Oct
07

WHY USE AN IN-HOUSE ENGINE?

“Beware Planet Earth!” is using our own technology to run. That was a really important choice for the project and later for the future of Lightmare Studio as it will be used for next projects too. So here is how and why we decided to start to build our own game engine.

 
First of all we did it because we could. The team had a programmer – me, and I was willing to develop an engine on my own as we targeted the PC which is, in my opinion, the second easiest platform to program; the first being the web – yes, I consider the Web as a platform in itself. In addition, our ambition was to make a ‘simple’ strategy game in 2D. Without these conditions met, we wouldn’t have decided to program our own game engine. As we started, this project was primarily to be made for fun and pleasure to work together on something we could all influence. My fun was to work on my own engine to meet exactly our requirements. But before reinventing the wheel, I had to search for an existing game engine that could meet our needs.

Here, we're talking about SDK (Software Development Kit) not DSK (Dominique Strauss Kahn)
▲ Here, we’re talking about SDK (Software Development Kit) not DSK (Dominique Strauss Kahn)

There is a lot of SDKs (Software Development Kit) that are very popular in video game development. Most of them are efficient and free as long as they’re not used for commercial products. That surely meets our need for low cost, because, well, it’s free. On the other hand they tend to be a bit expensive when you sell your final product, and even if it was not our first objective, this point had to be considered. On these various SDKs, some were very oriented, to make, for example, state of the art 3D FPS (First Person Shooter). That’s just not us. Some were very versatile and allow you to do everything you want with it. Well, that’s great, but we don’t want to do everything! We just want to do some 2D tower defense. No need for an overkill.

 
Another requirement of mine was the access to source code of the engine. Most of the engines I found did not allow that, at least not for free. This was an important point for me because no engine can fit exactly your needs from the start. You have to tweak and adapt it to your specific needs, you want new features, and you want it bug-free! Well, at least that’s the dream, and the thing is that you never get a piece of software bug-free, so if your bug is concealed in some black box, good luck finding it and understanding what’s happening!
 

Don't try to drive in a screw with a hammer at home!
▲ This will be messy…

We started this project because we wanted to be as independent as possible. Using an existing engine didn’t seem right with this philosophy: when you do so, you start depending on external developers to fix bugs, add new features that you need and so on. And if you renounce all these customizations you may end up with a hammer to drive in a screw: you will succeed but it’ll be messy (ask Barney!)

 

We called Lightmare's engine 'Black Hand'
▲ We called Lightmare’s engine ‘Black Hand’

So we decided to develop our own technology to power the game, to have exactly what we wanted and for free! In the end, if we did not have the home-made engine, we certainly would have to pay some fee to release the game, the project as it is today may not be the same, and Lightmare wouldn’t own its game technology.

Next time I’ll talk you about one of the features we wanted for the game that quite weighed in the final decision.

 

 

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