Unreal Tournament is making a return as a totally free, community-led project, courtesy of Epic Games. Dave Cook speaks with senior programmer and project lead Steve Polge about the studio’s radical new approach.
(Please note: There are no images of the new Unreal Tournament yet. The shots below are from previous entries)
Nope, not free-to-play, not free-to-try, or some faux free where there are hidden pay-walls everywhere. It’s going to be absolutely free to all, and you’ll only spend a dime if you choose to buy community-created maps and content.
Development will be informed by seasoned Unreal Tournament players, and content creators within the community will receive a percentage of every sale. That’s quite a remarkable business model for a game that would easily sell a significant volume as a £50 boxed product, and it’s a move that can only be applauded.
I spoke with Epic’s Steven Polge over email to find out more. Here’s what we discussed:
On why Epic is bringing back Unreal Tournament now:
Polge: “We wanted to bring back Unreal Tournament in collaboration with our passionate Unreal Tournament fans and mod community. With the recent launch of Unreal Engine 4, we now have tools available which will allow us to partner with our fans to create the definitive Unreal Tournament for all of us.”
“We love Unreal Tournament, but Epic has limited resources and we were never able to devote the appropriate effort that Unreal Tournament deserves. With the release of Unreal Engine 4 we see an opportunity to work with our UE4 developer community and Unreal Tournament fans, who have already proven their ability to contribute with all the amazing mods and content they made for our past UT titles.”
On how Unreal Tournament development will grow openly with the community:
Polge: “The discussions about project direction won’t be internal; they are and will be occurring on our forums, in real time. We’ll work closely with the community to decide what is included in the core game, and at the same time developers will be able to realize their own creative visions and provide them seamlessly and transparently in our marketplace. Our first priority is to work with our community to develop the core competitive shooter game that we all agree is the right next step for Unreal Tournament.”
On the game’s free nature:
Polge: “We like this model because it’s fundamentally generous. It allows us to succeed by doing the right thing for the community, and it keeps all of us, at Epic and in the community, on the same page with what we are trying to accomplish.”
On the new Unreal Tournament marketplace:
Polge: “The marketplace for Unreal Tournament will be an extension of the Unreal Engine marketplace, which you’ll be able to see taking shape with every update to Unreal Engine 4. For the mod community to succeed, we first need to create a successful game that appeals to and sustains a sizable and vibrant community of players.
“We’ll work with our mod developers to support their development needs with the core game platform and we’ll make sure it’s easy for players to discover the mod experiences available in the UT marketplace.”
On how much creators will be compensated:
Polge: “We haven’t figured that out yet, but our goal is to provide a model that is attractive and fair for our content creators.”
On how significant an overhaul this is:
Polge: We want to make a game that is clearly Unreal Tournament, and brings up to date the classic competitive FPS that we and our fans love. The community of fans that will be helping us build this game has strong ideas about the elements of Unreal Tournament that are important to retain.
“We’ll be making all the decisions about how UT goes forward in close collaboration with them, working to build a modern version of the experience that appeals to our fans and to PC gamers everywhere.”
On whether or not old maps and weapons will return:
Polge: “Well, it is Unreal Tournament, and there are some classic maps and weapons that are fundamentally part of that experience. We want to make a game that feels comfortable for our fans, but new and exciting at the same time.”
On the studio’s own admission that things will go wrong during this experimental project:
Polge: “The development process we are proposing is both exciting and intimidating. We see a great opportunity to take advantage of the commitment, talent, and expertise of our fans, which will allow us to explore more ideas than we ever have before. At the same time, organizing this giant, passionate crowd into a productive collaboration will not be easy.
“We’ll certainly be learning on the way, and we look forward to this challenge. We know that working more closely with our fans and really listening to them throughout the development process will help us improve as game developers and ultimately create a better game.”
And finally, on what this new, transparent method says about modern development:
Polge: “Game developers are learning that being responsive to their fans and involving them as much as possible results in better and more successful games. We’re excited to be taking the next big step in that direction.”
We’ll have more on the new Unreal Tournament as it happens. Stay tuned.