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Delta3D is an Open Source Game and Simulation engine. It is comprised of other Open Source projects such as Open Scene Graph, Open Dynamics Engine, and OpenAL. It has an easy to use, high level C++ API and it currently supported by the United States Department of Defense.
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Delta 3D is free. The team of developers required to modify the open source content to create client driven functionality is not.
Please weigh the attractive, upfront cost of the Delta3D engine with the 'hidden' backend development cost before committing yourself to the rigors of production.
Government contractor, commercial developer, or casual hobbiest: you WILL pay to develop your application. Is it better to use your budget to re-invent the wheel or to buy an existing wheel and invent great roads for that wheel to roll on?
Open source code vs. commercial SDK can be a difficult choice for developers to make - please approach it with your eyes wide open.
I think Delta3D is a fantastic open source engine. It has a wide variety of features, has continual-ongoing development, has a very active community, and of course, it's Open Source!!! It's not gonna compare with Unreal 3 or Half-Life 2, but if you want an open source solution, you probably won't do much better than Delta3D.
I guess I'm a fanboi, but why shouldn't I be? We've been building serious game applications with it for over 2 years and it hasn't let us down yet. We build Modeling and Simulation training games and we have looked at nearly every Open Source engine, tool, library, plug-in, or other tech-bang-wiz-tool there is. So far, we haven't seen better. Of all the other engines around, the only other real competitor is probably Ogre. But, in the Modeling and Simulation space, Ogre can't compete. I know, that's a a pretty strong statement - Ogre is a great engine - but read on and see if you agree.
So, what's the good? Well the most obvious benefit of Delta3D is that it is completely open source, meaning that all source code is available and that there aren't any license fees or runtime costs. Fortunately, it follows the LGPL license model, not GPL, which means you can mostly do with it what you want. GPL is the bad, icky license, LGPL is much more friendly. In our case, we have built a variety of training applications with it and although we do contribute back to the community, we don't have to.
So, behind Open Source, probably the next best thing is that it is VERY well supported and has an active community (check out www.delta3d.org). First off, it is maintained by the Naval Postgraduate School, so it has an educational institution behind it. And, it is being used by almost every military service, so it has lots of funding and ongoing projects. Further, it is used by major players in the M&S industry (like my company of course!) and is being used in multiple countries around the world. All of this backing gives the engine an incredible life. It's not going anywhere, anytime soon - making it a stable, active project.
I don't really want to list every single feature of the engine, but in my opinion, it has most of what you need in a game engine. "Most," you say? Well, read "The BAD" section... So what does it have? Well, it's built on top of Open Scene Graph, so right off the bat you get everything OSG has. Then, on top of that, it has a bunch of game engine layers like dtCore, dtUtil, dtGame, and dtActors. It has 3 different flavors of networking including Client-Server, High Level Architecture (HLA), and Distributed Interactive Simulations (DIS). Those last 2 are typical M&S protocols. It has a pretty robust and flexible messaging system that is great for decoupling actors from game behaviors. Although I've never used 'em, it does have partial Python bindings if yer a fan of Python (*blech*). It also has support for very large terrains (like 200x200 miles), Learning Management System integration, After Action Review, and such.
So far, Delta3D has been very stable for us. The Delta3D team seems to make pretty heavy use of unit tests. Although some parts of the engine are not covered, overall, the tests seem to be pretty complete. I'm a big fan of unit tests, but that's a whole other topic.... It's also cross-platform which is a big win for us - we mostly use Linux and Windows, but one of our developers likes Mac and it seems to work pretty well for him. The engine has pretty good tools and utilities. It has a pretty fully featured level editor, STAGE, that I like a lot. It also has a graphical particle editor and 3D viewer and stuff like that. Oh, and I really want to point out the actor and property mechanism - it's pretty cool. It works extremely well with the Game Manager and level editor and makes it very easy to support networking, record and playback, and integration into external systems. I wrote an article about it in Game Programming Gems 6 (Actor Proxies...) if you are interested.
Ok, so I'm gonna take off the fanboi hat for a bit. Although I really like the engine and obviously use it for our projects, it is not without fault. I'd say the biggest weakness in Delta3D is character animation. Although it does integrate Cal3D, which is a great character library, it does so by using Replicant Body. In my not-so-humble opinion, Replicant is terrible - it's buggy, finicky, not well supported, and tends to crash if you look at it wrong. On the up side, there are several threads on the forum that groups are working to improve that part, so hopefully they will fx it soon. If not, maybe we will...
Although the level editor is pretty good, there are other weaknesses that could be addressed. For instance, there is no map bundler tool to gather all map resources into a single binary-compressed file. Also, there is no direct material editor system. The engine has capabilities to build materials, using Actors, but there is no user-friendly way to jump right into materials. The other major feature that is missing is a comprehensive lighting and shadowing system. You can certainly solve lighting and shadowing yourself within the engine, but it would be awfully nice if it had better direct support, maybe through STAGE or something.
I have to admit I was surprised to come to this site and not see any reviews here. I've seen people talk about it at tons of conferences and have seen applications from probably 10 different companies. I think the Delta3D community is really strong, so I can't believe no one ever posted here. Wierd. In case you haven't seen it, check out http://www.delta3d.org and see for yourself.
So, that's my review. The only other thing I have to say is that Delta3D is a great platform for people to add whatever they want in an engine. I think of Delta3D as a jumping off point. It has a great base capability and integrates a number of other excellent Open Source projects. For us, it gave us everything we needed to get started and then we built up what other pieces we needed. For instance, the engine has a built in physics engine, Open Dynamics Engine (ODE), that is pretty popular and reasonably effective. However, we wanted more, so we integrated Ageia! See, to me, that's just cool! Since it's open source, we can take what's there and add whatever we want - Boom Baby!