Helios Interactive doesn’t have the greatest pedigree for success in video games. Its parent company, Mehta Group, is a multibillion-dollar transportation company.

But Helios is making an interesting play to capture the hearts of game developers with its GameCore development platform, which can be used to create cross-platform games with cool 3D graphics. A couple of weeks ago, Helios said it would give away the platform for free to independent game developers.

Helios is also using GameCore to create MetaJets 3D (pictured at top), a cross-platform game based on the MetaJets animated TV show. The show launches on the Cartoon Network cable channel over the July 4 weekend with a five-hour marathon. And the company is also in the midst of making Truck Off (yes, appropriate for a transportation company), a 3D monster truck racing game with multiplayer play. As you can tell from the images, games created with GameCore look pretty good.

On top of that, MetaJets 3D players will be able to play head-to-head in instantaneous action regardless of whether the different players are using PCs, Macs, devices with web browsers, or Facebook. Helios can do this because GameCore enables cloud-based game play, where game data is in central servers and the player’s own machine is really just a portal for logging into the game.

Not bad for a transportation company. But Mehta began its diversification into technology ventures 12 years ago. Ravé Mehta, chief executive of Helios Interactive (pictured right), said the game business is a long-term investment for diversification into the information age. The game-building technology has been in the works for seven years, but Mehta acquired the group in early 2008 and turned it into Helios. The collective investment to date has been more than $11 million.

“We can extend our platform to on-the-go gaming, where you start at home and you continue playing on a mobile device,” Mehta said.

More than 10,000 developers are using the GameCore platform now. But GameCore faces big competition from five-year-old Unity, which makes an engine to create 3D games that run in web browsers. GameCore is trying to match Unity by providing a full solution and seeding free copies among emerging game makers. Another rival is Epic Games’ Unreal technology, but that has been used primarily for big budget PC and console games. Helios’ premium version sells for $1,500.

Mehta says the company will add support for iPad and iPhone games soon (as soon as Apple lifts restrictions on allowing such adaptations). Mehta said it took four employees just three weeks to make the Truck Off game, which is still in beta testing.

One cool feature is that more than one game developer can modify assets in a particular game level at the same time. It also lets game developers visualize prototype sections of a game early and create their own user interfaces for a game. Mehta claims that the company’s more efficient tools can save 30 percent of game development time compared to other more antiquated systems. It also supports “socializing” games with Facebook integration, multiplayer matchmaking, and other social features.

The company is betting that Web-based games, which have heretofore been simple two-dimensional games, are shifting toward visually arresting 3D graphics. With tools such as GameCore and Unity, developers are proving that it is possible to create console-like graphics on web-based platforms.

While the Mehta Group is a huge 30-year-old multinational transportation company, Helios itself has just eight employees. GameCore is currently in version 2.5 and it has been out for the past nine months. Mehta is trying to get game development schools to adopt it for training students.

Mehta previously served at Modis Technologies, a virtual reality software company that created military simulations. That company was sold in 2000. He says a bunch more games are in the works. As for the competition, Mehta says, “It’s an uphill battle, but the battles are always changing.”