Before GDC, Epic's ubiquitous Unreal Engine was a walled garden. But that all changed when company president Johnny Epic waded into the conference crowd while bellowing, "You get an Unreal Engine and YOU get an Unreal Engine" to everyone in attendance. And then he chainsawed a life-size replica of traditional gaming industry business models in half. Or at least, that's how I like to imagine it happened. I was asleep while John took the bullet of waking up at Ungodly O' Clock to attend Epic's presser. The takeaway, however, was obvious: Epic is trying to make its engine more accessible to everyone - full-time developers, part-time indies, and no-time hobbyists alike. I asked Epic engine GM Ray Davis how the studio plans to achieve that (hint: Minecraft) and also about where Fortnite's gone because I pretty much had to.
"I'm always super impressed with what folks do in Minecraft these days," Davis told RPS. "We're definitely inspired by how creative people can be in there, and we feel like somebody who has a great time in Minecraft, can we get our tools and editor to a point where they can have an equally fun experience with a full engine - and kinda take it to the next level, potentially?"
Davis also noted that Epic is experimenting with creating full-on games that teach people how to use its tools while also providing a nice side serving of wholesome entertainment.
"That's one of the things we experimented with right before the holidays, and it was really fun," he explained. "Unfortunately we decided to pull it out of this release, but it's something we hope to revisit. We called it a gamified tutorial, actually."
All of which is quite interesting, but what if you have no interest in learning to make games - only playing them? Well, Fortnite is still lurking somewhere in the darkest depths of Epic's oven, though the developer remains cagey about what sort of state it's in. Apparently, though, it's come quite a ways since we last saw it more than a year-and-a-half ago. When I asked if Fortnite is now a markedly different game in light of a multi-studio approach including Bulletstorm dev People Can Fly/Epic Games Poland, Davis replied:
"I would say it has evolved. Like all game development, it's a long, long road and lots of things are discovered along the way."
"With Fortnite, the way I look at it is we think there's a big opportunity, and the last thing you want to do is rush something before it's really found its core. The team's been working really hard. I think they've made some tremendous progress. Hopefully we'll be able to talk about it more soon. I can say that it's a tremendous amount of fun to playtest."
Epic does not, however, have a timetable for a potential re-reveal. So we'll just have to wait and see on that front. Patience, then, is the name of the game for now. Or, failing that, you could always crack open Unreal Engine 4 and make your own Fortnite. Maybe if you get started now, you'll even beat Epic to the punch. And after that? Wealth, fame, and lawsuits that take away both are sure to follow. Really, who could ask for more?