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GRIN's Andersson: 'Far Less Risky' For Startups To License Engines

GRIN boss Ulf Andersson (Bionic Commando) has told Gamasutra that startups should license a game engine -- despite the fact his studio rolled their own -- as part of an
April 13, 2009
Talking to Gamasutra as part of an feature on choosing a game engine, GRIN's director Ulf Andersson (Bionic Commando) has recommended startups to license a game engine, despite the fact his own studio created their own. The Stockholm, Sweden-based developer has been using a homegrown game engine for GRIN's games since 1997. "We've never even considered using somebody else's engine, never," he proclaims, "and that's because we have a very flexible platform that we can create anything with and not be one step behind because someone else decided what's going to be in the engine or not." Despite the advantages, making your own engine is extremely costly and very risky, stresses Andersson. "Even if you've got the money, you need to be prepared to go through a lot of years of trying and testing," he says, "and even then the risk of failure is high." Nevertheless, when Andersson and his brother -- now GRIN's CEO -- started the company in the basement of their family home, they did it with zero funding. Those teams have utilized the GRIN's so-called Diesel Engine these past 12 years to create games as diverse as Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, Bandits: Phoenix Rising, and Wanted: Weapons of Fate -- and it is being used to build forthcoming titles like Terminator Salvation and Bionic Commando. While Andersson is adamant about being mainly a one-engine studio, his team has dabbled with other engines when necessary; they did some physics maps for Unreal Tournament using the Unreal Engine. "Regardless what it does -- good or bad -- it changes your way of working and how flexible you are in certain areas," he explains. "You have to adapt to the constraints of the limitations of what the engine has. You have to think in a different way and that's not the kind of restrictions we want here." His best recommendation to other developers just starting out is to weigh your budget, decide whether you want to take the risk of building your own engine, and determine whether your staffing is capable of doing that. "I get the feeling that most developers who want to build their own are cocky bastards who just want to prove themselves," he observes, "and that's a good attitude to have, a very healthy one. But, for most start-ups, it's far less risky to license somebody else's engine. Today's climate is very different from when we started in '97." "Projects are 10 times larger than they used to be and so the risks when creating your own engine are far greater. At the same time, licensing fees are much less compared to budgets than they used to be, which may make it more economical to use someone else's engine." The full Gamasutra feature on the subject includes further feedback from Wideload's Alex Seropian, who has used a multitude of different licensed engines, and consultant Mark DeLoura, who recently conducted a survey of game engine use.

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