Saturday, 14 March 2009

Game Technology - Game Engines

Video game engines are built up of a variety of components that work in synchronisation to present the complete gaming experience to the player. The engines tackle a variety of tasks that produce the final outcome and these main tasks are usually the Audio, Graphics, Real-World lighting and the physics that govern what happens in the game worlds such as object gravity, jumping physics and weather effects such as rain, snow and wind. Over the past decade the cornerstone of all game engines has been the infamous ‘Unreal’ game engine that has been used to build some of the best games of the last decade and continues to be the backbone to some upcoming Triple-A titles such as Final Fantasy XIII and Mass Effect 2. The reason so many games use unreal rather than making their own is mostly down to time and cost, if all companies developed a new engine for every game they made then release of new titles would slow down greatly and gamers would be waiting even longer for new titles which make it non-cost effective which is never good in the games industry. By using a 3rd party engine to build their games on they can get on with the main task at hand of making the actual games and while this is happening ‘Unreal’ can develop a new and improved engine which will be ready will become available when the companies final they can do all they can with the current technology they have. There are indeed other game engines out there but most of them are used in-house by the makers themselves and are mostly exclusive to the company that developed them. A good example of this is the Virtual Theatre game engine developed and used by Revolution software during the 1990’s for their point and click games ‘Lure of the Temptress’, ‘Beneath A Steel Sky’ and ‘Broken Sword 1 & 2’. I was designed specifically to give all their games a familiar play style to give a framework that fans who had played previous titles would be able to adapt to quickly when playing one of their new titles and thus get down to what made their games important, the story. I must say from my own personal experience that the system is so intuitive I’m able to ply the game without being aware of the controls in using so may concentration is solely on the game and made it much more enjoyable to play, it was so popular in fact that after the games were finally unable to play on modern systems that it was developed into what is now a free downloadable engine called ScummVM that allows players to load and play the games on modern PC’s as long as you owned a disc copy of the game, it was then taken a step further and has now been developed to play games that never used the engine in the first place such as all the original LucusArt games such as ‘Monkey Island’ and the amazingly underrated game ‘The Dig’.

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