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.
This means that developers will be able to leverage Epic's popular game engine in combination with Palm's new Plug-in Development Kit (PDK) to develop more powerful games for webOS phones. Unlike on the iPhone, games running on a webOS phone can be pushed to the background as the user engages with other apps.
Doom might arguably be the most memorable (or at least the most popular) PC game of all time, and with good reason. Prior to Doom's release, programmers found themselves in the stone age of game development. For the most part, building a game meant starting from scratch and compiling all new code, but like the invention of the wheel, the advent of the game engine forever changed the PC gaming landscape.
Now, we know what you're thinking, and we're well aware that game engines existed prior to Doom's release in 1993; we're even going to cover some. But it was id Software's now legendary first-person shooter that pushed reusable 3D game engines as a viable programming model, and videogame development has never been the same since then.
On the following pages, we look back at all the major PC game engines and what made each one special. As a prerequisite, be sure to check out our history of 3D graphics, which covers video cards from the Voodoo to the GeForce and everything in between. Once you've digested these two features, you're guaranteed to have a new-found respect for gaming on the PC!