The concept of a game engine is fairly simple: it exists to abstract the (sometime platform-dependent) details of doing common game-related tasks, like rendering, physics, and input, so that developers (artists, designers, scripters and programmers) can focus on the details that make their games unique.”
As an artist the main interaction I have with a game engine is importing and placing 3d assets to build game levels. But the amount of freedom for artists within engines is becoming increasingly more spread. With the next generation of engines the artist is given the ability to prototype and test ideas that would have previously required a programmer to do. Although this has been available to some degree, for example with UDK’s Kismet, the new Unreal Engine 4’s Blueprint system empowers artists and designers like never before by providing access to low-level engine functions and the ability to rapidly prototype without having to write a single line of code.
Supported by built-in debugging tools and enhanced by Unreal Engine 4’s brand new interface, Blueprints deliver all the power of Kismet along with the ability to visually script reusable components for gameplay, AI, player controls, geometry creation and numerous other features. These components can be used as pervasive parts of the world, so when a Blueprint is updated, the change affects all parts of the game where Blueprint is present.
Blueprints can be utilised for gameplay behaviour, animation blending, level building and design, and as mentioned before, object construction.”
Another key factor that has changed in the new generation of engines is the introduction of ‘physically based rendering’ systems. This ultimately allows for more realistic looking games and closer to life interpretations of surface properties. If you want to understand more about PBR I’d recommend watching the video above and also reading both Marmosets tutorials on ‘PBR Theory’ and ‘PBR in Practice’ (http://www.marmoset.co/toolbag/learn)
Not only has there been a large push to and empower the artists and get better looking games but also in getting these games on as many different platforms as possible. It is now easier than ever to push your games to multiply platforms natively from the one game engine. For example with CRYENGINE you are able to develop for PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation®3, PlayStation®4 or Wii U strait out of the box, as well as support for iOS and Android. This is becoming common place as mobile/ handheld devices are getting increasingly more powerful and allowing for advanced 3D rendering real-time on the device. Not only this but with the current boom of indie developers producing smaller game titles; software developers want to allow the Indies the easiest route to getting their game released to as wider audience as possible.
I feel that even though this new generation of game engines has only recently arisen, the future of the games engine is only around the corner. Currently in development is a new type of game engine that uses ‘Real-time Path Tracing’, much in the way that ‘V-Ray’ or ‘Mental Ray’ does but in real-time allowing you to walk around an environment instead of just viewing a single render of it.
This new Brigade3 engine, although currently has a lot of visual noise, would fall perfectly into the hands of VR. With the development of peripherals such as the ‘Oculus Rift’, this allows us to view up close 3d environments and interact with them in way that wasn’t previously possible. Put this along with the Brigade engine and the almost infinite amount of polygons available, you could effectively create a sense of VR that has never before been possible.
I am Elliott Pacel, a Technical Artist at Reflections, Ubisoft.