Engine - Legal question

Aksel 101 Dec 16, 2011 at 20:30

Hello y’all! I’m new here. Found my way via google, while trying to find an answer to my question.

I am currently working on a horror game. The story, concept art, level design and a few 3D models are all completed (but are most likely subject to change later on).
The build of the game I am working on is only for promotional use to get funding, for example, a free to download demo on a funding website like Kickstarter.

Now I’m looking for an engine to work with after finishing the demo.

These are the engines (that I can remember from the top off my head) that I am familiar with: Source, Unreal Engine 3, CryEngine 1-through-3 and have lately been trying out the HPL2 engine (designed for the horror genre, after all). I am currently working in UE3.

Question: What engine would be legal to use? I plan on selling the game, and I am looking for an engine, hopefully similar to the ones listed above, that would be legal to use.

5 Replies

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Reedbeta 167 Dec 16, 2011 at 22:42

Any engine is legal to use as long as you pay the licensing fee the vendor requires. So I’m not really sure what you mean by “legal to use”?

Aksel 101 Dec 16, 2011 at 23:03


So I’m not really sure what you mean by “legal to use”?

I mean a game, using a some engine, without getting sued or something. A licensing fee is of course a necessity, but they are mostly as high as a months pay. A free to use, sell, etc. engine.

If I remember correctly, the id engines are under a GNU license. Would that make them usable in this situation?

TheNut 179 Dec 17, 2011 at 04:38

In this day an age, you get sued for anything ;)

Rather than deal with legalities first, see if the engine you want to use is something your and/or your team is comfortable using. There’s not much sense in aiming for a ‘free’ engine if in the end you hate working with it. Having said that, there’s typically 3 popular license schemes out there today. GPL, LGPL, and MIT/BSD. It’s best you read the fine print to make sure that is something you can follow. ID tech engines are released under GPL, which is the strictest of ‘free’ licensing schemes. Can you use it for commercial purposes? Sure you can, but read the fine print to understand what rules you must adhere to. In general, commercializing GPL software is not strongly recommended.

Aksel 101 Dec 17, 2011 at 18:13



Thanks for the links!

JarkkoL 102 Jan 08, 2012 at 03:33

You can release a commercial game under GPL just fine. The limitation is that you have to release the source code as well when you publicly release your game. Releasing the source code unlikely impacts your sales: while people can legally distribute the exe of the game for free, they can’t distribute the content which is under your copyright.

Cheers, Jarkko