Game Technology and Open Source: Because Your Wallet Just Isn’t That Fat

Nathan McKenzie

To make a modern game requires, unquestionably, a lot of technology. From content creation pipelines to physics simulation engines to lighting models to animation and beyond, there are numerous factors to consider when pulling a game together.

At the dawn of computer gaming, the art of game technology was finding the right blend of special cases, severe constraints, and hardware cleverness to make lowly machines do much of anything. Nearly all games were written from scratch, and professional communication and knowledge transfer was sparse at best.

With the advent of faster machines and 3D acceleration, game companies first started exploring reusable technologies. The challenges of game development transitioned from to-the-metal hardware expertise to higher level math, physics, and animation challenges, as well as new demands for tools and bulk content. Nevertheless, even these reusable technologies catered almost exclusively to experts and were far from affordable for all but the largest budgets.

The last few years have finally seen the rise of more budget-oriented approaches to game making technologies and even, mirroring trends from other software sectors, open-source solutions to many game making problems. But if there has been an increase in such technologies, there’s also been an increase in the confusion associated with them. Now more than ever, it’s incredibly difficult to evaluate exactly what problems different technologies solve and what problems those technologies create.

Building off of a recent year-long project covering similar ground, this presentation will attempt to cover the current state of game engine technologies, with a particular focus on free or especially open-source solutions as they might relate to people developing educational games on limited budgets.

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