This article is aimed at beginners who are interested in 3D game development with Java. While some developers lean toward the lower level access provided by C++ or C#, Java is still a great choice for grasping the basic concepts and creating relatively complex games. Global hits such as Minecraft or Runescape are a perfect example of the level of success that can be achieved with the language. A solid 3D game engine is sure to put aspiring game developers on the right track to success and give them everything they need to complete their dream projects.
jMonkeyEngine is a free and open-source 3D game engine programmed entirely in Java. Using this engine, aspiring game developers can create games for Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, or iOS. What’s more, the latest version of the engine supports even virtual reality and Oculus Rift.
While jMonkeyEngine wants to make game development with Java as accessible as possible, its creators don’t want to compromise on complexity and versatility. If you expect quick results with minimal effort, you might be disappointed. The initial learning curve is definitely rather steep, but those who’ll manage to overcome it will be rewarded with a professional set of features and utilities.
The engine supports complex light and shadow rendering, advanced shades, customizable post processor filters, and convenient game logic builder that separates the application into individual logical parts. Additional standalone libraries and utilities take care of physics simulation, terrain generation, GUI design, and networking.
If you are serious about your game development career, we would encourage you to face the initial challenge that jMonkeyEngine presents and start on the right track to success.
LWJGL is actually a Java library that makes access to underlying technologies, such as OpenGL and OpenAL, more convenient and user-friendly. Since it works directly with native libraries, there are absolutely no compromises in terms of performance and features. If you can do something with OpenGL or OpenAL, you can also do it through LWJGL.
It’s available under a BSD license, and finished games and applications can be deployed on Windows, Mac, and Linux. LWJGL is future-proof and supports Vulkan and LibOVR, the API of the Oculus VR SDK, to facilitate the development of virtual and augmented reality experiences.
LibGDX is a Java game development framework similar to LWJGL. It’s published under Apache 2.0 license and its source code is publicly available on GitHub. The main purpose behind it is to allow developers to use complex features without necessarily understanding all the low-level complexity behind them.
LibGDX produces a fast code with heavy emphasis on avoiding garbage collection. Finished games can be published on all major platforms, including BlackBerry and the web. The engine renders graphics via OpenGL ES 2.0 and provides robust tools for dealing with sound, physics, input, and file storage. Probably two most popular games created with the framework are an augmented reality game called Ingress and Apparatus, which is a puzzle game similar to Crazy Machines.
Created at Carnegie Mellon University, Alice is a 3D programming environment aimed at students of computer science and everyone who is interested in learning the basics of object-originated programming and 3D game development.
It introduces many fundamental concepts, such as animation, hit detection, and logic building, through an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that removes the obscure nature of pure code and replaces it with something more visual and enticing.
Students and self-paced learners can take advantage of many pre-created objects and sounds and use them as basic building blocks for their projects and experiments. New objects and models can be created using Maya or 3DS Max and easily imported into the engine.
Unfortunately, Alice greatly limits the complexity and fidelity of games that can be produced with it. It’s great for very simple games and learning all necessary fundamentals of object-oriented programming, but it will eventually have to be replaced with something more complex and customizable. Still, a great starting point, especially for very young learners.
At the end of the day, the final choice of 3D game engine doesn’t matter nearly as much as it could seem at first. The most important thing is to get started developing; everything else will naturally follow as you gain more experience and knowledge.