The Serious Engine is a game engine developed by Croteam that powers most of the games in the Serious Sam series. The engine's primary strength is that it can handle many enemies on screen while rendering modern (for the time period it was developed for) effects such as large textures and dynamic lighting. Thanks to some good programming, it manages to reach these goals while making only some small sacrifices to visual quality.
One of the original goals was to create an engine that could be licensed out to other developers instead of them having to make their own engine, but this seems to have been dropped by the time Serious Engine 3 was developed, most likely because of a lack of interest. However, some third party did use Serious Engine 1 for their games.
The Serious Engine is compatible with both 32-bit and 64-bit environments and the Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, SteamOS, Android, iOS, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4 platforms.
Serious Engine 1 features
- Support for very long distances.
- Colored lighting that can blink or do other effects without any problems.
- Portals that let someone look at another part of the level through a mirror.
- Sunglares to make levels look more realistic.
- Fog and haze.
- Real time shadows that work with many characters on screen.
- Support for unusual gravity, which lets the player do things like walk on walls.
- Support for several popular graphic card series at the time, like the Voodoo 3.
- Support for high-quality terrain models, which can be used in levels.
- Levels do not need to be complied in order to test a level. Real-time calculations keep the level up to date while it's being worked on. This lets someone playtest levels straight from the editor.
Serious Engine 2 features
This version of the Serious Engine contains several notable improvements, such as ragdoll support, more post-processing special effects, and a scripting language for creating complex events in levels and coordinating enemy spawns.
- Improved code that allows more polys per model, letting designers create more detailed models.
- Support for Bloom, amongst other “modern” lighting effects.
- Parallax mapping.
- Better physics.
- Support for ragdolls for events such as enemies dying.
- Working code for vehicles.
- Model destruction (such as an enemy model being torn apart).
- Native Xbox support.
- Working normal map support.
- A scripting language, Macro, that gives level designers more control over events like enemy spawning and allows for more complicated events without being overwhelmed by triggers.
Serious Engine 3 features
Serious Engine 3 is less of a dramatic upgrade than the changes from Serious Engine 1 to Serious Engine 2 were, but there are still some noticeable improvements, such as better lighting. For modders, a new scripting language has been added for them to learn.
- Better lighting, which allows for more realistic lights in levels.
- Increased polygon count limit for models, which allows for even more detailed and complex models than what's been allowed before.
- Better shadows, to go along with the improved lighting.
- Bump mapping for more detailed texture surfaces.
- Proper HDR support.
- Improved netcode for smoother online play that also takes advantage of modern internet connections like broadband.
- A new scripting language, LUA, has been added to replace Serious Engine 2's Macro. This was most likely because it's more flexible or because it's easier to learn and/or use.
- Water surface physics for more realistic object interaction with water.
- Greatly improved weather effects.
Serious Engine 3.5 features
Serious Engine 3.5 uses Serious Engine 3, just like its predecessor, though there are very few changes between the version of Serious Editor 3 used in Serious Engine 3 and Serious Engine 3.5.
- Support for creating complex in-game cutscenes.
- Lipsynch support for speech during cutscenes.
- Animations have been separated from a model's files and now lie in their own file format in a model's folders.
- Better dynamic shadow support for things like palm trees being moved by wind.
- Netcode has been improved again.
Licensed Serious Engine games
- Serious Sam: The First Encounter
- Serious Sam (Palm OS)
- Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
- Serious Sam: Xbox
- Serious Sam: Next Encounter
- Serious Sam Advance
- Serious Sam 2
- Serious Sam HD
- Serious Sam 3: BFE
- Serious Sam Classics: Revolution
- Serious Sam VR
- Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope
- Serious Sam 3 VR: BFE
- The Talos Principle
- The Talos Principle VR
- Serious Sam 4
- Other developers
- Nitro Family
- Alpha Black Zero
- Euro Corps
- Negative Space
- Carnivores: Cityscape
Since the release of the first Serious Engine, several more versions have been made, with improved physics, rendering, features, mod support, and compatibility.
Serious Engine 1
Serious Engine 1 is the first engine developed by Croteam, and was originally designed for Serious Sam: The First Encounter. The goal behind the engine was so that a large amount of polygons and enemies can be rendered on-screen with “modern” special effects like realistic shadows and lighting effects, causing no or very little slowdown.
Besides the PC, the Serious Engine 1 was also programmed to work on the Xbox, as seen in Serious Sam: Xbox.
Serious Engine 1 uses Serious Editor 1 and the tools associated with it in order to create and edit content. Serious Engine 1 is used to create levels and textures, while a complementary tool, Serious Modeller, allowed them to import models from programs like 3DS Max to the Serious Engine .mdl format.
Originally, the engine supported normal maps (textures that give the illusion of a model having more polygons and more details than it really does). This can be seen in Test 1's Technology Test level. However, by the final version of Serious Sam: The First Encounter, this feature appears to be broken, as it doesn't render properly in the Technology Test level.
Serious Engine 2
Serious Engine 2 is the next version of the Serious Engine. It is basically a completely new engine with a few elements from Serious Engine 1 in it.
Like Serious Engine 1, it could be licensed, but it seems that no one ever licensed it for their games.
Serious Engine 2 uses Serious Editor 2 as its editing tool. Serious Editor 2 contains every program in one package, which lets one modify nearly anything in-game without having to open up different .exes to do so.
Serious Engine 3
Serious Engine 3 is the third version of the Serious Engine. It is less of a dramatic upgrade than the changes from Serious Engine 1 to Serious Engine 2 were, but there are still some noticeable improvements, such as better lighting. For modders, a new scripting language has been added for them to learn.
Unlike previous Serious Engine versions, it seems that Serious Engine 3 cannot be licensed. This might be because of a lack of interest thanks to Epic Games cornering the engine licensing business.
Serious Engine 3.5
Serious Engine 3.5 is the latest version of the Serious Engine. As the name implies, it is based very closely on Serious Engine 3, but with enough drastic changes that it can be considered a midway point between Serious Engine 3 and Serious Engine 4. It is only used in Serious Sam 3: BFE.
As with Serious Engine 3, Serious Engine 3.5 cannot be licensed for use by other developers.
Serious Engine 3.5 uses Serious Engine 3, just like its predecessor. There are very few changes between the version of Serious Editor 3 used in Serious Engine 3 and Serious Engine 3.5.
Serious Engine 4
Serious Engine 4 is the latest version of the Serious Engine. So far, the only games that use this engine are Serious Sam 4, The Talos Principle and the VR remake.
The Serious Engine originally started out as the S-Cape 3D engine. It was originally created because Croteam wanted to make their own first-person shooter, but didn't have the money to license an engine for iD Software at the time. Instead, they decided to make their own engine from scratch. It was supposed to be used for In The Flesh, an early version of Serious Sam: The First Encounter. It's likely that, when In the Fleshs name was changed to Serious Sam, they decided to change the engine's name to match that of the game's.
According to a page about it written in 1996, the engine was to include features such as support for bit color depths up to 16 million, advanced special effects like reflections and realistic shadows, and its own scripting language for creating events in levels. This would've been quite impressive for late 1997, its original release date, if Croteam managed to reach most of these goals.
Serious Engine 3
Serious Engine 3 was first featured in a Croatian video game magazine in 2006. The magazine showed off the screenshots of Croteam's canceled Unnamed Military Shooter, a picture showing an early Canned Cain and Khnum, and a screenshot showing an Albino Cyclops and a few Zombie Soldiers attacking Serious Sam in a ruined middle eastern town. This was a mockup for what Serious Sam 3: BFE would look like.