For many, the technology working tirelessly behind the scenes of their games will remain as an abstract concept. It comes from a world where designers, artists, mathematicians and architects all collide to create the building blocks and tools that structure the worlds we play in. Some engines are a true tour de force of technology that facilitate the creation of diverse experiences across a range of different genres, but as the 360’s life has stretched on, a shadow has been cast across gaming. It is the shadow of the super engine, and if the thought of a one-console industry scares you, the far more real prospect of a one engine-world should be second on your list.
The number of studios pushing their engines out the door has seen a huge increase since the beginning of the 360’s life. Epic’s Unreal Engine quickly secured itself market dominance, as others looked to the original Gears Of War and its incredible visual design when building their own games. For a while it appeared that Epic would rule over this generation, but as the years have gone on, both DICE and Crytek have shown just what can be done to push the graphical benchmark.
In particular, DICE’s Frostbite Engine has gone on to have one of the most pervasive relationships with the entire EA portfolio. Providing the most popular games with impressive visuals and solid tech has ensured that every game with DICE’s influence comes with certain quality expectations. This collaboration has gone the other way too, with Battlefield 3 employing FIFA’s groundbreaking animation techniques, but why is the Swedish-based developer so good at adapting its engines for a
range of games?
“As we were developing the concept for Need For Speed: The Run,” explains Jason DeLong, Executive Producer on the EA racer, “we realised we needed an engine that could deliver a world-class experience on all fronts: visuals, characters and animations, physics, world destruction and audio. With this in mind, we were able to partner with our friends at DICE to integrate truly next-gen racing into Frostbite 2, resulting in an incredibly powerful and extremely well-rounded engine.”
More than any other big engine within the industry, DICE’s work has maintained an impressive track record that looks unlikely to change. “Frostbite 2 was essential in allowing us to provide the player with the gameplay experience we wanted to convey,” continues DeLong. “For example, in wanting to tell a compelling Hollywood-style story, we knew we had to get incredibly detailed characters and performances into the game. We also wanted to ensure we put our hero in peril from time to time on his journey, so Frostbite allowed us to create intense action moments via incredible VFX and world destruction.”
Will we see this dominance lead to an engine culling as the big three secure themselves as the go-to tools for studios? This could quite easily be the case for big budget, time consuming mega-hits; but for the industry as a whole, personalised, adaptable engines will still provide the flexibility needed to work cheaply. With each engine able to scale for a next-gen machine, the mega-engine is here to stay.