Mod Is Real: Unreal Tournament 2014 Announced, Free

By Nathan Grayson on May 8th, 2014 at 7:08 pm.

Update: It’s Unreal Tournament 2014, an entirely free sequel. Not free-to-play. No microtransactions whatsoever, apparently. Epic will make money by taking cuts from a user-driven mod marketplace. The game is extremely early, and Epic plans to develop it alongside fans.

Original: Epic is about to announce something involving Unreal Tournament. Normally that would mean I’d be typing at you live from some extravagant Epic-rented volcano yacht in the Baltic sea, but not this time. Instead, the mega-developer is broadcasting the announcement to all humans by way of technomagical streaming technology. You can watch below.

Here’s how it will all work, straight from Epic:

Here’s the plan:

  • We’ve created a small team of UT veterans that are beginning work on the project starting today.
  • From the very first line of code, the very first art created and design decision made, development will happen in the open, as a collaboration between Epic, UT fans and UE4 developers. We’ll be using forums for discussion, and Twitch streams for regular updates.
  • If you are a fan and you want to participate, create a free account and join the forum discussion.
  • All code and content will be available live to UE4 developers on GitHub.
  • The game will be true to its roots as a competitive FPS.
  • Development will be focused on Windows, Mac and Linux.

So what’s the catch?

  • It will take many months until the game is playable by gamers. This is real development from scratch.
  • When the game is playable, it will be free. Not free to play, just free.
  • We’ll eventually create a marketplace where developers, modders, artists and gamers can give away, buy and sell mods and content. Earnings from the marketplace will be split between the mod/content developer, and Epic. That’s how we plan to pay for the game.

Pretty wild to see a developer usually prone to secrecy and polished triple-A releases opening itself up like this. It’s a brave new world, to be sure. Personally speaking, I miss old-school UT’s blazing pace and outlandish maps, so I’m looking forward to seeing what both Epic and fans come up with.

With development happening publicly from the ground-up, Epic wants players to be involved asap. You can get involved right now on the game’s forums. There’s also a wiki that I imagine will soon include engine tutorials and the like.

It’s a daring move (at least, by triple-A standards), to say the least. A laudable one, too, I think. I mean, there are some nightmare scenarios like Epic not letting modders release their stuff for free (if they so desire) or Epic treating this like a giant commercial for Unreal Engine 4. Both seem unlikely, but you never know. Epic’s also in an odd place these days in the wake of superstar departures like Cliff Bleszinski and Rod Fergusson, but having UT series vets like Steve Polge and David Spalinski at the helm is a good sign.

For now, though, new Unreal Tournament! What do you want to see out of this one?

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84 Comments »

Top comments

  1. Delusibeta says:

    So, effectively Open (Unreal) Arena, except backed by a major development studio. Quite interesting, I wonder how it’s going to play out.

  2. Colej_uk says:

    The (non) payment model sounds great actually, fully on board with that as long as there is enough free content to force the paid-for mods to be high quality to justify their pricetag.

    This is going to be great for people who want to learn game development skills like mapping and modelling.

    But the design by committee approach to the core game worries me. Nobody will agree on anything! I feel like any decent game really needs clear, decisive design direction. But I wish them the best of luck, this is an exciting idea!

  1. lofaszjoska says:

    Dang, missed it.
    Is it a straight up remake of UT or UT2004?
    Is it new? Does it have microtransactions, unlockables and all that? Does it have iron sights and no health pickups?
    Is it PC exclusive?

    • Tiberius says:

      Sorry about that!
      No.
      Yes. None (as in zero). Only if the userbase begs for it (it will be developed in conversation with the community).
      Yes, for all OS flavors.

      Hope those are direct enough answers.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      I’m really positive we won’t see anything as hardcore as the UTs of yore, times have changed and all that stuff.

      Then again i could aswell be wrong, and that would actually be nice.

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        I think some parts of older FPS design could really benefit modern games a lot. I’m on a retro gaming spree at the moment, playing through the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series and that thought pops up in my head constantly.

        I’m well into the second game from 1997. The level design is incredible and it just feels like a lot of the good things from those old games have just gone missing from modern FPS design for some reason.

        And I’m not saying this because of rose tinted retro-spectacles as I’d never played Dark Forces 2 before yesterday. I may add though that the graphics looks like mouldy gym socks and the FMV cutscenes are absolutely embarassing and I’ve had two run-around-the-level-for-an-hour-because-I-missed-a-tiny-switch moments.

        • bill says:

          Dark forces 2 is awesome. I can honestly say i didn’t notice how ropey the FMV cutscenes were first tiem around. But i did the second time.

          Have you reached the bit where you have to ascend the big tower? I remember running around for ages trying to get it, because the way in is effectively a secret.. but I rather liked that about the game.
          It has some of the best level/puzzle design of any FPS ever.

          PS/ After you finish, you should definitely play Mysteries of the sith. It’s great too, and it has colored lighting!

          • Press X to Gary Busey says:

            Do you mean the huge open area patrolled by AT-ST’s with storm troopers, turrets and probe droids all over the place?
            I stumbled a bit getting into the guard room to open the inner door but it was surprisingly straight forward to get there. Perhaps I got lucky because I saw that the second gate opened two holes in the ceiling but I got crushed probably five times before I realized I had to go inside the “tooth” thing on the door as it raised into the hole.
            Another good thing is that the levels can be both huge and complex but you rarely get lost even though there’s no NPC to open doors or talk in your ear or a bombardment of screen instructions and pointing arrows. Just a, sometimes cryptic, mission objective in the menu and the level design itself.

            I’ll do Mysteries of the Sith as soon as I’m done. :)

        • vedder says:

          Jedi Knight has some of the best level design in any shooter ever. If not the best.

          • Darth Gangrel says:

            I totally agree with that! The first Jedi Knight has quite expansive and very well-designed levels, exploring them is great fun. It was my first PC game, but I’m not praising it because of nostalgia either. I still play it and got it running on my laptop with a graphics improvement mod, so the “mouldy gym socks” look that Press X to Gary Busey mentioned are now just somewhat smelly gym socks. I also really liked the FMV sequences (wonderful overacting) and thinks it’s a shame that not more games use(d) them. I’m not into strategy games, so I haven’t seen the FMV goodness that the Red Alert games offer.

          • Press X to Gary Busey says:

            I tried to use the improved textures and models on my first attempt to get the game running. But it just wouldn’t run in hardware mode on my Windows 8.1 desktop even after I spent hours following every forum thread and guide I could find. I just got it running in software mode at 20-30 FPS without mods.

            I ended up trying to run it on my linux laptop and it worked perfectly after 5 minutes of setting it up in Wine (PlayOnLinux) with a patched exe.

            I’m running it entirely vanilla (because I don’t want to push my luck. The archaic graphics didn’t bother me at all after maybe 30 minutes of playing (some things are actually impressive, like no distance fog, the view range and widescreen resolution with UI adapting to it).
            The walking/running felt like driving a hovercraft but after getting used to it I actually like it.

            Also, the Steam version doesn’t have any music which is a bummer (the original plays music from disc tracks and the digital port just cuts the music. (I have to run the soundtrack through a dll hack and winamp in the background…).

            Edit: And the FMV’s are better than straight CGI cutscenes from that period (as seen in some of the cutscenes in the game). But they are just really campy today. :P

  2. Shooop says:

    Sounds great at first, but then I start thinking “How are the mod makers going to get the money to pay Epic?”

    • JohnArr says:

      Probably similar to TF2 hats, just with mods. A (possibly curated?) marketplace of mods, weapon, levels, mutators etc. with a pricetag that Epic takes a % of.

      Edit: what the update says. Exciting!

      • Koshinator says:

        The marketplace is more like the Unity Asset store, where assets can be purchased from the designer, with Epic taking a % cut, and be used in new UE4 projects.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      The modmakers will make their money with… Microtransactions of course!

    • Yardsailor says:

      You probably have it backwards…you buy the mods from the makers, epic gets a cut.

  3. Delusibeta says:

    So, effectively Open (Unreal) Arena, except backed by a major development studio. Quite interesting, I wonder how it’s going to play out.

    • DrMcCoy says:

      Also probably not licensed under the terms of a FLOSS license. Remember, OpenArena is GPLv2.

      • frenchy2k1 says:

        The license will be a thing to look for.
        From my point of view, although they plan to make some money off the marketplace, the main draw is for it to be a showcase for UE4. Epic already offers some partial games, fully free for the taking (for anyone paying a UE4 license). You can just take those demos, repackage and sell it if you wish for, so a very permissive license (just, once again, tied to the engine license). If they have something close for UT2014, this would be impressive.
        I doubt they will be that permissive, but one can dream (it is their IP and quite valuable).

        It *WILL* be a showcase for UE4 and with a fully open code, will be quite nice to learn (think ID engine, but in the SAME generation). Very cheap investment for a future generation of programmers ($20/month).

  4. Evil Pancakes says:

    This could either be the best thing ever or the greatest of disappointments. I am hoping for the former, preparing for the latter.
    This talk of a new Unreal game has me itching to play UT again though. Anyone know if there is even some decent activity in UT2k4? And how badly will I be destroyed after not playing for about 8 years?

  5. Baines says:

    So, what does this mean for OpenTournament? The community project to make an Unreal Tournament game in Unreal Engine 4, which got the blessing of Epic (though not permission to use the UT name or designs for legal reasons) because Epic had no plans to make a new Unreal Tournament.

    Was there some kind of deal made, or is Epic just stealing the community thunder after seeing that there was some interest in a new UT?

  6. CMaster says:

    Wow, this is quite exciting.

    Here’s hoping that with a (presumably) relativley small development team, they can get the core stuff right, and get away from the steady decline in Art Direction and core Shootiness that the UT series has suffered (with a small positive uptick with 2004 after 2003).

    I’ve enjoyed all the UT games, but each time it feels like there’s been less of a good game, not more.

  7. XhomeB says:

    I’m not a huge fan of the “design by committee” aproach, mostly because of the fact everyone’s got their own idea of what the final result should look and play like. UT99 and UT2k4 fans’ desires are likely to clash, especially when it comes to physics and character movement.
    Still, I’m hoping for the best and can’t help but crack a smile, a new UT is being made in this day and age, that’s simply great, I so miss skill-based arena shooters.

  8. derbefrier says:

    fuck yes this is awesome.

  9. Moraven says:

    Just like DOTA and the Steamworks route.

    I think Blizzard originally had been wanting to do this with Starcraft 2 in time, but talk about a marketplace years ago.
    SC2 Arcade is free, giving everyone free access to maps and mods. No marketplace exists yet for modders to make any money yet.

    Stuff like this is what makes PC Gaming great.

  10. Horg says:

    Squee.

  11. hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

    or Epic treating this like a giant commercial for Unreal Engine 4. Both seem unlikely, but you never know.

    I don’t see why that seems unlikely to you; the last three UTs were commercials for their engines. Have you forgotten all the levels like KGalleon that only ever existed to show off the tech? I mean, if UT3 was ever intended for anything except selling UE3 licenses, I couldn’t see it.

  12. Text_Fish says:

    “‘Competitive’ FPS”. Pfft. It was mindless key-mashing. Fun, but labeling it competitive is seriously liberal.

    I’m excited about the news though, modding’s taken a bit of a back seat to indie projects recently so it’ll be fun to see what amateurs decide to do with less of a “I want to be the new Notch” attitude.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      I really don’t think you have any idea of what the most skilled players can do in the old UTs, besides when there’s such an abyss between a “pro” and a “noob” it’s hard to call for key mashing. Well, unless you’re one of those who say the same about Tekken and others.

      Source: the interwebs are full of this stuff.

      • CmdrCrunchy says:

        Have to agree with this, its just as competitive as Counter Strike if you ask me.

    • sairas says:

      here’s an example of lot of mindless mashing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EekQmZBt-zI

    • fish99 says:

      How is UT instagib button mashing? It’s pure aiming and reflexes.

  13. Colej_uk says:

    The (non) payment model sounds great actually, fully on board with that as long as there is enough free content to force the paid-for mods to be high quality to justify their pricetag.

    This is going to be great for people who want to learn game development skills like mapping and modelling.

    But the design by committee approach to the core game worries me. Nobody will agree on anything! I feel like any decent game really needs clear, decisive design direction. But I wish them the best of luck, this is an exciting idea!

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      To be honest most of that “design by committee” is PR speak. I’m not saying there won’t be anything like that, i just doubt that the developers will give up most of their power.

      • derbefrier says:

        thats what i thought too. I am sure the core dev team will have the final say of what goes into the base game and how it plays. Even reading the article it doesnt sound like its a free for all just your normal give feedback and if we like it it will go into the game type thing.

  14. Calculon says:

    I badly miss competitive FPS’s (no COD et. all don’t count)

    Quite a brave move for Epic – takes some serious leadership to steer a new course. I hope it works out well for them and the fans

    • WrenBoy says:

      I agree completely and I hope it’s a huge success. Of course for it to be a success the mod makers will have to create content gamers feel is worth money.

      That’s a pretty big leap of faith for Epic. Best of luck to them.

  15. Megakoresh says:

    I dearly hope this works out well for them and will be a great success, this is amazing!

  16. green frog says:

    Weren’t they insisting just a couple weeks ago that they had “no plans” for the Unreal franchise? That’s a pretty quick reversal.

    Anyway, who cares. This is good news. I had a lot of fun with UT2004 (not that I was any good at it).

  17. jgthespy says:

    Epic must be getting bored with their buckets of money. They really seem to be shifting toward shaking things up and experimentation lately. I’m pretty excited to see what happens with this and the new UE4 licensing model. Very cool.

  18. Casimir's Blake says:

    I still play UT2004. It’s simply immediate fun multiplayer arena shooting. It did so much right and still does. The only thing lacking is people playing it.

    I remain cautiously optimistic that UT2014 could be something similar with updated visuals. Because that’s all I want. “Onslaught 2014″.

  19. Zankmam says:

    Why don’t they just *fully* remake UT2004?

    No need for innovation, just remake the game.

    • Gargenville says:

      Nintendo might have a management position for you.

      • Zankmam says:

        Nice one, man. I really, really dislike Nintendo and their business practices (when it comes to iteration, dumb sequels and their series in general).

        So you got me, oh the irony!

        Though, I think that this would still be a bit of a different scenario. :P

        • Koozer says:

          Nnnngh Nintendo fanboyism building.

          • MadTinkerer says:

            As a Nintendo fanboy whose collection (which technically is shared with my brother) includes thousands of games and at least one of every single Nintendo console other than Wii U, Virtual Boy, and the Game & Watches, I find absolutely nothing wrong with Gargenville’s comment.

            They even copied their own previous console this generation, giving us a higher-definition Wii with an iPad-like controller that has worse battery life than the Virtual Boy.

            edit: If there was better third-party support, it would be different. But right now there’s only ports, Nintendo remakes and Wonderful 101, and as wonderfully hardcore as W101 is, no individual game is worth buying a multi-hundred-dollar console for it alone.

          • Qazi says:

            And Monster Hunter.

  20. LogicalDash says:

    I don’t understand how this differs from microtransactions. A lot of the hats and alternative weapon models in TF2 are user created.

    • P.Funk says:

      The difference is that you never have to buy a single hat to play TF2 to its fullest, all weapons and hats and such are dropped randomly and are freely tradable between players. The internal TF2 economy even distinguishes between dropped items and store bought ones: the store bought ones are branded as such and are significantly depreciated in value.

      Basically, while I still think F2P gutted the actual average player quality, the microtransaction system is as good as it can be. You can actually trade within TF2 without ever buying anything, sell items on the steam marketplace and buy actual steam games without ever depositing a real dollar.

      Its the best case scenario for F2P basically.

  21. HadToLogin says:

    It will be great until I see “Facing Worlds” with $5 price tag.

    • Horg says:

      They would have to be insane to charge anything like that much for a single map.

    • plsdeleteme says:

      Then another mapper will just make Facing Worlds v2 for 0$. I highly doubt that there is any money to be made by individual maps. Skins, full fledged mods: sure. Maps: not really.

      • HadToLogin says:

        Yes, you’re right. Someone else would make free version then. But who knows if Epic won’t delete it saying “we only allow that other version”?

        Still, as long as I won’t hit some stupid invisible wall, I’ll give it a try.

    • Stardreamer says:

      Hall of Giants.

  22. lautalocos says:

    wait, wont the mods split the playerbase?if they where all free, there would be no problem, but what if someone has, as an example, “xXNarutoFanXx rebalance mod”, but other players dont want that mod or cant pay for it.

    unless the mods that can be made are only reskins, but i doubt it

  23. Rao Dao Zao says:

    I always played against the bots, up the tournament ladders and I even enjoyed the UT3 ham-as-fuck campaign. I was kind of hoping UT4 would be a direct sequel to UT3…

    I guess this open development stuff might mean bots, but a singleplayer ladder seems unlikely. Multiplayer is king in the committee of design. :(

    • The First Door says:

      I’m with you (mostly) on this! I’d love to see a single player ladder again, as I always really enjoyed them. Well, I say always, but I thought the single player in UT3 was bloody awful. All the worst bits of Gears of War and none of the ‘tournament’ which defined the older ones. Plus a terrible and pointless cliffhanger!

      Much preferred the UT2004 style, it was a bit more silly and fun just having it as a galaxy wide tournament! Plus I really want Assault mode back in this one. I had so much fun with AS-Convoy!

      • Christo4 says:

        I agree, i think they should make a SP part, even if it’s with pay for 10$ or something since i enjoyed it as well.
        Afaik you could also pick your team so it was interesting.

        Also yes, PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE MAKE SOME FKIN AWESOME ASSAULT MAPS!!!!
        I found them the most fun next to onslaught because they were really dynamic, with multiple objectives and dunno, i guess just pure awesome FUN!!!!

      • particlese says:

        YUS. Bring on the Assault maps, the strange weapons, and (I hope) the old t-shirts-for-armor character style!

  24. Keyrock says:

    M-M-M-M-Monster Kill

    Kill

    Kill

    • Lambchops says:

      Flak monkey.

      Oh and not to forget once vehicles were introduced,

      PANCAKE!

    • Tom Walker says:

      And BOOM.
      Everyone says BOOM now.
      It started with UT though, right?
      Normal people stole our thing.
      It’s like being a rapper in the 90s.

  25. fish99 says:

    I just hope aesthetically it’s more UT/UT99 and less UT3 or UT2003/4. So that means everyone shouldn’t be wearing massive power armour, or look like reused assets from Gears of War. More sci-fi, less grunge.

    Also, quick movement, no ADS, keep most modes vehicle free, and bring back instagib!

    • Wedge says:

      UT99 didn’t even HAVE an art style. It was just a bunch of random ass maps thrown together. 2Kx had great aesthetic design for maps, usually themed around one of the races/factions.

      • fish99 says:

        Well, TBH I never owned UT99, so I’m mainly talking about the original UT and Unreal multiplayer, and I’m mainly talking about the character models. UT2K4 took the character models in a Q3A direction with power armour and robots, rather than the regular humanoid looking characters from UT.

        The maps were admittedly very varied in visual style, but I mostly played the sci-fi ones.

    • Excelle says:

      This. When I want to play UT, I always load up UT99, because it is graphically and stylistically just much more interesting than 2003/4. Sure, the latter had some interesting game modes but it all just diluted the pure joy of running around on Deck 16 or Phobos, or floating away into space on Morpheus. Back to basics people!

      • Stardreamer says:

        Why have I had to scroll down through more than half the comments section just to find someone preaching my own particular religion!? You, Sir/Madam/Sentient Entity, are hereby awarded the satisfaction of being more Right than all your fellow commenters to date.

        UT99 has never been bettered and is, for my money, still the best version of the series. For me it was all about the insane levels of customisation the game allowed. I had a list of 64 friends, family and co-workers set up, each with a unique look – many of them with unique models farmed from Polygon or one of the other sites. Hell, I even had CTF and Deathmatch composed entirely of Transformers bots! It was also easy to set up matches as, say, Girls vs Boys. The whole ‘e-sports’, branded character nonsense Unreal came up with for later versions just sucked balls. I mean, a Marine stereotype called Malcolm? Woah, I hope you didn’t hurt yourselves coming up with that one, Epic.

        Back to basics indeed! UT99 is your daddy and you love it!

      • fish99 says:

        I spent so many hours on Phobos and Deck16 in the original UT (mostly against bots if I’m honest). Phobos in particular is just perfect map design.

        Most of the assault and CTF maps in UT were amazing too.

        • Stardreamer says:

          Wasn’t big on Phobos, more of a Morpheus man, but I loved Deck 16 also. UT99 was one of those perfect games where the design elements of everything just coalesced into near perfection. The levels, the character customisation, the mutators… I know the word genius is bandied around too readily these days but UT99 was exactly that. A genuine work of art every bit as deserving as Doom or Deus Ex in the annals of PC gaming history.

  26. DickSocrates says:

    Pay for mods? Super nope.

    • shaydeeadi says:

      The game is free, I’m not quite sure what you want. They have said not everything will be paid and this should mean only the cream of the crop will cost money, I don’t see what is so affronting about paying someone (or a group) a small amount of cash for their work if it is of a suitably high quality (a quality level that you can decide on.) It gives incentives to them, to improve the mod further or maybe it becomes it’s own game within the platform with enough support. If they are popular enough it could become a full time development situation for them, the potential for this is huge.

      Games curated by the community at large with the scope to grow into something huge. I suppose it goes against the principles of mods being free but I love this idea.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Why should everyone who makes a cool mod have to give it away for free? Modding has existed in a weird feudalistic system for a long time, and it’s about time that they have the opportunity to be compensated. The status quo sucks, most people know it sucks, and finally companies like Valve and Epic are doing something about it (in exchange for some nice cha-ching for themselves as well).

      Not to mention that the allure of profit is going to attract a lot more highly skilled modders who can now justify the time it takes to make something nice.

      • Christo4 says:

        This is quite a good point. Once you look at games like Skyrim, for which the sole reason it is played even now are mods, or the release of dark souls 1 where there was a fix needed, you kinda think that they should be getting something in return, though i guess they are also doing it for fun and credentials if necessary.

        • HadToLogin says:

          Right now have around 150 mods in Skyrim. If each would cost me $1, that would be $150 to pay.

          Now, lets say UT2014 will require similar number of paid mods (because standard assets will be plain ugly, it will have one map and bla bla) – that’s quacking expensive for free game :)

    • ran93r says:

      I mapped and modded for Q2, Q3 and UT engine titles.
      Pretty damn casual but the thought of being able to get “some” financial reward would have been great.
      I would have (and will) gladly pay a small fee to support the mods that are relevant to my interests, especially if the base game is free.

      This, of course, all hinges on whether that base game is a massive return to form, or a giant pile of shit.

  27. Viscount Montgomery Gilvesfthorfpe says:

    WICKED SICK!

  28. Shodex says:

    Woah.

  29. Garash says:

    Epic treating this like a giant commercial for Unreal Engine 4

    It is. How is that a bad thing?

  30. Greg Wild says:

    Amazing stuff. Pretty much (though not quite) an open-source triple A game. This is something we need more of.

    Great to see Epic going back to their roots.

  31. caff says:

    Very excited by this.

    Personally I hope for some of the simplicity but sheer vehicular looniness of UT2004.

    What a nice word “vehicular” is.

  32. Tom Walker says:

    This may very well become My New Thing.