Torque Game Engine Enters Retirement… Bittersweet For Me

Yesterday Brett Seyler of GarageGames posted a blog announcing the release of version 1.0 of Torque 3D, which is a $1000 updated version of Torque, with new rendering, tools, art pipeline, COLLADA support, etc. It looks awesome, and I know their world-wide team worked incredibly hard on the product. I congratulate them on this release, and wish them great commercial success.

However, buried in a single sentence of the blog was the following statement:

“No matter what the results, there will be other changes to the Torque product line up as well. Biggest of all, as of November 1st, 2009, past versions of Torque (TGEA, TGE) will no longer be available for purchase.”

TGE and TimAste Art

TGE and TimAste Art

Before I get back to this, allow me a little history lesson. Torque Game Engine started life in 1997 as the 3D engine behind Dynamix titles such as Starsiege and Tribes. For those that don’t know it, I was the founder of Dynamix and the Executive Producer of those titles. In 1999, myself, Rick Overman, Tim Gift, and Mark Frohnmayer made an agreement with Sierra/Vivendi/Universal, the parent company of Dynamix, to license this technology, leave Dynamix, and start a company called GarageGames. Open Source was the hottest thing going in those days, and our original intention was to give away the engine, and help people sell the games made with it. A couple of months into our company, we realized we would need some revenue, so we decided to charge $100 for the Torque Game Engine (TGE) and all of the source code. We joked that it was as close to Open Source as we could get it, or it was “Open Source with a business model”. At the time, game engines like id’s Quake engine were selling for $500,000 or more, so our price was something of a shot heard around the world.

People thought we were crazy, but with the semi-serious motto of “world domination through collaboration“, we absolutely believed in our mission of standing up for Indie game developers. As an aside, people did not use the word Indie for independent game developers back then. Mostly, they were called Shareware developers because that was the business model they used to monetize their efforts. We identified “Indies” as a market, and went after something most people did not think existed. I would always say, “Do more kids want to be rock stars or game developers? I think game developers. This is a huge market. We just need to hang in there, keep making our stuff better and easier to use.” Hang in there we did, and our sales of TGE steadily rose. None of us made much money, but everybody that came to GarageGames came out of the community, and were willing to work for less than normal to further the vision. It was an incredibly challenging, fun, creative environment and mission.

One constant in this world is change. Game engines get old, companies sell, and people move around. There are hundreds of engines available for all sorts of platforms. Indie game makers are a huge news makers. And, after an incredibly long 10 year life span, TGE is going to the big bit bucket in the sky.

On a brighter note, on Twitter I speculated that it would be very cool if TGE was Open Sourced. Not five minutes after I tweeted, Brett Seyler responded with:

“relyes @jefftunn I think that’s a very likely outcome in 2010.”

That would be awesome! Let’s hope that a little bit of game development history gets to live on forever.

-Jeff Tunnell, Game Maker
Make It Big In Games
PushButton Labs
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  • Brett Seyler

    “One constant in this world is change.”

    So true. Jeff, you and the other founders really took some incredibly brave (and foresighted) risks with the early business model for Torque. Since then, we’ve had the advent of Flash games really take off (which you guys have embraced) and seen a lot of great new technologies enter the market that Torque created.

    Where Torque fits next to the more expensive engine choices has always been a tough question to answer. We’ve seen Torque achieve 95% of what engines like Unreal and CryEngine deliver for < 1% of the price. Is that still too expensive? I don’t know, but I think this “prosumer” market of developers out there, those who treat game development the way they would amateur photgraphy, or even their gaming pastime, can easy afford $1000 to create an unlimited number of games that look like this:

    $1000 will be over budget for some people. No question. Not everyone has an iPhone or takes pictures with a DSLR. We hope that those who aren’t ready to make that kind of investment in game development will check out the Torque 3D demo, perhaps play around with some open source technology out there (perhaps even older versions of Torque as you suggested) and get some game dev experience under their belt so that when they’re ready to try Torque, they’ll really appreciate the greater productivity the tools and pipeline provide.

    In the end, the biggest investment in game development will be a developer’s time and energy. We can save developers both, in spades, with this new product. To the degree we can keep doing that and continue to offer an enabling technology for developers targeting gamer audiences on mobile devices, consoles, or the web, I think we’re still very capably serving the indie market.

    We are definitely trying to live up to the example set by you, Mark, Rick and Tim by taking bold (and hopefully foresighted) risks with Torque as you now are with PushButton Labs. We appreciate your support and wish you guys more astounding success as serial entrepreneurs.


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  • Jeff Tunnell

    Hey Brett,

    I wish I would have had the courage to allow a version of Torque to sell for $1,000. I think you guys are doing the right thing. There are so many Open Source project to compete with now, that it makes a lot of sense to have something much more complete for more money. Good luck to you guys.