The 2010/02/25 at 16:52
Real-time 3D games engines, the core of the technological strategies of games creation studios, are devouring research and development budgets. Veritable software architectures and infrastructures (Middleware and Framework), they can be used to create 3D worlds, generate characters, move the players around, interaction, and scenarios. An example is Crytek’s CryEngine, used to develop Far Cry, and Quake, created using Quake’s Quake Engine. Another legend is Epic Games’s Unreal Engine used to create Unreal Tournament, Gears of War, and Shadow Complex. In the beginning, the design studios developed their own engines to give them a competitive edge. With the advent of ever more spectacular realistic effects however, the studios became publishers in a bid to relieve the burden on R&D, opening the door a crack to standard solutions and above all, to the interoperability of digital data from one software application to another.
“It is not worth any games producer developing his own engine. It’s too expensive,” explains Christophe Reyes, European Manager for EA (Electronic Arts) that in 2006 acquired Criterion Software’s Renderware engine, which has been adopted by a great many studios including Activision, Capcom, Rockstar, Empire Interactive, Infogrames, Konami, Lucas Learning, Sony, THQ, Titus and Ubisoft, to name just a few. More generally, these user studios demand standard technologies to reduce the cost of their tools. “It must be said that these engines are worth more than a million euros,” says Sébastien Callens, Marketing Manager at Vertice, publisher of Nova, a real-time 3D engine dedicated to serious games. The serious game uses the highly professional engines of leisure games. “Only for very upmarket applications. Otherwise, the serious game studios use simpler and much cheaper technologies,” says Laurent Michaud, consultant at Idate, the European Analysis Institute. For its part, the French studio, Daesign, originally a creator of parlour games and now concentrating exclusively on serious games, has developed its own engine, AVA (autonomous virtual agent). Apart from design studios, software publishers have rushed into the breach of the entry-level engine for serious games.
Examples are Vertice’s Nova, Onesia’s Orealia , Quest 3D from Act 3D, RTRE from Cubic Space and Stonetrip’s Shiva. Other publishers from the field of virtual reality in industry have also positioned themselves in the serious games niche. These include Autodesk (3DS Max), Dassault Systèmes and Eon Reality. All these publishers in turn face competition from forty or so communities of developers of Open Source Software, generally free of charge: Aleph One, Axiome Engine, Blender 3D, ClanLib, Crystal Space, DarkPlaces, Exult, IrrlichtEngine, Ogre, Panda3D, Quake EnginePlib, Second Life, Stratagus and Troll2D, for example. As a result, the broad technological offer has opened access to the creation of serious games to all on condition that certain interoperability problems between the data formats of the different software applications in the serious games design chain have been solved.
In this respect, we must salute Vertice’s efforts. “The studios use 3DS Max by Autodesk to create objects and 3D backdrops, texture (marble, stone, asphalt, vegetable matter, etc.), characters and animation which will then be integrated into the game engines,” explains Vertice’s Sébastien Callens who offers a free version of his commercial software to beginners and students. One freelance graphic artist to take advantage of this was Laurent Vicherd who with the free version of Vertice created the first serious game to help sell Bénéteau’s pleasure boats. “The colours of the hull, seat fabrics, textures, furnishings, wood, varnishes… the visitor personalises the boat he dreams of buying. He finds himself immersed in a totally interactive world. Even the shadows change depending on the light and the movement of the boat on the water,” explains Vicherd who hopes to develop a range of serious games for the use of shipyards.