[Transcript has editorial differences from spoken word in the video]
So, this will be something of a rant as I would like to explore something I keep seeing online when it comes to the
kind of hobbyist indie development that I do. By that I mean people who make video games as a hobby, just for fun
, usually completely on their own or in very small groups of friends. If you are reading this, you likely fall into that category yourself.
Let me just preface this by saying that I doubt that this thread will change anyones mind, its still an interesting topic to explore.
So if you browse YT channels, steam pages, forum posts or articles of people who make stuff with lesser known engines, like say Leadwerks3D or
maker software like RPG Maker, Game Guru, FPSCreator or
if you enjoy modding source engine games or
using the creation kit and so on
... you will eventually come across a comment that goes something along the lines of:
"This shows promise, just think what you could do in Unreal engine."
or "game guru is really holding
you back, why don't you make the jump to unity?"
... or you know... less friendly and constructive
versions like "RPG maker is awful, go make a real game in a real engine,kiddo!"
Now these kinds of comments always kinda amazed me... and don't get me wrong, I fully understand them
given how engines are promoted... the average gamer isn't necessarily aware how much work is involved
in making a decent enough, playable game so from their perspective say... unreal engine currently has the
most evolved graphics and produces some killer AAA titles, why not use that? Why are you sitting there
wasting your time with this stupid kids toy FPSCreator or Game Guru Max. Why make things so much harder for
yourself coding everything from scratch in Leadwerks or Godot when you could just jump start using a
Now, as someone who has been in the indie game scene for more than 15 years I have seen a lot of very talented people who made really fun mods or smaller "maker" type games take the plunge into other engines and while some absolutely thrived most ended up showing some initial process and then quit altogether which I always thought was very unfortunate.
Well, I think these comments generally come from 2 different outside perspectives that I dubbed the "german" and the "american" perspective. Now these view points are neither, I just did this to name them something.
The quote on quote "german" perspective assumes that using the best tools yields the best results. Now, this is somewhat
accurate on a surface level kind of viewing but not necessarily true for every endeavor and every individual. Everyone can figure out a hand saw but not everyone knows how to operate a chainsaw to come up with a rather crude example. Using the best tools requires skills that hobbyists don't necessarily have and require a time ...and discipline... investment that isn't doable for everyone.
The american perspective is a variant of the "you can achieve anything you want in life if you just put your mind to it". Now, how this world view is still around and has this kind of longevity is a mystery to me because that is just so obviously false. Sure, most of us are capable of way more than we might think but we all have our own personal limits... be those physical or just simply intellectual. But to remain on
topic... just because someone can make a decent game in game guru does not mean that said person can also pull it off in unity just because they put their mind to it. There are so many factors to consider that I made a little list... now before I get into that, let me just point out that I personally like that there is still so much different tech being used, even if there are draw backs. It ends up in many games feeling very different and more diversity and variety in the stuff that is out there. An unreal engine game never feels quite like a source mod for example.
Soo... without further ado:
1. Skill Issue.
This one is rather obvious... and I touched on it just now already. Just because someone can make a captivating RPG game in RPG maker does not mean that the same person could write such a game in unity. Someone might be skilled enough to make atmospheric low res art, write gripping dialogue and weave a compelling plot but that does not mean that said person is also capable to learn the technical knowledge to also program the underlying code themselves. The whole point of maker software is to allow non-coders and hobbyists to make their own stuff and it just does not make sense to me that, once you get good at it, people assume that you can also use a far more technical and professional tool.
Also the somewhat prejudice perspective of the difference between artists and coders in game design is largely true. People skilled in one aspect are rarely skilled in the other and vice versa.
I, myself, am very comfortable with the art aspect of making games. So I feel confident that I can make compelling levels in cry engine, for example...but I will never program any gameplay in such an engine.
And no, templates, script packs and blueprint packages are only half as decent as you might think. Sure, some of them are pretty darn amazing but if you want to make a game in UE5... you will have to make your own blueprints eventually. Every "real" engine requires some form of code at some point. If we are being honest, this includes most maker software, BUT to a far lesser degree.
Now, most of the hobbyists I am referring to work on their own and while there are some talented people that hammer out a great game that even does decently enough on steam... most of us can not and that is evident if you ever just browse the absolutely MASSIVE graveyard of dead projects on indie and moddb.
FOR me, for example... at the end of the day. Its either FPSC or GG games with their flaws and rough edges... or no games at all.
2. Time constraints
A comment I've gotten a lot myself in the past when I was dabbling with bigger engines was "If you just keep at it, in a year or so, you will have a much better game than if you stick with game guru". And while that may have been true if I stuck with UE5 on a somewhat regular basis, the time investment is still too great for me personally. Now this issue AND the
skill issue can be resolved by working in teams but that is A )
not an option for all of us due to conflicting schedules B )
not something all of us want to do and C )
WAY harder than you might think. Especially when you are dealing with adults who have families, jobs and other responsibilities. I have been on a couple dev teams in the past and they all fell apart eventually. Now, sometimes these things work out but there is usually a financial incentive involved OR people are able to meet in real life and work together that way. Usually students or otherwise younger people. You may be able to make a cool mod in creation kit with a full story and voice acted characters, some custom media and everything in half a year or a creepy, atmospheric horror shooter in FPSC in a month or 2... you will have to invest WAY more time if you start to use a pro level engine. And that's just not realistic for many of us.
3. The challenge
A talented coder might feel way more engaged getting stuff to work in Leadwerks engine or script something complex in a simpler tool like game guru. I know someone who made a functional chess game in game guru, an engine designed to make simpler FPS games at its core. I enjoy the challenge of making something visually striking in notoriously ugly, low tech engines...
Some of that is just lost if you lose a big engine where all these things have been done before and are well documented to be replicated by everyone.
4. Personal Preference... or simply fun:
A friend of mine finds working in hammer editor therapeutic and relaxing. Another one likes to kick back, listen to music and make a few levels in game guru... I myself like to keep my hands busy while I listen to podcasts or lectures. You might enjoy doing 3d art and rely on pre-coded gameplay elements do make your game. You might flat out have more fun using simple but limited than something complex where the sky is the limit.
I've been talking to quite a few other devs who have projects in Unreal or Unity that also use underdog engines and a common sentiment is that using UE5 just feels like work.
And that is the last thing I want to feel in my spare time. And lets also add to that, that not everyone of us aims for a commercial release on steam.
You may have noticed that I keep bringing up the word hobbyists, that is because some people that stumble onto our work use a tone as if we are studios and they are the customers and entitled to things having a certain quality or play a certain way and...nah, that is just not the case.
BUT also... niche engines and tools often have a strong sense of community. You know, you get to know the other users... and that is somewhat lacking when you use a huge engine like UE or unity. Now I have been using Unity and unreal engine and met very helpful
and nice people in the respective forums and discords but in the end, most interactions are goal oriented and the overall experience is very anonymous.
My personal reason for not using UE5 after all is a blend of all of the above... but here are the specifics:
As I started to understand the blueprint system more and more I kind of envisioned in my mind what needed to be done and how long it would take and I kept adding years to my project and I just know that I don't have the determination or discipline to see such a task through.
I am very particular about the weapons in my shooters... I expect decent gunsway, feedback, different reload animations and that just beyond my skillset in unity or UE.
I had no more fun, booting up the engine and seeing what I was currently working on felt the same way like seeing the entrance to the store I used to work in when I was in retail... I never want to feel that again.
If I where 18, I'd probably be able to make something small in Unity or Unreal engine but these days I just don't have that kind of spare time. I get a good session of working on my stuff in every 2 weeks currently and to make a whole UE game on my own, I'd have to bump up those numbers to something like an hour every day or so and that is currently just not realistic for me either.
So... Figured I'd get this off my chest, if you stuck around until now, thank you for reading and have a good one! Feel free to let me know in the comment section why you are sticking around