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Epic: "It's A Myth That We've Abandoned PC"

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More bigwig fruits from my time at GameHorizon now, chums. I managed to snag an hour with Epic’s outspoken vice-president Mark Rein, who bought me a cheese sandwich, showed me prototypes of the Unreal engine running on iPhone, iPad and Android (platforms which he considers “the future”), and let me spam him with questions for GamesIndustry.biz.

Come the end of the interview, I swapped out my GI hat for my RPS hat (eight feet high, made of diamonds and love) and harangued him a little about Epic’s stance on the PC these days – they suffered a whole lot of shelling from the angrytank following some disparaging comments about the platform, and the revelation that Gears of War 2 wouldn’t come to our beloved boxes. For Rein at least, the idea the Epic are now anti-PC is a misconception…

RPS: You were talking this morning about how frustratingly long it takes to push a patch out on 360 or PS3, yet you guys have been a little bit more resitant to PC of late – a platform where your hands are totally untied in that regard.

No. Not at all resistant. We’ve released an update to the Unreal Development Kit every single month, with huge amounts of changes and improvements which are obviously going into our engine and making them available to customers, we’ve tested them on PC.

If you look at all the UDK games they’re PC only at this point, and we will eventually see them on other devices. But I think that’s a myth that we’ve abandoned the PC, it’s just not true. I mean, Bulletstorm is coming out on three platforms; we’ve just been in this situation where our biggest franchise has been published by a console-holder, and was a very console designed-IP.

I wouldn’t want people to mistake that for our intentions or our interests, because we’re very much into the PC game business. In fact, when we stop this, I will show you a video from a whole bunch a PC-specific features in our engine [unfortunately his iPad’s battery died at some point during the interview, so he couldn’t make good on this – but he really did try], really high end stuff that we’re going to do.

RPS: Is it more, though, that it’s the engine and the UDK that you’re pushing to PC, but your own games will remain much more console focused?

[Forcefully] Don’t confuse Gears of War with everything we do. There’s a tendency to think that because we wanna do one thing really, really well and not a hundred things really poorly or just okay that we’re less committed. Bulletstorm is PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 and you’ll see when it comes out, it will be a full-blown, oh-my-god amazing PC game. I wouldn’t draw the comparisons there.

RPS: Do you feel that, despite the fact most of your business comes from engine licensing, you’re up against a widespread conception or presumption that you are the Gears Of War guys, like Bungie are the Halo guys and Infinity Ward are – er, were – the Call of Duty guys? Does it get on your nerves?

[Sighs]. It doesn’t bother me. Because… we sell technology for which the primary money-maker is console games, so if you were to ask me, years ago when we were entering the console space, if people thought of us as the PC company, and we had to overcome that… So I’m okay with that. That’s an opportunity.

So now the opportunity is swinging back the other way, the opportunity to show that we’re still the PC company. And honestly I think Bulletstorm and UDK are firmly establishing us in the PC realm as still the big player there. So that’s okay. That’s a great challenge to have, and we’re constantly working at it.

The rest of the interview will be up on GI.biz in the next few days. Worth a read, as he says more about Epic’s nature these days, and goes into what he thinks gaming’s course will be.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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