Develop Conference: Epic founder says the industry has returned to its roots

Sweeney: We’re reliving gaming’s past at four times the pace

Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney says that the games industry today is reliving its early days at a remarkable rate as new platforms have opened up the market for small teams to make a living off of their own talent and persistence.

Sweeney – who was presented with the Development Legend prize at last night’s Develop Awards – was reflecting on the sudden rise of smartphones and how they have changed the games market during a discussion with Develop editor Will Freeman in Brighton.

“It feels like we’re reliving the last 25 years of the game development industry at the rate of four years every year,” he said.

“The industry has widened in terms of games. What you’ve seen is mobile has come along and greatly widened the appeal of games. I think it’s increased the size of the overall gaming maker.”

Sweeney admitted that he was initially unaware of how capable smartphones could be as gaming devices, until Epic’s vice president Mark Rein, and other members of team, showed him what they offered.

Speaking of how games have migrated to smartphones and the web, convergence was another topic that fascinated him.

The convergence of technology, Sweeney said, means that games, especially high-end ones, will soon be on every platform possible.

He said a recent experiment to bring Unreal Engine to the web with Mozilla has led him to believe that the boundaries that restricted developers from bringing their games to numerous platforms are coming down faster than ever now.

“Now, you can take potential any C++ program and run it in engine means you can think about shipping one game and looking at every platform possible,” he said.

With Unreal Engine 4, Sweeney said simplicity and usability have been core tenants that the middleware maker has strived for. Switching from Unreal Script to C++ was one of the ways it’s made the engine more developer-friendly and future-proof.

Another prediction from the legendary engineer was that developers will be able render environments that are absolutely indistinguishable from reality in the next ten years.

During the session, Sweeney also recounted much of his early days setting up Epic Games and hiring the core team of people who worked on Unreal Engine and many of the studios signature titles, such as Gears of War.

Sweeney explained that Epic has survived because it’s been ready to pivot in order to keep up with change.

During Epic’s early days, 2D graphics were thing, but the studio quickly found its feet with 3D technology once Wolfenstien 3D was released. It’s faced changed as PC sales have declined, in the shift to console development and in the more recent switch to mobile, but has kept up with change.

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