What is a game engine and why do we need it?

What is a game engine?

The majority of modern games are based on software frameworks called game engines. A game engine is a suite of integrated tools for 3D artists and developers that allows them to create games, visualizations and simulations without the need to have advanced programming skills. (Dillon, 2014) Game creators use them in order to create games for mobile devices, personal computers or consoles. The game engine components control and manage the graphics, sound, input devices, physics, user interface libraries, artificial intelligence functions and all of the other technical aspects that make a video game playable.

History of the game engines

The term “3D game engine” first appeared in the early 1990s, when the popularity of 3d computer graphics in the game industry started to grow (Spire Gamer, 2015). One of the first game titles that utilized the new game engine technology was the game “Doom”. It was created by the company Id Software. The game became so popular that some parts of its components were licensed for other game creators as the “id Tech engine”. This allowed game developers and artists to create their own game assets, such as levels, characters and objects (Carmack, 2004 cited by Andrade, 2015, p1). In spite of the success of the title, the moment that really changed the whole game industry was the release of the game “Quake” by the same company. This game was the first one to offer fully three dimensional levels with pre-rendered lightmaps and 3d polygonal characters, compared to the 2D sprites used in “Doom” (Spire Gamer, 2015). In the following years more game studios started to license their game engines and use them as an additional source of revenue. (Andrade, 2015)

Why do we need game engines?

Nowadays game engines allow 3D artists to import assets that they have created in programs such as Autodesk 3Ds Max or Maya, create materials for the models and set-up lights for the scene in order to create believable environments. Game engines provide all of the needed functionality and simplify the process of game creation. (Andrade, 2015) Their use reduces the costs and gives game makers the chance to spend more time to work on the storytelling, game-play and graphics. Therefore understanding the differences and specifics of certain game development platform is crucial.

Reference list:
Andrade, A. (2015) ‘Game engines: A survey’, EAI Endorsed Transactions on Game-Based Learning, 2(6), p. 150615. doi: 10.4108/eai.5-11-2015.150615.
Dillon, R. (2014) ‘Rise of the game engines’, Ready, , pp. 87–104. doi: 10.1007/978-981-287-341-5_5.
Spire Gamer (2015) Evolution of video game graphics 1952 – 2015. Available at: https://youtu.be/xKVS_81Op5A (Accessed: 10 November 2015).

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