Tim Sweeney discusses the firm's new approach to game development

Unreal Diaries: Opening up Unreal Engine 4

At the 2014 Game Developers Conference, Epic Games’ founder Tim Sweeney made an announcement: “Unreal Engine 4 has launched. What we’ve released is both simple and radical: everything.”

The fully-featured engine, including the tools and C++ source code, is available to download, with the goal of putting the technology within reach of everyone interested in building games and 3D content.

Sweeney says: “For $19 per month, developers can have access to everything, including the Unreal Editor in ready-to-run form, and the engine’s complete C++ source code too.

“This is the complete technology we at Epic use when building our own games, forged by years of experience shipping games like Gears of War for Xbox and Infinity Blade for iOS, and now reinvented for a new generation.

“Having the full C++ source provides the ultimate flexibility and puts developers in control of their schedules and destinies. Whatever you require to build and ship your game, you can find it in UE4, source it in the GitHub community, or build it yourself – and then share it with others.”

Develop in the Unreal Ecosystem

Beyond the tools and source, UE4 provides an entire ecosystem. Anyone can chat in the forums, add to the wiki, participate in the AnswerHub question-and-answer portal, and join collaborative development projects.

To help developers get started, Epic ships a large variety of polished content, samples and game templates which are available through the engine’s Marketplace.

As Sweeney puts it, Marketplace “simply hosts free stuff from Epic, but its resemblance to the App Store is no coincidence: it will grow into a complete ecosystem for sharing community-created content, paid and free, and is open for everyone’s participation”.

Harness Leading Platforms

The initial release of the engine is only the beginning. The UE4 editor currently runs on Windows PC and Mac OS X and the tools are used to deploy for PC, Mac, iOS and Android.

In the C++ code, many new initiatives can be extended. These include, for example, Epic’s efforts to support Oculus VR, Linux, Valve’s Steamworks and Steam Machines, along with deployment of games to web browsers via HTML5. It’s all right there, in plain view, on day one of many years of exciting and open development ahead.

In addition, developers building projects for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One can obtain Epic’s console tools upon providing their respective Sony and Microsoft registration credentials.

Ship Games with Unreal

Sweeney explains how Epic is working to build a company that succeeds when UE4 developers succeed. Anyone can ship a commercial product with UE4 by paying five per cent of gross revenue resulting from sales to users.

He adds: “We realise that’s a lot to ask, and that it would be a crazy proposition unless UE4 enables you to build way better games way more productively than otherwise.”

So, will this effort succeed? Epic says that’s up to how developers judge the engine’s value.

UE4 has been built by a team of more than 100 engineers, artists and designers around the world, says Sweeney, and this launch represents all of Epic’s hopes and dreams of how major software can be developed and distributed in the future.

In light of this new start, Sweeney concludes: “We have enjoyed building UE4 so far, and hope developers will join us on this journey.”


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