What do these three names have in common?
Well, a free-mium game engine and set of tools. The rules are simple: get the engine for free, make whatever game(s) you want, sell it and fork over some of the money to the engine makers. That easy.
There are several reasons why this new way of reaching small developers is fortunate:
If you visit moddb.com on a regular basis, you already noticed that mods tend to become more and more polished. The amount of contents in the “modern day mod” rivals official expansion packs, and the development time reflects that: from 6 months to 7 years. “Under the Hunter’s Moon”, an AvP2 custom campaign, took more than a year to develop. It is longer (and, in my personal opinion, better) than the “Primal Hunt” official expansion to the game.
So, naturally, the question becomes: why not make games instead of mods?
One of the barriers is being blown away: the need to code a game engine.
id Software already open-sourced idTech3, and the XReal fork of it looks quite impressive. Unity became free, then Epic announced their UDK. Now, Crytek does the same.
Although a bit late to the party, I can see a lot of modders switching to indie developers for CryEngine 3. Heck, any game engine that also has a decent set of tools WILL switch modders to indie devs. The only ‘difficulty’ here is for the developer to chose the right engine for the job: you want multiplatform? Go Unity. You want great outdoors? Go CryEngine.
This was bound to happen. Companies that want to buy licenses for the engines can still do that, and get full access, down to the C++ code. While indies get access only to the upper layers of the engine, in the majority of cases that’s enough to build the game the way you wanted. So, from Unity/Epic/Crytek’s point of view, this move will only enlarge their customer base. More people using their engines means more chances that one of those games will bring in a nice revenue. It’s a fortunate overlap of interests between small developers, who need an engine, and big developers, who want to make some money of their engines.
Demand, meet offer. Offer, meet demand. That easy. Too bad not all developers that code engines do the same.