Friday, 5 March 2010

Game Engines go Free

If you have been tempted to cross the boundary between 2D interactive media or games or 3D animation into 3D games, you will probably know you need to get a decent 3D game physics engine.

That's where my brain has been lately, and consequently I have turned my attention to physics engines. In my mind it was initially a toss-up between Epic's UnrealEd, which comes with Unreal Tournament, or the FPS Creator from The Game Makers.

UnrealEd would have been first choice since I know it is used by a local university on their Game Art degree, on the other hand the FPSC had good features too, and in some ways was less complex and perhaps more suitable for allowing (high school level) students to quickly preview their characters and in-game objects.

However as I did some digging I found that the current plethora of game engines out there, including some open source offerings, has made the area highly competitive. So competitive in fact that well respected commercial engines are now becoming available FREE for personal use, or under developer licenses where you only pay if you make money. This combined with all the free stuff, makes for quite a choice.

Commercial Game Engines for Free

UDK - Unreal have released what they call the Unreal Development Kit, it contains all the tools previously only available to commercial developers or those with a lot of spare cash. This now seems to replace UnrealEd from my point of view.

FPSC - The Game Makers have released a free developers edition of FPSC. It has all the features of the pay for version minus network games and compile - but the pay for is only £30 these days anyway.

Unity - Described as being the best game engine this side of a $million, it normally retailed at about $200, but a free development version is now available too, and looks pretty amazing.

Freeware or Open Source Game Engines

Blender - Has long been capable of producing 3D games made interactive with Python scripting.

Platinum Arts Sandbox 3D Game Maker - purports to be popular with educational environments.

Cheap Game Engines

The 3D Game Maker - I thought I would throw this one in. Although very limited in terms of customisation, for some educational purposes (e.g. Level 1 and 2) this could be ideal. With a bit of technical know how students can include their own 3D models (.x format) in their games.

Well, I already owned FPSC, the 3D Game Maker, and UnrealED, but now I have downloaded Unity and the UDK (be interested to see how UDK is different from UnrealEd). I can hardly wait to get started.

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