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Feature: Epic Games speaks about Unreal Development Kit Two


Sweeney believes a whole new generation of game developers will emerge with this newly accessible UDK technology.

"When I started developing games 18 years ago, game development was very simple," said Sweeney. "You had such little graphics capabilities that you write a few lines of code and you get some objects moving around on screen and it was very easy. That's really changed nowadays. Today, a competitive game requires a million lines of code, many years to create, and a very, very sophisticated set of tools. The great thing about UDK is that it brings all those tools to you, so you don't need to do any of that work yourself. It makes game development as easy as it was a couple of decades ago when one person just fooled around in their spare time. And you can actually create an interesting game experience. It might not be Gears of War quality, but it can certainly be something to be proud of and something you could release online and get your friends playing -- all with one tool set and all with a relatively easy learning curve."

Cliff Bleszinski, design director at Epic Games, said that the fact that Epic's releasing UDK for free online is going to crack everything wide open in regards to everyone from college students to amateur developers to mod makers.

"You very, very rarely see this kind of opportunity where you have a professional tested tool that has shipped hit games that have sold millions upon millions of copies that you can just download and start messing around with immediately," said Bleszinski. "I can tell you right now that the engine is used so much in the business that if you're a person who has Unreal Engine skills, that would be a plus on your resume. And the fact that it's more accessible than ever will facilitate creativity and will create more cool independent games. I think it will also help people get jobs in the industry."

UDK should also open up the gaming mod community. Many of Unreal Tournament 3's mods have been showcased through the $1 Million Intel Make Something Unreal Contest (www.makesomethingunreal.com), which awards over $1 million in cash and prizes to aspiring game developers. While mods require running the original game for interaction with user-created content, UDK provides a standalone experience every time, meaning a smaller digital footprint and no additional software requirements.

"If UDK were available to me back when I was a teenager, I would have downloaded it immediately," said Bleszinski. "I would not have left my house for months on end and I would have started creating my own world. I would have started building my own environments. I would even have got placeholder characters and things like that until I found somebody to put things in. I would have made something tangible that is an interactive space, and I would have burst into the industry somehow by any means necessary."

With UDK, aspiring game makers, hobbyists and students can dig into the tools that have been used to bring such hits as BioShock, Mass Effect and Batman: Arkham Asylum to life. What's next is now in the hands of anyone with an Internet connection.
Download Unreal Development Kit (562 MB)
Download HD Unreal Development Kit Launch Trailer (80 MB)


Continue reading Feature: Epic Games speaks about Unreal Development Kit Two

Feature: Epic Games speaks on newly released Unreal Development Kit


By John Gaudiosi

In the past, gamers had to pick up a copy of the PC version of Unreal Tournament 3 or Gears of War to get the Unreal Engine 3 mod tools. With no Gears of War 2 game released on PC, the options for PC gamers getting access to one of the most ubiquitous game engines in the world was limited. But starting today, developer Epic Games is opening up its Unreal Development Kit (UDK) technology, minus the source code, for free to anyone via www.udk.com (You can also download the UDK tools right here at Big Download) Since Unreal Engine 3 is a constantly evolving game engine, UDK, which ships with many recently added features and technological enhancements, will be supported with continual free upgrade builds as Epic adds new features to the toolset.

Continue reading Feature: Epic Games speaks on newly released Unreal Development Kit

Feature: An exclusive first look at some of Mytheon's environments


We've been reporting for some time on the progress of Mytheon, the upcoming free-to-play action-RPG from developer Petroglyph and publisher True Games Interactive. Today, True Games has provided Big Download with an exclusive first look at three of the environments that the player will explore in the game. Mytheon is currently scheduled to officially launch in 2010 with a beta test said to begin soon.

Gallery: Mytheon


Continue reading Feature: An exclusive first look at some of Mytheon's environments

Interview: Orson Scott Card talks about his love of games Three


Have you ever talked to Chair Entertainment about your dream game as a possible collaboration?

Well, they're doing a different kind of game. I don't think they have the slightest interest in doing the kind of game I love to play. I look at what they did using the Unreal Engine from Epic and Shadow Complex is amazing. It's a side-scroller that looks like a 3D game. The artistry in this is gorgeous. And you can explore the world. You don't have to relentlessly play the game. You could wander around and find cool stuff. And they reward you for it. It becomes part of the gameplay if you want it to be. So I'm thrilled with what they've done with that. But I like the turn-based strategy game. And there aren't very many of those made, and most of them are made badly. Really Sid Meier is the only guy who does it reliably. And I wish more people would learn the lessons from the way he does it. Because I've looked at some of the other offerings and they emphasize the tedium and the fog of war. You have to fight these endless battles. And I don't want to play war. I want to play Civilization. And Civilization, you have to be able to fight, you have to be prepared to fight, but the main business of Civilization is being civilized --creating stuff, building. That's what I want to do.

Do you think with your clout in entertainment that we'll ever see your dream game?

Nobody's going do it exactly the way that I want it done. So it's not like I can come and say, "Well, I've had these hit games, now create this one that I have in mind." I haven't had any hit games, so I'm just a novelist saying, "Gee, I wish I could play this one." And what they say is. "Wow, this is not the kind of thing that anybody's created." What everybody does is they have artists create the levels and scenes. And so they're beautiful and wonderful. I'm saying, "No, I want you to create the pieces out of which that will be made." Now, they do that with textures already. But they don't do it with buildings, they don't do it with artifacts. I'm saying, "You want to be able to say you have 136 different architectural styles and you'll decide that this region will have this particular style, but you'll combine it with color schemes so that you could actually use the same architectural styles somewhere else with a whole different set of appropriate colors. And it'll feel like a new place." So you'd end up with hundreds of different places with different levels of development, different size towns, and different kinds of people living in it.

Why don't you think the current game business would go for this?

What you're doing is turning the game back over to the computer programmer to a degree that would be loathsome to many game designers. Most game designers now keep a pet computer programmer to fix a few things that you need to have fixed. But everybody relies on game engines that were created by programmers. And then they work within whatever that engine is designed to do. Well, I'm asking for something that doesn't already have its engine. I'm asking for a new engine to create worlds on the fly. And that puts it back in the hands of the programmer. Now it used to be that games were all done by programmers. Guys who would sit there hacking things out in BASIC, or the really cool guys would use machine code. And put in their source code and compile. This was back in the days of the 6502 processor and when it didn't have to be a team effort for computing. But now that investment, when you don't know that it's going pay off, is something no one wants to risk.

Continue reading Interview: Orson Scott Card talks about his love of games Three

Interview: Orson Scott Card talks about his love of games Two


Can you talk more about your game idea?

In my game concept, it's a three dimensional world. You're moving through it as a character rather than just seeing it as a map. But we have the algorithms. We know how to do it. It would have been hard back when I first proposed this in the late '80s. But it's easy now that you have a globe-sized surface to work with. And you create the continents, they exist in the computer's memory in a very sketchy form. You can't see it. There's no cheat that lets you see the whole continent because nothing on it exists until you move into it. As you move into it, you have architectural paradigms, algorithms that will create cities with different cultural feels. You move into one culture and the buildings resemble each other. You move into another, color schemes and buildings look a different way, people have different races. So that when you move through the world, it's big. We don't have any big world games. The worlds are all small because people think there's no room.

But my feeling is that as long as the player is playing on a computer -- this is not a console game concept -- on a computer where you can use their hard disks to store the core data, this game can create itself on the fly. Players can have different adventures with different characters. You just end up with this tremendous database of names which can be online, added to over and over again, so that you can have literally hundreds of thousands of place names, hundreds of thousands of character names. And all generated according to certain rules. This is my dream. This is my game. But I convert other games into this concept.

Do you do this with the Sid Meier's games?

Yes. What I love about Sid Meier's games is that he lets you fiddle with the paradigms and the rules underneath. You can alter Civilization II which I'm still playing. There's been a Civilization 3 and 4, but I'm not even interested. I'm still playing the first multiplayer game. I don't play with other players. Nobody would want to play by my rules. But I've set it up so that there's minimal war and maximum civilization building, discovery, and creation. I allow myself to play to AD 2010 and no farther. That's where I stop. So the race is with myself to see how far I can get in that amount of time. And it's fun. Because I think the later game is boring when you're just building spaceships and building factories in every city, it's just, "yawn." What's fun is all the discovery phase, the building up, seeing how large a civilization you can establish. Usually I could win the game by wiping out my opponents far before that. I keep just one opponent alive off in a corner somewhere.

The real limitation of the game, and this is the one that kills me, is you can have no more than 255 cities. So you suddenly reach a time when it says, too many cities. And I just go, "Why do you have a limitation like that? Why did you decide that each city would have a two byte or one byte identifier. Why didn't you have a look-up table to find the number? Or why didn't you make it so that it was a ludicrous number like 5,000 cities, that you couldn't possibly get to. So that you knew that the player would never get that too many cities message." It just drives me crazy. It's one moment of bad design in a brilliantly designed game. But it's still bad design when it happens. But they always think, "Who would ever get to this? Who would ever play it this way?" I play it that way. That's my version of Civilization.

Continue reading Interview: Orson Scott Card talks about his love of games Two

Interview: Orson Scott Card talks about games, including his own dream project


By John Gaudiosi

Bestselling author Orson Scott Card has won an endless array of awards for his Ender's Game novels. His most recent endeavor, Empire, was a smash hit based on a video game concept from Epic Games-owned Chair Entertainment. The second novel in that trilogy, Hidden Empire, hits bookstores next month. The recent Xbox Live Arcade game Shadow Complex is a prequel to these new sci-fi novels that focus on a modern day Civil War between the red and the blue states.

In this exclusive interview, Card took some time away from working on the screenplay for Paramount Pictures big screen adaption of Ender's Game to talk about his love of video games and his own personal dream game project. After all, Card ended up working on his newest trilogy because of a relationship that grew from his first video game work on Advent Rising (developed by the founders of Chair Entertainment when they worked at GlyphX Games).

Continue reading Interview: Orson Scott Card talks about games, including his own dream project

Feature: PC Gamers Can Compete in the First Virtual U.S. Open


By John Gaudiosi

Real golfers have to be very good to make it into the U.S. Open, where they can tee off against pros like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. This year, anyone with a PC can experience the challenges of the U.S. Open's Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y. for free. World Golf Tour (www.wgt.com) has partnered with the United States Golf Association to integrate the real golf tournament, which takes place June 18 – 21, into a Flash-based high definition videogame that plays on any PC or Mac with no installation.

Better yet, World Golf Tour is offering an incentive for gamers to pick up the virtual clubs. While the pros are playing for money and prestige, the Virtual U.S. Open is offering prizes, including an all-expenses paid trip to the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in California.

Continue reading Feature: PC Gamers Can Compete in the First Virtual U.S. Open

Feature: PC Gamers Can Compete in the First Virtual U.S. Open Two


To create this game, a large crew of photographers and programmers spend about two weeks at each course capturing every nook and cranny of each hole from every possible angle, including overhead helicopter shots. Over several months, this data is translated into a 2 ½-D golf experience that replicates the challenges of the actual course.

"It's a tremendous experience for the average golfer," said Imada. "You get to visually experience what we face on Tour each week. Since World Golf Tour goes out and takes actual images of the course, you see the exact same thing we do when we are on the course. The game also does a great job of portraying the difficulty and challenges that these courses present to us. When the casual fan is watching on TV they can't see just how uphill some holes are, or how large the undulations are on some of the greens. This game gives you all of that and it's never been done this way before. And the best part about it is that fans gain access to these premier courses for free."

According to Cheng, over 2 million players have already experienced WGT, which has expanded this year to offer a social networking component for golfers and gamers to congregate both on the virtual course and off. In addition to being able to access the game though WGT.com, golf fans can experience the Virtual U.S. Open through additional online gateways at ESPN.com, NBC.com and USOPEN.com.

Attendees at the U.S. Open will be able to try the virtual links with 11 game kiosks spread throughout the Trophy Room, media center and USGA hospitality tent. In addition, there will be a two-page spread in the official U.S. Open program featuring the free golf videogame. To further connect the online experience with the real thing, Cheng said USOPEN.com announcers will invite golfers to partake in the virtual competition to win that trip to Pebble Beach next June.

Moving forward, Cheng envisions the WGT game being incorporated into actual golf broadcasts, further blurring the line between sport and videogame.

"WGT will be used to show viewers the exact perspective the players see standing on the course," explained Cheng. "TV angles and wide views do not show you the true difficultly a player faces. Also, the announcers can run multiple simulations on WGT and see and show the view what will happen if the player misses a shot short or long, so they can understand why the player needs to manage the 'miss' hits and play it safe."

Gamers who purchased the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or Wii versions of EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 10 games can also partake in this weekend's activities via the EA Sports Live Tournaments mode. The Upper Deck Challenge offers a virtual Bethpage Black course and two levels of difficulty: Amateur and Tour Pro. EA is also giving gamers an incentive to log online and play in the form of autographed memorabilia from Upper Deck.
So in addition to experiencing Tiger Woods and the PGA TOUR pros on television, gamers now have two new ways to not only play the U.S. Open course, but walk away a winner, as well. And there are no commercial breaks in videogame golf.

Continue reading Feature: PC Gamers Can Compete in the First Virtual U.S. Open Two

Interview: Transformers' Shia LaBeouf on games he loves Two


Is that why you wouldn't play LEGO Star Wars with Megan Fox on the set of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen?
Correct. Who wants to play the Wii version of LEGO Star Wars. I'd rather eat glass.

So I guess you didn't play LEGO Indiana Jones?
The LEGO Indiana Jones I'm not going to speak on, but my feelings aren't very different.

Did you play any videogames on set?

We played Madden.

Who's your team on Madden?
Giants. See, Ramon (Rodriguez) is big into sports games. I'm not necessarily. But to keep it copasetic on set you had to have a game for everybody. So of course there was LEGO Star Wars for Megan, which is fantastic and she could play that in solitude. Ramon loves sports games and I'm into Sid Meier's Civilization. So we had all of it covered. Transformers is a cast of gamers. I'm not the only gamer. Literally, there's nobody in the cast who doesn't play games except maybe (John) Turturro.

What are your thoughts on the fact that kids today not only have the Transformers toys, but these cool videogames to play with?
Toys aren't enough.

Do you wish you had these games when you were a kid?

I did have these as a kid.

But these games today are way better than what you had as a kid?
Yeah, but if you start comparing NBA Jam, for instance, 1998, hot title. And I put that up against Madden 08, I love NBA Jam. I'd take NBA Jam over Madden 08. If you were to ask somebody who grew up with Centipede to put that game up against Sid Meier's Civilization, they'd probably go with Centipede. You don't just enjoy playing the games. I know every theme song to every Super Mario game you can ever think of and I'll sing them to myself. I'll be in the shower and I'm not singing Bryan McKnight or Neil Diamond, I'm singing Mario Bros. songs: dee..dee.dee.dee.dee...deet. I swear to God, man. It's weird. I have this special place in the lexicon of my information that is specifically game. I don't think I'm alone in that. I think there's a whole generation of dudes just like me.


Continue reading Interview: Transformers' Shia LaBeouf on games he loves Two

Interview: Transformers' Shia LaBeouf on games he loves


By John Gaudiosi

When he's not battling CGI Decepticons, actor Shia Labeouf can be found playing PC games or Xbox 360 online. With his $200 million movie, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, opening June 24, LaBeouf pulled double duty, working with Activision to fine-tune the second Transformers videogame experience. In addition to adding his voice work and likeness to the new game (co-star Megan Fox also went virtual), LaBeouf told the game makers what he did and did not like about the original game. One new feature that resulted from these conversations was the new online gameplay. LaBeouf talks about his love of videogames, what he played on set, and why he prefers Civ IV to Wii in this exclusive interview.

Continue reading Interview: Transformers' Shia LaBeouf on games he loves

GDC 2009: Epic Games shows off new Unreal Engine 3 features Two

"A robust party system is now a must-have feature for today's triple-A multiplayer games, and the solution now bundled into UE3 represents man-years of development effort – and has received millions of player-hours of validation," said Sweeney.

Unreal MCP includes a set of tools for visualizing gameplay, including such features as heat maps displaying regions of player activity within a level. This allows developers to collect game-flow statistics, enabling design teams to analyze player behavior, including positional data. During a demo of the Day One map from Gears of War 2, "heat maps" showed how players used a mortar in a hallway to strategically take out enemies. This technology allows game designers to physically see how even the little changes they make in a level can impact gameplay and can aid with balancing out a map or level. A designer can even zoom in close to the action and filter how much data is gathered. It can be used in both single-player and multiplayer game design during and after a game's release.

" Using Unreal MCP's data visualization tool, you can view game stats as heat maps overlaid on a 2D view of a level, seeing where players were most frequently active," said Sweeney. "Such visual tools are essential both in spotting flow problems and tweaking games during development, and in enhancing the multiplayer experience post-release."

Sweeney added that client-side support for Unreal MCP is built into UE3 through a collection of interfaces to allow flexible data exchange using standard HTTP protocol or custom protocols using TCP sockets. Unreal MCP supports secure communication between PC and Xbox 360 using Microsoft's LIVE Server Platform (LSP); direct communication to central servers on the network; and communication with PlayStation 3 and PC games.
Speaking of PS3, UE3 now supports downloadable games on Sony's platform. By taking advantage of the console's new Game Content Utility, PS3 games are now able to run as retail disc games, downloaded from the PlayStation Store, or even a patch, all without even recompiling the code.

A new content browser and search engine, powered by a back-end database, enables designers to find game assets near-instantly among large amounts of source content. With thumbnail previews, support for content tagging, and asset collection management, Sweeney said the Unreal Content Browser frees artists from the need to manually open files to look for game assets.

"We looked at how easy it was to search the net with Google, and find photos on Flickr, and redesigned Unreal Engine 3's content searching and tagging along those lines," said Sweeney,. "The result was a productivity boon for artists and designers. New support for creating and sharing collections of assets enables artists to manage groups of game assets independent of file location."

During the demo, a search for a "pillar" pulled up all pillars in the data base, which could then be dragged and dropped into a personal collection. Any content within a collection can be shared with other members of the team Each night everyone on a team has tagged added to their collection during the sync process. The demo showed how a rock could be placed right into a game level and then have additional textures and materials added to it within minutes. The whole process, including the ability to scale and manipulate the object in the collection or in the gameworld, was seamless. The technology brings a Web 2.0 feel to the process of browsing, searching, and creating game assets, greatly enhancing artist and designer workflow.

Rounding out the new features for UE3 2009 is a new artificial intelligence system that now supports the automatic creation and use of navigation meshes. Sweeney said this gives AI-controlled characters increased spatial awareness of the world around them and enabling them to make smarter movement decisions.
"Navigation meshes further optimize the performance and memory usage of AI relative to traditional node-based navigation systems, thanks to a more efficient representation and less reliance on collision-detection for movement," said Sweeney.

Epic Games will be showing these new features to press and game developers later today in San Francisco at the Game Developers Conference.

Continue reading GDC 2009: Epic Games shows off new Unreal Engine 3 features Two

GDC 2009: Epic Games shows off new Unreal Engine 3 features


By John Gaudiosi

Epic Games gave Big Download an exclusive first look at the latest advances in its Unreal Engine 3 technology at its studio in Cary NC last week. Tim Sweeney, chief executive officer and technical director of Epic Games, talks about what impact new features like Unreal Lightmass, Unreal MCP and the new Unreal Content Browser will have on both the developers working on new titles and the actual games created by UE3.

To showcase Unreal Lightmass, a new global illumination solver, Epic used a demo of the Sponza palace in Israel. Sponza illustrates how Lightmass renders color bleeding on the screen and illustrates effects like translucent and meshed shadows. The technology also supports emissive materials.

Sweeney said Unreal Lightmass produces high-quality static lighting with next-generation effects, such as: soft shadows with accurate penumbrae; diffuse and specular interreflection; and color bleeding. The result is higher quality lighting, while retaining full compatibility with UE3's existing lighting and shadowing features.

Continue reading GDC 2009: Epic Games shows off new Unreal Engine 3 features

Feature: Zombie Studios on developing Blacklight for games, film and comics



By John Gaudiosi


Independent videogame developer Zombie Studios, which has made PC games like America's Army: Special Forces, Shadow Ops and Delta Force: Task Force Dagger, has an answer to the videogame-to-film problem that has plagued movies from Doom to the recent Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Rather than creating a game and then shopping it around Hollywood, Zombie has created a new tactical first-person shooter PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game franchise and partnered with Union Entertainment and Fox Atomic to create a new movie and comic book series around the military action franchise, Blacklight.

Continue reading Feature: Zombie Studios on developing Blacklight for games, film and comics

Feature: More on Unreal Engine 3's Atlas Technology

By John Gaudiosi

With a large number of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games in development using Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3 technology, Epic Games China has created the first development suite of tools catering to this growing sector of games. Atlas Technology consists of persistent world server technology and MMO games content creation and management tools that work directly with UE3. This new technology will provide developers with a solid foundation on which to build MMO games, casual and session based games, and community and e-commerce applications.

Continue reading Feature: More on Unreal Engine 3's Atlas Technology

Feature: Gazillion Entertainment CEO on Marvel MMO projects Two

Hutter said Super Hero Squad will be a "freemium" MMO game that's supported through in-game micro-transactions with an allowance model. Players can explore much of the world for free, but also opt to enter into a monthly currency program that allows in-game virtual purchases at a value price.

Work is currently underway on Marvel Universe at Gargantuan Studios in San Mateo, CA, another one of Gazillion's four wholly owned MMO game developers. (Slipgate Ironworks in San Mateo, CA, which is working on an original MMO game, is the fourth.)

"We have a dedicated studio working on the Marvel Universe game and I think people are going to be pretty excited to learn who's piloting that project," said Hutter. "We have a great team that has a history of building great entertainment for the core gamer. What we're really trying to do is create a game that will satisfy the core in a very persuasive way, but also bring in fans who have different types of play styles. We can build a very large and robust Marvel Universe with incredible amount of support from fan bases of different types, which means a bigger experience with more expansions for core and non-core alike. We don't think the two are mutually exclusive."

To ensure that the core gamer is part of the equation, Hutter has been assembling a team of MMO game developers from some of the top publishers in the business. He's pulled folks from Blizzard Entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment, Cryptic Studios and NCsoft. Steve Cartwright, design & production principal, was a co-founder of Activision and later worked at Midway Games and Electronic Arts. Serdar Copur, producer, was the lead producer on City of Heroes/Villains at Cryptic Studios.

Ralph Guggenheim, exec.producer of episodic content, was a co-founder of Pixar and an executive producer at EA. Ed Hocking, quality assurance manager, held the same position at Sony Online Entertainment. Jim Pearson, lead concept artist, was an art director at Pixar on Toy Story 2 and Finding Nemo. Richard Rowan, Regine Weiner, director of Game Services, previously served as the customer service director for Turner Games and was a manager at Disney Online. John Yoo, lead systems designer, was lead designer at Perpetual Entertainment for Star Trek Online and also oversaw the virtual economy at Blizzard Entertainment for World of Warcraft.

In addition to developing the actual games, Gazillion has spent the past three years building the front-end and back-end architecture that allows its studios to share resources seamlessly. Hutter said that each time a build of a game is made, the team is actually accessing that build inside the studio from data centers worldwide. Gazillion has the technology capable to make everything from full streaming 3D world MMO experiences to engaging in-browser experiences for the PC. Down the line, when the next generation of consoles support in-browser experiences, Hutter said his team will be read for that, as well.

Continue reading Feature: Gazillion Entertainment CEO on Marvel MMO projects Two

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