Epic recently announced that they are making a new version of Unreal Tournament using Unreal Engine 4 (UE4). Today I will talk about why this is one of the best announcements for game developers (especially students) in a long time. The announcement was enough to get me to purchase a license to UE4 and review whether to continue using Unity for our next project or whether it’s time to make the move to UE4.
Open Source Game
The most important part of the announcement in my eyes is that the next Unreal Tournament will be completely open source. From the game down to the engine (as UE4 is already open source). Once complete, this will be an invaluable resource for game developers to see how a commercial AAA title is put together. It will specifically help those using UE4, however there will also be insights for those using other engines. From the workflow to layout of the project, peeking into a finished game is a great way for students to learn best practices.
More important than the static final product though is the ongoing development of the game. From day one, Epic have put the source code up on GitHub so anyone with a license can dig in and look at the process of making the game. Where the first few weeks are spent, what is taking the most time and which areas are seeing the most development.
The final piece of the open source puzzle is the ability to push code to the project. Epic are encouraging developers to get involved in the project and help. Whether you want to fix an annoying bug, have a great idea, want to get recognition or just be a part of a AAA game, this is great news for game developers the world over.
Another part of the announcement that is great for smaller game developers (both hobbyists and students) is the mod support they are building in from the ground up. Developers can come together and create multiple parts of a game wrapped up as mods and combine them to make a game that’s more than the sum of its parts. Most developers can’t do everything and having access to mods that involve script, modelling, animations, etc lets individuals focus on what they are best at and take off the shelf whatever they need. I see this becoming similar to the Unity Asset Store. The major difference I’m expecting is that Unreal Engine is a little more focussed on FPS games and so I feel the mods will be focussed in this area giving much greater breadth within this smaller area.
While it’s unlikely to affect most people, the opportunity to sell mods is also a great part of the announcement. With the creation of the right mod it’s possible for smaller developers to make a living from tools that help other developers make great games.
Bridging The Gap
Another area I’m excited about is bridging the gap between game developers and players. At a superficial level this will give players a look into how a AAA game is made and the amount of effort that goes into it. I also see this as a great way for players to take the plunge and get involved in game development. Many of the tools available in UE4 (eg Blueprint) allow non-programmers the ability build fun, unique gameplay.
What about us?
While I’ve only spent a small amount of time with UE4, I’ve been impressed with what I saw. Whether we develop our next game in UE4 or not, I plan to follow the development of the next Unreal Tournament to learn from their processes and best practices throughout development. For 2D focussed games I still see Unity as the best option, however the closer a game is to a standard FPS the more reason there is to make the switch to UE4. Once we’ve finished Battle Group 2 I will spend some solid time with UE4 and make a decision on whether we will use it next.