Havok’s Completely Free 3D Engine For Mobile Game Developers Is Now Available

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Hey, aspiring game developers! Listen up.

Way back in March, we outlined Project Anarchy, a new 3D engine from Havok (the same people that built the engine behind some of the world’s biggest games, from Assassin’s Creed to Halo 4) that would be completely free to mobile game developers. At the time, the only target they’d give for when it’d be available was “sometime this spring”.

Well, Project Anarchy has just gone live. It’s a few days outside of Spring in the northern hemisphere — but hey, I’ll forgive’m. Free game engine!

Interested developers can find the engine download here. Heads up, though, Mac Devs: Project Anarchy primarily supports Windows developers for now, with the vast majority of its tools (the WYSIWYG game editor, the animation tool, etc.) all being Windows only. The only Mac-friendly tool seems to be the one meant to let you prepare your project for iOS.

Games built with Project Anarchy can be published without any sort of licensing fees on iOS, Android, or Samsung’s in-the-works mobile OS, Tizen. That last option might seem a bit strange, given that Tizen hasn’t… you know, shipped on anything yet, but there are logical dots that one can connect: Intel bought Havok in 2007. In 2011, Intel dropped support for the flailing MeeGo operating system they’d spent a year working on with Nokia and joined the governing group behind… you guessed it, Tizen. They’ve pretty much got to show love, right?

So, what’s in it for Havok? Why release an engine that doesn’t make them money? Because it does — just not directly. Three of the more obvious draws:

  • Intel is making a big push into mobile and, as mentioned, owns Havok. If they can get a few AAA titles to build mobile games on Project Anarchy, they can optimize their chipsets for the engine. If their chips run a few popular games better than anyone else’s, they sell more chips in the long run.
  • This potentially helps Havok capture some of those developers that are breaking into the game-making world for the first time on mobile. Remember: they’re still charging for Havok licensing on other, non-mobile platforms (like the Xbox, or the PC); if any of those newfound mobile devs decide to port up to bigger, less portable boxes and stays on Havok’s engine, Havok gets paid.
  • In their ToS, Havok reserves the right to “co-market” with your game. In other words, they get to say “Hey! This shiny new mobile game! It was built on Havok!”.

Of course, the mobile development playing field has changed a bit in the last few months. When Project Anarchy was first announced, its biggest draw was that it was totally free for mobile game developers, regardless of whether or not they intended to charge for their app. The closest thing anyone else offered was Unity3D — which, while very, very cheap compared to most pro-grade engines, still charged hundreds of dollars per developer seat for anyone even just looking to dabble with iOS or Android.

Just last month, however, Unity announced that basic iOS and Android publishing support would be free for all small-to-medium sized development houses (perhaps in response to others, like Havok, tiptoeing near their indie game dev turf), with free support for BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8 on the way. They’d continue to offer a Pro package with more advanced functionality, only requiring that developers purchase Pro licenses once they were pulling in $100,000 or more in a fiscal year.

So now, developers have to make a choice: do they develop on Project Anarchy, which is pretty new to this whole indie-game-support thing but free on the two biggest mobile platforms regardless of how much you’re making, or on Unity, which has a rather big community and is on its 4th major iteration, but charges a few grand per developer once you’re big enough to show up on their radar?

Regardless of the pros and cons, everyone wins here. Developers get more options. Players get more games. The world gets more developers learning the ins and outs of pro-grade tools. Hurray!