VR Game Engines

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So, it would seem like Crytek has changed their business model for their game engine, a convenient timing for the release of this article. You can read all about their new business model here: http://www.crytek.com/news/crytek-unveils-all-new-cryengine-v-and-community-centered–pay-what-you-want–model

For those of you unaware, the “Pay What You Want (PWYW)” model literally means just that – you pay what you want. If you are anything like me when it comes to money, then you would probably just not pay at all (I’m kidding). Either way, they give you an option to pay, if you so desire, to support their dev fund.

Anyway, I am sure you have heard of Unity and Unreal game engines being used specifically in the VR industry. But were you ever curious if there are potentially other options out there?

In this short list, I’m going to focus on 3 independent and unexpected VR (or not) game engines out there, including the newly-released CryEngine V. A disclaimer that I have not used most of these game engines, and I am merely doing a “lay of the land” cross-comparison between all of them, for beginners and enthusiasts willing to get a jump on one of these.

 

1. CryEngine V

For those of you hailing from the gaming development world, CryEngine is no stranger to you, so expect a huge following (and potentially use) for its released CryEngine V, based on the fact that Crytek (the company) already has  a strong base of existing users. Given that notion, it is expected that they would probably have more developer support, tutorials and features, to say the least, to offer.

cry1

Cost
Absolutely free, if you want. But you can also donate, if you want. If you would liked additional training, consulting services and access to more accelerated learning, you would have to pay between USD$600 to $1800 a year for CryEngine’s Insider Membership packages.

Pros

  • Much like Unity and Unreal, CryEngine V also has a marketplace for developers to access thousands of assets and exchange them between members of the community
  • As a VR game engine, it supports PlayStation VR, OSVR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift – pretty much every major VR hardware out there
  • Reasonable amount of documentation (at least as much as it could offer for VR development at this point) and some support from the community (active and up-to-date) – though expect less activity than Unity and Unreal
  • GPU-based particles and cloud systems (makes your CPU happy)
  • Contains about 75+ official tutorials on how to use the game engine
  • Games developed with CryEngine are 100% royalty-free, regardless of profits

Cons

  • Apart from its official tutorials, there is limited external support and tutorials on CryEngine that is up-to-date (this takes time to accumulate)
  • Hard to say there are much cons right off the bat, I suppose the cons would then come in when comparing CryEngine V with Unity or Unreal

Interesting Notes
It is both C# and C++-friendly. You have to create a project first before you download the game engine. They also have an initiative known as “VR First” to encourage academic institutions to create VR labs on their campuses – if you are a faculty member some place, some where, consider this option.

 

2. UNIGINE

Here is an interesting one. I’ve almost rarely ever seen any interface snapshots of Unigine, let alone heard people discuss about it. Then again, it is B2B and mainly designed for industrial visualizations, traditional virtual reality systems and use cases like scientific research and military simulations, etcetera. Either way, here’s what I managed to scavenge about Unigine.

unigine1

Cost
You’d have to request for a free trial or pay the cost of USD$1495 for a “Starter Single.” I am assuming the “Sim” version would be about or around that cost, plus. One could request a demo though. Just like anything else, the more expensive the package, the more available support for your projects. Remember, this is B2B.

Pros

  • One of their claims is that they offer support beyond VR to other types of immersive output as well – including CAVE systems (basically a VR system that is physically built like a cave) and curved screens
  • For B2B, it offers lots of technical support that seems to be higly-customized and personalized to the business’ needs – this is good for individualized attention to your business needs
  • Based on the visuals and screenshots on their site, they seem to have the systems capable of delivering on their promise of highly-realistic VR and experiences

Cons

  • A major bummer is the B2B nature of Unigine, but that also explains why most of its information is secured and locked off from public eyes
  • Less active of a community and forum – your best bet for answers is really the professional team themselves
  • Thus far, it seems like they only have Oculus Rift support – depending on your business, this might or might not be sufficient (do check up on them for updates)

Interesting Notes
Their authorized distributors come mainly from Asia but they have a sales office in the United States. Due to the nature of the company and product, Unigine could potentially contain some elements that might be overlooked due to its B2B nature and highly-secured information.

 

3. Fabric Engine

Somewhat of an oddball, Fabric Engine emphasizes its easy-to-use nature for artists, in-betweeners, and programmers alike using a visual programming system similar to that offered by Unreal Engine. Formed by a technical team in Canada, they go beyond just support for Fabric Engine, to include external 3D software tutorials as well.

fabric1

Cost
An individual license would cost USD$2000, plus $500 for support and maintenance within the first year of purchase. If you rent it however, that cost drops down to $1200. They also offer studio and team packages at higher costs, with the possibility of a negotiable “Unlimited” package including an unlimited amount of licenses. An educational license is available but it has to go through a request form. No fret though – an evaluation license is also available for trials (no forms necessary).

Pros

  • An insane amount of official tutorials on the engine, and even on other non-Fabric Engine related tools, are available
  • Technical documentations including step-by-step guide – telling you exactly which and what buttons to push, with visuals, verbatim. It also tells you why that step or button has to be pushed, which helps the shorten the learning curve tremendously
  • Uses an entirely different programming language known as KL. KL has some features that optimizes memory, multi-threading among other aspects, that C++ lacks or fails in comparison
  • It supports HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Leap Motion and Razer Hydra – not a bad range of options

Cons

  • As with an independent or non-mainstream game engine, they have less of an active support community among fellow developers however, it doesn’t mean that their support from staff is any lesser in quality
  • … Uses an entirely different programming language known as KL but, it can call C, C++ libraries, depending on who you are this can be your con
  • They are still working out the kinks in some of their VR integration

Interesting Notes
The company, Fabric Software Inc, was founded by a very technical team, which might explain some of its software features among other aspects. However, the reason it is in this list, is that this might potentially be a game engine worth checking out, if you have the time. MPC and Psyop uses Fabric Engine – so there is endorsement from some within the visual effects industry.

 

As you can see, it really depends on your personal preference as to the software you want to use. You could use it for 3D, games, even live-action. The possibilities are endless.

Anyway, if you are in the field of VR or are just an enthusiast, I will be giving a TEDx talk in May 2016 in Napa Valley, CA about virtual reality and visual effects. Come up and say hi, or just enjoy the fine wine and dine of Napa Valley: https://www.tedxnapavalley.org/2016-speakers/

If you’re interested in connecting, simply add me on LinkedIn or drop me an email on my website: http://www.lauvicki.com/contact



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