Switching engines can be considered a fatal move in terms of development. When a project is designed for a certain engine, simply flexing what you have for an entirely new engine can be difficult and time consuming.
This article is specific to Martin_Berger's question on our previous engines, before we switched to our current engine. Specifically why previous engines didn't work for us, and why we moved on.
Our very first engine was Torque Game Engine, which put bluntly was a modified version of the Tribes 2 engine. When Crimson Crow's development started, Torque Advanced was still 'behind the scenes', and Torque was a fairly popular multi-platform engine.
Development overall was fine. Torque was a flexible and pretty robust. Not to mention multi-platform, so it had a lot going for it. Knowing a lot of Linux gamers, this was something well worth keeping.
Unfortunately, Torque was even by then, old. Many shader techniques, model formats, and so on were just old. One of the biggest hits to the side of development was the fact normal maps were not supported. This was upsetting for the artists on the team, and so a decision was to be made.
The jump to Torque Game Engine Advanced wasn't a difficult one. The general model format, .DTS directly transferred over. BSP architecture called .DIF files just needed simple relighting.
Yet we ran into a lot of problems. At the time, Torque Advanced did not run on Vista. Even more so, there was no known ways to run the game in any Linux distribution.
Another large problem was lighting. Lighting was baked in but for some reason took extremely long times to fully light. In average cases, lighting took 30-40 seconds. That number increases to several minutes, and would sometimes have to relight every time a map was loaded.
Lastly, Torque Advanced was poorly documented since most of the known documentation was created for the original Torque.
Progress was shaky. The team was shakier. With so many problems development slowed, and so we made a jump back to Torque original. Luckily it was updated, since the last time it was around.
The team was hesitant on jumping to an older engine, so we came up with a clever idea.
To prove we could effectively make the original Torque look just as good as Torque Advanced, Warlord and I built up a new version of Torque original and without the team even knowing, displayed screen-shots used with the older version.
A few weeks later, we announced the transition. The article was fairly popular, and so we must have done something good.
Torque original was much smoother again this time around. But this time we ran into a whole new problem, we were pushing the engine too far. Articles recommended 128x128 or even 256x256 resolution textures to keep the engine happy. We had over a dozen 1024x1024 resolution textures for environments. Not even including high resolution characters and weapons!
Development pressed on for awhile and eventually a team talk was much needed. Normal maps were still out of the question, and that still put a damper on the artists.
Torque Advanced later announced Vista support. Since we did it before, we knew we could certainly do it again, so we hopped over to Torque Advanced.
Torque Advanced had more articles this time around, and much better lighting times, had normal map support but no specular map support. We roughly coded something in, but decided against it since it just didn't work well.
At this time, Torque 3D was coming out of beta and into full release.
Just like we did in Torque original, we began hitting walls in Torque advanced, and Torque 3D became all too tempting.
One problem was that Torque Advanced offered no support for specular maps. Another was that only two members on the team could save models in the game, because new exporters were needed. With the announcement of Torque 3D and with everyone jumping on board, it seemed the creators of the exporters gave up. (Oh, and Torque and Torque Advanced had all support dropped officially.)
Then, with the announcement of UDK, a lot of pressure was on. Now the team 'knew' there were very good and free choices and 'knew' Torque needed to be left behind.
Unlike previous engine jumps, going to UDK is new everything. We couldn't just drag and drop models over, BSP architecture needed to be completely re-made, even textures had to be made in a different format.
The work was daunting, and we knew this would put us back in development.
The biggest problem was that our only programmer didn't know much about UDK's style of code. Jumping to the engine seemed cloudy, and so we finally decided against it.
In order to make an effort, we 'decided' to switch to Torque 3D.
This was a botched decision. We were only using the demo to test the engine. After we announced we would use the engine, it suddenly dawned on development that we needed the full source to get what features we wanted to incorporate done.
A large influence on suddenly going against this was from e-mails. We received some strong objections to Torque 3D from IMs and E-mails. All were very civil, and made strong points against the move.
After a short talk, the team decided to head back to Torque Advanced.
An important decision in the process of this all was the most unexpected.
The death of Crimson Crow.
We announced failure in May and decided to just give up for the time being. It didn't take long for a few of the members, to gather up and revive the whole thing.
In retrospect, its much easier to see what you want in an engine when you know exactly what you want.
Picking out an engine is never a menial task and should never be regarded as one.
Some good general questions to ask would be:
- Does it support basic features your team need? (Normal maps, collada format models, large scale maps, ambient occlusion, etc.)
- Is the engine well documented with up-to-date documentation?
- How successful are other projects using the same engine? (Generally speaking, if other people have problems with certain aspects of an engine, you may too.)
- How does it stack up against other engines of it's class?
- How expensive is the engine, combined with the tools the team will need and the exporters?
It my opinion, its a poor decision to compare Torque to Chrome because they are both on different levels. Value wise, the original Torque engines (Torque and Torque Advanced) were pretty good value overall and you got precisely what you paid for. Since I had a partial experience with Torque 3D, I can't give a full review since I never got too in depth with the engine.
Either way, I hope this helps Martin Berger!
If anyone else has any specific questions, feel free to ask. Cheers!