Accessible game development tech is now a given in the industry. Numerous tools support the indie uprising, and in the UK and beyond building games is making an impact in schools.
One outfit specialising in opening the doors of game dev to the masses has been around a little longer than most. The Game Creators effectively formed some 16 years ago, as the company founders developed Dark Basic, an intuitive coding language.
Still guided by the same ideas in 2015, having fostered a community around FPS Creator and App Game Kit, TGC have had a new product underway for over two years, at the time of writing set for a GDC launch.
That product is GameGuru, which is by definition a straightforward game engine. Little startling about that, until you consider how it is delivered. Priced at $19.99 for the complete engine, with no need to pay anymore for the likes of seat licenses, it is sold on Steam, under the Games category.
The engine allows users to craft 3D game worlds – specifically first-person titles for launch – from within a given game itself, without the need for code, node-trees and other conventions of development; though getting further under the bonnet is optional.
“The engine itself is almost a sandbox 3D environment,” confirms The Game Creators development director Rick Vanner. “When you get into that 3D world, you can immediately break into it. You can re-sculpt the terrain, place objects, move things around and really restructure everything. We wanted to merge the technical process of making a game with the feel of playing.”
The GameGuru engine targets both the hobbyist and smaller commercially-minded studios, catering for the delivery and sale of games made using the platform. It will offer support for multiplayer and online lobbies, as well as an integrated store for users to craft and sell assets and other extensions.
“We’ve always focused on hobbyists who want to be creative,” continues Vanner. “We’re not trying to compete with Unity or teams of that size. We’ve always wanted to make the kind of tools that we want to use; ones that let us make games quickly.”
GameGuru, which arrives with ten complete games that customers can pull apart and rework to their heart’s content, also runs on relatively low-spec PCs in its quest to reach the widest audience possible.
“We’ve done a lot to make sure it works with low-end machines, including laptops,” confirms CEO Lee Bamber. “As we developed it we kept optimising more and more until we knew the engine could run on integrated graphics. We feel it’s quite an achievement.”
In that regard, Bamber and Vanner appear to have been successful, as Intel is demoing GameGuru at GDC as a means to demonstrate the potential of some of its less muscular, more affordable machines.
But support for low-end PCs doesn’t mean the engine lacks clout, The Game Creators duo insist.
“While it’s highly optimised for low-end specs, it still retains all the things you’d expect from a modern engine,” states Bamber.
“In the terrain there’s a full 3D physics system, a huge amount of Lua commands in the form of a Lua scripting engine – so the option for programming and coding is there – and there’s scenery effects, a multicore light mapper, cascade shadow maps for dynamic shadows, full realtime lighting, triplanar ground shaders, you can import models and sounds; the list goes on.”
And that list is expected to grow in the future. Work is underway on a custom character creator; Oculus and VR support – including the capacity to use the engine ‘in VR’ – is due in 2015; and support for more game forms is well underway.
There’s also the none-too-insignificant detail of the engine being sold on Steam under the Games category, rather than alongside the other tools on the store.
“We want to create a new paradigm,” explains Bamber. “We aren’t thinking ‘is it a tool or is it a game?’. We wanted to create an experience that can transcend both those identities.”
Arguably, that is something Minecraft has achieved, and we all know how that game’s story goes.
Vanner and Bamber might not be guaranteed moving into mansions costing a reputed $70m immediately, but one thing is sure; GameGuru opens another door for more people to engage with the thrill and challenges of making games.