As well as revealing Unreal Engine 5 today with a natty tech demo, Epic announced some other news for game-makers. For starters, all developers can now use the online technoguts they initially created for Fortnite, for free. That's easy access to cross-platform systems for things like friends, matchmaking, lobbies, and accounts. It's not limited to Unreal Engine either. They've also changed the Unreal Engine license so devs making games on it can earn more before they need to start to paying royalties.
So! The Epic Online Services are now available to everyone in an SDK for free. That's systems for cross-platform matchmaking, lobbies, friends, leaderboards, analytics, accounts, logins, and more. A bit like Xbox Live or Valve's Steamworks, but nothing to do with Microsoft or Valve. It's not only for games using Unreal Engine or the Epic Games Store, mind. They say you can use whichever bits you want, wham it into other game engines like Unity, use it on other stores and platforms like Steam or XBL, use your own account system, and generally go wild.
Right now they offer the SDK for Windows, Mac, Linux, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch, with iOS and Mac support to follow. Voice chat and other features are coming later too.
So how come all this is free? Epic say that they "are happy to offer these services to game developers for free with the goal of encouraging wider adoption of all of Epic's offerings, and of making cross-play, cross-progression, and other open and interconnected, online features more accessible to everyone." Hmm. I remain wary of Epic's intentions as they go throwing money around but this could be neat and handy for devs.
And today's other dev-focused Epic news is that they've changed the license for selling games built on Unreal Engine. Previously, they charged their 5% royalty on all gross revenue past the first $3000 (£2400) in each calendar quarter. Now they take no royalty on the first $1,000,000 (£800k) of revenue, and quarterly royalties now don't kick in until $10,000 (£8k).
That's good news for small developers. Coming out potentially more generous than Unity's license, depending on your situation, it seems a bold bid from Epic for a larger share of smaller games. 5% might not sound huge but it could make a big difference to some.
Ah gwan, here's that Unreal Engine 5 tech demo again (which is not Tomb Raider, and is just a tech demo):