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Programming Games

Switching Game Engines Halfway Through Development 127

An anonymous reader writes: Third-party game engines are wonderful creations, allowing developers to skip a lengthy and complicated part of the development process and spend more time on content creation. But each engine has its own strengths and weaknesses, and they may not be apparent at the beginning of a project. If you realize halfway through that your game doesn't work well on the engine you picked, what do you do? Jeff LaMarche describes how he and his team made the difficult decision to throw out all their work with Unity and start over with Unreal. He describes some technical limitations, like Unity's 32-bit nature, and some economic ones, like needing to pay $500 per person for effective version control. He notes that Unreal Engine 4 has its problems, too, but the biggest reason to switch was this: "Our team just wasn't finding it easy to collaborate. We weren't gelling as a cohesive team and we often felt like the tools were working against us."
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Switching Game Engines Halfway Through Development

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  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday August 15, 2014 @07:32PM (#47682211)

    A game engine is a very, VERY big enterprise to make, particularity if you are talking one with modern 3D graphics. It is a big undertaking even for a company who's done it before and has a decent team of people. You will spend a lot of time and effort on it, and it still might not end up being very good.

    Game engines get a lot of that low level hard work out of the way. That's why they are so used. You see even large development studios with big budgets license an engine because the cost of doing so is far less than the cost of properly developing their own.

    If you want to build a game engine, that's great, but make that your goal. Build an engine for its own sake then, if you have one that seems to work well, think about using it for a game. Don't set off to make a game form the ground up, it isn't likely to happen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 15, 2014 @07:56PM (#47682333)


    Did you read the article at all? It has nothing to do about quality of graphics, the article is about 2 things tools and collaboration. I've used both game engines for development and even though Unity is easy to pickup and build for, as already mentioned, collaboration is right out the window along with its tools. Unreal isn't great either but at least it offer a hell of lot better collaboration compared to Unity and this is the most important part of any team based development.

    Being a Unity fanboy isn't going to help the engine get any better when the flaws are bloody apparently the stars in the sky.

  • Re:Version control (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Friday August 15, 2014 @08:31PM (#47682481)

    Because the author is calling asset management 'version control'.

    The author really doesn't know what he's talking about and if you look at the full article, it shows.

    Another example would be that they basically rewrote the game, with no art and assets ... and then claim it looks better because of the Unreal engine, and not the fact that they changed the textures.

    Unity isn't the problem. The project management and developers are.

  • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Friday August 15, 2014 @10:41PM (#47682897) Homepage

    One function of special vocabulary is for specialists to easily communicate. But another, important, social function is as a badge of in-group membership. If you use the words correctly (from the point of view of the group) you show that you belong, and that you probably know and understand all the other explicit and implicit rules of the group. If the word use spreads too far it loses this function and the group needs to find new words and expressions instead.

    You dislike "gelling". You dislike "paradigm shifts". It would probably be a fairly risk-free bet on what you think of expressions like "optics" (as in "the optics of this decision is good") and the like. You dislike these words and refuse to use them. Which signals to management people that you are not management and should not be treated as part of their in-group. "gelling" works exactly as intended, in other words.

    Asking for words to not be used like this is futile. It would be like asking people to no longer care about fashion (another in-group signal) or to not form groups of like-minded people at all.

  • by nsxdavid ( 254126 ) <dw@pl[ ]net ['ay.' in gap]> on Saturday August 16, 2014 @12:14PM (#47684667) Homepage

    I hate to say it, but this Jeff guy is fairly cluesless when it comes to Unity. And is, therefore, in a poor position to give any useful insight into Unity vs. UE4.

    My studio (of roughly 27 years) has used a lot of tech in its time. We even developed our own engine, HeroEngine (used in games like Star Wars The Old Republic MMO). We've made lots of games and have lots of experience with Unity. I used Unity to do the Android port of Temple Run, and we've made a lot other titles with it too. We're currently working on a marquee franchise for a major publisher... using Unity.

    Unity is not just for small teams. Jeff didn't do his homework on this one. Our team is 27 strong, using git for version control. We use a deep feature-branch approach and it works well not only for our developers, but our non-techies: artists, designers, sound guys, etc. Sure there are issues with Unity and version control, but you find ways to make it work through convention and approach. Same thing happens in all Engines. They all have their issues. The only engine that put collaboration at the forefront was our HeroEngine, but even that has issues. Though we sold off that tech, you can still check it yourself... just Google.

    The 32 bit editor limit is true, but is it really an issue? It never has been for us. His problems smell strongly of bad development practices... they can't seem to manage their memory resources well and that suggests other major issues in their group. Just reads a bit amateur to me. No engine will save you from bad practices. The game builds are 64 bit, and the Editor will be also in Unity 5 (how did he not know this?).

    It is notable that the guy is fascinated with a lot of things in UE4 that, as it turns out, you can also do as well or even better in Unity. He loves, for instance, Blueprint visual scripting... did he bother to check out uScript for Unity? He loves the node-based Shader in UE4.... well there is ShaderForge in Unity. He loves Physically Based Rendering in UE4 but doesn't mention Alloy in Unity. Sure some of these things are add on costs (usually pretty tiny) and there are also lower cost or sometimes even free alternatives to many of them. The best part is you can mix and match which pieces work best for you. If you don't like UE4's node-based shader... tough! But in Unity you have a few to pick form..... .... or better yet, you can make your own! The best part of Unity is how seamlessly extensible the editor is. This is a huge productivity booster. Every game we do we create custom tools that enhance the efficiency of the designers and artists. It's so easy to do, you just naturally create augmenting tools as the need comes up. Our designers and artists can do amazing things without ever having worry about writing any code... much less even a visual scripting system. This is because we made the tools specific to the game that let them express what they need all from the inspectors and the scene tools.

    Another cool thing: make a great addon that is generally useful... then wrap it up and sell it in the Asset Store. Monetize that sucker! Or give it away for free if you like.

    Is Unity perfect? Nope. But it is insanely efficient for developing games. Works with any sized team well enough, and creates titles that run across tons of platforms. And the Asset Store is a treasure trove of extensions that just make it better and better all the time.

    The places where it falls behind a tad are either addresseable from add ons, and ultimately in Unity 5.

    I am not advocating that one choose Unity over UE4... but if you are going to make an argument, at least make a balanced one with all the facts. I would take his critique with a grain of salt. Try each engine yourself, but make sure you take the time to fully understand both the tool and its eco-system and how it applies to what you are doing. And above all, make sure you have sharp developers on your team who understand the fundamentals. Like I said, no tool will get you out of a jam of your own making.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"