Clash of the engines

Just about an hour ago I got to get a little taste of the up and coming CryEngine 3. Yesterday, I got to check out what Epic’s kicking out for their own Unreal Engine 3. What can a non-tech-savvy videogame fan say about what he saw? Well, nothing that will get the [H]ard|OCP guys… hard. Crytek talks about having as many lights as you want with little framerate hit and Epic talks about how they can do more than ever with just one light. What the hell? Apples and Oranges, you tech nerds duke that one out.

What I can talk about is what these upcoming engines will tell us about upcoming games. Both companies are now officially multiplatform. Both companies boast flashy data management, and both companies like to talk up MMO support now. Both companies have damned pretty engines.

Crytek, especially, has gone multiplatform in a big way, letting the developer look at what their game will look like on each console right before their very eyes, provided they have three monitors for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. It’s interesting to me how much this matters now. It calls attention to that gradually-more-obvious fact that these consoles are just blending together more and more. I was looking at the screens and, while the PS3 screen actually had a richer image, their PR man assured me that it was not due to any deficiency on the 360, and that they are indistinguishable behind closed doors.

They also showed some editor additions that are meant to make the creative process a much smoother one for editors, but their focus was very much the multiplatform aspects. Epic, on the other hand, was all about how much usability they’ve added, and the aspects that can offer information that can help improve games. With data collection as easy as it can be, don’t be shocked to read articles about “statistically speaking…” and an explanation for a design choice that may seem a little off-putting to some, or perhaps even patches that offer updates to maps that alter notable aspects. In theory, this should be a good thing, but I’m also hoping this doesn’t lead to contingencies of developers abiding by the numbers and not challenging the habits of the majority simply to rake in the sales. I can’t imagine it being a huge problem, but you never know.

And yeah, they’re both so damned pretty it bears repeating. But neither looks leagues ahead of what they have shown us to date. The tweaks and new lighting models I’m sure are a good thing, but at this point it’s only these little things that they have to sell. Also remember, though, that this conference is mainly for developers, and not the players, so they’re here trying to sell some licenses more than anything. All the same, it’s clear that the point graphics are currently at is probably going to last a while longer. The next step isn’t quite here yet, but these little steps are still fun to watch.

It will be interesting to see what else id Software’s got going on with their engine as well, but that will apparently be for another time.