There has been a lot of news about game engines at GDC 2015. Unity Technologies released the fifth iteration of their Unity game creation system, Epic Games announced that Unreal Engine 4 for will now be free to use (with caveats), and Valve have announced officially unveiled Source 2. All of this news should have gamers and games developers alike excited.
Keep reading for the details.
The Unity game creation system has often been criticized as lacking in the visual department (our own Carl Batchelor noted in his Wasteland 2 review that CRPGs developed with the Unity Engine “share a plasticky feel”) [Editor’s note: and InXile Entertainment seem to agree: they’re now redoing the game in Unity 5], and this newest iteration of the system seems to have been developed with the intention of obviating that problem.
Have a look at “The Blacksmith”, a demo that Unity Technologies put together to showcase the new graphical possibilities in Unity 5. Improved animations, physics, and lighting over previous versions of Unity are all evident.
The Unity 5 game creation system is now out. The Personal Edition, for educators and developers with revenues or funding under $100,000, is completely free and involves no royalties. It does exclude some feature, however. The Professional Edition will require a subscription of $75 per month, or a one-time cost of $1,500, and Unity Technologies asks for no royalties on games made with the technology.
Instead of requiring upfront payment or a monthly subscription, as they previously have, Epic Games have now decided to provide Unreal Engine 4 to content creators free of (upfront) charge in return for a cut of the profits. The official announcement explains it succinctly:
You can download the engine and use it for everything from game development, education, architecture, and visualization to VR, film and animation. When you ship a game or application, you pay a 5% royalty on gross revenue after the first $3,000 per product, per quarter. It’s a simple arrangement in which we succeed only when you succeed.
This is the complete technology we use at Epic when building our own games. It scales from indie projects to high-end blockbusters; it supports all the major platforms; and it includes 100% of the C++ source code. Our goal is to give you absolutely everything, so that you can do anything and be in control of your schedule and your destiny. Whatever you require to build and ship your [product], you can find it in UE4, source it in the Marketplace, or build it yourself – and then share it with others.
[W]e’ve realized that as we take away barriers, more people are able to fulfill their creative visions and shape the future of the medium we love. That’s why we’re taking away the last barrier to entry, and going free.
Here’s Tim Sweeney, Epic Games’ Founder and Technical Director, announcing the news via video.
Valve has announced a bunch of new exciting things for PC, Mac, and Linux gaming enthusiasts and developers at this year’s Game Developers Conference. Chief among the reveals is the much-anticipated Source 2 engine, and a November release window for their Steam Machines, Controllers, and other hardware (more on the latter, here).
“We continue to see very strong growth in PC Gaming,” Valve president Gabe Newell said in a press statement, claiming that Steam had grown “by 50% in the last 12 months,” and they want to capitalize on this momentum. Part of the plan is their Source 2 game engine, which they officially unveiled. Here’s the press release for it:
Valve announced the Source 2 engine, the successor to the Source engine used in Valve’s games since the launch of Counter-Strike: Source and Half-Life 2. “The value of a platform like the PC is how much it increases the productivity of those who use the platform. With Source 2, our focus is increasing creator productivity. Given how important user generated content is becoming, Source 2 is designed not for just the professional developer, but enabling gamers themselves to participate in the creation and development of their favorite games,” said Valve’s Jay Stelly. “We will be making Source 2 available for free to content developers. This combined with recent announcements by Epic and Unity will help continue the PCs dominance as the premiere content authoring platform.”
Also as part of supporting PC gaming, Valve announced that it will be releasing a Vulkan-compatible version of the Source 2 engine. Vulkan is a cross-platform, cross-vendor 3D graphics API that allows game developers to get the most out of the latest graphics hardware, and ensures hardware developers that there is a consistent, low overhead method of taking advantage of products. Vulkan, previously called Next Generation OpenGL, is administered by the Khronos Group, along with other standards such as OpenCL, OpenGL, and WebGL.
[Editor’s note: this article has been revised since publication to add extra information.]