Game Engine Blues

I’ve been searching for a good game engine to help me turn the two million ideas I have into real projects. I want something that installs quickly, works on MS Vista, is easy to learn (but not too easy—I don’t mind a challenge), has lots of features, and is inexpensive (under $100 for everything you need).

I’ve tried almost every free engine you can name, and none of them have been the right fit.

My first choice was RPG Toolkit 2. For a while, it seemed like the best. I learned the basics of the Toolkit Language and had a decent game in the works. When RPGT 3 came along, I couldn’t wait to boost my game with the new features.

Then came the problems.

One, the Toolkit’s limited as far as what it can do without driving you crazy. It’s not really as beginner-friendly (or non-programmer-friendly) as they’ll tell you it is, unless you want to use the default stuff exclusively, which is something they look down upon. So, you have to learn the TK Language. What’s wrong with that? It’s based on C++ and Visual Basic (more C++ now), and only a real programmer can get the full use out of it…which leads me to problem #2.

One of its daily tips says, “There is a warm community of fellow users always ready to help you at toolkitzone.com.” Don’t believe it. They give you complicated ways to solve your problems (since it’s the “best” or “most efficient” way), usually involving classes, structures, and all that higher-level stuff. If you don’t get it, you end up looking and feeling like a “noob,” which equals an idiot to them—even the developers will treat you that way. What’s worse is that even if you can figure everything out, you may not get a great result anyway. It’s just the best Toolkit can do.

My latest problem has been the most annoying: Toolkit doesn’t work on Vista. I know you’re supposed to run it as an administrator—and I have it set up to do that—but recently, the screen won’t even show up.

So, as I’ve said, I’ve been looking for alternatives.

One of Toolkit’s biggest rivals is Game Maker 7. To be honest, I love it. It has drag-and-drop capabilities, tons of features, an awesome sprite editor, and (very) basic 3D functionality. There’s just one thing I can’t stand about it: you have to use MIDIs. I loathe MIDIs. I want to use OGGs. But Game Maker doesn’t support other audio types well, except through plugins you have to buy $1000+ licenses for. (The money tree in my backyard just wilted.)

Then, on Valentine’s Day, I found LÖVE. I thought this would be “The One,” but it quickly broke my heart.

LÖVE is a fairly new engine, so it doesn’t have the huge feature set the veterans have. Plus, it uses Lua, which is great for beginners like me but limits the power of the program. I’ll just have to be patient and let my LÖVE grow.

Those were the main ones, but I’ve tried or researched a lot more: Pygame, Ogre, Sphere, Apocalyx, Allegro, ika, Verge, Baja, Crystal Space, Game Blender, DarkBasic (not pro), PlayBasic, Irrlicht, NovaShell, Reality Factory, Platform Studio, Game Editor…and some I don’t remember the names of.

My latest idea is just to learn C++ and make an engine myself. (“Well, duh…why didn’t you think of that before?”) That’s been going okay. Surprisingly, my knowledge of the RPG Toolkit Language has helped me grasp some concepts faster. But I don’t really want to wait to have the know-how I need—because then you have to learn OpenGL or DirectX and do audio and video and…well, that could take years! I want to have at least one game out there already.

My search continues. Suggestions and direction are welcome.

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One thought on “Game Engine Blues

  1. Fortress Guy says:

    You seem very dedicated! Some developers use flash to sell a game concept. Game designers who are technically savvy do well more quickly with the high end engines like Unreal or in-house proprietary ones. I have even seen designers with CS degress. That kind of knowledge comes in very handy when the tools are indeed not as “user friendly” as one might have been led to believe. But it takes a certain mental wiring to be a programmer, and not every creative designer has it (as conversely most programmers are not creative like designers).

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