What Engines You Should Consider in Building Your Games / by Xiaosong Shang

Hello everyone! Sam Martino here.

So last time I mentioned different game engines, I know I have my thoughts on RPGMaker known, but I will elaborate more on that, and the other engines that are currently out there.

The main engines you as an indie developer will have access to are: RPGMaker, Unreal Engine, Unity, Cryengine, and Lumberyard.

RPGMaker is the engine we used to create Ashes of Kanaka, it is by far the simplest of all engines to use, and despite that, you can still learn a lot as far as logic and basic game design go. RPGMaker allows you to create JRPGs with easy as so much of the hard code is already programmed into the engine, you can drag and drop all of the existing assets and features and you’ve got a game. Now, don’t do that, because that is how so many of the terrible RPGMaker games came into existence. It is incredibly difficult to make something that stands out in RPGMaker, you have to create something so unique that most people cannot even tell it is RPGMaker anymore. Ashes of Kanaka is running 43 different plugins, entirely custom art for characters, a custom coded combat system, 1000 maps designed in Photoshop, and so many other features that an RPGMaker game should not be able to do. Not only do you essentially have to gut the engine, some things you simple cannot get around. RPGMaker has a hard cap at a 1000 for maps, switches, variables, those kinds of things. Ashes of Kanaka hit that cap and we actually had to cut content because the engine simple could not handle it. Honestly, I would avoid RPGMaker, but it is simple, it is easy to learn, and you can make something special with it, but you really have to go above and beyond.

Next is Unity; I haven’t had much experience with Unity but it is one of the best engines out there right now. Unity is fantastic for games that need optimization, if you are creating a mobile game, or something stylized, Unity is 100% the way to go. The asset store is fantastic for Unity and they have great integration for all the different programs you will use. The only major issues I have had with Unity is that I feel they also have hard limitations and are not designed to handle more complex and demanding games.

Unreal Engine 4, handles that problem perfectly. I will note, Dogwood Game develops exclusively in Unreal Engine 4 so my opinions may be a little biased. Out of all the engines, this one is by far my favorite due to the quality you can produce, there are few limitations to what you can do with it. Unreal 4 can be coded entire with their Blueprint system; a node based system that makes programming something that someone who doesn’t have a mind for coding, able to figure it out. Not only that, but Unreal has by far the best support system and I have had no problems finding a forum post or video tutorial answering all of my questions. Not to mention I feel that Unreal 4 has the most promise as they are actively using the money from their insane Fortnite sales to further improve the engine, so it gets better and better every day.

Cryengine is… a difficult engine to recommend. Up until recently, it was absurdly expensive to even use it (something around 25,000 USD a year). They had a free version, however when we tried using it, every time the engine would update (without us agreeing to it) our files no longer worked and we were unable to roll anything back. That said, Cryengine is the most beautiful looking game engine out there, the quality you will get from Cryengine is phenomenal, but even now that the engine is free I feel it is too little too late, especially with the extreme lack of learning resources available compared to Unreal or Unity.

The last engine, Lumberyard, is one I am very excited to see how it unfolds. The newest engine out there right now is Amazon’s Lumberyard, and it has direct integration with the Amazon servers, which makes indie online multiplayer games much easier to get into, and a lot more cost effective. Not only that, but from what I have seen of Lumberyard, the quality rivals Cryengine, and it is clear that Amazon has put a lot into this game engine, and it really shows. My only thing with Lumberyard is that because it is so new, there are very few learning resources out there. But, they are focusing on this and I say it is just a matter of time before Lumberyard becomes one of the new standards for game creation.

Now that I’ve gone over the game engine choices, I will discuss what programs we use for pretty much everything else. I’m not going to review every alternative because there are just so many, but I will list out and explain what all our programs are and do.

As always, please reach out to me at smartino@dogwoodgaming.com with any comments or questions. I always love hearing from you guys!