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Programming Entertainment Games IT Technology

The Best Game Engines 113

SlappingOysters writes "IGN has taken a look at the most impressive middleware solutions for the next generation of gaming, giving a detailed analysis of which engines are performing the best and which have the most exciting futures. It runs through the technical strengths of each engine, as well as how that translates into actual gameplay. It also runs through which software has and will be using each engine."
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The Best Game Engines

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  • Had the best engine to date imo as far as movement and the like is concerned due to the PVP the game offered because of it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Canazza ( 1428553 )

      Imo, PvP is considered Content, and has nothing to do with the engine.

      A Game engine focuses on things like the underlying game mechanics (movement, physics etc), graphics rendering (Including, but not limited to Shader language, Character animation system, the basic UI handlers and texture engine) network handling and whatever scripting language is used to create content.

      Things that come under "Content" are all the things that are put on top of an engine to make a game. IE Combat, interacting with NPCs, Men

      • Perhaps, but a poor movement system can wreck PVP.
        • a good movement system on it's own does not make a good PvP system

          yes, a bad movement system can break PvP... but so can unbalanced classes, unintended exploits, poor network code and a myriad of other things. the GGP said that Asherons call had the best engine because it's PvP was the best due to the movement code. He mentioned nothing of the game itself, gave no indication as to WHY it was better (i think there's a sibling post later that has an example)
          The movement system could quite easilly have made it

      • by Hubbell ( 850646 )
        A good movement system in a game with collision detection missile/warbolt attacks combined with auto target allowed for a player to fight odds up to and surpassing 5v1, and sometimes 10v1 in certain situations depending on the player skill. The engine is what made AC's combat great.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FTWinston ( 1332785 )


        Being able to mod source in C# would be the best drug ever.

    • You're seriously arguing that Asheron's Call has better PvP than Unreal Tournament? That's like saying you little league team could beat the Yankees.

      • by Hubbell ( 850646 )
        Seeing as in AC I could go toe to toe with 5 other people and win if I was better than them, compared to them all just focus firing me and I die in .1 second in UT, yea, it's a shitton better.
        • Your comment makes zero sense. A really good UT player can kill 5 other players as well. That has no relevance on whether or not AC has a good game engine.

          You are insisting that you are good at playing AC, and that inherently makes the engine good.

          You fail at logic.

          • by Hubbell ( 850646 )
            A good UT player can stay within the same 5-10 foot area and take out 5 guys who have him completely surrounded in a wide open space? I highly doubt this.
            • Either you're not on equal footing, stats-wise, with the 5 other players in AC, or you're playing against someone's collection of Kenner Starwars figures...

              • by Hubbell ( 850646 )
                You're right, most of the fights I was ever in with those odds weren't even footing. I usually played on a level 120-140 vs level 200-240's. Player skill trumped stats and items almost entirely after around level 90, which was easily reachable in a few days.
                • You don't need 90 days in UT, Quake Arena, CS, etc... to be on equal footing with the other players, therefore they are all better than Asheron's Call for PvP. Also, AC is a good game, but PvP was just a part of it. For the other games I've mentioned, PvP *is* the game.

  • If only... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @11:02AM (#28703647)

    they had done the same with F/OSS and/or Cross platform game engines, the article would have been significantly more interesting...
    Most of the big commercial engines are pretty useless to those without a budget, or with a desire to target their favorite OS...

    • by WK2 ( 1072560 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @11:58AM (#28704261) Homepage

      It's not every day I come across a perfectly good excuse to toot my own horn. Here is my list of free game engines: http://www.freegameengines.org/ [freegameengines.org] My definition of "game engine" is a bit stricter than most. I believe Wikipedia has a similar list.

      Drivel like this article is why I quit Slashdot. You can quit too! with only occasional relapses.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by msormune ( 808119 )
      It takes a lot more than the engine to create a succesful game with 3D graphics. You need the story, and graphics (duh), overall design a a lot more. That's the problem with open source: It's pretty damn hard to find people to contribute to those. So you need the money anyway, not just for the engine.
      • by bazald ( 886779 )

        That is a bit of an exaggeration isn't it? Unless you're considering time == money, you can get everything you listed for free with a bit of effort and teamwork. (The one man team is somewhat rare.)

        Anyway, a number of my associates have had some success working with a game engine that I've been working on (http://zenilib.com). It is free and targets Windows, Linux, and MacOS X. I'm not sure it would meet WK2's definition of a game engine though. He seems to liken a game engine more to something awaitin

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by msormune ( 808119 )

          Many people who are skilled in graphics creation etc. do NOT have the open source mentality: They are not "geeks" who feel pride in taking part in such projects.

          Wouldn't it be a good idea to create a "open source graphics, sound and design" project in which people could contribute various objects needed in game design and graphics? Kind of like a 3D engine, but for graphics etc. only. But then there any such projects?

          • by bazald ( 886779 )

            You're partially right. They don't generally have the mentality that they should go out looking for projects to contribute to. I imagine that creating a project tailored for them won't increase the likelihood of their doing so.

            On the other hand, many artists, musicians, and designers are more than happy to work on free projects from time to time. The project managers just need to find them first. They won't find you.

          • by ardor ( 673957 )

            Game assets rarely work "stand alone". They often are not reusable and designed for a very specific game. Use them in something else, and the result looks odd. It gets worse when you mix stuff from different games. So, something like a game asset archive would only be useful for placeholders and basic material the artists may choose to work on.

            There are pre-made mesh and texture packs from graphics artists, often they cost around $30-100. Again, you do not make up the game solely based on these pre-made mes

            • Well, if you have multiple people with different backgrounds contribute in a Open Source game for graphics, won't the end result look odd anyway?

              Exactly, this this would be basic material, really a source from which other graphics artists could start working from.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        It's strange, 'cause there's a big modding community which provides tons of "full replacement" mods, with textures and 3D models, and there are many open source 3D engines. I think the problem is the lack of "middle" code, to provide a way to make a "mod" to the OS engine as easily as for most commercial games.

        • I think its very chicken and egg:
          1)Modders want to work on the engine they are already playing games on which is invariably going to be a large, multiplayer, commercial pc release.
          2)Current gen stuff, source/idtech5/etc have had a lot of work put in, this is hard to achieve without an large active development & userbase see 1

          If there was a popular, multiplayer, OSS game this would hopefully reach a sort of critical mass as modders could go right down and do/ask for engine level mods and the developers w

      • Good thing were not talking about games then. FLOSS would be a great development model for just the engines, companies start with a great base modify the engine to their games requirements and get all compatibility/features that large groups of people want (3d rendering, wii, etc)charge for the stuff that makes the game fun (graphics, story, sounds, gameplay, etc). There are reasons this has never happened, partly because its counter-intuitive to work with your competition, partly because competing against

    • Honestly, I'd like to see a comparison of professional engines, the common free engines, and XreaL.

      http://xreal-project.net/ [xreal-project.net]

      I don't know why XreaL doesn't get more attention.

  • by i_ate_god ( 899684 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @11:05AM (#28703679)

    The Source engine is a great engine and the results frankly impress me a lot more than Unreal engine. Bioshock was an incredible game, but the look and feel of HL2 and it's subsequent episodes/tech demos were far more impressive visually.

    Not only that, but the Source engine is painfully easy to mod and is supported by a company that goes out of its way to encourage third party developers to use it.

    Frankly I'm disappointed that Source was not mentioned here.

    • Source and "iD Tech [some integer]" were what people expected to be the big engines. Apparently times have changed and there's room for more than a couple talented development teams.
    • by Canazza ( 1428553 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @11:30AM (#28703927)

      Source isn't really that good. Or rather, it's Graphics aren't that good... and that won't make for a lovely 'next gen' video

      I love Source, it's piss-easy to create content for, and there are shitload of 3rd party applications to speed up creation (Packrat, VTFEdit, and Milkshape from goldSRC - although Milkshape tended to SLOW creation at times :D)

      You get Source-only modeling tools in the shape of XSI Softimage, for free, which is awesome.

      Things like this is why Source is the biggest Modding platform ever, but that's also hurting it slightly in the main stream. All these amatuers creating sub-standard mods are giving Source a bad image (I can think of no mods that live up to Valves standards) and one of the few Commercial Source games released - Vampire Bloodlines - was riddled with bugs, and made a right mess of the lauded Source Facial Animation system leaving us well within the uncanny valley.

      Sin: Episodes was slightly better, and completly ignored (just as Sin 1 was overshadowed by the original Half-life) and all their dev team left for other jobs leaving the whole thing in limbo.

      Three of the most popular online games have been made in Source (Counter Strike Source, TF2 and L4D) and one of the most innovative and fun games in recent times (Portal) - most have been made by teams that started independant but became part of Valve.

      The curse of Source - Merge with Valve or Fail miserably.

      • Source isn't really that good. Or rather, it's Graphics aren't that good... and that won't make for a lovely 'next gen' video

        HL2 with the FakeFactory Cinematic Mod is a lot better looking than most of the things in TFA, I think.

        • Yeah, except where it goes of the deep end with the character models. High res textures, good. Anime babes/boobs? No thanks.

          Its a good mod to the engine but this is a particularly common disease to the modding community for any given popular game/engine. The majority of modders are younger geeks that essentially start building their own virtual robot babes.

          Check that Alyx Vance model. In FF Cinematic Mod, she's got a bare midriff, serious cleavage and looks like the character spent two minutes too many

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chabo ( 880571 )

        Personally, I think Insurgency [insmod.org] lives up to the standards of a commercial game... it has good graphics, plays very well, and often crashed until it was patched!

        What game released in the last 3 years hasn't had all three of those attributes (especially the third!)?

      • There a few things wrong with your post. First you state there are no mods out there that live up to Valve's quality... So which mods have you tried? Have you tried them all? There are a few mods out there that if they were sold as full games, people would buy them. Their quality is that good. The player community might really fucking suck, as tends to happen from time to time, but the quality of the mods is damn good.

        And wih Sin Episodes, you have that all wrong. What had happened was not that Ritual lost

        • I agree with all but this:

          And lastly, what about Dark Messiah? Did it become super popular? Well, no. But it didn't fail miserably and it wasn't riddled with bugs.

          It was buggy as hell when it was released. They fixed it, but not quickly enough.

    • by Lordfly ( 590616 )

      Source is nearly 5 years old at this point, without any "major" updates. There have been a few upgrades with L4D and TF2, but nothing apocalyptic.

      I agree, it's a wonderful engine, but IGN obviously wanted engines that were eye candy, physics, and eye candy, roughly in that order.

      • Among the updates Source has had: (from the Source Engine Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org]
        Half-life 2: Episode 1 added High Dynamic Range lighting (pretty major) which was then able to be copied across all other source games (like Counter-strike source)
        The Orange Box added a new Soft Particle system
        Left 4 Dead added new shadow routines for more realistic bump-mapping and rendering routines for rendering large numbers of enemies (Zombies in this case)

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by darpo ( 5213 )
      "...painfully easy..."

      I think you want a different adjective there.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      The Source engine is a great engine and the results frankly impress me a lot more than Unreal engine. Bioshock was an incredible game, but the look and feel of HL2 and it's subsequent episodes/tech demos were far more impressive visually.

      You're taking LSD. Or at least you'd have to be to come to that conclusion.

      Every single Valve game, with the exception of Team Fortress 2, is an aesthetic trainwreck, devoid of almost all visual appeal. Desaturated greys and browns dominate, and the landscapes generally res

      • Yes, Valve may have made games with such graphics, but realize they aren't the only ones using the Source engine. There are mods that make very good use of the engine, such as the newly released Neotokyo.
      • by ardor ( 673957 )

        Well, HL2 does work very well with renderings that resemble the real world. Of course UT3 could not work with it, but comparing HL2 and UT3 is absolutely pointless. I like both games, but I would never even think of re-doing HL2 with the Unreal Engine 3.

      • People are playing games to escape the real world.

        Some people are, but not everyone. Besides, escapism doesn't require a world that is completely different from real life. Games that focus on realistic graphics can make it easier to suspend one's disbelief, making it easier to "escape."

        You seem to have the opinion that colorful games/engines with lots of saturated color are better than gritty realistic games. I say the art direction should depend on the setting of the game. If you are creating a zombie fighting game and want to frighten the player, you

      • by kv9 ( 697238 )

        The Source engine typically produces scenes which more closely resemble the real world. Which is its primary problem. People are playing games to escape the real world.

        I thought people play games to have fun. you make it sound like everyone lives in a fucking turkish prison.

        also, TFA and the thread are discussing engine features not visual styles. you not liking Valve's art deparment doesn't make the source engine a bad engine. and speaking of artsy fartsy, HL2/Portal/TF2/L4D look very good esthetically speaking. visual style, props, settings are all top notch.

        Unless Valve take steps to add such capabilities to the engine and, more importantly, develop a game that demonstrates those capabilities, the Source engine is going to be left behind over the next 3 years.

        I really don't see how adding neon lights (to sum up your post) would make their engine/games any better.

      • by czg ( 869463 )
        What on earth does a game engine have to do with the aesthetics of a game? Sure the fidelity of the final rendered image is very much the result of the engine, but the overall look of a game is still a conscious decision made by the game developers. Valve wanted HL2 to be set in a post-apocalyptic eastern Europe, so they made it look like that. Take a look at Dark Messiah of Might and Magic for an example of the kind of visual vibrancy you're talking about, which is made with the Source engine.

        ..is an aesthetic trainwreck, devoid of almost all visual appeal.

        Each to his

      • by brkello ( 642429 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @02:47PM (#28706521)
        Wow, that was a really long post to show you don't know the difference between artistic style and the underlying engine.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        You complain about HL2 being brown and grey and then praise the aesthetics of Gears? You do realise that Gears is the ultimate in brown-and-grey technology? Right?

      • So you claim the Source engine fails because they chose a color palette that fit the needs of their game's gritty and ominous setting? You do know that the colors are 24-bit RGB values that could be set to something brighter if they chose, rather than hard-wired architectural parts of the engine, right? (Likewise lens and saturation settings in the HDR subsystem.)

      • Hey, I just want to clear something up as I'm reading your post. I don't mean to stop you from the suckfest you have going on with titles from Epic Games, but I worked there during Gears of War's development, and I can tell you one defining thing about the game is an underwhelmingly bland color palette of gray and lowly saturated brown. Go back and play it if you get a chance. However, I do agree that UT3 provided amazingly articulated and consistent models and textures for it's maps while Gears of War 2
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        personally, I think the realism in valve's titles does more for them than the oversaturated bloomy blur fests common with many UT3 (and other) engine titles. That half-realism (zombies in the real world) IS the fantasy. The realism plays a critical role. Do you want your HL3 to be suitably scary/forboding/apocalyptic or do you want HL3: my little pony's palette poopfest?

      • by MrHanky ( 141717 )

        You seem to confuse aesthetic success with bright colours. Yes, Unreal is aimed at people like you.

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        This is just yet another post telling you that you are stupid and have no idea what you're talking about. I'll skip the content.
    • I really really hope you are just messing about right now...
      Have you tried creating good maps for the Source engine? It's almost impossible compared to a lot of the other enginges out there.
      Have you seen veichle physics or the physics in general in that engine? It's simply not there.

      IMO the source engine is the perfect example of something which was great (many years ago), being taken too far and extended too much with the result that it comes out just looking and acting wrong... Please let it die.

      • Have you tried creating good maps for the Source engine? It's almost impossible compared to a lot of the other enginges out there.

        Why would it be "almost impossible?" Many, many excellent maps have been created for Source.

        Have you seen veichle physics or the physics in general in that engine? It's simply not there.

        Now you're just lying.

    • The big loser is Oblivion, not because the engine is inferior or bad, but because it's named "Gamebryo." "Gamebryo." I could muse over this for a year and not come up with a worse name for a game engine.

    • The source engine may have the outward appearance of being easy to modify but reality is quite different.

      The documentation is cryptic, outdated, incomplete, and often just plain missing.

    • Bioshock was based on old Unreal Technology, so comparing it to HL2 is disingenuous.

      The Source engine has been lagging behind the other major game engines for quite some time now. INcluding it in the discussion of "best" game engines would be something of a joke. Perhaps when the category is "best games to make mods for", then it will have a place.
    • by Xest ( 935314 )

      Yes it's a pretty odd list. No Source, no id tech yet they have stuff like the pile of poorly optimized turd that is the latest CryEngine?

      I disagree that source is better than the Unreal engine though, I've yet to see any Source game that even comes close visually to things like Gears of War 2. That said I'm not even convinced any source games look better than Bioshock so I guess maybe it's quite subjective.

      They included things like the Call of Duty engine and whilst the CoD games really are awesome (CoD4 b


    Almost all of these modern engines rock. We don't need someone pointing at the guy who is flexing his e-muscles. IGN, stop wasting our time with this nonsense and review games, then get us scoops on the latest titles and hardware.
    /rant off

    • by Iberian ( 533067 )

      I think you are underestimating the need for a game engine. The better the game engine the easier it is to develop for and the more time they have to work on content. It is hard to have good content when your engine fails to enable you to express it.

      Part of the reason for your reasoning though is that today it is more marketable to have nice screenshots that look cool on boxes/tv/websites/tech demos/etc and thus a disproportionate ammount of resources is directed this way.

      Even SCUMM as dated as it is holds

  • If your game touts the fact that it uses another game's engine as a principal marketing point, it might be generic.

    • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @11:43AM (#28704073) Homepage

      Or it might not.

      I get your point that using a 3rd party engine would seem to limit your creativity: you wouldn't want to use an engine designed for a FPS to write Battleship Frisbee Cookoff Challenge.

      However, if you're intending to create a game that's even remotely within a common genre, then using a 3rd party engine frees you up to concentrate on producing a unique experience. You can blow 20 man years just to catch up with the last generation of Quake, or you can start with a working, tested engine and concentrate your resources on adding just the new functionality and tools that you need.

      Why, yes, I'm speaking from experience (of doing it the wrong way). Thanks for asking!

      • by hal2814 ( 725639 )

        Not to speak for the OP, but reread the condition: "If your game touts the fact that it uses another game's engine as a principal marketing point..."

        This says nothing about whether a 3rd party engine was used or not, only how it is advertised. In my experience, games whose marketing divisions spend a lot of time touting the game engine it runs on tend to suck... hard. Using 3rd party tools is almost necessary these days for smaller (and sometimes larger) developers but if the use of those tools is a major

        • Bingo. My post was about marketing. More than a few of the greatest games ever made use engines originally made for other games, but very few of them advertise that fact.

          • Well, I'll just go ahead and call cognitive dissonance on that. Marketdroids are so detached from reality that reading any significance into what appears in a press release speaks more to your prejudices than to the quality of the product that they're marketing.

            I'm sure you could (but won't) Google up a couple of examples of ads for suckfest games that boast of 3rd party engine use, but that does not constitute a compelling argument for a significant trend.

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        So, which part did you have in Duke Nukem Forever?

      • I get your point that using a 3rd party engine would seem to limit your creativity

        I've discovered as I get older, that for one to be truly creative, one must have limitations imposed. Whether you're a graphic artist and the limitations are the size of the canvas and the colors of paint, or a musician and the limits are the instruments or the length of time. Of course, this theory isn't limited to just the arts.

    • by hal2814 ( 725639 )

      This is a fun game:

      If your game has crosshairs on the cover, it might be generic.
      If your game mentions another game on the box, it might be generic.
      If your game claims to be the best [insert genre here], it might be generic.
      If your game was made or published by EA, it might be generic.

  • So... All of them, huh? Seriously, this isn't really a top 10 or comparison, it just lists a bunch of them. I'd be a -lot- more interested in open source ones that anyone can use without paying tons of money.

  • I still prefer the old fashioned advanced dungeon and dragon 2 rule set.
  • ...but the exclusion of The Source engine is a serious omission. Pretty much any gamer out there has heard of it and the games built upon it are some of the most popular and critically acclaimed ones out there.
  • I would also mind about features! An engine with skinny features will very likely show better performances ...
  • Despite Far Cry 2's somewhat, umm, controversial gameplay I really think that the Dunia engine should be on the list.

  • BGE (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Blender Game Engine is showing promise

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc9JWYuUa2o [youtube.com]

    • Re:BGE (Score:4, Interesting)

      by planetoid ( 719535 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @04:36PM (#28707967)
      Blender's game engine seems like a good prototyping tool for artists to test out their animations and interactions before the project's actual game engine is even started, but I'm still convinced that it's too generalized to run at optimal performance for any specific type of game to be THE game engine for an actual game. Then again, computers these days are extremely fast compared to ten years ago, so you could argue that a certain degree of non-optimization is okay. I think we're all guilty of that, and we don't have to pay quite as much attention to detail in our code as we did back when we were programming for 486 25mhz systems in mind (though something about that seems morally wrong). Still, the question of performance pokes at me.

      For example, is it guaranteed to draw only the bare minimum of polygons when you're in an indoors environment? Does it "know" when you're outdoors and use the optimal drawing orders for large outdoors areas?

      And what about collision detection? That's another hairy subject that has the potential to snail down performance of even simple games (ever play a shmup with hundreds of bullets on the screen, but tends to slow down during those tense moments even on a fast machine? That's the programmer's fault). How does Blender know to internally use "this set of data structures and algorithms for collision detection with Situation And Circumstances X" but "these other data structures and algorithms for collision detection would be better with Situation and Circumstances Y instead"?

      Of course, I know Blender is open source, and any of these issues can be resolved by forking your own Blender project for your own needs, but I'm asking strictly about Blender's game engine as it is "out of the box".
  • by Snowspinner ( 627098 ) * <<philsand> <at> <ufl.edu>> on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @05:39PM (#28708701) Homepage

    I'm surprised that the only engine on this list to derive from the Quake family is the Call of Duty engine. I'm not enough of a game engine expert to disagree with any given choice, but it's very, very surprising to me to see one of the major families of engines basically ignored. At the very least, some discussion of its omission seems in order.

  • Havok anyone? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wordisms ( 624668 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @07:11PM (#28709915)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Havok is just a physics engine that is added to other game engines. The Source engine uses a heavily modified Havoks physics engine. Even the Wii runs the Havoks physics engine in some of its top tier games. The same reason Havok was not included is the same reason Natural Motion was not.
  • No Gamebryo Engine? What were they thinking?
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by LingNoi ( 1066278 )

      Because this isn't a list of "best game engines" this is a list of "best games" with stupid descriptions like "oohh look how pretty the gfx are". Any article on best game engines would mention the API, dependencies, how easy it is to work with, etc. This article is just marketing bullshit.

Do not underestimate the value of print statements for debugging.