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Educational Feature: What is a Game Engine?

In the latest feature for sister web site GameCareerGuide.com, Orbus Gameworks lead programmer and co-founder Jeff Ward helps crack one of the big student and game dev neophyte
GameCareerGuide.com, Gamasutra’s sister web site for students and other newcomers to game development, has just posted a new educational article that cracks one of the big mysteries of the game industry: What the heck is a game engine? Experienced developers bandy around the term “game engine” as if everyone should know what it means, which often leaves beginners, who have never used one before, too embarrassed to ask what it is. The new article, by lead programmer and co-founder of Orbus Gameworks Jeff Ward, lays the information out as simply as possible. Here’s an excerpt: “You would expect that the answer would be as simple as being shown a car’s engine: ‘Yeup, thar she is.’ After all, the game engine, much like a car’s engine, is what makes the game go. Unfortunately, sometimes there’s a fuzzy line between where a game’s engine ends and where the content of a game begins, as if there were a fuzzy line between whether a car’s air conditioner is part of its engine. Generally though, the concept of a game engine is fairly simple: it exists to abstract the (sometime platform-dependent) details of doing common game-related tasks, like rendering, physics, and input, so that developers (artists, designers, scripters and, yes, even other programmers) can focus on the details that make their games unique. Engines offer reusable components that can be manipulated to bring a game to life. Loading, displaying, and animating models, collision detection between objects, physics, input, graphical user interfaces, and even portions of a game’s artificial intelligence can all be components that make up the engine. In contrast, the content of the game, specific models and textures, the meaning behind object collisions and input, and the way objects interact with the world, are the components that make the actual game. To use the car analogy again, think of how the body, CD player, in-dash navigation system, and leather seats make the actual car. That’s the content.” To read the rest of the article, “What is a Game Engine?” visit GameCareerGuide.com.

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