Experienced indie gd - feedback on my middleware choice

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Riva 101 Feb 07, 2008 at 11:20

[Edit] I red my previous post and think I must have scared most of people with the tons of text.
So long story short:

Im professional game developer for lots of years.
I decided to create my own,simple,3d FPS game hobby project.
I decided to find 3rd party game engine with FPS features already in it.
I found Torque and the FPS starter kit.

Whats your opinion ?
Is there something better ?
Is Torque usable ?

All the details are in next post if you want:

16 Replies

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Riva 101 Feb 07, 2008 at 14:17

Hello,
1st to introduce myself: I am guy around 30, with 16 years of exprience with gamedev in general, from which 10 years as a pro. Done everything from AAA 3d game to budget 3d and 2d to handheld and mobile games. Mostly on positions of graphic,designer,team or project lead.

my plan: To (try to) create my own hobby project of simple 3d FPS game in (exisiting) team of 2-3 people. With possibility to make it budget\shareware (=commercial) once in a misty future.

From my past experience I know there is no way to create your own game engine. Not in small indie team and not in this life (and not without loosing your sanity).
So I started looking for existing, available-to-indie game engine.
(I already found one solution, but want to write it step by step)

What I am looking for is not just engine, but basicaly a working FPS game, that I can mod upon (or total-convet if you want) and still be able to sell the product afterward.
I was well aware this might be a dream, that nothing like this exists (or not for indies).
The features I wanted are nothing big:
overaly a Quake2-Quake3 grade graphic (to put it simply)
with no limit for lightmap sizes
additionaly with support for speculars and bump-maping if possible (but not neccessary)

resource management, entity layer, scripting etc.
good network code usable for WAN
compatibility with some major 3d packages for graphic assets import
compatibility with some usable world editor\integrated
basic physics implementation (gravity for player, projectiles)
advanced physical simulation = basic rigid dynamics if possbile (but far from neccessary)
at least some ragdoll implementation (again only optionaly)
Reasonable price up to 1000 USD

I checked Google for game engines, checked this sites database, also some more. Got some very inconsistent feature lists and headache in meantime )

What I found was (obviously) Torque engine with what they call “FPS starter kit”.
It has all the basic FPS functionality, very limited graphic, almost no physics.
Ok, can live with that, I dont want to create next GearsOfWar (Im not suicidal .. yet ).
I am avare that in any case I will at some point have to hire (as in pay) a skilled programmer (luckily I know hadful) for a short time - to add this and that to the engine for me.

I tryed to create one small level in with one character in Torque and it does work.
I am ready to buy the engine at this point and base the developemtn on it, but I was thinking I’ll check on few forums and ask for opinions.

  1. I would like to know if there isn’t better alternative. Game engine that has FPS functionality implemented, bus is less dated and maybe has more features.
    Someting I might have easily missed in the mess the indie engines are today.

  2. I am really concerned if Torque really isn’t as badly written and unaproachable (is this really a word ? ) for 3rd party programmer as people say. If I wount hit a wall there once I’ll need to add something to the engine later in the development.

So with all this sayd I am asking for your opinion or advice.
If you will be viling to do so, pretty please try to put aside your programmer-ego (the typical “all existing engines are shit,only true way is to write your own” thing) and your favorite engine preference (the also well known “Torque is just shit,XYZ is better but it doesnt have …implemented yet…” thing ).

Thank you for reading this bible of my ‘thinking aloud’ text and thanks for your insights.

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starstutter 101 Feb 08, 2008 at 06:36

@Riva

Hello,
1st to introduce myself: I am guy around 30, with 16 years of exprience with gamedev in general, from which 10 years as a pro.

This really confused me with what followed…
@Riva

From my past experience I know there is no way to create your own game engine. Not in small indie team and not in this life (and not without loosing your sanity).

This is the one that really threw me off. I’m really curious as to exactly how much contact and exposure you actually had to the programmers. I’ve known several people, including myself, and indie groups that make their own very good engines (over the learning course of a few years), and some that rival the graphics of even source and unreal.

What sets them apart though is that most all indie engines remain in-house because it takes a *long* time to make it so other people can use your engine to make anything. If you don’t have the technical knowledge (or not know anyone that does), that’s understandable, but realize that writing your own game engine is a very reasonable goal.
@Riva

additionaly with support for speculars and bump-maping if possible (but not neccessary)

I’m not aware of any engines that don’t include this. Probably the most common per-pixel feature there is.
@Riva

at least some ragdoll implementation (again only optionaly)

Not many engines include this built in, those normally cost a lot of money and use things like Havok (HL2 physics). But there are several you can get free such as Newton Game Dynamics and PhysX. They both require a small amount of programming to implement though.
@Riva

I would like to know if there isn’t better alternative. Game engine that has FPS functionality implemented, bus is less dated and maybe has more features.

Tough one man. Unfortunatley it’s hard to find any engine (free or indie purpose) that you don’t have to mod the hell out of to make the graphics decent. It’s a shame that there’s really no “in-between” engines. You really end up getting stuck between:
“The next-gen 8 million dollar Xtreme Engine” and “My first little fps”
@Riva

I am really concerned if Torque really isn’t as badly written and unaproachable (is this really a word ? ) for 3rd party programmer as people say. If I wount hit a wall there once I’ll need to add something to the engine later in the development.

The simple answer to your question is: no. Just like with any other widley used product *cough*cough*windows*cough* it gets bashed just for being popular. It’s not as bad as people say, but the #1 complaint I hear is that it’s hard to get started and hard to really finish anything. I’m not sure about this one, but I’ve had a few friends tell me that modding it to improve the graphics is a nightmare.

If you want an *ok*, but reliable, game tourqe is the way to go, and it’s not too expensive so that’s always a plus. Overall, whatever you’re planning to do, you might be able to get some practice tools. A fun (but not really educational one) is saurbraten (cube 2). It’s got a realtime editor and lets you get pretty creative.

Good luck man, but remember, getting your own engine really isn’t an “off the deep end” idea. In a lot of cases, it’s really the best option.

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Goz 101 Feb 08, 2008 at 12:14

@starstutter

The simple answer to your question is: no. Just like with any other widley used product *cough*cough*windows*cough* it gets bashed just for being popular. It’s not as bad as people say, but the #1 complaint I hear is that it’s hard to get started and hard to really finish anything. I’m not sure about this one, but I’ve had a few friends tell me that modding it to improve the graphics is a nightmare.

I have a friend who had to use it for a commerical product and he tells me its not only the graphics that are a ngihtmare. I helped him with a few bits and that engine is completely retarded, imo. Rather than use Torque i’d write my own engine … at least it’d be possible to figure out how it worked ;) That may be helped by the fact i’ve been profressionally writign 3D engines for something liek 6 years … its pretty easy to write one really :)

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Frank_Skilton 101 Feb 08, 2008 at 14:03

+1 on people who have had a bad Torque experience.
@”Riva”

additionaly with support for speculars and bump-maping if possible (but not neccessary)@”starstutter”

I’m not aware of any engines that don’t include this. Probably the most common per-pixel feature there is.

Torque (the standard version) does not have bump mapping or specular highlighting (amongst many other features). It does have an unpredictable world editor, a decent enough scripting language, a passable GUI editor and a rough particle editor however the cumbersome art pipeline and disorganized source code prevent me from using it.

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starstutter 101 Feb 08, 2008 at 15:04

@Frank Skilton

Torque (the standard version) does not have bump mapping or specular highlighting (amongst many other features).

wow…. I stand corrected. That’s pitiful dude.

Well, I came back to say that I was a bit wrong on there being no middle-level engines, at least, I just realized one of them. Anyway, you may want to think about using c4 engine.

http://www.terathon.com/c4engine/index.php

This one (which is made by a semi-indie group btw) has great graphics for the price ($200), and a whole lot of core features that can be a bit hard to find in the regular (cheap) commercial engines. I was very impressed by some of their lighting effects as well. Not only do they include bump mapping, but parallax mapping too, which gives the surfaces a whole lot more depth.

Overall, c4 is good, but it may require some programming to get it to do what you want. From what I’ve heard (and can see logicly) the engine is not extremley flexable if you don’t mod it any. But definitley give it a shot. There’s a run-time demo that has some pretty cool little levels and worlds.

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onyxthedog 101 Feb 08, 2008 at 17:17

UMMM…… Although I have not actually used a pre-built engine, from what I have heard it sounds as if the only way to get specific features is either build your own engine or do some heavy modding on a pre-built engine. But like I said I do not have much experience in this area. My suggestion have one of the programmers you know suggest a good engine that they have used. It does not have to be commercial or even availible on the web as long as they get you it.

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STLDude 101 Feb 09, 2008 at 02:04

IMHO, if you want to make a game, don’t spend year or years to build your own engine. There are plenty of them for free/cheap, good, bad and in between. Here http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=324643 is a good thread about it. I would agree that in most cases you will have to resort to code changes, but regardless if you take this first project lightly, I think you will learn allot and have far more understanding what it goes into making a game. Maybe even give yourself time frame, like 6 month or so to finish the game.

Anyway, just a thought.

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Riva 101 Feb 09, 2008 at 21:48

1st of all thank you all very much for your feedback.
@starstutter

I’ve known several people, including myself, and indie groups that make their own very good engines ..

I would love to get into argument with you, but I woun’t. ;)
Care to share your\theyr released game titles (that are using your own game engine\s) ?
@starstutter

..that make their own very good engines (over the learning course of a few years) ..

My point exactly is that obviously I don’t have a “few years” to wait for my own team of programmers to create an engine for me. (even if I were able to find a group of experienced programmers to work for free for few years on it :) )

Anyway, if you really have your own finished, full-featured 3d game engine at the moment - would you be willing to license it to me ?

Goz - thanks for tip on C4 engine. It seems to have almost all I need plus a lot more in sense of graphic possibilities.
I’ll check how it works.
@onyxthedog

..have one of the programmers you know suggest a good engine that they have used

The people I know are high-rated AAA game developers. Im affraid they don’t even know any indie game engines and probably don’t have time to check hundred of indie engines for me. ;) I wish I could ask them thoug :)
@onyxthedog

.. if you take this first project lightly, I think you will learn allot and have far more understanding what it goes into making a game.

Im affraid I already know more them I ever wanted about what is it like to make a 3d game :). Its really not my 1st project. And yes, its exactly why I don’t plan anything big. Still this will be more a test if its possible to create decent 3d game in so small team.

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starstutter 101 Feb 10, 2008 at 01:02

@Riva

I would love to get into argument with you, but I woun’t. ;)
Care to share your\theyr released game titles (that are using your own game engine\s) ?

I didn’t say they were released games, go to the engines listing on this site, you’ll find tons. As you probably know, making games and making engines can be two totally seperate fields. If you’re looking for a terrific example, these games were developed from scratch by 3 or 4 guys in sweden. Developing games takes art, modeling, time, actors, money and writers. Making an engine just takes knowledge and a free compiler.

http://frictionalgames.com/games/

Penumbra is awesomely scary btw :)
@Riva

My point exactly is that obviously I don’t have a “few years” to wait for my own team of programmers to create an engine for me.

Well, and I’m not really asking you to (or I guess even suggesting). I’m just saying that you should never rule it out as a possiblility. It just gets to me when a perfectly competent programmer is afraid to make his own engine because the big boys say it’s impossible.
@Riva

Anyway, if you really have your own finished, full-featured 3d game engine at the moment - would you be willing to license it to me ?

sloooooooowwww doooown! Hold up, lemme catch my breath…

The newest engine I have is leaps and bounds more advanced than anything I’ve done before. It’s in the middle stages of development and has been going on for about a quarter year now. So it’s no where near ready to be used on a large scale yet. I had one engine that I worked on for about 3 months, but then started over because it looked like crap (it actually had the same graphics as tourqe :lol: ). The new one, however, is turing out better than I could have possibly hoped though because of a rencent knowledge leap.

I do however have a few 2D engines that really served more as learning oppertunities. It’s difficult to imagine a good looking 2D egnine, because so few of them exist, but this one was pretty cool. Here’s the thing about my engines: Are they good? yes. Are they able to make a full game? yes. Are they usable by someone else? Not a chance.

I firmley belive that a general use, mass liscened engine will never produce quite as good graphics as one (on the same technical level) that remains in-house. Why? Because mass amounts of work are put into just making it easy to use for developers who are not programmers, not to mention that the developers will know all it’s quirks and the art style that fits it best. Why do you think Epic is the only one who can make the awesome graphics with Unreal ;) ? My engines usually remain raw code untill I have a need for specific tools. But, if you or a team member ever need technical help or some hard to find source code, feel free to contact me.
@Riva

Its really not my 1st project. And yes, its exactly why I don’t plan anything big.

Just like Samuel Adams, always a good decision.
@Riva

Goz - thanks for tip on C4 engine. It seems to have almost all I need plus a lot more in sense of graphic possibilities.
I’ll check how it works.

umm, *cough, cough*, that was me I do belive. :cool:

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Nodlehs 101 Feb 11, 2008 at 17:30

Ok, while not directly answering any of your questions, I think you should clarify maybe what you HAVE done so far in game development.
@Riva

Im professional game developer for lots of years.

Ok, game developer for lots of years, got it…
@Riva

… with 16 years of exprience with gamedev in general, from which 10 years as a pro. Done everything from AAA 3d game to budget 3d and 2d to handheld and mobile games. Mostly on positions of graphic,designer,team or project lead.

Ok, so you weren’t a game developer? In general usage, at least in the section of the world I am in, developer refers to a programmer, not a graphic designer, or a management position.

When you declare you are a developer, it gives me the heebie jeebies when you make statements like this… (as someone else noted above)
@Riva

From my past experience I know there is no way to create your own game engine. Not in small indie team and not in this life (and not without loosing your sanity).

and this…
@Riva

I am avare that in any case I will at some point have to hire (as in pay) a skilled programmer (luckily I know hadful) for a short time - to add this and that to the engine for me.

16 years in the industry? I would HOPE you know some programmers that can help you out.

So with all this sayd I am asking for your opinion or advice.
If you will be viling to do so, pretty please try to put aside your programmer-ego (the typical “all existing engines are shit,only true way is to write your own” thing) and your favorite engine preference (the also well known “Torque is just shit,XYZ is better but it doesnt have …implemented yet…” thing ).

Again, 16 years in the business with no one to ask personally? You must know SOMEONE who has knowledge to help you, that you can ask these same questions, who you should already respect and trust their advice. There are professional game developers who post here, but trusting to someone you know intimately would probably be more worth your time.

Now, I am not trying to rag on you here, but I find your story very inconsistent. I am also put off by the rampant misspellings and grammatical errors. While I in no way profess to be a good writer, I do think people should try to use proper English and spelling while posting. Being in a position of team/project lead would have basically required you to have good communication skills. Can you detail a bit more what you have done so we can get a better idea on how to steer you to what you want?

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Riva 101 Feb 12, 2008 at 10:07

Just a quick reply to clear things:@Nodlehs

Ok, so you weren’t a game developer? In general usage, at least in the section of the world I am in, developer refers to a programmer, not a graphic designer, or a management position. When you declare you are a developer, it gives me the heebie jeebies when you make statements like this… (as someone else noted above)

Ah, now I see the problem people had with my previous post :)

The truth is that in my part of world term “game developer” is used for “person working in development of computer game” and it can be any profession, artistic or programming (maybe with exclusion of management).

Since I worked on more positions in game dev, I used that term to wrap it.

I understand that I used the term wrongly (out of habit) and confused you. My apologize.

To put it clearly: I worked in game development companies on positions:
lead 3d graphic
3d graphic, animator
2d graphic, animator
game designer
art director\project manager

My expertise include (creation of):
2d graphic and animation (pixelart, gui design for 3d games ..)
3d graphic - modeling, texturing, rigging, animation, optimizing - for “realtime” 3d games
3d graphic - the same + lighting, rendering, postfx, export - for 2d games “prerendered” from 3d
leveldesign (3d games) and scripting (as in point’n’click adventure)
game design
project documentation (CD, DD, production manuals)
tools programming
team leading
testing
etc.
@Nodlehs

Again, 16 years in the business with no one to ask personally? You must know SOMEONE who has knowledge to help you, that you can ask these same questions, who you should already respect and trust their advice.

If I need to solve some specific problem I have people to ask of course.

But when Im looking for advice on good indie game engine, how can guys who are working on AAA titles with Renderware help me ? They never used any indie engine and progably don’t even know any.

Also they are very busy and asking them to review 20 indie engines one-by-one just for me isn’t really reasonable.

So I thought that to ask people who are probably using or developing those engines etc. (which is you) is a good option aside my own research.

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vibhanshu 101 Feb 12, 2008 at 17:58

Hi Riva

When you want to make it small then Torque and 3D GameStudio can surely workout coz atleast they have a few published titles behind their name and not just any engine which has a lot to say. Atleast you can trust on the stability of the engine. Although I must mention that I have personally not worked on Torque. I used 3D Game Studio (A6) long time back that too for a learning purpose only. A 3rd engine you can consider is Beyond Virtual(BV) ‘but’ the last time I used that engine then it had stability issues, but it was long time back. Now they have upgraded their engine and they promise for a stable performance with a lot of features. So no harm if you spend some time on BV also. Even C4 is quite fine.

hope this helps
tc

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Goz 101 Feb 12, 2008 at 19:49

@Riva

But when Im looking for advice on good indie game engine, how can guys who are working on AAA titles with Renderware help me ? They never used any indie engine and progably don’t even know any.

Just a side note… renderware disappeared into oblivion not long after EA bought Criterion :)

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Riva 101 Feb 12, 2008 at 20:04

…which doesnt matters to you much if you already have AAA project based on it :) (I guess) But yah, thats how the game dev. business looks today. :(

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evak 101 Feb 24, 2008 at 07:26

Torque Game Engine Advanced only has 1 UV channel in their mesh format!! And thats just the beginning of what is ultimately a bit of a dog.

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starstutter 101 Feb 24, 2008 at 21:21

@evak

Torque Game Engine Advanced only has 1 UV channel in their mesh format!! And thats just the beginning of what is ultimately a bit of a dog.

With everything I hear about Torque, it just gets worse and worse. That is beyond pathetic… only 1 UV channel?

I’m seriously starting to think the engine is for suckers who don’t know what the real good ones are. C4 is godlike compared to Torque. Yes, you should most definitley stick with Terrathon Software… them’s some great guys.