This is a game engine roundup (including ancillary software) to help you in your search for the best tools for creation of eLearning AR, VR, and simulations.
Learning Solutions has already published articles about the leading cross-platform game engines, Unity and Unreal Engine. Nothing more about them will be addressed in this article. Pre-conference, hands-on certification sessions are planned for them at the Realities360 Conference & Expo in June (see the links at the end of this article).
What follows is information on nine additional top tools for eLearning AR, VR, and simulations.
This tool was reviewed by Joe Ganci in Learning Solutions, December 25, 2018. Joe characterized CenarioVR as “a robust, stand-alone VR tool made specifically for learning developers.”
CenarioVR supports video (including 360 video) and 3D footage, as well as embedded 2D video. Distribution platforms include desktop browsers, iOS and Android tablets and smartphones, and VR headsets.
The Modest3D Suite is a set of applications for creating virtual reality scenarios. The Suite is set up so that a user can rapidly create 2D and 3D animations and camera views for virtual reality training solutions.
There are four applications in the Suite: Portal (gives quick access to the Modest3D content development tools, Xplorer and Editor); Designer (sets up the scene for the simulation, including setting up 3D models and lighting); Xplorer (creates and publishes full virtual reality scenarios); and Editor (creates branching and logic for scenarios using a visual storyboard, creates libraries of interactive sequences, and saves templates).
Joe Ganci reviewed the Xplorer and Editor applications in Learning Solutions. He noted that the Suite "is meant for nontechnical folks and, while powerful, it also isn’t too difficult to pick up and start using. There are many features that allow for more flexible and immersive learning experiences, but you don’t have to know it all to quickly start building some nice interactive virtual reality scenarios that you can drop into more traditional learning when they make sense.”
Adobe added a virtual reality project type to Captivate 2019, supporting interactive 360 video and virtual reality. Delivery is via desktop browsers and VR headsets.
Joe Ganci reviewed the features of the Captivate Virtual Reality Project Type in Learning Solutions.
Crytek’s CryEngine is a powerful game engine that has mainly been used for production of entertainment games. However, there has been some use of the engine for enterprise eLearning. Graphics are not as advanced as those in Unity and Unreal Engine, but they should provide an adequate experience for users who are accustomed to AAA indie games.
Purchase of CryEngine includes full source code, all engine features, access to all platforms, ability to develop VR, and access to learning resources. There are royalty requirements.
CryEngine supports development for Windows, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Oculus Rift, OSVR, PSVR, and HTC Vive. Mobile support is said to be in development.
Amazon has launched Amazon Lumberyard as free tools to support delivery of virtual reality content on iOS and Android devices, as well as on Windows PCs, Xbox One, and PlayStation.
Most use of Lumberyard to date has been for entertainment games on mobile platforms. There is no reason to think that it will not work for eLearning, however the resources are not fully developed for applications other than entertainment. The Lumberyard site provides documentation and written tutorials, and forums supported by experienced Lumberyard developers and community managers.
GameMaker Studio 2 provides a single development workflow from which a game can be exported to Windows and Mac OS X desktops, Android and iOS devices, and a number of consumer platforms that may be useful in some eLearning situations. GameMaker Studio has been used to deliver STEM training, and would be adaptable for other enterprise applications as well.
The "drag and drop" workflow includes built-in code completion, an extensive library of events and actions, and an easy-to-learn GameMaker Language (GML) based on C and supported by a code preview that will help you learn to program.
AppGameKit Classic is a 2D and 3D game, tests, and simulations development engine for beginners and indie developers, supporting multiple platforms. AppGameKit requires coding using a scripting system similar to C++. While the stated focus for delivery is iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, applications developed with AppGameKit can be sent to many other platforms: Windows desktops, laptops, phones and tablets, plus Mac OS, Linux, HTML5 browsers, and Raspberry Pi.
AppGameKit Studio (in pre-release at time of writing) further develops the game engine to include everything needed to go from idea to concept to finished game. The launch of AppGameKit Studio is expected to be in June, 2019.
Strictly speaking, this is not a game engine, However, it is interoperable with Unity, Unreal Engine, and other game engines and systems and widely used by developers of VR and AR games and applications to create supporting content, including 3D animations, renders, and models. Hundreds of hours of free tutorials are on the Autodesk community site and on the Autodesk Knowledge Network.
Autodesk Maya is widely used by game developers, although like Autodesk 3ds Max, it is not itself a game engine. Maya is computer animation software, useful for animation, environments, motion graphics, virtual reality, and character creation. It is also interoperable with Unity and Unreal Engine and facilitates animation, creation of complex motion graphics, and visual effects. Extensive learning and support resources are available on the Maya site and within the Autodesk Knowledge Network.
More to come
At The eLearning Guild’s Realities360 Conference & Expo 2019, you will find these sessions to be of particular interest if you are considering getting started with AR and VR development: