Thursday, 9 May 2013

Task 18: Elements of Game Technology, part one: Game Engines

Since I was about 4 years old, and before the course, I spent my time playing computer games. I have always wondered what game engines do, what type of engines are used and how they create these games.
My blitz project: Masonic Building
I had my first experience of  UDK in semester one, which was a good  first hand experience  using a Games Engine. It was not as daunting as I thought, and I therefore felt great achieve-ability. By learning and understanding how to model, texture and rig in the first year, then now taking on learning a games engine, is a daunting step but I welcome it with ethusiam.

My blitz project: Masonic Building
The experience of importing my blitz building in engine and assembling it there proved to me that there is much more I need to understand and explore, like shaders, lighting, particle effects, physics, and rendering.

An important role for game artists is 'white-boxing' which  is commonly used in  levels for getting the overall level down, to get the sense of scale, accuracy and play-through. It can be likened to
 a draughting phase, like when you sketch out a composition on paper. There we a few games that I used to play and play now, that use the Unreal Engine which I was not aware of  but have found it is  amazing how the games developers can transform  Unreal Engine for different style and genre of games.

The Unreal Engine was developed by Epic Games, in 1998.Iy was primarily developed for first person shooters and  it has been successfully used in a variety of other genres, such as stealth, mmo's and hack and slash games. You are able to do code in C++ and  Unreal Engine features a high degree of portability and is a tool used by many game developers today.

Variation of games like: Lineage 2, Killing Floor, Americans Army, Borderlands and the latest Devil May Cry are all different genres but I am still unaware of how they can transform the engine to fit their game.

List of games used Unreal Engine

Since UDK is free to download and with the great popularity it has, there is a massive library of information of tutorials. Thi is of particular use  because if you were having specific problems, some one has probably already problem solved that issue and therfore can offer advice. This makes it  a great first engine to try out.

We do have UDK 4 to look forward to, but it is strange to think it has been in development since 2003.


For CryEngine 3, which was created by Crytek, it  has actually been used for a number of games, not as much as Unreal Engine, however  I believe that more people will use CryEngine3.

Though it has created such games like Crysis, Enemy Front, Monster Hunter Online, Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 and many more, Crytek is not a free software. However there is a version called CryEngine 3 SDK, that is free of charge for educational purpose and non-commerical game development.

There are some pro's and con's about CE3 and UDK3 with both engines supporting features such as realistic lighting (global illumination), depth of field/motion blur, advanced physics, developer support and rendering tools. 

Nevertheless there are some aspects that set them apart. With the Unreal Engine 3, developers have access to a wide collection of 3D party plug-ins including FaceFX, SpeedTree, and Morpheme. These partnerships with 3rd party software developers allows Epic's engines to support many world class simulators and sandbox creation and editor tools. For example, studios using Unreal Engine 3 have access to Nvidia PhysX, which offers cloth and destructibility physics, as well as autodesk Kynapse which handles complex AI.

Here are some comparision screen shots of UDK and CE3, both look similar in quality.

Such quality can be hard to understand just from screen shots because, depending on the quality of the game they can easily be as good as each other.

The above shows a better comparison, which is an example given from a student's assignment. It is  intriguing  how he was able to get it all pretty accurate to each other. I did appreciate some things that UDK offered, but for the natural lighting and the lighting, specially in the cave, Cry was so much better and the colours look more accurate. The sky in Cry has a bloom effect which I feel was effective especially with the texture details which gave it a better finish.

Overall it can still seem overwhelming because I realise that I still have a lot to learn even with drawing, modelling and now understanding an engine.  Also because everything is developing at a  fast pace, I have to quicken my studying and learning.

 I do look forward to the 3rd year when I finally have the chance to use either Unreal or Cry.  In the summer, I will get some practise with either one, so I will be prepared for the 3rd year, as well as learning the fundamentals of drawing and improving my 3D skills. 

Some leaked information of the next Call of Duty game, is that gun models are really detailed.
 I believe this shows the next level modeling but it is easily handled for the next-gen games engine

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