Since the release of the UDK (Unreal Developer Kit) by Epic back in 2009, for the first time a AAA game engine had been opened up, allowing for the creation of completely new, high-end game content, going beyond the previous trend that only allowed for modding of pre-existing game titles. Later, Epic allowed the commercialisation of UDK titles, enabling inde developers to make full use of the engine, without the need for scores of money exceeding £80k for licensing.
Whilst we all know of many games which utilise Epic's Unreal technology, we know of far less when it comes to Crytek's CryENGINE, though with one or two exceptional titles such as Crysis 2 popping into mind. This unbalanced situation could change in the future, however, as more recently, Crytek followed Epic's lead and opened up its AAA game engine to inde developers with the CryENGINE 3 SDK, again, applying a reasonable licensing model for commercial use, which, has helped to spread word of the Unreal alternative.
Recently, Crytek announced its first major update to the SDK, version 3.4, bringing with it a heap of new features and enhancements, taking it beyond the technology witnessed in the Crysis 2 DX11 patch. Among the new features are:
- Revamped DirectX 11 Tessellation
- Phong, PN triangles, displacement maps, with no need for pre-tessellated assets.
- Multi-layer Navigation Mesh
- Easy to use multi-layer path finding system for AI.
- Improved Skin Rendering and Eye Shader
- New approach to sub-surface scattering offers more realistic rendering, more fine control over elements such as oiliness, iris control, colours, pupil dilation, tessellation and parallax support.
- Advanced/Improved/Extended Glass Shader
- Support for dirt layer, differential fog and refraction blur.
- Other minor enhancements
- Improved glass rendering.
- Geometric light beams.
- Point light shafts.
- Time of day based filmic HDR tone mapping.
- Curves and key tangents for time of day.
- User controlled per cascade shadow bias through time of day.
- Improved transitions between levels of detail.
- Volumetric fog features extended and improved.
- Improved distance cloud shading.