If this year's crop of rocky video game launches has taught us anything, it's that coding video games is hard. Sit through the 30 minute scroll that passes itself off as a credits screen these days and you'll see just how many moving parts go into making today's games. With gigabytes of art assets to create, pages of story to write, hours of dialogue and sound to record, a tangled web of complex behaviors to script, and, oh yeah, actual levels and gameplay to design, one thing is clear: making games isn't all fun and games.
Yet despite the ever-increasing complexity, the creation process is more streamlined than ever. Why? Licensable game engines, tools, and middleware. From specular maps to dynamic shadows, high dynamic range rendering to cloth simulation, from pathfinding to AI reaction behavior, game engines take care of all the nitty-gritty graphical and scripting groundwork and provide a solid (hopefully) codebase for our beloved games. And just like you wouldn't throw a HEMI into a Smart Car, or a power-saving hybrid into a monster truck, knowing which engines excel at which tasks is crucial. So here's a quick look at a cool dozen—a V12, if you will—of the biggest engines and middleware tools in use today.
Last week, GDC erupted all over the gaming world, raining molten news bits down on an unsuspecting populace. Tragically, despite a very high casualty count, most of Xbox Live managed to survive. The bottom line? A whole lot of stuff happened, and odds are, some of it managed to fly under your radar. Well, no more. Here's everything you need to know.
Crytek’s CryENGINE has always been a fine looking game engine, but it’s been missing one thing. In case you haven’t guessed, that thing is 3D. We’re not sure anyone was really pushing for this, but at GDC 2010, Crytek will be showing off their new CryENGINE 3 with stereoscopic 3D.
The new engine is reputed to be near photorealism in its rendering. Crytek also plans to give developers a new tool called LiveCreate. This feature will allow game designers to work on, and play their CryENGINE 3 game for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 platforms at the same time.
Nvidia has also made some noise about the coming age of 3D, saying that 3D will be “all pervasive”. Some estimates peg the number of 3D enabled games in 2010 as high as 50. We don’t know if this whole 3D thing will take off, but CryENGINE 3 will probably still be really pretty in 2D. Are you waiting with bated breath for 3D gaming to hit the mainstream?
CryEngine 3's officially ready for third-party consumption, and Crytek's released a new trailer to celebrate. Despite Crytek's jaunt into console land, the trailer's still bonkers beautiful. Don't believe us? See for yourself. Or, if you'd rather read about the feast your eyes are gearing up to scarf down, look at this:
“CryENGINE 3 also introduces CryENGINE 3 Live Create™,” reads the press release. “It allows developers to work with a single editor, but see and play the results in real-time on PC, PS3 and Xbox360, hooked up to a single dev PC. The engine takes care of the conversion and optimization of assets in real-time; enables instant, cross-platform changes to any part of game creation and as a result materially increases the speed, quality and significantly reduces the risk of multiplatform development.”
Granted, everyone and their ITT Tech professor is developing cross-platform games these days, but we still think this has the potential to radically alter the triple-A game development scene. Less muss and fuss over the eccentricities of other videogame platforms (*cough*PS3*cough*) could lead to faster development cycles. And developers might also end up saving a buck or two here, which is never a bad thing. This is all just speculation on our part, though.
Would any game developers in the audience care to enlighten us?
By all accounts Crysis is one of the most talked about PC first person shooters of all time. Few titles even come close to matching the graphical fidelity pumped out by CryEngine2, and let be honest here, this is still our go to game whenever we test out our upgraded rigs. Unfortunately developer Crytek perceived the PC exclusive title as sales dud with piracy projections as high as 20:1, and announced that it was abandoning PC only titles in favor of multiplatform development. Many feared this will lead to a dumbing down of the franchise, but it seems as though Crytek is working hard not only to produce a quality sequel, but also to design one of the most powerful multiplatform engines of all time.
Showcased for the first time at the Game Developers Conference Crytek demonstrated its real time development engine that simultaneously allows developers to make changes to a PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 version of a game. If CryEngine3 lives up to its potential, it could dramatically reduce development time – and cost. Crytek has also been working hard to integrate external tools such as Photoshop into the development environment to manipulate existing textures, and seamlessly inject them into a dynamic game world.
Many perceived the loss of Crytek as an exclusive PC developer to be a blow to our beloved platform, but if they help to design a tool that makes multiplatform releases this easy, we could well see a huge influx of new titles in the future that might have otherwise been console only. Would you agree?
Keeping in the spirit of the CryEngine’s draw distance-destroying prowess, we saw this one coming from a mile away. Still though, it’s good to have things in writing, and that’s exactly what Crytek did by announcing Crysis 2. Or, we guess we should say that the bleeding-edge developer put a thing in writing because, well, that’s pretty much it.
No release date yet, no substantial gameplay details, etc. And, as the CryEngine 3 trailer heavily implied, Crysis 2 will bring its unique brand of shooting anything that moves to the Xbox 360 and PS3, as well as the PC.
“The development of Crysis 2 marks a major stepping stone for our studio,” said Cevat Yerli, CEO and President of Crytek. “This is not only the next game in the Crysis franchise, it’s the first title we are developing for consoles and the first title being built on CryENGINE 3.
So, what new features are you hoping to see in Crysis 2?
(Note: the screenshot is from the first Crysis. We're guessing that the crafting of unwilling human wrecking balls will still be an option in the sequel, though. If it's not, well, how can it claim to be equal to its predecessor -- let alone better?)
Remember a few young, naïve years ago (What’s an Obama?) when Crytek first cracked open your PC and drank the syrupy yolks within with the second iteration of its CryEngine technology? Remember the stomach-churning mix of awe and a heart attack you felt upon viewing its viewtiful vistas?
But it is very, very crisp, clean, and lush – just like CryEngine 2, but tweaked to levels of near-perfection. Does it knock reality off its high-horse and keep on riding? No, but if we fired a real rocket at an equally real tree, we imagine that its leaves tenuous grip on their lofty home would look something like that.
And oh, hey – look! A waterfall! Why, is that a heart attack we feel coming on? We’ll never doubt you again, Crytek.
We’re not even sure what a “next-gen” is anymore (The next batch of consoles? Current PCs? What’s the Wii?), but whatever it is, it’s almost here, according to gaming’s own bells-and-whistles-slinging Xzibit-equivalent, Crytek.
This month’s GDC Expo, which runs from March 25-27, will see the unveiling of Crytek’s most ambitious project yet: CryEngine 3. The “all-in-one game development solution” promises to allow for development on most any machine – DX9, DX10, Xbox 360, PS3, etc. -- provided that said machine isn’t afraid of staring straight into the face of oblivion and watching it blink and contort its retched features at an infuriating 13 frames per second.
However, the engine certainly seems to be designed with “upcoming” systems in mind.
“Our complete game engine solution enables realtime development, ensures teams are able to maximise their own creativity, saves budget and creates greater gaming experiences. Also with our solution developers can start working on their next generation games today,” said Cevat Yerli, CEO & President of Crytek.
“CryEngine 3 is a revolutionary change from our previous PC-only engines – and we’re applying a similar revolution to the service we provide to developers using the software to create extraordinary games.”
The question, then, is whether or not Crytek’s newfound desire to join the cool kids club will lead its wandering gaze to spend less time hovering on the PC gamers who first gave it some love. However, knowing Crytek’s penchant for mind-blowing graphics – in addition to current-gen consoles’ somewhat surprising ability to remain graphically relevant at this stage in the game -- we doubt our concerns will matter too much in the long run.