Some years ago (it seems like almost five years ago… man, how fast time flies!) I was working on a custom game engine. Needless to say, the project didn’t see the light of the day and was left marooned someplace in my hard-drives. To be fair, while I was thrilled of creating my own wheel (I’m the kind of developer that loves to code for the sake of coding and prefer to write an algorithm/library/piece-of-tech in his own personal way… pretty much a waste of time, one could say), I hadn’t a clear aim and wasn’t enthusiastic to spend months of coding just to have a over-generic engine inferior to what the (abundant) market offers.
And the (inevitable) hiatus came.
The next few years flew while trying and evaluating almost every engine/framework available. Initially, I was intrigued by the idea of a full-fledged IDE. However, on second thought, I’m not willing to sacrifice precious hard-disk space for something that I would use (to be generous) for less than 10% of its capabilities. Also, I’m not very inclined in dealing with tools that require me to follow online courses only to create a simple application. So I discarded Unity, GameMaker: Studio, Defold, Xenko, and the rest of the clan.
In particular, I was really disappointed by GameMaker: Studio. I’m aware that a lot of amazing and successful games have been created with it… but I find its scripting language really disappointing. As a DSL it perfectly does its job, but it’s way too basic. It can be perfect for a novice/intermediate programmer, but since I’ve been working with programming languages for some decades I’m willing to write in a more sophisticated one.
An intriguing alternative was Godot, somewhat less famous than the others but it’s quite interesting. Despite being very lightweight in requirements (only a handful of MiBs for the IDE and the engine), I really disliked learning a custom scripting language.
So, I ended up in picking one among Corona, Amulet, and LÖVE. All using Lua (a language I like and whose performance is undoubtful), compact in requirements, and multi-platform. On a final choice, I picked LÖVE, which is really pleasant to use: reasonably fast, with everything one could need. Problem is that it’s more a framework than and engine, and over the years I modeled a custom engine over it, by encapsulating its API in my own personal one, to better suit my needs. I added automatic display auto-scaling, a decent 2D matrix/vector library, resource hot-reload, automatic sprite-sheet cutting, and tiled-map support… so I started asking myself what the point of developing an engine over a framework. So, one day while I was thinking about implementing a shader-based palette-driven graphic simulation (similar to VGA’s
Mode 13h), I asked myself « Why don’t you simply write your own game-engine ».
And here we are.
On top of that I need to say that, despite liking LÖVE, there are some things I would change:
- the very slow development process, way too “tight” and controlled/limited by the authors,
- the dependency on SDL (I would rather switch to SFML),
- the fact that it was using an old version of Lua (version 5.1, since Luajit development halted with this version),
- its sometime not coherent and (too) generic API, in term of features, that can adapt to every developer’s need but requires a decent amount of boilerplate code, and
- its name and the overall mood of the community (infested with too much frat humour).
The game-engine requisites for my game-engine haven’t changed much over the years, that is
- it must be 2D pixel-art oriented,
- it must be in the form of a single executable w/o dependencies from third-party shared libraries (DLLs and/or SOs),
- it needs to support more than one platform (at least Windows, Linux… possibly also macOS),
- it will have a simple API,
- it will support additional features, such as fragment shaders and resource hot-reloading.
In order to speed up the development process, I decided to leverage on other libraries. Most of all, as a multimedia library I picked raylib since it can be compiled as a single standalone static library with no other external dependencies (apart from the obvious OS libraries). As an embedded scripting language I choose Wren for its performances and since it features probably the most seamless and easy-to-use API. Other other modules/libraries are going to be used (e.g. to parse JSON files), of course.
To spice things up, I’m also writing the engine in plain C99 without using any IDE or development tools (Visual Studio Code apart). :)