Bad news trickling in from the vine indicates that Emergent Game Technologies, creators of the popular middleware GameBryo engine, are being forced by their investors to sell the technology along with most or all other assets and IP.
Despite good revenues and even a tiny profit this year, the company lost millions during its first few years of operation, and apparently its investors are unwilling to allow Emergent time to recoup. At this time, the GameBryo engine, its web-based twin GameBryo Lightspeed, and “all or substantially all” of the company’s other assets and IP are on the auction block. That’s a lot of technology, some of it really amazing.
This is sad news for Emergent, which will presumably not survive the sale. Depending on who buys out the assets, the technology might not either. Which would also be sad: GameBryo is a remarkable engine, and an unbelievably versatile one. It has powered over 350 games to date, as broad-flung as Defense Grid, Fallout 3, and Civilization IV. It’s affordable, integrates well with other third-party tools like Havok and RAD, is friendly with all major platforms, and equally capable of producing a hex-based strategy game as an MMO.
Born of the earlier NetImmerse engine, which powered Morrowind (among many others), GameBryo represents one of the key players in the third-party engine development world. Emergent doesn’t make games, and any developer with half an ounce of sense knows that it’s always better to license an engine than build one’s own. For years its key competitor has been Epic’s Unreal engine, now in its third iteration. Unreal is also great technology, but it’s really designed for shooters and actually has some pretty severe technical limitations when it comes to rendering large outdoor environments and long draw distances – limitations GameBryo does not have.
All in all this could mean a pretty big shift in the landscape. If GameBryo is suddenly out of the picture, there’s a big void to fill. A big void.
id Software, once a powerhouse of engine creation and the company to beat in terms of successful reach, reached its peak of engine-licensing with the Quake 3 engine, and has been in decline ever since. Only a handful of developers licensed id Tech 4, which powered DOOM 3. With id now owned by ZeniMax Media Group, its upcoming Tech 5 will only be used within that publisher’s stable – Bethesda, Tango Gameworks, MachineGames, id itself, Arkane, and a couple others; Tech 5 will not be available to license.
Valve Software continues to update and market the Source engine, but aside from Valve’s own games – Half-Life 2, Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2 – only a handful of developers have chosen to use it. And while there are dozens of commercially available game engines, the big stars have always been id’s technology, Unreal technology, and GameBryo. The eternal RenderWare continues to putter along, used a lot more than most people realize. And of course there’s CryTek’s Cry3 engine, which is licensable but still a bit of a question mark when it comes to performance.
Who will buy GameBryo? Possibly a publisher that wants to bring it in-house like ZeniMax did with id Tech 5. Possibly Epic or CryTek, so they can gut it and incorporate the best parts into their own technologies.
I don’t really know much about VC liquidation practices, but maybe it’s possible for Emergent to secure funding from somewhere else and buy its own stuff back. The company did seem to be moving toward profitability, but business is business.
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I really had no idea GameBryo was so prevalent throughout the industry. Golly. That would make for an interesting void if Emergent indeed do disappear.
I’ve always wondered what gamebryo really -is-, at its core. The variability of products that claimed to use it made it seem to be as though a great deal of the gruntwork was carried out by the individual developer. It would be interesting to play with their development software and see what makes it so special at heart.
Gamebyro was part of the cause for Warhammer Onlines many problems: well that or terrible Mythic programmers. You only have to look at Aion and the Crytek engine to realise which is the better.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Crytek engine becomes staple, it’s so bloody good.
Cry is not generally considered a great engine – Cry1 and Cry2, at least (which powered Far Cry and Crysis respectively) – due to terrible optimization, lack of support for any platform except PC, and awful performance on even the most powerful hardware. Cry3 is expected to change a lot of that, but we haven’t actually seen the engine running outside of controlled demos.
Historically GameBryo has only been as powerful as the programmers who use it. It requires more hand-crafting than the Unreal engine but in turn allows far, far more versatility. It’s a more traditional engine, providing a rendering platform and stack for logic, physics, scripting, and so on (all of which can come from GameBryo but are more commonly also licensed entities). As I understand, it requires more skill to use properly, but is capable of far more because it is less limited.
I’m surprised Cry engines have such a bad industry rep. While it’s a persistent player perception those games ran like shit it was never really true. Dialing down settings they still looked great and ran well on a wide range of hardware. I ran them on both limping and top end systems. The framerate wasn’t fantastic but the more important average framerate was solid. Oblivion running on the same limp had rates jumping from 80 to 3 and back as the camera was turned.
Is it because they’re not versatile/extensible, PC only, or simply lingering stank of it murdering systems at the high end?
I really don’t see the Crytek Engine being anything other than great compared to many. Aion even during closed Beta ran and looked incredible, even on my then rusty system. Evidently the team had got to grips with it.
Crysis also in comparison to many games runs like lightning- Metro 2033 is a bloody nightmare of a game to get slick fps.
I’ve no doubt it all comes down to the team, but Crysis Warhead runs fantastic compared to the original- I hear they made significant changes under the hood.
I have a feeling that Cry3 is going to address a lot of technical concerns with the stability and performance of the overall codebase. One of the things that Cry brings to the table that Unreal doesn’t is its ability to render immense outdoor environments with minimal loading – Far Cry 2 was essentially an open world, and though it ran poorly with the options turned up, managing that isn’t something most engines are really great at without a lot of reengineering.
I suspect the bad taste that Cry technology leaves with many gamers and press is based in the fact that it so heavily advertised these slick graphical features that you had to turn off in order to run the game. It’s true most people were able to run Crysis at minimal settings and well below optimal resolution, but compared to the glorious screenshots that no one could seem to manage, that’s kind of a disappointment. However, with Warhead they did address that performance and Cry3 is not only (according to them) highly tuned for performance, it’s instantly cross-compatible with multiple platforms.
To be honest if I were CryTek I would consider buying not just GameBryo technology but Emergent as a whole. The company has a lot of great technicians and software engineers, plus a very strong infrastructure for sales that could reinforce CryTek’s own. I’m not sure where CryTek gets all its money (they recently bought Free Radical), since Crysis and Far Cry only turned in “PC numbers” – they sold well on that platform but couldn’t crack the multi-millions of cross-platform blockbusters.
Though personally I still hope that Emergent is able to retain GameBryo and stay in the business itself.
One thing they did in Warhead was to render things as you got nearer. Vegetation pops in as you approach it whereas in the original the undergrowth was more or less always on. I don’t recall if there was a setting for the draw distances like Oblivion’s grass and tree draw distance mini-game, but I remember them hyping the difference when Warhead was released. I’ve played both Crysis and Warhead on a clunker and a new clunker and I think they look fabulous.
The GameBryo games always felt clunky in movement and not terribly suited for action and FPSs. id‘s games have always felt the most natural feeling to me, but of course their rendering technology only provides pixels in nut, natural, hemp brown, or pixel shaded black as part of an imp closet.
The Cry team made a charmingly naive self-kneeing: the engine can do this! gosh! wow! in a couple years when the hardware catches up. There were warnings in interviews and in-game. The system to look like that and play a game does not current exist but will soon. It soon did, but folk couldn’t use lower settings which ran okay to well–while still being the prettiest game around–after seeing the wetdream.
I. Hate. Pop. In. Herbicide to remove all game foliage over having tufts of grass appearing.
[…] my lips is this: what engine? That trailer had a distinctly Gamebryo-ish look to it, but given Emergent’s recent troubles and the fact that Bethesda’s parent company ZeniMax Media Group now owns id Software, it […]