Develop recently spoke with Epic President Mike Capps about the Unreal Engine 4. Though far from complete, Epic is seeing new opportunities to lay the groundwork now to create closer ties with indie developers after the successful release of the Unreal Development Kit.
The Unreal Engine 3 went free to use under the name Unreal Development Kit, provided it was for non-commercial use. Epic made things easier on indie developers by changing the terms for commercial use: they would have to give up 25% of their revenue after their first $5000. After this decision, Epic saw an upturn in the use of the engine with students and semi-pro developers.
Capps expressed his wish to see the Unreal Engine 4 released closer to the launch of the next generation consoles.
“In the past few years I think we’ve learned a lot about our technology and how it works for indie studios. How our tech works for iPhone games, for high-end triple-A studios and for a couple of guys who make a cool UDK game over the summer. We’re going to apply all these lessons we’ve learned with Unreal Engine 4, and I think you’re going to see a lot of difference with UE3 within the first six months from launch.”
The Unreal Engine 3 has seen great success in several recent AAA titles, such as Batman: Arkham City and the upcoming Mass Effect 3. Epic first implemented the engine with Gears of War.
This time, Capps declares things will be different for the Unreal Engine 4.
“I think a year from a console’s launch is perfectly fine for releasing a game, but not for releasing new tech. We need to be there day one or very early. That’s my primary focus. For us as a game-maker, we aren’t keen on shipping games day one because there’s not much of an install-base, or at least not one as big as it’s going to be. But with engines, that’s a different story. We want to deliver our tech as early as possible even though our first big marquee game might not be on there for twelve or even twenty-four months from a console’s launch.”
Analysis: I have always seen the value of making the engine more easily accessible for students and indie developers. This was something I wish I could’ve had when I went to college as it would’ve made my project ambitions a lot more manageable. The only problem I can see with Epic’s new strategy is that they’re turning more into a technology company instead of a game developer.
I can respect the company for putting out demos to showcase the engine, but like many of us saw with Cryengine 3, the demos were phenomenal but the execution was total crap with Crysis 2. To showcase a new engine, a company has to illustrate what it can do with a practical development time, not just the bells and whistles in demos. This was what made the Unreal Engine 3 so appealing to me because I could see it working with a game’s rules, not just with the smoke and mirrors to draw my attention.
This kind of news will undoubtedly turn a few heads in the indie market. I just hope they aren’t fooled into believing all the shiny bits can be used with their limited development schedules.