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Before starting development of the game the 1st thing one should decide is: “What engine should I use?”

In this article I would like to present a brief overview of the 3 the most powerful engines, in order to clarify their key differences, advantages and disadvantages.

Nowadays Unreal Engine 4, Unity and Cry ENGINE are rightfully considered to be the most popular and powerful among game engines.

Unreal Engine 4:                 

Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) is the brand new engine developed by Epic Games (its predecessor is Unreal Development Kit, or UDK the free edition of the Unreal Engine3. It was used in a huge amount of AAA games including Gears of War).

UE4 possesses amazing graphical capabilities including:

  • photorealistic graphics;
  • advanced dynamic lighting;
  • innovative particle system (handles up to a million particles in a scene at ones).

The Unreal Engine 4 got some changes and differs from UDK, so you will have to get used to them if you have had an experience in UDK. Still the ease of the UE4 makes it quite appealing for the new game developers who will do justice to such notable changes as:

  • UnrealScript is completely replaced by C++;
  • Kismet is replaced by the more intuitive Blueprint.

Unreal engine 4 could be used for development games for PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Nevertheless, it is impossible to make a previous generation consolee game on UE4.  

UE4 is available for the developers at $19 per with a 5% royalty. Furthermore Epic Games gave free access to the engine for schools and universities as well as to the source code.

Unity:

Unity is the game engine with an extensive range of features, comfortable and user-friendly interface. Its cross-platform integration makes it prior while choosing software for mobile games development. Unity allows to port games quickly and easily onto iOS, Android, Win Phone, Blackberry. In addition the engine could be used for PS3, Xbox360, and Nintendo Wii U games development.

This engine could be easily integrated with any 3D-editor (like 3ds Max, Maya, Softimage, CINEMA 4D, Blender, etc.). It also has capabilities for the 2D game development, supporting sprites and 2D physics.  That makes Unity great for development of both 3D and 2D games.

Still, its own inside editor can perform a limited set of operations.  It has no modeling or building features outside of a few primitive shapes, so everything has to be created in a third party 3D application.  Nevertheless it has a huge asset library, which could be either downloaded or purchased.

For the developers 2 versions of Unity are available: free and Pro. Annually Pro version costs $1,500 or $75 for monthly subscription, also it is possible to download 30-days trial.

Pro version greatly differs from the free:

  • global lightning;
  • render-to-texture;
  • custom splash screen;
  • IK Rigs, etc.

Also, the developers at Unity are preparing to enter the new generation with the release of their Unity 5 and continue the race with UE4 and CryEngine.

CryEngine:

CryEngine is an extremely powerful tool, developed by Crythek Company. Firstly it was presented in the 1st Far Cry game. This engine allows creating games for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. It obviously surpasses Unity in graphical capabilities:

  • state-of-the-art lightning;
  • realistic physics;
  • advanced animation, etc.

CryEngine is quite intuitive and possesses powerful level design features and could be put on the same level with UE4.

Still, it could be quite challenging and take a while to get used to it and start using the engine efficiently in case you’ve never dealt with game engines before. So, if you do not require your game graphics to compete with games like Crysis 3 you’d better choose a more user-friendly engine.

For developers CryEngine is available at $9,90 per month with no royalty commitments. Also it offers commercial developers full source licensing for larger and longer term projects that benefit from a real partnership with Crythek. Platinum support is also available, with dedicated support staff, increased on-site presence and even co-development of features.

Thus, Unreal Engine 4 is a good match for games with photorealistic graphics, Unity is better for development of 2D, 3D games and CryEngine has amazing graphics capabilities along with the most appealing pricing. Still, I suppose that one should try each engine in order to define, which one suits his purposes in the best way.

To sum it all up I would like to notice that all these 3 engines are extremely powerful tools for the game development. Still, I suppose that one should try each engine in order to define, which one suits your purposes in the best way.

And what do you think? To what engine would you give your preference?

Look forward to your comments!

Tatyana Ogneva

Tatyana Ogneva
tatyana.ogneva@altabel.com 
Skype ID: ognewatatyana
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

The early days of video –gaming seems to be gone away. Video games companies offer their game players new graphics and playing options to get what they want and to make better choices.
So Cloud gaming seems to be one of the recent openings and growing trends in the gaming industry. Lately gamers had to choose which game platform to buy: console, PC or portable device. Until now. Thanks to cloud gaming service the gamers can play freely through the cloud on any displays, including TVs, monitors, laptops, tablets, and even smartphones.

But what actually is cloud gaming?
Cloud gaming is a form of online games that uses a cloud provider for streaming. Its means that like all online games whether it is multiplayer games, Xbox or PlayStation cloud games as well need network connection and console to be played. However instead of having a playable copy of the game you download the game itself from the cloud service and stream it instantly.

The main advantages of cloud gaming are:
1. Instantly playable games in your browser. Cloud computing games allows the game to be streamed instantly and be played in a seconds.
2. No need of any installations. All games are stored on a cloud service, so there is no need to download and install them on the hard drive.
3. No specific hardware required. Game content isn’t stored on the user’s machine and game code execution occurs primarily at the server so it allows you to run almost all modern games even on a less powerful computer. Your computer necessarily requires only the ability to play HD-video (720p) and an Internet connection at a speed of 5 Mbit / s with low latency.

The negative effects go beyond the positive benefits and features. So let’s see what they are:
1. The main disadvantage of cloud gaming at the moment is the internet. It requires a reliable and fast internet connection to stream the game and play to your TV or monitor at home. Without a decent connection, it can make games look slow and unplayable.
2. Second hand market. There is a large amount of people who buy second-hand games. Once you completed your title, people generally trade in their old game for a new one. With Cloud gaming, you never own a physical copy making the whole process of trading in your old game for a new one redundant.

Gaikai and onLive
Currently there are two growing cloud projects launched from 2009- 2010 OnLive Game Service and Gaikai,game platforms which breathed new life into video game development.

OnLive is available on different devices: TV consoles, tablets, PCs, Mac OS, smartphones. On the official web site/store www.onlive.com the games could be purchased, rented and be downloaded as a free trial as well.Besides for 100$ you can buy box OnLive Game System, by which cloud game can run even on your TV. And the games also could be played on your tablet or on your smartphone from your PC, Mac or TV via Wireless Controller OnLive for the cost of 50$.

OnLive also provides worldwide interactive playing it means that you could share your playing with other players on the spectating Arena, share your best video moments instantly on Facebook or talk with the players with Voice Chat.

Alternatively, GAIKAI www.gaikai.com, which unlike OnLive, is a cloud-based gaming service that allows users to play high-end PC and console games via the cloud and instantly demo games and applications from a webpage or internet-connected device.Library of games from a service GAIKAI is not too big, but it has a number of popular projects that are not in OnLive, for example: FIFA 12, Bulletstorm, Crysis 2, Dead Space 2, Dragon Age 2 and others.
The benefit of Gaikai’s service is that the company isn’t limited to gaming. The company is actively soliciting streaming partners to utilize Gaikai’s infrastructure, servers, and platform.
On July 2, 2012, Sony Computer Entertainment invested $380 million USD with plans of establishing their own new cloud-based gaming service.

Betting on the future?
Is cloud gaming the future? The media companies like Sony, Gaikai and OnLive think certainly so, as they invest in its development and promotion. At the same time the gamers are still doubtful on the game quality and prefer playing on consoles than on cloud. The main problems/uncertainties that gamers point are mostly connected to the buying habit and staying online playing. The question with the internet connection seemed to be decided with cable providers like AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner, and Comcast that are planning to enter the cloud-gaming space, debuting their services as early as next year.Last thing needs to overcome is the dependence of physical owning.

So maybe if these downsides could be materialized in the benefits it will help to point the biggest skeptics out, and make them believers.

Thank you for your attention and feel free to leave your comments and share your thoughts/experience at this point!

Best regards,
Katerina Bulavskaya
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

The mobile and social gaming industry is experiencing an invasion of clones. While cloning has a long and varied history, it has become more prevalent with the explosion of social and mobile games. As development times decrease and the useful lifetime of games diminishes, cloning has become more lucrative: games are easier to copy and there are more of them to clone.

Historically, developers have used copyrights and patents to protect video games. Copyright protection can extend to the expressive, non-functional elements of a game, such as audiovisual display and the underlying source code, but not the ideas behind the game itself. Patent protection extends to the functional aspects of games, such as game play mechanics. But both copyright and patent laws tend to favor would-be copiers, rather than game developers. While traditional game developers may have had the resources to engage in costly legal battles and reasonably expected a long stream of revenue from popular games that justified the expense that is not the situation in which most game developers find themselves today. In addition, the costs of being the victim of cloning has increased as developers invest more and more into marketing their games, only to see knockoffs emerge after a game reaches threshold popularity.

The limitations of intellectual property rights to deter cloning are a sore spot for the industry. Indeed, even cases in which a defendant had access to a competitor’s prototype and then created a game of striking similarity may not survive. While it is important to maintain intellectual property rights where appropriate, there are other actions that can help avoid cloning short of costly litigation:

* Include more protections in your Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA). Before sharing source code, demos, or ideas with potential partners, consider executing an NDA that specifically prohibits cloning or the use of any derivation of the IP shown to the other party. The NDA should include a presumption regarding the developer’s remedies in the event the game is ultimately cloned, and most importantly, copying should be defined more broadly than copyright protection allows. Because you will be negotiating a contractual right, you are not limited to the strictures of intellectual property law. While you may find this somewhat time consuming on the front end, it could avoid disputes later.

* Scramble the code. Oftentimes cloners simply reverse engineer a popular game in order to copy it. One way to avoid this is to obfuscate the source and machine code of your game so that it cannot be reverse engineered. Amazon has promoted this idea in its Appstore.

* If you do get cloned, launch a media offensive. One way to challenge a clone is not in the courtroom, but on the web. If your game is cloned, consider launching a media offensive on the blogosphere to draw attention to the cloned game. The backlash for the cloner could be significant and may deter other would-be cloners from following suit if they know you will bring attention to the copying.

Best Regards,
Kristina Kozlova
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

Social games not only represent a lucrative new revenue channel for social media sites but they also signal a fundamental change in the structure of the social media industry. Social networks can no longer afford to rely solely on advertising revenue—they must master the intricacies of directly monetizing their users via virtual currency, virtual goods, and social games.

Social games are the perfect addition to the social network. They provide a lightweight, social form of entertainment that enriches the interaction of a site’s users. As a result, social games on smaller social networks often meet or exceed the ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) observed on Facebook. And, unlike advertising, which detracts from the social experience of a site, a successful social games strategy will simultaneously increase a site’s stickiness and significantly increase revenue. However, implementing a successful social games strategy is not easy; new technology, new skills, and an ongoing commitment are required to succeed.

There are three main pillars that anchor a successful strategy: The platform, the content, and the distribution. If any one of these pillars is weak or missing, the true potential of social games and the virtual goods sold within them will remain unrealized.

The Platform

The first step in a successful social gaming strategy is creating an application platform from which social games can be distributed to a site’s users. A great platform must enable social games to be well integrated into a site’s structure, have access to essential social information about a site’s users, and monetize a site’s users with the least possible friction.

The Content

A site’s content strategy must be focused on developing a portfolio of games that are the best fit for its users. One or two social games are seldom enough to transform a site into a virtual goods powerhouse. The sweet spot is to launch with at least five games and most smaller sites can support twenty or thirty popular games before attention gets spread too thin.

Sites should deploy games that:
Appeal to the site’s core demographic;
Promote the behaviors that are key to the site’s appeal — whether that is flirting, keeping up with friends, or gathering around a particular theme.
Have already proven to be engaging.
Are continually optimized and refreshed to retain users.
Crafting an initial portfolio is often more challenging than expected. Great content takes significant skill and resources to build. In addition, it’s important to realize that many games have a limited shelf life, so new content must be continually added in order to keep a site’s social gaming ecosystem vibrant.

The Distribution

It won’t just work to simply add a “Games” tab to a site and call it a day. The goal is to get a site’s users so immersed in social games that some users are willing to pay to get ahead. To do that, social games must be promoted as a core element of the site’s feature set and the site must be proactive about driving traffic to the social games.

Social networks have three methods for driving traffic to social games:

Premier placement: Not only creating a dedicated section for social games, but also implementing hooks for those games into a site’s features such as profile pages, activity feeds, and the site’s main navigation.

Ongoing promotion: A site will dedicate high profile real estate to promote game launches, in-game events, and other calls to action that drive traffic into the games.

Viral notification channels: A site will allow social games to have reasonably unfettered access to a site’s communication channels including user-to-user messaging, invitations, and activity feeds.

A site must use all of these methods extensively in order to build its base of social game DAUs (Daily Active Users), which are key to driving revenue.

These are some key points to be taken into consideration how you could benefit from the social gaming. They would help companies understand how social games can transform the engagement and monetization potential of their social media sites.

Looking forward to hearing your comments!

Natalia Kononchuk

Natalia Kononchuk
Natalia.Kononchuk@altabel.com
Skype ID: natalia_kononchuk
Senior Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

With the start of 2012, there are some strong trends that are changing the game industry in a big way. We take a look at some of them and what to expect.

Smartphones and tablets are changing the portable gaming market in a big way. Although most games on iOS and Android are smaller experiences than say Uncharted on the PSP (or the newly released PS Vita or 3DS), there is no doubt that games on the iOS and Android ecosystems are exploding in terms of development support, user base, and revenue coming into 2012. Smartphones and tablets are offering ways for smaller and indie developers to get noticed and sell their game to potentially millions without needing a huge budget or marketing campaign. Expect a lot more Android tablets and continued strong sales of the iPad to push games on larger 5-11″ screens. As Android devices are now pushing 720p resolutions, expect Apple to not lag behind in this area too much longer. Market share for Android devices sky rocketed in 2011, and we expect the Google OS to grab even more of the market in 2012. This means more developer support from game developers.

Say hello to the PlayStation Vita. 2012 will usher in a lot more power to handhelds with the release of Sony’s true successor to the original PSP. The big question though remains…. Are gamers really interested in that much power in a handheld, or will the 3DS at a much lower price outpace Sony’s latest offerings like it did with the DS? There seems to be a big push as mentioned previously that the mobile market is garnering a lot of attention from developers and gamers alike. Is the PS Vita going to take the gaming world by storm, or will it lose market share to devices like the iPhone and Android devices… Time will tell. What we can expect though is Sony pushing the PS Vita hard to gamers and developers. A price cut might be needed though to get it the market penetration they are seeking.

Different ways of interacting with video games will also take center stage in 2012. Kinect is coming to PCs, and others like Apple with Siri are taking voice controls first offered from Kinect seriously. The industry clearly is heading into a direction towards different ways of playing and interacting with games and media. Expect this to continue in 2012 with several companies offering competing technologies that offer the gamer and content consumer ways to get immersed into digital content.

All in all, expect a lot of focus and attention towards the mobile sector for the game industry. I think it’s safe to say we will see a lot of competing products fail, and a few moving forward taking the spoils of war. Also we should continue to see voice integration as well as motion controls make a big push in 2012.

Best Regards,
Kristina Kozlova
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

The current topical issue in mobile gaming industry is the freemium business model. If you’re not familiar with the term “freemium”, it essentially means the app is given away for free, but with some content available to buy within the game.
In terms of Android and iOS users, the ‘freemium’ model seems to be the reigning king of mobile gaming. Users are starting to prefer free games that offer in-app upgrades and purchases to unlock new content.
The obvious benefit of this business model is the ability to attract more users with zero cost-of-entry, while generating potentially limitless revenue via consumable items. Both of these factors have made freemium a sustainable and popular approach, especially in the gaming market, where in-app purchases account for 72% of App Store revenue.

However, freemium games are controversial because they entice players to spend money. Many games, for example, create absurdly long wait times unless the user forks over some credits. Others ensure that useful game tools are impossible to get without laying down some cash. Publishers of freemium games have even called on psychologists to help spark a greater desire for users to spend.

Findings released recently by Flurry – a mobile analytics agency – showed that mobile gamers spent approximately $14 per transaction in freemium games on iOS and Android platforms.

Perhaps of more interest is the amount of money that gamers were prepared to spend. Compared to the alternative model where a user typically pays a couple of dollars upfront for the game, once a user has been engaged via the Freemium model they were prepared to spend over $100 per transaction. In fact, contrary to some expectations, whilst 71% of transactions were $10 or under, the 13% of transactions over $20 accounted for 51% of total revenue generated. The suggestion is that the Freemium model merely allows users to decide whether they want to spend or not, and that once they’re engaged and prepared to spend, the revenue generated can be vastly more than the comparable fixed cost sale of the game upfront.

All in-app purchases can be divided into consumables [expendable items such as ammo, power-ups, etc], durables [lasting features such as a new vehicle, armour, etc] and personalisation [profile/character enhancements]. The results show that over two thirds of purchases are consumable items.

As a business model, freemium games are here to stay. What’s most important to understand is the psychology behind these games. In freemium games, consumers are experiencing compelling, immersive entertainment. They feel gratified when they progress, accomplish goals, create a unique world, and in some cases, show off to their friends. In exchange for this gratification, they are willing to spend real money, and lots of it.

Are YOU going to earn some money using freemium model?

Kind regards,
Anna Kozik – Business Development Manager (LI page)
Anna.Kozik@altabel.com
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

HTML5 Is An Oncoming Train, But Native App Development Is An Oncoming Rocket Ship”. We can say without doubt that HTML5 will definitely play a big role in the future of mobile gaming, and could potentially be one of its major growth drivers. However I do not think that it will completely replace native apps, at least for the foreseeable future.

It`s very old debate and probably truth is somewhere in between.

There are two obstacles to a widespread adoption of HTML5 as a mass platform for gaming: one is the ecosystem, and the other is the technology itself

The fact is that, right now, only pretty simple HTML5 applications can run well on any browser and platform that supports the standard. However, to run a more complex application such as a game for example a browser should support additional HTML5 libraries and extensions. Right now most tech-intensive games can only run on a recent version of Chrome and on a sufficiently powerful PC

Even more essential, however, is the presence of a fully functioning ecosystem which can be the main force to drive mass adoption of HTML5.

Speaking about the ecosystem I mean that customers will have to be able to discover, play and purchase games in such a way as App Store has it. So for this a few elements are necessary: a store easily accessible and pre-installed on every handset, a 1-click billing solution that will be able to support a wide range of payment methods.

The real question is Apple, who has the strongest native app ecosystem and who is interested in controlling the user experience and therefore keeping its platform closed to a certain extent. We should admit that Apple has a strong advantage, as their ecosystem is so strong and the user experience so universally appreciated and HTML5 should be very persuasive and easy to use to win customers and to overtake and surpass Apple in this sphere.

Finally, it should not be forgotten that creating a game for platforms that have different input interface and screen size isn’t pain-free, as a new control method must be devised and implemented, and new art assets need to be created. The mirage of “build once, play on every device on Earth” can probably remain just that, a mirage.

Currently HTML5 is not yet the best thing in the world, but all this will change rapidly over short time: native apps will be still the dominant ecosystem for games at least in the next two years but HTML5 will start gaining adoption pretty soon, and probably become a viable market around the same timeframe. HTML5 is the way browsers are heading, and they’ll all just get better and better.

And what are your ideas? Will HTML5 eliminate fragmentation and allow developers to create one game for multiple platforms and operating systems and thus be the driving force in mobile gaming?

BR,
Anna Kozik
Altabel Group – professional software development


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