Game design software can vary greatly, depending upon the needs of the company that creates the game. Sometimes gaming companies/game developers use their own proprietary software, but many game designers standardise around popular commercial coding tools, which allow them to code a game easily and quickly without building from the ground up. Listed below are the top five game engines that are available in the market today:
The Unity Engine
Unity is a cross-platform game engine, developed by Unity Technologies, and is now the default software development kit (SDK) for Nintendo Wii U. With an emphasis on portability, the graphics engine targets the following APIs: direct3D on Windows and Xbox 360; OpenGL on Mac, Windows, and Linux; OpenGL ES on Android and iOS; and proprietary APIs on video game consoles. Unity has been responsible for the birth of some of the blockbuster games such as Battlestar Galactica Online, WolfQuest, Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online & Cartoon Network Universe: FusionFall
The Unreal Engine
Written in the C++ language, The Unreal Engine is a game engine developed by Epic Games, first published in the super-hit, first-person shooter game – Unreal Tournament. Although primarily developed for FPS, it has been successfully used in a variety of other genres, including stealth, MMORPGs, and other RPGs. Besides the Unreal Tournament series, popular games that have been developed using the Unreal Engine are Medal of Honor, Mass Effect and Daylight.
The Torque Engine
The Torque Engine was originally developed by Dynamix for the 2001 first-person shooter Tribes 2. The current version is called Torque 3D. Torque 3D features PhysX support, modern shader features, and an advanced deferred lighting model. Popular commercial games based on the Torque Engine are Marble Blast Ultra and Fallen Empire: Legions
The Source Engine
The Valve Corporation developed the Source Engine with the debut of Counter-Strike: Source in June 2004. Source was created to power first-person shooters, but has also been used professionally to create role-playing, side-scroller, puzzle, MMORPG, top-down shooter and real-time strategy games. Besides Counter-Strike, Source has been used to create the Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, Zeno Clash & SiN episodes.
The Jade Engine
Developed by Ubisoft in 2003, the Jade Engine allows for great flexibility that includes different game play sequences and detailed graphics, both in cinematics and game play. Originally developed to create the critically acclaimed video game Beyond Good & Evil, the Jade Engine went on to manufacture other well known games such as the Prince of Persia trilogy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Naruto series and James Cameron’s Avatar, among many others.
Besides commercially available software, game designers often use free, open-source development engines such as Adventure Game Studio, Blender, Cocos2D, Cube and WorldForge.