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3D Games: Most Popular Graphic Editors and Engines to Choose From

Tuesday, 29 Sep 2015

Game studios and developers of all levels use many different engines and tools to create computer graphics and games in 3D. Generally all of them can be divided into several main categories:

  • universal 3D editors (Cinema 4D, 3Ds Max, Maya, Houidini etc.);
  • programs for digital sculpting (Pixologic ZBrush, Autodesk Mudbox);
  • game engines (Unreal Engine 4, Unity 5, CryEngine 3);
  • highly specialized applications, "sharpened" for specific tasks (animation of liquids - RealFlow, creating textures - Mari, etc.).

We will try to analyze the first three of them in this article, showing their pros and cons and areas of use.

Which One to Choose?

This question does not have a single correct answer. Everything depends on a particular purpose, budget and personal preferences of a CG-artist. The most important factors when choosing a 3D graphics package are program functionality, user friendliness (intuitive interface), and, of course, the price. Large game development studios tend to focus on quality, so the price is not so important for them. It is also happens that 3D specialists use several programs in their work at a time: some things are easier and faster to do in different applications, so we recommend not to be limited by one package, because the choice is really huge.

Unity

Unity logo

The most popular tool for creation of three-dimensional games is Unity. Unity allows to make three-dimensional and two-dimensional games for almost any platform, including Windows, Mac, Xbox, Playstation, Android, iOS and more. It supports art content created in 3ds Max, Maya, Softimage, Cinema 4D, Blender and other 3D editors mentioned above.

The latest version of Unity - Unity 5 - is the great tool for creation of virtual reality applications (Oculus Rift, AR). At the moment, most of VR projects are developed using Unity engine, and both Unity4 and Unity5 have all the required toolset to create high-quality, powerful and speedy 3D applications.

Other pros:

  • Unity uses C # and JavaScript;
  • easier to learn, than Cry Engine and Unreal;
  • has rich set of predefined behaviors;
  • built-in library of game resources;
  • two licenses - free and professional;
  • extensive documentation and tutorials

Many experts confirm that Unity is the best choice for first projects and first steps in programming, because it is easier to understand and learn than Unreal. Moreover Unity supports alternative models of payment directly to the engine, including several free-to-play models of monetization.

Having one of the largest Unity teams in Eastern Europe, we know all aspects of game development on Unity and have developed multiple titles starting from simple arcade games to complex strategy games with AI integration.

3Ds Max

3Ds Max logo

3Ds Max is a recognized leader among 3D graphics packages, tool №1 in the choice of many beginners and advanced professionals. It has a leading position in design and architectural visualization and is also commonly used in the gaming industry.

Capabilities:

  • modeling based on polygons, splines and NURBS;
  • powerful particle system;
  • hair / wool module;
  • advanced FX shaders;
  • support for new and improved Iray and mental ray mechanisms;
  • crowd animation;
  • import from Revit and SketchUp,
  • integration of compositing and much more.

Artists select it for its extensive functionality, set of plug-ins, good documentation, and training information. Among the few drawbacks is the difficulty to master this tool.

Modo

Modo logo

Modo is considered to be one of the fastest tools for modeling, as well as painting, animation and rendering. Modo is often used in the creation of advertising, game design, special effects and architectural visualization.

Capabilities:

  • polygonal and SDS modeling;
  • modern animation tools;
  • dynamics of hard and soft bodies;
  • drawing system;
  • Fur material for creation of hair, fur and grass;
  • sculpting tools;
  • fast and good visualization.

To sum up Modo has powerful functionality, high performance, but little information like tutorials to work with.

Blender

Blender logo

Rapidly developing program to create 3D models and animation, visual effects and sculpting for games. It is the only free 3D package in this list with almost the same functional as paid applications.

Capabilities:

  • polygonal modeling, splines, NURBS-curves and surfaces;
  • modeling mode;
  • particle system;
  • dynamics of hard and soft bodies: liquids, wool / hair, etc .;
  • skeletal animation;
  • built-in mechanisms for rendering and integration with third-party renders;
  • video editor;
  • functions to create games and applications (Game Blender).

Among main advantages we can point out its availability, open source and cross-platform nature, small size (about 50 MB), wide functionality, ability to create games. One of the minuses is the lack of documentation in the basic version.

To make a conclusion, 3D Editor is just a tool that unlocks the potential of a designer or CG artist. Having mastered at least one of the packages from the list will make you easily explore all of them. Our team of CG artists uses full range of 3D modeling/animation software to create accurate 3D content for games and other interactive solutions.

Autodesk Maya

Autodesk Maya logo

Maya is the industry standard for 3D graphics for films and television, popular among major studios and used to develop large-scale projects in advertising, movie, as well as gaming industry. The package is ideal for creation of animations.

Capabilities:

  • full set of tools for NURBS- and polygonal modeling;
  • powerful general and character animation;
  • developed system of particles;
  • Maya Fur technology (fur, hair, grass creation);
  • Maya Fluid Effects technology (liquids, atmosphere simulation);
  • dynamics of hard and soft bodies;
  • wide range of tools to create dynamic effects;
  • UV-texture, normals and color coding;
  • flexible multi-processor rendering.

Among other advantages we can single out its huge functionality and features. The main cons are a long and difficult training, high system requirements, and high price.

3D Engines

To create 3D games that entertain, educate and engage players, we use different tools and technologies. Along with usage of wide range of 3D editors and CG tools for creation of 3D models, animation and visual effects for games, we use a set of 3D engines, each of them matching certain project requirements. One of most vivid peculiarities of these engines is their cross-platform nature. We develop games that can run across all major platforms, be it Mobile, Web or PC.  So, let take a closer look at them!

Cry Engine

Cry Engine logo

Cry Engine is extremely powerful game engine created by Crytek.  Designed to develop games for PC and consoles, including PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it has graphics capabilities that exceed even Unity engine, and stay ahead of the curve of Unreal Engine 4.

What we love Cry Engine for:

  • most advanced lighting;
  • realistic physics;
  • advanced animation;
  • built-in powerful and intuitive features of working with level design.

Among disadvantages we can single out the time required to master the engine. Also it is not free, but it does not require the payment of royalties, which could be a huge advantage.

Unreal Engine

Unreal Engine logo

Unreal4 is well known as engine used to create AAA games with super realistic 3D graphics. This engine uses C ++ programming language, but developers need to learn many new things since work with UE4 is not limited to this one programming language. Games made on Unreal Engine can be released on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Xbox One and Playstation 4.

Why UE4?

  • Powerful and handy toolset.
  • Attractive licensing terms - is free, but assumes a 5% royalty.
  • Built-in 3D modeling tool and work with a landscape.
  • Allows you to create a truly spectacular game.

Being a very popular tool, it is still very complicated and harder to master than Cry Engine and Unity.

Cinema 4D

Cinema 4D logo

Cinema 4D is one of the most popular tools in motion design, film, advertising and games. It has a huge functionality: from modeling, animation, visual effects, to "sculpting" and BodyPaint 3D module.

Capabilities:

  • polygonal and NURBS-modeling;
  • BodyPaint 3D (module for creating UV and texture maps);
  • objects generation and animation;
  • character animation;
  • dynamics of hard and soft bodies;
  • module for creation of realistic hair;
  • Thinking Particles system;
  • good built-in render.

It is really easy to learn, has an intuitive interface, excellent functionality, and a variety of educational materials. One of the disadvantages is an unimproved transition between versions.

Conclusion

As in the case with 3D graphics editors, 3D engines listed above are unique and suitable for creation of various kinds of applications and games. Each of them can be the best choice for a certain task and we always recommend the tool to our customers that suits most to their project type.

Our team uses the maximum potential of all the software to deliver exiting games with compelling 3D graphics and engaging storyline to make your gaming experience addictive and fun. You can check some of recent games we worked on in our Portfolio.


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