Whither (Wither?) Torque

Thanks to Rampant Coyote for bringing this to my attention, but for those of you who haven’t heard, InstantAction has decided to shut down its operations. While this is certainly sad news for a number of people who will be out of work, a lot of you are probably saying, “Who?” The truth is that I’m not sure I could accurately explain exactly how this relates to me, even though it does.

About three years ago, GarageGames – the company responsible for developing and selling the Torque Game Engine (TGE), the 3D engine I’m using to make Vespers – announced a ‘partnership’ with InterActive Corporation (IAC), which is just another way of saying that GarageGames was bought out by IAC. The idea, at least as I understand it, was to redirect the development of the Torque line of game engine products to support a new gaming platform called InstantAction. I never really played around with InstantAction, but basically it was something akin to a web-based console where players could play various 2D or 3D games, most of which would presumably be made with Torque products. Continued effort was put into developing the various lines of Torque engines, but a lot of it was banking on InstantAction becoming a popular and profitable gaming portal. In the meantime, GarageGames re-branded themselves as TorquePowered, and after some time moved away from their origins in cozy Eugene, OR to, of all places, Las Vegas. Turns out the move was basically a metaphor of what was happening to GarageGames as a whole, as it evolved from a small, friendly, close-knit group to a larger, more faceless, corporate presence.

The guys at TorquePowered tried hard to put a pretty face on those developments, but the Torque community was largely wary and suspicious, and in the end they were probably right to be. Nobody can say for sure if GarageGames could have continued to survive without being bought out by IAC, but there’s no arguing that those events forever changed the company and their relationship with their community.

It’s hard for me to say what exactly it means that InstantAction, IAC’s flagship online gaming portal, has gone belly-up, at least with respect to the Torque engine. I don’t have any familiarity with IAC or its subsidiaries, but it seems that the entity that InstantAction represented must have had ownership of the Torque line of products, since today’s announcement was that “Torquepowered.com will continue to operate while InstantAction explores opportunities with potential buyers for Torque.” So InstantAction, as a company, apparently owns the Torque product line, and now we’re seeing the demise of InstantAction. So it goes.

Whatever the case may be, this means that TGE, the core engine of Vespers, is now officially in limbo, its future uncertain.

The ultimate impact is likely to be minimal, but I can’t say for sure. The most likely scenario is that some company will buy the Torque line and continue to honor the current licenses. You never know, though, and it’s a little harder to predict what will happen specifically to TGE (the engine I’m using, not their newer, fancier engines), since it’s an older, out-of-date product that wasn’t even being supported by TorquePowered (nee GarageGames) anymore. We’ll probably know more in the coming days and weeks.

I can’t help but think of a time, probably around five years ago, when I was about to embark on this project, and I was looking for a game engine to use. I had narrowed it down at the time to the Torque Game Engine and the Unity Engine. I liked Unity specifically because it was Mac-based, but at the time it was still very young and its future was not well outlined; its community was also small and there were plenty of engine features that had not yet been implemented. TGE, on the other hand, had a more mature code base and its community was quite large and helpful. Plus, it was cross-platform. I chose TGE, but I always kept an eye on Unity.

Unity is now thriving, of course, and is probably the leading indie game engine out there. TGE, on the other hand, is outdated, no longer supported, and is now adrift at sea.

Yes, it looks like I chose Betamax. Ah, well. We’ll see what happens from here, but I’ll keep plugging away.

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One Comment

  1. Posted November 15, 2010 at 4:32 AM | Permalink

    The announcement was not much of a surprise for me but still a little sad. As you point out Mike, the company had moved (literally) away from its origins and had become out of touch with what is going on in the industry.

    I made the switch to Unity in the spring after a frustrating time I had with T3D which although it was an improvement over TGEA, had many UI and implementation issues. Like you, I had looked at both TGE and Unity back in a day (around 2004 I think) and went with what seemed the more mature engine (I guess literally). Who knew. At the time the only thing that worked against Unity for me was the lack of cross-platform development (you could publish to windows but not build). Ironically, this became a key issue with TGEA and T3D as the Mac platform is not well supported there.

    TGE is the game engine that really introduced me to the Game Industry proper. I don’t regret the time I’ve spent with it and am grateful for the experience and people I’ve met. I doubt the engine is dead. It will survive as other lesser known engines have and continue to have a fan/support base. In the end, I don’t blame the tech but the lack of company vision and an inability to move with the client base. Unity seems to have a clearer handle on that but I suspect in a few years, they too will be challenged by someone else. This is all good. Good for folks like you and me 🙂

    As always, love the article.

    Cheers Mate 🙂

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