Choosing The Game Engine That Can
April 13, 2009 Page 2 of 3
Unfortunately, no solution is perfect, admits Seropian. "Unreal is a fantastic piece of technology, but when you use an engine that's based on a game -- in this case, Unreal -- it's usually optimized for that game. Chimp is a very, very different kind of a game. Without getting into specifics, we had hoped to be able to use some of Unreal's online features without too much reworking to support network play. It didn't quite turn out that way."
On the positive side, Seropian calls the Unreal Engine's tool chain "phenomenal" and excellent for a company like Wideload that relies on outside contractors.
"It's so easy to find artists who are familiar with it and have shipped games using the Unreal Engine," he says. "When we previously worked with the Halo Engine, it was impossible to locate anybody who had used it before other than chumps like us. Let's just say it was less contractor-friendly, to say the least."
But Seropian turned elsewhere when building Texas Cheat 'Em -- a Live Arcade title -- mainly because the Unreal Engine was "too large and complex for what we are trying to do. Any change we would make in one place in the engine would have ramifications in a dozen places elsewhere."
"For us, the Gamebryo engine proved to be much more adaptable for the small game we were building. Sure, we had to write more of our own systems, but each of those systems was very simple to implement because there wasn't any large-scale baggage tied to it."
Next up at Wideload is an unnamed Wii game for which the developers will be using Terminal Reality's Infernal Engine -- mainly because it targets the Wii as well as the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC platforms.
"While some developers prefer to stick to one engine for all their projects," Seropian explains, "we're not afraid to use the right tool for the right job."
But, at GRIN AB in Stockholm, Sweden, there is only one right tool for the right job, according to studio co-founder and director Ulf Andersson, and that's the homegrown game engine Andersson has been using for GRIN's games since 1997.
"We've never even considered using somebody else's engine, never," he proclaims, "and that's because we have a very flexible platform that we can create anything with and not be one step behind because someone else decided what's going to be in the engine or not."
Capcom/GRIN's Bionic Commando
Despite the advantages, making your own engine is extremely costly and very risky, stresses Andersson. "Even if you've got the money, you need to be prepared to go through a lot of years of trying and testing," he says, "and even then the risk of failure is high."
Nevertheless, when Andersson and his brother -- now GRIN's CEO -- started the company in the basement of their family home, they did it with zero funding.
"Not only couldn't we afford to license someone else's engine," he recalls, "but we didn't think any of them would give us what we needed to make our game project work. So we chose to create an engine that was so general that we could create basically anything from it."
"We've altered it by 20-30% each year since, but it has enabled us to keep very stable and, even though we've grown from two guys to 270, our teams are always working with the same basic tools."
Those teams have utilized the GRIN's so-called Diesel Engine these past 12 years to create games as diverse as Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, Bandits: Phoenix Rising, and Wanted: Weapons of Fate -- and it is being used to build forthcoming titles like Terminator Salvation and Bionic Commando.
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