I simply don’t get the point when the game producers advertise the engine behind a game. Engine, for those are not familiar with, is the piece of software that deals the core functions in a game: 3D rendering, sound, network, etc. They usually say that their own home-made engine is capable of more graphics in the scene, with more details or more effects (mostly about the graphics power). But more than what?
Unless the company license their engines as core business, like Epic’s Unreal Technology, Valve’sSource or id’s id Tech, there is absolutely no point on advertising it or even giving it a name but creating it some pseudo-credibility to the project.
WOW!! Mafia 2 are going to use Illusion Engine! What the heck is Illusion Engine?
These pieces of software are complex to create. However, there was a lot of people that were capable to create one from scratch. Today, there are several of them, with different purposes (some are for hookies, some are for 3D pros or only for FPS games) and different quality (some are slow, some have incomplete documentation or lacking of tools). But there are enough that it might be considered almost as commodity.
Unreal Engine is, by far, the most popular among the big companies. Many bestsellers were created using its tools and libraries. But don’t even think about using it: it costs a fortune! So various companies had the same idea about position their owngame engines free. Some are worthy to mention: Garage Games’ Torque, Blender/Crystal Space and Radon Labs’ Nebula Device.
Some good games came from they: Torque is quite inexpensive, and it was used on the Penny Arcade Adventures; Nebula Device is completely free with the most permissive, the MIT license, and its behind Drakensang, which I’m going to play really soon.