Some XNA graphics engines to look out for

As I’ve been moving forward with my rendering framework, I have been researching and trying out some XNA rendering engines to draw inspiration from. Not all of them are free or even available to the public, but they have helped me along the way somehow. Here are the engines that have gotten my attention the most, how they influenced me, and some other comments about them.

  • SunBurn – For XNA, this one’s the big money. Literally, because you have to pay a decent sum even just for the indie license. I can’t bother to spend that much on an engine, but their demos are impressive. One thing that sets this apart from other engines is that 3D lighting effects can also be applied to 2D graphics. SunBurn is talked about as the best choice to go for bringing AAA-level graphics to your games, but its pricing structure makes it less accessible than other engines on this list.
  • Ploobs Game Engine – Unlike SunBurn, it handles a bit more than just graphics (plus it’s free), but I’m listing it anyways because its graphical features are still extensive. The documentation is more detailed than most free offerings, and has a UML diagram on how the renderer is structured, so that’s pretty nice too 🙂
  • Nelxon – Not really sure if this will also be the name of the engine but it’s his blog and recent work has centered around adding some nice graphical features to it. I used his resources for reference in my own work. Doesn’t seem to hint at offering the source code for his work, but I do hope he updates soon.
  • Final Engine – Another purely graphics-only engine, it has a host of great features comparable to Ploobs. Especially to note are its ability to render many nice materials, and MLAA (morphological anti-aliasing), something that I must have for a deferred renderer. Runs pretty well, and easy to set up and use. Additionally, it provides integration for NeoForce Controls, a separate GUI system for your games.
  • Hilva – This is the only other paid graphics engine other than SunBurn, but it’s free to use for distribution on PC. That said, it’s still closed source. I’m not as familiar with this engine as well as the others, but it does provide a lot. One feature I found interesting is that it replaces the model processing pipeline for XNA to facilitate the use of animated and multi-textured models.
  • Tomato – This one’s not as mature as the rest, but it has some good ideas. I tried this one on my PC and performance was slow. I still have a very good video card so I’m less hopeful for the Xbox 360. The built-in configurator is nice, though. I keep this one around because its rendering scheme is similar to what I plan to implement, and improve on it. The creator also recently started a new blog for it, so it’s still in production.

November update:  Nelxon, after a long hiatus, redesigned his site and wiped all the old content from his blog, except for his most visited resources. But he says that he’s still planning to finish his projects. The Tomato Engine blog has mysteriously disappeared, leaving only the CodePlex project site for information and downloads. This site hasn’t been updated since April.