Help with finding a 3d gaming/virtual reality engine
February 9, 2011 5:28 PM   Subscribe

I’ve been tasked with finding a suitable 3D system to power a VR platform we are thinking of building, and I’m having a hard time finding one that seems to be usable, let alone suitable.

First off, I'm a programmer/developer/UI systems engineer (among other things), not a 3d graphic artist or game designer, so I know that we'd have to contract out the "level" and model design of this – that's not a problem. What I'm getting stuck on is actually finding an engine or system that fits our needs – one where learning the system for maintenance by us several years down the road is not terribly hard, and one that can be interfaced with our various hardware devices and control systems. All of our stuff is C++ based and the hardware drivers expose "C" functions, so anything we choose will need to be able to interface to that.
What we're looking for is a package (either open or closed, but source code is required) that has good and mostly complete documentation, with examples that function properly. We can afford reasonable licenses, but not stupid-level fees. What we don't want is something that is so script-dependent that it's impossible to learn and maintain (let alone interface our stuff), or something that is by a company that is here-and-gone like some I've seen.
Visually, anything that resembles 1st/3rd person games in the last 4-5 years would be good.
Suggestions? Packages you used? Places to go looking? Alternating between stumped and overwhelmed, and pretty frustrated at this point.
(if you think I'm asking the wrong sort of questions that might help too)
posted by Old'n'Busted to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen Irrlicht?
posted by kickingtheground at 5:32 PM on February 9, 2011

This may not be what you're looking for at all, but Unity is free and quite easy to learn/use. I think there's functionality for tapping into C stuff, but check the forums.
posted by GilloD at 5:33 PM on February 9, 2011

You might want to check out the Unreal Engine. It's free for non-commercial use and has definitely been used for non-game purposes, but I don't know if it meets all your requirements.
posted by Chicken Boolean at 5:58 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

My old firm used the Torque engine for our purposes (NASA contract, control of game objects using recorded telemetry for one project example. Source code is included with the incredibly cheap license and based on my conversation with someone who still works there it seems they have made it go with 3D glasses.

Drop me a note if you like via mefi mail. I can tell you about my experiences working with it as a programmer and put you in touch with people at the company if you like - I imagine they'd be open to a contract doing the visuals, though they really are a govt contracting firm.
posted by phearlez at 7:06 PM on February 9, 2011

Realize that even Unreal Engine 3 is available. What is your distribution plan?
posted by rr at 8:45 PM on February 9, 2011

Irrlicht - gave it a look, and it looks and feels a lot like Delta3D, both in terms of use, documentation, and lack of visual appeal.

Unreal engine: the licensing for this falls under the "stupid-expensive" field, and it's difficult/impossible to put in other hardware devices. Add to the fact you don't get source and it's all script-based, pass. Visually impressive, however.

Untity is one we have not looked at yet, so I will try it out.

As for Torque, I sent Phearlez memail.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 5:20 AM on February 11, 2011

This is a little bit late, but how about exploring the whole Open Scene Graph ecosystem? There's tons of stuff that uses it at various levels, real-world terrain from Ben Discoe's VTP, or in FlightGear, output seems very hackable, a number of physics libraries interoperate...
posted by straw at 5:10 PM on February 13, 2011

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