In the wake of new free and subscription models, Develop breaks down how to choose the right game engine for you
With the proliferation of games platforms over the last few years and the onset of the new generation of consoles with the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U, picking the right game engine can be tricky.
Luckily, Develop has put together a quick guide to 16 of the top game engines for 2014. The development platforms below span across a number of platforms and costs range from free, subscription and all the way up to the top pricing tiers.
Unreal Engine 4
Company: Epic Games
Platforms: Android, HTML5, iOS, Linux, Mac, Oculus, PC, PS4, SteamOS, Xbox One
Epic’s new-gen game development platform Unreal Engine 4 has officially been released to all developers, who can now get access on a $19 a month subscription with five per cent of gross revenue from any game sales going to Epic.
Devs also have access to the engine and complete C++ source code hosted on GitHub. The tech includes the Blueprint visual scripting system, the Persona animation system and Matinee timeline-based machinima and cinematic system.
Company: Unity Technologies
Platforms: Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Linux, Mac, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows 8 (coming soon)
Unity 5 has just been announced for pre-order, and includes the integration of Geomerics’ Enlighten tech, Imagination Technologies’ PowerVR Ray Tracing tech, SpeedTree and revamped audio tools.
In the meantime, 4.3 features new 2D development tools and character animation tech Mecanim, and is free to Xbox One and Wii U developers. PlayStation 4 developers will also soon have the chance to get early access to the engine.
Platforms: Android, iOS, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U
CryEngine is one of the most powerful game engines available to developers, and, with Crytek keen to welcome indies, developers can now sign up to use the engine for $10 a month, royalty-free.
Features include the engine’s recently announced physically-based shading, geometry cache and
image-based lighting. The new subscription option is set to be available from May. Devs can still access the free CryEngine SDK under its current terms despite the new model.
Company: YoYo Games
Platforms: Android, Browser, iOS, Mac, PC, PS3, PS4, Vita, Windows Phone
Developed by YoYo Games, a wealth of titles have been created through 2D development platform GameMaker, including Gunpoint, Hotline Miami, Spelunky and Super Crate Box.
Last month it was announced that GameMaker: Studio would be free for all PlayStation platforms. The tech has support for PSN features and licenced peripherals including controllers, control inputs and cameras. For those developing on other platforms, a host of licences are available.
Havok Vision Engine
Platforms: Android, iOS, PS3, Vita, Wii, Wii U, Windows 8, Xbox 360
this cross-platform game engine has been around for years, and provides an object-oriented C++ API. The development tech is optimised for last-gen consoles and PC.
The full game engine licence includes licences for Havok Vision, AI and Behvaior as well as Autodesk’s UI solution Scaleform illumination middleware Beast. The toolset ships with the source code and 3ds Max and Maya exporters.
As of yet the tech does not support PS4 and Xbox One.
Platforms: Android, iOS, PC, Tizen
Project Anarchy is a complete end-to-end game engine for mobile that comes with a free licence allowing developers to release titles to iOS, Android and Tizen.
The tech integrates Havok’s suite of game development technology including the Havok Vision Engine, collision detection and physical simulation tech Physics, Animation Studio and AI.
There are also expanded licences that come with a cost, including a PC exporter, available for developers who want more from the engine.
Platforms: Android, Blackberry, iOS, Linux, Mac, PS3, SteamOS, Vita, Wii, Windows, Windows Phone 8,
ShiVa is on the comeback trail and is gearing up for the launch of ShiVa 2 for Windows, Mac and Linux.
Version 1.9.2 is available to use now however, and features a Lua-based scripting language with debugging tools, a C++ plug-in system for custom engine extensions and a terrain editor with vegetation layers, texture painting and an ocean module. Other features include game controller support, video streaming and texture data streaming.
Platforms: Browser, PC
This game engine focuses on the development of sprawling MMOs such as Wargaming’s World of Tanks. In fact, such was its reliance, the developer bought the tech firm outright in 2012.
BigWorld can still be licenced by other studios creating MMOs, desktop and browser games however, and they can take advantage of the BigWorld server to help handle a single, persistent world, as well as harness terrain sculpting and painting tools, a multi-channel terrain texturing system, and its own lighting system.
Platforms: Linux, Mac, PC
In its third iteration, as well as supporting PC development, Leadwerks is championing another rising platform, Linux. Last year the middleware outfit raised $42,358 to bring native development from Leadwerks to Linux, which was released last month, along with version 3.1 of the Standard Edition.
The engine includes an OpenGL 4.0 deferred renderer with a uniform lighting model, a built-in script editor with debugger, code stepping and syntax highlighting. The Leadwerks editor includes built-in level design tools, Navmesh pathfinding and a visual flowgraph. Published games include Hoodwink and My Whacky Moles.
App Game Kit
Company: The Game Creators
Platforms: Android, iOS, Mac, PC
This cross-platform development tool focuses on mobile, PC and Mac support. Code can be written in AGK BASIC once and then compiled to each platform without any changes being made to the source code.
Programmers can also create their apps in C++, and The Game Creators have developed a C++ library that mimics the Tier 1 BASIC script, enabling developers to write applications that compile to all compatible platforms.
The App Game Kit can be licenced for $59.99 or tested through a free trial. AGK V2, which raised £33,000 on Kickstarter, is also due for release later this year.
FPS creator Reloaded
Company: The Game Creators
Platforms: Oculus Rift, PC
Another game engine from The Game Creators, FPS Creator Reloaded is designed as an affordable game engine for both entry-level and professional developers.
The toolset integrates AI, physics, shaders, weapon systems, real-time shadows and lighting, integrated debugging and a library of assets. Recently the firm also added virtual reality support via the Oculus Rift for the tool, while the engine has also been successfully greenlit for a release on Steam.
The game engine is currently going through a beta period, and interested developers can make various pledges of up to $100 to unlock new features.
Platforms: Android, Flash, HTML5, iOS
Reach3dx is a brand newcross-platform game engine from Gamebase, the creators of Gamebryo, another development platform that has been used in numerous titles such as El Shaddai and Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two.
Unlike that engine however, Reach3dx will focus on mobile and web platforms and is based on the OpenFL framework and Haxe. The new tech is still based on the modular architecture of past engines such as the aforementioned Gamebryo.
Gamebase has said it wants to decrease development times so users can get their games to market faster. An open beta will be live throughout April.
Company: Idea Fabrik
The HeroEngine is designed for massively multiplayer and online games from any genre and has been used in titles such as EA’s ambitious Star Wars: The Old Republic.
The dev platform can be licenced for $99 a year and includes a suite of integrated middleware such as SpeedTree, FMOD, Umbra dPVS, Awesomium and FaceGen.
Devs can also use the HeroCloud to script code, sculpt terrain and create physics systems in a single online development environment, allowing team members to work remotely in real-time from any location. The tech has been licenced by companies such as EA and ZeniMax Online.
Platforms: Android, BlackBerry, iOS Mac, Windows, Tizen
Cross-platform SDK Marmalade lets devs deploy code across multiple platforms from a single code base.
The tech uses C++, but also provides alternative solutions for devs looking to use Lua, HTML or Objective-C.
The recent full release of Marmalade Juice to developers enables creators to take native iOS titles and deploy them to Android.
An engine for HTML5 game development, last year Turbulenz went open-source and allowed developers to use the tech to create their games free of charge. This means games makers can develop titles, use the developer hub to test and iterate on titles, and self-publish and monetise online, all for free.
Games hosted on the Turbulenz website will be subject to a 70/30 revenue share split, but this does not affect other platforms. Among a plethora of features, the tool features physics, collision and animation systems, optimisations for multiplayer and social networking and supports up to 7.1 surround sound.
Platforms: Android, HTML5, iOS, Mac, Windows
GameSalad is a mobile games development platform that first debuted in 2009 and has been used to develop a plethora of games, including more than 65 titles featured in the Top 100 games on Apple’s US App Store.
Developers can create games for iOS, Android and HTML5 with the tool, which doesn’t require any coding thanks to its visual drag-and-drop interface, also suitable for quick iterations on new ideas. The GameSalad creator can be downloaded for free, and develoeprs can upgrade to the Pro version for $299 a year.
For more great tech, check out our comprehensive guide featuring 100+ game development tools.