, composers, and game designers going to use?  They don't want to redo everything once the engine is done.  

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