March 18, 2014
Game Engines: Mobile Platforms and Choosing the Right Engine for Your Project
So you want to learn a thing or two about game developing for mobile platforms and aren’t sure how to go about it? Perhaps you have a high concept of a game already done, something you’ve put hours and hours into, maybe even have concept artwork done or even started making assets but you’re not sure what game engine will be the right match for your concept. As a game developer, hobbyist or paid professional, finding a game engine can be tough work. Some engines will cost you a small fortune for its limitless features, others may be absolutely free but will require you to do a lot of back-end work to get it to do the things you want, and unless you’re a knowledgeable programmer in the engines native language you might find that you’re better off forking over a few bucks to get something more user friendly. In this essay I want to walk you through the process of how to find the engine that’ll be the best for your project. To do this you need to ask yourself the right questions, but first let’s break it down to the beginning.
Yossarian King, a veteran lead designer at EA studios turned indie developer, describes game engines as “abstract game code from the specific hardware platform, that provides key functionality such as rendering, animation, physics, and networking, and usually includes a tool chain and content pipeline“. Game engines are powerful sets of tools congregated into one (hopefully) easy-to- use interface that allows the skilled user to make interactive software and applications. It is up to the developer(s) to find an engine that is capable of the project that is being envisioned. Is the project 2d or 3d? Will it require the use of particle effects, animation and cinematics or physics? These are some basic questions that require you to have a firm understanding of what it is you are trying to accomplish with your game. Let’s imagine that we are a small indie game development team looking to create a game for common mobile platforms, Android and iOS. Our game is going to be a 2D platformer with physics, dynamic lighting and procedurally generated terrains, potentially have online multiplayer. It’s important to know what coding languages everyone on your team knows or can learn easily, choosing an engine who’s language you or your programmer is unfamiliar with will undoubtedly run you into issues in your development process. For this particular project, let’s assume our programmer is very fluent in native C, C+ and C++. Now this is a relatively large project, it requires some very complex features, but with the right game engine it could be a very successful just as much as the wrong engine could potentially halt production or even force teams to scrap a whole project. Don’t get me wrong, great games are made with internally-programmed engines (sometimes referred to as “in-house” engines) all the time, but this method takes much longer to even get to the design phase of your game. These teams will often go through months and months of debugging and modifying their engine just to make it stable enough for designers to start working with it. If you have the time, resources, and patience to program your own engine then it may be the route for your project, you’ll also avoid pesky license or subscription fee’s in order to market your software. Point is, it is ultimately up to the developers to deliver all their cumulative skill and knowledge of their development software to make a game visually appealing, functional, and most importantly fun for their audience. No game engine can make a game fun on its own, it’s purpose is only to make the process easier for the developer’s and artists.
First off, like the majority of us would do, we would go to our big name game engines websites and look into features and licenses. Unity, Unreal, Cryengine are the 3 industry leader’s, when you think AAA engines these are all you...
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