â??Itâ??s sad to see developer suing developer,â?? says David Braben

UK devs discuss engines and Epic vs. SK

With the media recently feasting on the current Epic Games versus Silicon Knights court case, and developers wondering what it might mean for third-party middleware licensing, we decided to look at the other side of the coin – building your own engine and in-house tools.

CTOs from leading UK independents have offered their thoughts on the issue in an exclusive Developmag.com feature looking at the pros and cons of building technology, with Frontier’s David Braben saying “external technologies can be a block to innovation in some respects.”

Frontier uses a large amount of its own technology but occasionally licenses specific modules to complement its engine, such as the use of SpeedTree in the upcoming next-gen title The Outsider.

“Looking at [how Renderware panned out],” Braben continues, “it’s clear that licensing an engine is likely to be a transient solution to a short term problem, rather than a long term solution, using the sort of business model that is currently on offer in that field.”

A large problem, as Blitz Games’ Andrew Oliver confirmed, is the problem of control over code.

“When we first ventured into 3D, we licensed an engine from Argonaut. It was generally good for its day, but for us it was the sudden loss of control we found we couldn’t stand. We’d always been in a position to fix our bugs, but suddenly there were bugs we couldn’t fix and had to wait on other people for.”

On the specific topic of the Epic/Silicon Knights case, Rebellion’s Chris Kingsley commented: “It reinforces to me how crucial a decision it is whether to use middleware or to develop your own technology.”

“From what I’ve seen, I think the Unreal Engine is pretty good, and if we needed middleware it would be one I’d certainly look at,” added Oliver.

“But with huge amounts of money riding on these big games, and very high pressure to get them out, lawsuits of this type are part of doing business and not really a surprise.”

Braben, on the other hand, spoke how the ruling could affect all developers. “It’s sad to see developer suing developer. Certainly there will be many looking on, us included, with a view to seeing how tools licensing (from the point of view of the licensor specifically) can pan out in practice.”

The full article, including more opinions on the court case and advice on how to decide whether or not to licence existing technology or roll your own engine, can be found here.

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