The modern game engine

When I was in college, or should I say in a previous life, since it seems so long ago, I remember playing games with great intro movies.  I always commented to my friends, hovered around the monitor, how one day not too far away, the actual game will look as good as those scenes. Of course, by standards today, those scenes looked like a student animation project done at the last minute with poor art assets.  The technology we have now is really beyond amazing – and most kids don’t even know it! 

When I started experimenting over a year ago with Unity, my chosen modern game engine, I decided to switch from my laptop and get a new desktop system.  I built a custom system with the latest hardware.  This included a six core Intel i7 980 Extreme processor with 12GB of 1600Mhz DDR3 RAM, and a Radeon HD 5970 driving a 30 inch monitor running at 2560×1600.  In the days of yore, this system only existed in Star Trek fantasies, or maybe deep within the bowels of the Pentagon somewhere, secretly calculating doomsday scenarios like the WOPR.  

One of the first things I did was test its stability with a tool that grinds the most powerful CPUs into the dust with benchmarks.  My CPU topped out at something like 74 GFLOPS.  Of course this doesn’t even compare to the theoretical computational capacity of one of the Radeon 5970 GPUs which is something like 2 TFLOPS.

It was numbers like these, combined with the eye popping visuals displayed by games of the last few years, and the promise of DirectX 11 technology demos that got my attention again.  So I dusted off the original 3d bible that I still have on my bookshelf and realized we are achieving stunning visual realism in real-time right now and it is only going to get better.

Amazing hardware is only where it starts.  The Unity engine is a truly awesome piece of software that gives you access to everything you need to create a real-time 3d simulation, and it is very economical.  Having a platform like Unity in the early nineties would be like having a Holodeck today, well almost, I am exaggerating.  But for a 3d enthusiast, it is pure heaven.

As a part of my creation process, and to help others out with theirs, I will be sharing a lot of technical tips with regard to Unity and my adventures with it.  Even as amazing of a platform as Unity is, it still requires, like any complex system: great attention to detail, extensive organization skills, and endless learning, trial and error, and significant understanding of the underlying concepts.  Unity will not make a game for you and it takes considerable skill and understanding to make a real game on top of it, but don’t let that discourage you, it is probably the best starting point out there.

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