Epic: making something Unreal

E: Did you make any assumptions about Nintendo’s new hardware before Wii U was announced? Did it tally?
MR: Oh, wow. A really sticky situation. We were in the enviable position of not having to make assumptions, let’s just say that. I’m pretty impressed with the Wii U. It looks like a great device and I think it’ll do really well.

E: Do you miss the days when you had a game for people to mod and rally around, with all its various points of entry, rather than a full-blown development kit?
MR: The people who were modders for games like UT3 have found now, with all these great digital distribution platforms, and things like Facebook and Twitter… What they’ve found is that their main desire was really to build their own stuff. Even a lot of mods for Unreal Tournament were perfectly suitable to be standalone games of their own, and if anything were hampered by the fact they were built for UT. And when UDK came along, it freed them to become developers and designers in their own right. And the game framework for UT3 still ships with UDK, so they can still take that and build off it and make their own game in the same way, but I think the modders are generally happier with a UDK-like environment than being inside a commercial game. It’s where they wanted to go in the first place.

Remember those old Make Something Unreal contests? A lot of the guys who got involved in those have since gone on to get jobs in the industry. Some of them, like Tripwire, have gone on to make a business around it. The idea with UDK was to break away from being inside our commercial game and give them a canvas on which to paint whatever they want. There’ve been over 800,000 unique installs, so that a lot of people who’ve said: ‘I want to do that. I want to learn it.’

E: Starbreeze was an interesting ‘catch’ for Unreal. Was that a difficult move for them?
MR: They’re a great studio and you’re right: they had a strong tradition of building their own technology. And I think that at some point, if you know technology and you’ve made it, it probably improves your appreciation for what we have in Unreal. Lucasarts is another great example, absolutely defined by its own internal technology. Their whole presentation at E3 a few years ago was all about their technology, but they’ve now moved to Unreal Engine 3. I think doing it yourself gives you a better appreciation for how hard it is to keep it going, to keep developing great tools, how important those are, how important it is to have those early in the process. It’s a great feather in our cap.