GDC 2014: Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney says even Minecraft players should benefit from the firm’s game-making tech

Why Epic abandoned its ‘outdated’ model and offered everyone access to Unreal Engine 4

Tim Sweeney, co-founder of Epic Games, told GDC attendees this morning that his firm believes “absolutely everybody” should have access to Unreal Engine 4.

The firm announced this morning that the high-end tech is now available to developers of any size for $19 per month, along with the engine’s source code – which Sweeney describes as “Epic’s crown jewel” – via GitHub.

“We’re rethinking our whole business in how we make Unreal Engine available to individuals and to teams,” Sweeney told attendees at a media briefing this morning.

“Throughout Epic’s history, we’ve made the engine available to triple-A game developers. It’s often cost many millions of dollars, licensing is involved, and we’d often be negotiating for weeks or months at a time to work out business terms. The really big teams were able to get it and they’ve made some great games throughout the Unreal Engine’s history.

“But looking at the new shape of the industry now, we realise that’s an outdated model for most people. This is a tool and an engine that could benefit absolutely everybody.”

Sweeney and his team demonstrated the easy-to-use Unreal Editor, quickly throwing together environments and showing gameplay samples that will be made available with the engine. One example was Tappy Chicken, a remake of a certain popular mobile game that was put together by a level designer, not a programmer, in a very short space of time. It was also demonstrated how the game’s mechanics could quickly be tweaked to change the gameplay, such as making the taps more responsive.

“One of the things about Unreal Engine 4 that has been a major focus for us has been building a toolset that is very highly usable for developers of all sizes,” The Unreal Editor is now a very polished and very fun tool. You’d be amazed at what you can build with just a few mouse clicks and a few days of learning.

“It’s for a lot more than building massive triple-A projects. Anything from a lone-wolf designer wanting to build a game – even if they don’t know how to programme using C++ – can use the Blueprint system to get something up and running really quickly. And this scales all the way up through indie developers, mid-size teams, up to studios employing hundreds of people. I think this could even be a fun experience for high-end Minecraft player: the capability of creating larger, more expansive and realistic worlds is potentially a new outlet for them.

“This is a bold new step for Epic, but we think it’s an appropriate one given the new size of the games industry. It’s grown into a very open one, where absolutely anyone can develop a game and ship it, and if the Unreal Engine can be a part of that pipeline, we’ll be very happy.”

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