Why it just refuses to die (Blender Game Engine)


In the new Blender Roadmap http://code.blender.org/index.php/2013/06/blender-roadmap-2-7-2-8-and-beyond/, it is admitted that not much time or effort has been spent on the Game Engine. Well, as with governments spying on ordinary people, many people suspected that it was happening but it’s still sad to see it confirmed. Starving the Game Engine of development and resources hasn’t killed it though,  just annoyed its users a lot.

Another paragraph in the Roadmap serves to illustrate why this happened:

“On the positive side – I think that the main cool feature of our GE is that it was integrated with a 3D tool, to allow people to make 3D interaction for walkthroughs, for scientific sims, or game prototypes. If we bring back this (original) design focus for a GE, I think we still get something unique and cool, with seamless integration of realtime and ‘offline’ 3D. (quote) .”

and

“Instead of calling it the “GE” we would just put Blender in “Interaction mode”.

If starving it of resources doesn’t work, I suppose you can always try trivialising it and then absorbing it.

Again, I for sure and many others, thought this was probably how the Game Engine part of Blender is regarded – a neat little toy for artists, a frill, a grudgingly maintained prototyping tool for game makers –  but I’m afraid seeing it written down makes me realise all over again that I think they are chasing the wrong doggie.

The Indie scene is very lively indeed just now (as I predicted at begining of year) and showing no sign of slowing down. It is a bona fide growth industry now with a huge mainstream outlet (apps and handhelds, tablets, consoles) plus there is Steam and its variants, browser use is growing too. Tradional formats for Indie games are still going strong too like the pc. Small developers are now not so niche.And there is a LOT going on.

Indie is, in short, getting very big, very influential and creating a lot of money. It is painful to watch Blender deliberately missing this particular boat. This is a field it could easily have dominated if the effort had been put in.  Not bothering with the Game Engine was a bad choice. I am glad for the inroads into film, but film just isn’t growing as fast and big as development for handhelds and apps – and consoles. The Ouya should be along soon too.

Not dealing with the licencing issue didn’t kill the Game Engine either. Enthusiasts will go to the lengths required to sidestep this limitation, though in all honesty it should have been addressed ages ago.

Plans to subsume the Game Engine into Blender and redefine it as “interactive mode” has caused some debate as is evident in the comments on the link I gave and on various forums. Something of a hornet’s nest. Apparently this surprises some people. Well I think it’s good to get the issue out into the open at last. It’s about time the people at the top had a look at user demand, user experience and saw how their plans and outlook are regarded by Game Engine Users. I don’t see any need for vituperation, but honestly…. “interactive mode???”. It remains to be seen whether this will kill the Game Engine at last.

I hope not. I can offer some insight into why it hasn’t died yet, despite all efforts not to support or sustain it. It hasn’t died because there is a void, a market gap the size of the San Andreas fault, for just such a thing. Here is a magnificent, accesible graphics editor and creation suite, there is a vast crowd of independent game makers, and in the middle are some engines. Blender Game Engine sits in amongst this group like a little island. The others grow bigger and prosper whilst the one that fits best with the graphics stays small and ineffectual under a weight of apathy and quite possibly dislike.

The other engines, (I know, I’ve looked), are buggy/expensive/cumbersome/unsupported/untutorialised/undocumented/don’t integrate with other applications – sometimes all of the above. But most important, they aren’t in pole position to take advantage of Blender’s massive graphic power. What is happening is that game makers who like the BGE use it as far as possible then seek out their own solutions for all the things it does not address (and there are many). This means that the BGE never gets to be in the final credits, never gets to be the big name. It also means there are as many solutions as there are people looking for them. I also will be following this route. Another uncapitalised advantage being that the Engine’s source is accessible. That is such a plus for an Indie. At the moment, it’s a mess, but all this hasn’t killed the engine either, just fringified those who still use it despite the limitations and incredible annoyances of doing so.

It’s needed. That’s why it survives.

In my view, the Blender Game engine, with it’s old code needs a complete rewrite which would be a perfect time to sort out a serviceable licence. It should be integrated more closely with the graphics as planned, it should become feature rich, supported, sustained like the rest of Blender which already operates beautifully as a modular system. What has happened is that one of the modules hasn’t been worked on and has fallen out of step. This can be fixed. But the will clearly isn’t there.

If the Blender Foundation does manage to kill off the engine, something will spring up to fill it’s place simply because something is  needed in the position it currently occupies.

Film is all very well, but it doesn’t have the kind of big future that games do.  It’s amazing how well Blender otherwise covers the 3d field. It is easily used for visualisation, teaching,  a million other things. But on games the Blender Foundation is dropping the ball badly.

As in any gold rush. the people making most money (and publicity)  from Indie gaming are not so much the developers, but any company that integrates with their efforts. Publishers, platform makers, tool makers, publicists, lawyers etc. But apparently… not Blender.

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