FLAX ENGINE 1.0: FIRST IMPRESSIONS

January 23, 2021Flax Engine 1.0 is a game engine created by two Polish developers. The project was originally conceived by Wojciech Figat in 2012, and now almost 10 years later, version 1.0 is finally available! As is always the case with game engines, the main idea of the project is to enable developers to more easily create beautiful, fun, and impressive games — and to do it quickly. The main rationale behind Flax Engine is to boost the game development process, hence its tools are designed for efficiency to speed up workflow. Our Unreal Engine 4 expert Michal Janczewski took Flax Engine 1.0 for a spin.

FIRST LOOK

My initial impression of FLAX Engine 1.0 was highly positive, as it comes packed with a solid set of modern and useful features, and also provides the full C++ source code. The showcase video had fired me up quite a bit, which led me to have rather high expectations. As you might know, ACE MADDOX is currently developing RC Maniax: Rock ’n Rumble (RCMRR) using Unreal Engine 4. RCMRR is a classic retro racer using modern technology and a few surprise twists in terms of network play and is primarily aimed for release on Xbox Series S|X and Playstation 5 in 2022.

“After over 8 years of constant development, including one year of closed alpha tests followed by another year of closed beta tests, Flax got mature and stable.” — Wojciech Figat, FLAX Developer

So, I went ahead and downloaded and installed Flax Engine 1.0 and set out to quickly port over a small portion of RCMRR — assets ported included a pair of vehicles plus a prototype race track, collision boxes, and camera setups.

Flax Engine Evaluation: RCMRR Prototype © ACE MADDOX AB

Flax Engine Evaluation: RCMRR Prototype © ACE MADDOX AB

SPENDING TWO DAYS WITH FLAX ENGINE 1.0:

  • Flax Engine 1.0’s map and level editor and its interface and “environment” are shaky, to say the least. For example, a simple asset import caused the editor to crash on me several times.
  • After a couple of showstopping imports, I instead started to get familiar with Flax Engine 1.0’s editor flow. So I went ahead and tried to implement a couple of basic C++ routines, which in itself went incredibly smoothly. However, compiling/baking my sample project and its code yielded an undocumented error message no matter how many times I retried. Since Flax Engine 1.0 touts itself as a quick and easy game development alternative, I decided to not waste any more time on the C++ compiler errors — it was time to move on with the real test-project: getting our UE4-powered mini-racer RCMRR up to speed in Flax Engine 1.0 — which was ultimately successful, despite numerous bugs.

FLAX 1.0 FEATURES — TESTED OK

  • Importing assets and materials.
  • Editing materials.
  • Creating physics scene.
  • Creation of a static race track.
  • Exploring and configuration of game camera and scene clipping.

FLAX 1.0 CONCERNS

  • Physics: The complexity of the physics used for vehicle handling is too simplified.
  • Using an animation graph to ensure wheel movement seemed challenging; probably works — but requires time to get into.
  • Unable to refactor or adjust the C++ scripts that come with the engine (because of an editor issue.)
  • Lack of replication will prevent strong online/network play, which is a big “no-no” these days.

CONCLUSION

In comparison to Unreal Engine 4 and Unity, Flax Engine 1.0 is closer to Unity since it is quick to get into, and getting a grasp of the overall editor interface felt intuitive. Also, as with Unity,  the level of abstraction is quite high, saving developers time as investing time in low-level work like filenames and folder structure is not necessary, and in general, there is no need to deep-dive into the C++ engine code in the same way UE4 requires for some game genres (whereas a fully-fledged deep-level UE4 game would require five top-engineers if deciding to work on the underlying engine, Flax Engine 1.0 feels manageable for a small team of say two software/rendering engineers.)

In its current state, I am reasonably convinced Flax Engine 1.0 is solid enough to create commercial-grade single-player games with great graphics for Windows and macOS. However, I doubt the engine is ready for consoles, and the lack of replication makes network games impossible — although I am sure we will see it coming in Flax Engine 2.0 or at some other point in the not too distant future.

Oh, almost forget — make sure to check out the Flax Engine’s developer blog for tech news and great tutorial videos.


James Thor





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