Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney has countered the suggestion that Epic is moving away from game development by confirming the existence of three new games in the works at the developer.
A high-end next generation title will look to showcase Unreal Engine 4’s power and fidelity alongside a mobile game and the previously-announced ‘co-op sandbox survival’ game Fortnite, which is much further into development than the other two projects.
Sweeney said of the high-end project: “It’s going to push next generation graphics as you’d always expect Epic to do.” As with Epic’s new mobile title, which Sweeney could not comment on, the more ambitious title is in pre-production and won’t be formally announced for some time.
At E3 and later this year, however, we’ll see plenty more games built on Epic’s Unreal Engine 4, says Sweeney. “There’s a lot [of games] on the way and a large number of them haven’t been announced,” he tells us. “You’ll see lots of triple-A stuff coming out over time. The industry’s changing – this generation it seems like there are about a third of the number of triple-A titles in development across the industry as there was last time around – and each one seems to have about three times the budget of the previous generation. I think we’re heading towards a future where triple-A is the minority.”
Alongside games from its many partners in the industry, Sweeney also emphasises that Epic is still developing its own titles, and will continue to do so. The studio recently sold the rights to the Gears Of War franchise to Microsoft, which subsequently set its new firstparty studio Black Tusk to work on a new game in the series. With only Fortnite publicly confirmed for release, some suggested that the Gears deal and sparse release slate was a sign that Epic is increasingly pulling away from developing its own games – a notion Sweeney dismisses.
“If you look at what’s on people’s radars right now then you might say ‘Epic’s going to just be an engine company now,’” he tells us. “But you can look back at 2006 or 2008 or 2011 you might have said ‘Epic’s going to just be a games company now’ – it’s just constantly pingponging back between those two.
“At any time there are over 100 engineers working on the Unreal Engine and there are more than 100 developers worldwide at Epic contributing to our games, so they’re really inseparable – the engine is based on the feedback from our game development processes.”
Epic’s games will continue to serve as a showcase for its engine, then, but in a slightly different way to the previous generation. “At the beginning of the last generation we were using Gears Of War as a demonstration of the engine’s high end featureset,” Sweeney says. “This time around, we’re trying to use Fortnite to push our engine’s breadth of feature set separately from its graphical capabilities.”
That mysterious high-end title will surely serve as the more technical showpiece, then. Importantly, Epic has recently set about making UE4 more accessible, introducing a new subscription service at GDC last month, which allows PC, Mac, iOS and Android developers to gain access to all of Epic’s game creation tools and even UE4’s C++ source code.
“It’s meant to be as accessible to indies as a subscription to an MMO,” said Sweeney, a strong believer in the indie scene. “As these triple-A games are seeing fewer releases then the empty spaces in between are being filled by indie projects of all scales,” he adds. “They’re really being developed in a completely new way – rather than being built over a very long period of time and then released with a massive marketing campaign, you’re seeing a Kickstarter and then preview versions becoming available that are incrementally improved over time. It’s a really interesting time for the industry.”