Develop's guide to the best game engines concludes
Unreal Engine 3
Platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3
Browser support: No
Cost: Available on request
Published titles: Mass Effect (Bioware), The Last Remnant (Square Enix), Lost Odyssey (Mistwalker), The Wheelman (Midway)
Titles in development: Alpha Protocol (Obsidian), DC Universe Online (SOE), Alien Breed (Team 17)
Middleware integrations: Fonix, SpeedTree, GameSpy, Scaleform GFx, PhysX, Illuminate Labs, Umbra, morpheme, nFringe, HumanIK, Kynapse, Bink, ProFX, AI.implant, Quazal, DigiMask, Game-Link, Wwise, Enlighten
To be honest, Epic’s monster behemoth doesn’t really need any introduction at all. Now almost an industry standard in its third incarnation, Unreal Engine 3’s domination of the full-engine middleware sector is hard to argue against.
Still, the main criticism levelled against it – usually by its competitors, we should say – is that the engine is geared towards first- (or third-) person shooters. Nevertheless, customers have managed to extend and rip apart the engine to power everything from Japanese-style RPGs to open-world action-racing games like The Wheelman.
One of the emerging usage groups is for MMO development. In order to give the engine a better standing against dedicated MMO solutions like HeroEngine and BigWorld, and emerging threats like CryENGINE, Epic has tasked its China office with the development of Atlas, its persistent world server technology and MMO creation and management toolset.
Another new feature is Unreal Lightmass, a new global illumination solver that can produce lightmaps with smooth bounced lighting without the need to use any third-party technology. Generation of the lightmaps can also be farmed out by the new Swarm distributed processing solution to use idle CPUs locally and across networks.
The new Unreal Master Control Program is a new service-orientated architecture based on the Gears of War 2 persistent stat tracking system. It allows developers to track online populations and even domain-specific data mining such as level-based heat maps to quickly identify chokepoints and problem areas in multiplayer maps.
Finally, Epic has enhanced asset management by introducing the new Content Browser, which allows users to tag assets and then find them easily with search filters, allowing users to locate, preview and manage assets regardless of whether they’re loaded or not.
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