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. Rook says:

    Alec: Yeah, sorry. It really wasn’t meant to be aimed at you directly – obviously it reads that way, but I was originally talking in general (and I love RPS so keep up the good work).

    I think a lot of games journalism at the moment has this kind of vibe that it’s “us vs them”. In that you can like PC or consoles, 360 or PS3, casual or hardcore. I think the polish journalists on Dawn of War is an excellent example of this, NCTS2 indeed.

    I think the idea of worrying that what Tim says may translate into no more PC versions of classics in 5-7 years time seems so strange when such a leap requires all these massive individual changes to happen leading up to it.

  2. Theory says:

    especially when you yourself note that this is just what happened this time around with Unreal 3, lead on consoles, bring it to PC.

    It is also noted that the fact that Gears came out before UT3 was a quirk of release schedules. It’s not like they created the engine exclusively for consoles and only started thinking about a PC port after it was all up and running there – which is what will happen with UE4.

    Edit: always F5 before commenting!

  3. The Sombrero Kid says:

    it’s simple though the only reason UE3 had so much uptake with developers was because it targeted all the systems, people will just use id tech 5

  4. Alex says:

    someone, after all, has to push the envelope.

    Really? I find myself wondering more and more about this. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any progress, but the way it is now, there’s a new game engine every 6 months or so.

    And do we really need to go toward photo-realism? I’m not convinced. It feels a bit like a red herring, to me.

    crysis sold well enough, and was playable enough on the lower high-end presuming you scaled it the hell back.

    Sadly, when you had to peel off all the visual sparkliness you saw the rather mediocre shooter hiding under it. ;)

  5. Alec Meer says:

    Rook – no worries. While we’re a PC-specific site because we dig the breadth of gaming it offers, we’re not even slightly platform partisan. It’s simply curious, even a little sad, to see a dev who’s played such a significant part in PC gaming over the years head down a different direction.

  6. Optimaximal says:

    It’s simply curious, even a little sad, to see a dev who’s played such a significant part in PC gaming over the years head down a different direction.

    Thats the part I don’t understand…

    Epic isn’t a small startup organisation – why not fork development teams and target most of their time towards consoles yet retain a dedicated PC staff for other projects just to keep their core fanbase happy?

    All i’ve seen come out of that company in the past 6 months/1 year is a load of bile decrying the PC format (often as a generalised whole) and proclaiming a large deal of us pirates because we didn’t buy their latest old-skool deathmatching game/console port that still doesn’t work properly after 6 months.

    It’s like they’re trying to score brownie points with the console fanboys whilst alienating PC users.
    Maybe their intentions and points are in the right place, but the way they’re presenting themselves to the media (which is only going to interpret/misinterpret what they hear) is just painting them as a company of rich assholes just out for MORE MONEH!!!

  7. Larington says:

    Yeah, I think, and people are welcome to disagree with me on this, that ideally a commercial product should not be used to push new *TECHNOLOGY* boundaries unless its also very scalable a la Source engine (Gameplay is another matter of course since its rarely quite so tech dependant). I sometimes wonder if there should be a special cross-company group whose job it is is to create a special gaming oriented benchmarking tool that no on company owns (IE can manipulate) but which all tech companies with an interest in the graphics biz would contribute to the funding/maintanence of it.

    This group would be perfect for contributions from various luminaries (John Carmack amongst them) to try different rendering approaches and find new ways to push the technology envelope.
    Sadly I suspect this is a case of wishful thinking pipe dream type stuff, but it certainly would act as a nice precursor to encouraging sharing of knowledge so that theres less of that whole re-inventing the wheel stuff that goes on.

    It’d have a whole lot more to contribute to PC gaming than that ‘PC Gaming Alliance’ we’re heard about recently.

  8. Shawny D says:

    So basically Epic is just going to be more of the same in the future. UE3′s big launch was on 360, UE4 looks to do the same. If Gabe Newell is right in his thinking, the PC is about to pioneer another massive change in the way we play games, with homogeneous computing. This will probably be much different than the currant direction consoles seem to be chasing, which is basically the PC’s current upgrade path. In the end, UE4 will still have to run on PC’s, after all, it’s made on PC’s and will need to demo on them as well.

    Until Epic makes a game that PC Gamers are just frothing over, this news tidbit is really of no concern. If we can expect UT 4 to be just another iteration of UT 3 with better graphics, what the hell are we missing?

  9. Ging says:

    Optimaximal: It’s not just Epic that have discussed their issues with Piracy, even the guys at id have pointed out that leading on consoles makes more sense for them (to a point) due to the piracy issue on the PC. Infinity Ward pointed out that they’ve tracked the number of players online with a pirate copy of COD4 and are stunned by the numbers they got.

    Epic may not be a small startup, but they are, to all intents and purposes still quite a small company compared to a lot of developers out there. Consider that they only recently got up to size to take on two projects at once (UT3 and GoW), which still required a lot of the UT3 team to work on GoW.

    Larington: I’m not so sure that there is in fact all that much re-inventing of wheels these days. Middleware is such a massive part of game development and I suspect a majority of gamers aren’t even aware of that.

  10. Tak says:

    As a pretty big Unreal and UT fan (2k4 is still one of the most fun old-skoolers out there), UT3 is frankly rubbish, and so is this move.

    I’m also not entirely sure that UE4 being console first is such a good thing, but it makes some sense. UE3 seems to be pushing the limits of what (at least the 360, don’t know about the PS3) can handle. So if you work towards having a more powerful engine on the PC (where the hardware is a few steps beyond consoles) you could bump into the same situation in the future (UE4 is two steps ahead of PS4 or xCone 1080). There’s little point in trying to deny that the big moniez is in consoles, and an engine to license out might actually help the console market turn away from mediocre FPS after mediocre TPS, as time doesn’t have to be devoted to figuring out how to make all the pretties work and can more be spent on making all the funs work.

  11. RichPowers says:

    Epic and id haven’t made a thoroughly fun game in years; UT3 and DOOM 3 both smack of “graphics simulator for our new game engine.”

    Both studios make large sums of money by licensing their game engines. If consoles offer more lucrative opportunities for game engines — especially game engines used for rehashed muscle-man FPS’s — then I can’t blame them.

  12. Dinger says:

    Tak is probably right. PCs will always have in their group the most powerful machines (until the Neo-Geo NextGen appears with a price tag of $10,000 in March, 2008 money). Design-wise, it doesn’t work very well when you build for the most powerful platform and then scale down. But it works great in the other direction. So if you do Multiplatform, you develop PC last in logical order. Logical order doesn’t necessarily correspond to temporal order, of course, especially in release times.

  13. martin says:

    maybe one problem for the devs is that they do not seem to realize that their games just do not work for the audience that can afford to buy them and is willing to do so. i am 27 now and i am gaming since C64, my first contact with fps was doom, quake, half life etc. A lot of new games look wonderful but that is not enough, they do not offer anything new, it is just a rehash of old games in a new package. it is fun to play the old concepts in a new package every now and then but i am looking for something new.

    when i was a teenager i played most genres and most games, i “borrowed” the games from the net because i could not afford all of them. i bought some games like civ because they were able to entertain me for a long time, but the fps games were like junk food, get it, play through it, forget about it.

    today i buy all my games but i am looking for quality and quantity at a reasonable price. a game like portal gives me all of this. it is a fresh concept and it is almost long enough at its price tag. i would not have touched portal if it would be 50€ or 40€. it also happens to look great. stalker is also a great game, even with its faults, for its 40€ to 50€.

    ut3 or cod4 is junk food, krabby patties. it tastes so great but it is not enough to make you full, is to expensive and after 3 patties you don’t want to eat any more. it is not my problem that they put beaten gold on the patty instead of giving me an additional salad or a coke for free and then wonder that i do not come to them that often any more.

    lets just blame the pirates that wouldn’t have bought the game anyway, our game-concepts can’t be wrong. lets go to console-wonderland where the people do not have a better taste yet and lets try to sell them our trash from yesteryear in a new chrome package maybe with a one button control.

    pc gaming is not dying, it’s devs like epic who go the way of the dinosaurs on the pc platform because they can’t adapt to gamers demands.

    just release quality instead of tech demos for a quality thirsty pc audience, otherwise go away. someone will take your place

    rant mode off

  14. Caiman says:

    Epic’s own games, if you ask me, aren’t what the industry needs anyway – where’s the innovation there? As for their engine, well there are plenty of competitors with excellent PC-specific engines and given Epic’s recent mismanaging of its own UE3 (by most accounts) I’d say no real loss. Pity to see Epic sink to such depths, but I think they were already there frankly.

  15. hoohoo says:

    should be interesting in the next few weeks if the rumors of them finally coming to steam bear out. there are references to epic games in the steam clientregistry.

  16. restricted3 says:

    Fuck them. Their consolitis has destroyed their game-making skills, sadly.

  17. Ging says:

    I am somewhat bemused by the vitriol some of you guys throw at Epic for what is, essentially a business decision. It’s almost as if by releasing UT3 they’ve popped round your house and burnt it to the ground, taking not only your prized pet but your entire family too, that they’ve now gone and talked about this (and the whole CB PC disarray thing) must be like having them then do in your grand parents. (no offense intended to anyone with that lot btw)

    Fair play if you don’t enjoy the game – but there’s no real need to get quite so up in arms, you don’t like the dev studio or their titles, we get the picture.

  18. Larington says:

    Really, its co-incidence. They release the same old same old on console and these people who don’t know any better yet lap it up, and yes, its a business decision.

    But ask any designer and they’ll agree that business gets in the way of making great games ALL the time. Frankly, I struggle to enjoy a console FPS because I just find the control method so inefficient compared to the old mouse and keyboard setup which has a lot of extra fidelity (IE typing stuff to people).

    The one exception I’ve experienced for this was Goldeneye, and I only find that noteworthy because its aiming system helped to make up for the inefficiencies of the controller.

    So I’m in the “don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out” camp because frankly, I don’t like being called a pirate just because the game released x months ago on a console didn’t do so well on PC (Gamers aren’t known for their patience so they’ll get it as soon as they can, which is bad for PC only gamers). Who are they kidding anyway, 1 million copies sold is BAD? WTF?

  19. Bidermaier says:

    So the meat cubes wont be compatibles with future PCs?

  20. teknohed says:

    They aren’t the only one to abandon PC gaming…I did that a couple years ago. The only things I play on my PC now are Flash Games, RTS Games (and then only Company of Heroes and DAwn of War now and then) and Game Tap (and other emulators).

  21. martin says:

    i guess that all the hate they get here, me included, is because they tell us that pc gaming is dying, they tell us they are going to release ue4 primary for consolewonderland and maybe sometime for pc.

    they do not seem to realize that the pc crowd seems to no longer care for epics rather boring game concepts, almost non existent storytelling and is no longer dazzled by pretty graphics anymore. and we are fed up with being called pirates every time a boring so called AAA game does not meet a publishers or devs sales expectations.

    why did they even join the pcga? the pcga is just another plot to lock gamers into windows os and services like live.

    epic is known for its engines but was loved for its games.

  22. UncleLou says:

    I am somewhat bemused by the vitriol some of you guys throw at Epic for what is, essentially a business decision.

    I think people wouldn’t be half as annoyed if Epic just did what they think they have to do and shut up about it.

  23. Mo says:

    I take offence to all the comments going, “Epic release the same shitty games on consoles, and console gamers are too dumb to notice the game is shit!” You know, I can’t decide which is worse, console fanboys furiously arguing over which console is the best, or PC Elitist snobs.

    Putting piracy aside for a moment, I’d say the biggest problem with the PC is that there is far too much work involved in getting a game up and running. Drivers, sub-par hardware, the hour it takes for your average game to install, patching, tweaking settings, so on. I’m just not arsed any more.

    The other issue is that the average lifetime of a computer is too short. My PC is a couple of years old, and it runs modern games at sub-10fps, even at 640×480 with everything on low. That shouldn’t happen. I don’t care if the game looks terrible, I just want to play it. If I can play it, I can have fun. And if I have fun, I’ll probably be enticed into buying a higher spec PC.

    When it came down to it, I took convenience over marginally better quality. Work exhausts me. When I come home, I want to be able to pop in a DVD and have it “just work”. Consoles do that. PCs need to do that too.

  24. martin says:

    i do play pc games and most of the time there are no problems. If a problem occurs the problem is the game itself and not the pc, at least in my experience.

    you are right console fanboys are as bad as pc elitists, but it is still true that epic has released the same stuff year after year, just with more chrome. console gamers tend to be younger or are not so long into gaming than pc gamers so most of this stuff is totally new for them but it’s old hat for pc gamers.

    and don’t forget that many devs and publishers have made the pc games experience worse themselves by publishing beta software (so what just release patch after patch), using problem-ridden anti-piracy software etc.

    i think valve did it ride with steam. ok, it fells shitty that they can revoke your licence anytime but why should they and steam is still better than dvd-checks, starforce etc. steam or steam like services are the future for pc gaming.

  25. brynden says:

    who gives a damn their last engine was over hyped anyway imo bioshock engine was better assassins creed engine is way better half2 engine is as much as good and way older gothic 3 engine was way better crysis was better and others more so they can keep it

  26. Alec Meer says:

    The Bioshock engine is the Unreal 3 engine.

  27. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    If your pc takes an hour to install games and runs things at less than 10fps at 640 x 480 despite only being a couple of years old, you probably just bought a crap pc. Just sayin’.

  28. Mo says:

    Agreed. It’s not the finest system. It’s a 2.8GHz, 512mb RAM, GeForce FX 5200 Go. The “Go” brings up an important point … a laptop. Which I know isn’t the best for gaming, but as a student (and a developer) it’s critical that I have a laptop.

    But why everything insists on running so slow is a mystery to me. Most games are still single-core, and I’ve got one of the fastest single-cores ever. :) RAM is probably an issue, but I’m betting it’s the videocard that’s slowing everything down. Now the 5200 is a shit card, but it can draw plenty of polygons with ease. What it can’t do is draw plenty of pixelshaded polygons. If developers scaled their games down to fixed-pipeline graphics, there’d be alot more people playing games. Even integrated graphics cards would work! They’d look like utter crap, but that’s okay … I set the graphics to “low” I know what I’m getting into. :)

    Also,

    who gives a damn their last engine was over hyped anyway imo bioshock engine was better

    The Bioshock engine is the Unreal 3 engine.

    I LOL’d *so* hard. :)

  29. Nick says:

    crappy *Laptop* grahics card and 512 MB RAM are the bottlenecks.

  30. Mo says:

    But that’s my point, they shouldn’t be. The FX 5200 Go is actually a solid card … it’ll draw polygons like it’s nobodies business. :) Where it doesn’t work too well is with pixel shadery stuff, and that is, for the most part, fluff. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to play a game on my laptop at 640×480, with low-res textures, and shaders disabled.

    If PC developers insist that everyone has to have a good graphics card, of course their games aren’t going to sell!

  31. Culprit says:

    I have yet to own a console (Wii is tempting + Fit); I’ve been FPSing since Wolf3D. I like some RTT/RTS (WiC is fun), but I really like new gameplay over anything else. That’s why I still play Source MODs and indy games more than just about anything else. I’m glad some of these are starting to trickle into the console-land, but the ground is often broken on the PC first.

    I really hope that PC/console gaming will get away from the “chrome” driven concepts and start pushing out new ideas (physics/portals/etc) and new interfaces. Track IR and haptic controllers and wiimotes and stuff really get my attention more than slightly evolved gameplay with extra photo-finish(TM).

  32. Larington says:

    Unfortunately I’m going to be stuck on my anti-FPS-consoling until I see more inventiveness on the level of goldeneye (Not necessarily success), but I know that it won’t be particularly likely because all the companies who have run to the consoles are doing it because they are risk averse (Mind you, I’m picking up on rumours that suggest that WiiWare may soon be the place to go for inovative new titles).

    Meanwhile, I find PCs to be a much more attractive platform because they are more suited to mods, user generated content and so on and so forth.
    Consoles cannot replace PCs and never will, they’ve simply carved out their own (Admittedly larger) market, but to say that just because consoles are there and more successful means that PC gaming is going to collapse is a significant overstatement and honestly, I take offence to it.

  33. br3ntbr0 says:

    Major failure by Epic. Cliffy B lacks the vision to see how the Unreal Engine could be utilized in MMO development, which is where the growth is for PC games. PC gaming is changing, and they have no concept on how to capitalize on it apparently. Changing does not mean death, I’d argue that PC gaming is financially more lucrative than ever…for those that get it.

  34. lumpi says:

    I don’t miss them.

    Have fun on consoles, but quit butchering PC games. I’m fine with it.