Unreal Engine 4 to “exclusively target console”

By Alec Meer on March 13th, 2008 at 1:20 pm.

Do. You. See. What. We. Did. There.

It’s been coming for a while, if we’re honest. Epic have recently been taking it in turns to say disparaging things about the state of PC gaming, to the point that CliffyB’s now considered something of a Benedict Arnold figure in some of the more rabid PC camps.

And now they’re burning another bridge, further confirming that PC is no longer their most beloved (edit – for those misinterpreting, Epic are not abandoning the PC, just confirming they’re developing their next-gen engine for consoles first and foremost). It’s hardly a shock, but allow us a teary moment anyway.

The latest instalment of TG Daily’s fact-packed multi-part chat with Epic CEO Tim Sweeney contains this minor bombshell:

Version 4 [of the Unreal engine] will exclusively target the next console generation, Microsoft’s successor for the Xbox 360, Sony’s successor for the Playstation 3 – and if Nintendo ships a machine with similar hardware specs, then that also. PCs will follow after that.

Well, the good news is we’ll get it eventually, though probably in the form of a port of a game that’s been out on Xbox 720 for a while already, and possibly with its features dictated more by what console hardware is capable of than has previously been the case. As Sweeney suggests the new engine’s due on console around 2011-2012, we’re in for a long, long wait to find out.

Guess all our moaning about UT3 not being enough of a step forward, and then not even buying the thing, may have spelt the end of Unreal’s loving relationship with the PC. Now we’re just one of its lesser concubines. UT engine revisions have always been synonymous with the march of PC progress, so who do we now look to as our vanguard? Valve and Crytek, perhaps. In the case of the former, there’s the excitement of their ability to twist a relatively undemanding engine into impossibly creative new shapes, and in the latter of making us gasp at evermore photo-real vistas. Epic? Pah – who needs ‘em?

Well, my worry is less about missing out on another UT, if there is one, and more being denied great third-party titles that happen to use the engine – Bioshock was one of the first Unreal Engine 3 games, for instance. We don’t wanna miss out on stuff like that because the new engine’s bound up in Xboxian red tape for 18 months. We shall see, anyway.

Edit – it is worth nothing that Unreal Engine 3 first lead on console too, with Gears of War – though I’m not sure whether that was by accident or design, what with UT3 suffering a year-long delay. The engine turned PC friendly with Medal of Honor Airborne and Bioshock. And, crikey, look at all the Unreal 3-powered games out or due out soonish.

More happily, Sweeney hints what’s next for PC hardware:

Intel will implement lots of extensions into the CPU and Nvidia will integrate many extensions into the GPU by the time next-gen consoles begin to surface. We are going to see some CPU cores that will deal with gameplay logic, some GPU stuff that will run general computing… and two different compilers. One for the GPU and one for the CPU. The result will be a reduction of our dependence on bloated middleware that slows things down, shielding the real functionality of the devices.

This quad-core CPU isn’t going to last me much longer, is it? Sigh. Still, it’ll be fascinating to see what multi-core gaming done properly will be like, and if all the old talk of dedicated-core physics or AI can ever come to pass. The whole piece is well worth a read, going into further detail about the changing nature of hardware, the next console generation and the state of play with Unreal Engine 4.

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84 Comments »

  1. drunkymonkey says:

    Ah yes, Epic! Valued members of the PC Gaming Alliance! Fighting for the platform’s best interests, by releasing their engines months after their introductions to consoles!

  2. weegosan says:

    the market for soulless engine-tech-demo fps games on the pc is kind of limited at best nowadays, wheres with the 75% of the year weaksauce console release schedules they are guaranteed sellers. at least they know their spin.

  3. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    I think i’d best avoid going to Eurogamer for a few days after this gets out!

  4. Taxman says:

    Sheesh over-react much of course the console architectures is what Unreal Engine 4 should be tailored to that’s just common sense given Epic’s dominance in the engine licensing arena & the size of those markets.

    Epic say the PC version of their engine for licensees will follow after that so I don’t see what the big deal is they will have to have a PC version anyway for prototyping games

    It’s not like anyone is going to lead with the PC as the primary platform with the Unreal engine in this day and age anyway.

    As for Valves source it is not at all popular with other development studios because it is at the other end of the spectrum and too PC focused but Valve do the smart thing and not try to push the technical envelope. But it should gain traction with PC devs looking to get a start in the PC games market.

    As for Crytek well I wouldn’t bet on them being PC fanboy’s darling, they have been touting their Cryengine on the consoles to all the devs and a Crysis or spin off Like Xbox FarCry is all but assured for the Xbox or PS3.

  5. Cigol says:

    No great loss, in fact, no loss at all. They haven’t been relevant since the first and second iterations of UT.

  6. Phil says:

    I find it hard to care about FPS games promised for the 2011-12 period – by that point;
    A.) the console market will no doubt have collapsed again following the failure of the next gen to supplant PS2
    B.) Half Life 3 will have arrived to rule all things
    C.) The ELE meteor promised by the Mayans will arrive – which puts in all in perspective really.

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    Phil: Yeah, with the Mayan Apocalypse looming, I find it hard to be that worried.

    PC DOOMED. ALSO, EARTH.

    KG

  8. Homunculus says:

    Welp, I guess that’s any prospect of a timely Jill of the Jungle sequel well and truly scuppered (also, ALL OF HUMANITY).

  9. derFeef says:

    Nope, Epic is doomed – they forget their roots. Its thinking too far in the future to say that the consoles could run a newer engine. They even struggle with UE3 today. (omg my english skills are bad)

  10. Nimic says:

    If I ever snap and turn into a crazy serial killer, it will be because of my fanboy-esque hate for consoles, with a couple exceptions. Watch the headlines.

  11. cliffski says:

    who cares? my only console game is wii-sports. gameplay beats graphics 1000% over,
    Fuck epic.

  12. Dinger says:

    A lot can change, especially considering their current investment in the UT4 engine (uh, one guy researching a design document, as disinct from writing one). He’s surprisingly optimistic about the PC market.

    But should he be? His argument is: “as multi-core processors get more powerful, previous functions that were relegated to the GPU will be put on the CPU die. As a result, every PC will be able to play games, and do so out-of-the-box.”

    This argument assumes that people will continue to buy the same kinds of PCs in similar numbers. In other words, that a desktop PC remains the same thing.
    2008 is the year of the “race to the bottom”. After the Eee came out last year, now several manufacturers are trying to make internet-capable computers for as cheap as possible. These multi-core wonders are gonna be cool, but are people going to continue shelling out thousands for their home PC when they can get something that will handle all their non-gaming needs for hundreds?

  13. Robin says:

    I’ll always think of Epic as a poor man’s Apogee.

  14. Optimaximal says:

    Hardware is not the problem and hasn’t been for years… It’s getting cheaper and cheaper and companies like PCWorld are selling decent multi-core systems with relatively decent dedicated graphics for miniscule amounts of money.

    Its the software that has fucked everything up, specifically Vistas numerous problems and idiosyncrasies…

  15. kalain says:

    Bah. Epic Sux. besides, from a dev point of view, PC’s will still get UE4 first since they have to develop on it first before moving it to a bunch of out-dated, old tech consoles. So, really, we PC gamers will still be getting all the goodies first, just that the gamers won’t see it :(

    On another note, the way consoles are progressing, they will be PC by 2010/2012 anyway and so locked into their companies that many people might be forced away from them. Oh, I can dream….

  16. Okami says:

    Robin wins.

  17. Meat Circus says:

    Meh. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    Maybe we need never hear any more of Epic’s imbecilic dribblings again.

    Worth every penny.

  18. Nallen says:

    Oh I see, you crossed out the P and C! excuse me while I lol for a while.

    Also, Epic make dull games afaiac and frequently whine about how PCs are too crappy and doomed. The should be booted out of the (meaningless and pointless) PC gaming consortium on principle.

  19. Nick says:

    Hmm, won’t this discourage people from using it at all? If they want a cross platform (including PC) release, they won’t be licensing Unreal 4.Macho surely?

  20. Alexander says:

    Under the presumption that windows 7 will ‘change the way we use our computers’, that computers should simply be text-processing and internet surfing shells people tend to forget that the new digital generation actually use their computers for many other purposes.

    The prospect of consoles being the only medium for videogames really sounds like the above described apocalypse.

    P.S> I am glad epic takes the console dildo and leaves mr. Carmack to FPXploit us without os-discrimination.

  21. Nick says:

    Oh, I just read that they licence it to the CG animators as well.. they use Macs or PCs?

  22. AbyssUK says:

    So long and thanks for all the fish

  23. dhex says:

    it’s fair to say they’d been telegraphing – perhaps “shouting” is more appropriate – this move for a while.

    as a side note, the 2012 gag is the best scam the mckenna brothers ever pulled off.

  24. Dinger says:

    Okay, two paratextual comments:

    A. Once again, awesome graphics, up there with last week’s Yarrrts. I’m hoping for a rider on the weekend omnibus indicating the finest RPS graphic art of the preceding week.

    B. Those of you running adblock plus are missing a real treat. Contextual ads on RPS usually involve a video game, or a dating service. But put “Console Exclusive” in the title, and voila’: Chinese Mail Order brides.

    Adservers do not lie. They target.

  25. Ging says:

    Even though the engine will be targeted at next gen consoles, I doubt that they’ll not also nod to pc developers and keep that side of it relatively up to date, if only so they can actually develop the thing before the next gen consoles become a reality.

    Also, Phil – you actually think Half Life 3 will be here by 2011 / 2012? I think I have more faith in the Mayan apocalypse than that actually happening! :D

    of other note, it’s worth reading Mr Carmacks views on future hardware (PC and console), just for another perspective from a terrifyingly clever engine developer. clicky

  26. Butler` says:

    nice one Rein you lying c***.

  27. Alex says:

    Also, Phil – you actually think Half Life 3 will be here by 2011 / 2012? I think I have more faith in the Mayan apocalypse than that actually happening!

    Also also, the HL2 Episodes already are HL3 (or will be, when Episode 3 is released, which still could be long beyond 2011/2012).

    My Nerd Index just went up a gazillion points.

  28. Mario Granger says:

    The move makes sense to me. Millions of gamers spew bile at Epic’s decision to go console only for their next engine release yet barely 100,000 people buy the games when they are available.

    Gamers are so odd.

    This does make Epic’s spot in the PC Gaming Alliance utterly hilarious though.

  29. Alex says:

    Millions of gamers spew bile at Epic’s decision to go console only for their next engine release yet barely 100,000 people buy the games when they are available.

    Have you tried playing it?

    It’s more of the same, basically – not that there’s much wrong with that, it’s just not something you want to spend 50 or so euros on.

    Basically, it looks like this time it might actually be the game is the thing to blame those poor numbers on.

  30. Cigol says:

    I think that’s his point, only in a way that’s less disparaging about their (in?)ability to make a game we actually want to buy.

    To add on that though, their spot in the PC Gaming Alliance isn’t hilarious, it’s troubling. As with Microsoft we have a conflict of interest surely?

    Basically, it looks like this time it might actually be the game is the thing to blame those poor numbers on.

    I agree, but it had to be a huge mistake to release it around the time they did. The market was saturated with titles.

  31. Optimaximal says:

    I just bought UT3 for £15… I’ve played it once and am considering uninstalling it and selling it off for profit (its the collectors edition).

    I don’t think I’ve experienced a game that is more dull, boring, dire, lame, over-engineered and full of itself since, well, Unreal 2…

  32. Larington says:

    Yeah, so they release games (And now it seems the whole underlying render technology) on console first, and then wonder why the games don’t do so well on PC?

    Its because lots of people have a console and PC nowadays, numnuts… Not forgetting that only the early adopters will be able to run these resource hog games and not all of them are going to buy all the high spec games released for the PC.

    I mean, god forbid that people make PC games that run on mid-range computers instead of only the highest spec stuff bought in the last 3 months!

    Then theres the issue that, really, they haven’t evolved the gameplay at all in UT3 and even cut out some gameplay modes. Its just more of the same for a full price game when the content feels more like that of an expansion pack (IE couple of new levels and some different weapon/character models). – I’d get more bang out of my pounds by reinstalling UT2k4 to be honest.

  33. Rook says:

    I think there needs to be a rule about games journalists being able to comment on what people like John Carmack and Tim Sweeney are saying, especially when they’re off into technical lala land.

  34. Alec Meer says:

    Care to back that up with what I’ve actually done wrong here?

  35. dhex says:

    I mean, god forbid that people make PC games that run on mid-range computers instead of only the highest spec stuff bought in the last 3 months!

    but most games can. there are very few exceptions (crysis comes to mind).

  36. Flint says:

    I like the fact that by smutting over the P and C, you’re left with the Finnish word for “no”.

    “NO” of protest, “NO GAMES” or the implication that without PC the company will be negative from now on!? The genius minds of RPS protest in such clever ways.

  37. martin says:

    goodbye epic. we will miss your graphics demos. maybe you find some innovation in console-wonder land, i.e. a one button fps, just ask peter m.

  38. derFeef says:

    John Carmack has made an engine which should look and perform the same on all systems (except wii). So I just think Epic has crappy coders or is jsut too lazy. Poor guys, E(e)pic fail.

  39. Larington says:

    @dhex

    Yeah I cut that sentence out and replaced it with other whining… Yep, it is pretty rare, I think my argument is that it shouldn’t happen at all and that those few developers are shooting themselves in the foot by doing it. Crysis is a particularly good example of this. IE: Look at your market, look at what people have and tune the system specs to that… You certainly don’t want to make a game that will only really sell in 6 months time when the game is on budget and those first day sales the publishers always harp on about are long gone.

  40. Rook says:

    In essence it reads to me very much like a typical daily mail/fox news style reactionary journalism. You focus on one point from a very long interview and hype it up for reactionary purposes.

    I mean the language of

    “And now they’re burning another bridge, further confirming that PC is no longer their most beloved. It’s hardly a shock, but allow us a teary moment anyway.”

    seems a little disproportionate especially when you yourself note that this is just what happened this time around with Unreal 3, lead on consoles, bring it to PC. Afterall, why have the headline “UE4 to come to PC” when you can lead with a more inflammatory out of context quote “UE4 to exclusively target consoles”. I bet I know which one will get more hits. (for example, see the amount of people that linked to part 1 of Tim’s interview with the quote on how PCs were good for everything except games, when really he was referring to the kind of mid/low-range PCs that were being sold in stores etc

    But in the more general sense I get the feeling that a lot of what Tim Sweeney, John Carmack (very good article on ID tech 6 (the one after rage here http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=532&type=overview) and Doug Lombardi hinted at in a piece with Gamasutra http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=17744 is that the next generation of gaming hardware is going to be very different from what the last 20 or so years of of hardware development has been leading to. Ever since the birth of the add-on GPU we’ve been following one specific model of development which has essentially been “bigger, faster” wheras the next step is looking to be completely different. (Carmack in particular is great at explaining this). Who takes these steps first is going to be very interesting. Obviously it’s a lot easier for consoles to go in a completely different direction than PCs, but PCs always have the constant iterative advantages. Just as multicore was pushed first on the consoles (see the quotes from Gabe Newell on the xbox360 for how vilified that design direction looked for a PC company) it’s entirely possible that consoles will again lead the new paradigm shift in hardware development. And as such wouldn’t you want to work with this technology first?

  41. DiGi says:

    I think that first PC game with Unreal Engine 3 was Rainbow Six Vegas… Over half year before BioShock…

  42. much2much says:

    Look to Cryengine for the future.

    They spent so much effort making very useful tools to develop with it assuming they’d have to be bigger and better than the competition. Now the way forward is theirs. The time it takes for systems to be powerful enough to run it well is not significant.

  43. FringeRock says:

    I have an aging PC now (5 years on) with just the one upgrade over that time (to a Radeon X800 PRO woop de doo) and I’m still thoroughly enjoying pretty Source based games.

    Then I load up UT3 and it runs fast enough but looks like crap even though I have all settings on maximum. So, am I not even allowed to see what the game *could* look like, even if it would be at about 1 frame per minute?

    I think CliffyB is a legend but I can’t help feeling that Epic really are more at home in consoleland these days.

  44. Willem says:

    Epic can go fuck themselves. Their games are shit anyway.

  45. Alec Meer says:

    Rook – I see your point – but I think you’re being sensationalist in accusing me of being sensationalist. You seem to be judging the piece by a headline (and a factually correct headline at that) that you’re displeased with. It isn’t a screaming, run for the hills piece by any measure.
    On my part, it’s about raising discussion points rather than hits – I don’t expect a short summary of someone’s else’s interview with a spot of analysis thrown in to get us Slashdotted. I am, though, as annoyed as anyone that it’s lead to people simply calling Epic names.

  46. Sonance says:

    If PC developers find themselves having to jump through hoops to use the UE4 engine, they’ll just switch to id Tech, Source, Lithtech or the multitude of other dependable engines out there. It’ll be nice for console developers to have something developed especially for them by a dependable tech company, but I don’t think this is going to be the start of some huge paradigmatic shift within the games industry and spell doom for the PC (which has apparently been a dying gaming platform since the late 80s).

  47. Kieron Gillen says:

    Rook: Oddly enough, I was going to post that Carmack interview in a minute. You can look forward to me trying to interpret it.

    KG

  48. dhex says:

    You certainly don’t want to make a game that will only really sell in 6 months time when the game is on budget and those first day sales the publishers always harp on about are long gone.

    true, but crysis – and more importantly, the 2nd iteration of the cryengine – will be a benchmark for some time to come.

    someone, after all, has to push the envelope. crysis sold well enough, and was playable enough on the lower high-end presuming you scaled it the hell back.

  49. Corion says:

    Bah. UT3 felt like a console->PC port anyway.

    Epic, I’ve lost my fanboy-ism for you.

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