predictions from the past about game engines

by Martin Thomas

In 2010, when I started developing my custom homebrew game engine called “Linux Game Engine” (lge for short) I didn’t really know much about engine development. However, I did have some ideas about what was wrong back then with all the game engines of that time.

I observed the following: whenever I played around with a game engine, there were several occasions when one had to wait for the tool to do some background number crunching, like baking lightmaps or generating paths for pathfinding. This observation was based on Unreal Engine 3 and Cryengine 2, two of the biggest engines of that time.

Therefore the goal emerged: write a game engine that is truly WYSIWYG meaning no compromises in quality, plus no loading or number crunching time, as fast iteration on content as possible (all this in an AAA context).

So the goal in today’s terms was to basically write a Cryengine 3, Unreal Engine 4 and Unity 4/5 mix, combine the strengths of all of them. This seemed to be impossible even back then, but as I didn’t have any projects to improve my coding skills on, I decided to begin developing the engine. Therefore the engine developed and improved as I did, and there were at least 3-4 compelete rewrites until I got some of the things right.

The engine was meant to be a tool with which one could develop a FPS easily (without the intent to make an actual FPS game, that alone is way too much effort). Of course, later I discovered that I can actually write most of the engine agnostic to what genre the game will be.

So going back to the present, now most of the game engines try to achieve as little iteration times as possible, Cryengine 3 includes WYSIWYP, Unreal Engine 4’s global illumination solver has been redesigned to be much faster. Unity 5 includes Enlighten which is pretty much realtime, therefore we could say my predictions (or goals) were correct at the time.

In conclusion, if you ever embark on writing a game engine, you should always consider that it will be somewhat “ready” 4-5 years later, and you’d have to predict what the technology will be at that time, develop the engine with the future in mind. Of course this is impossible most of the time.