Are Game Engines Software Frameworks? A Three-perspective Study

04/12/2020
by   Cristiano Politowski, et al.
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Game engines help developers create video games and avoid duplication of code and effort, like frameworks for traditional software systems. In this paper, we explore game engines along three perspectives: literature, code, and human. First, we explore and summarise the academic literature on game engines. Second, we compare the characteristics of the 282 most popular engines and the 282 most popular frameworks in GitHub. Finally, we survey 124 engine developers about their experience with the development of their engines. We report that: (1) Game engines are not well-studied in software-engineering research with few studies having engines as object of research. (2) Game engines are slightly larger in terms of size and complexity and less popular and engaging than traditional frameworks. Their programming languages differ greatly from frameworks. Engine projects have shorter histories with less releases. (3) Developers perceive game engines as different from traditional frameworks and claim that engines need special treatments. Generally, they build game engines to (a) better control the environment and source code, (b) learn about game engines, and (c) develop specific games. We conclude that game engines are different from traditional frameworks although this difference is too small to force special treatments.

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