Source Engine is "long in the tooth," say Epic, pitches Unreal to indie devs

Tom Senior

Unreal Engine

Yesterday, Epic rounded off the two day Unreal University event in London, offering a day of free seminars to students and enthusiasts looking to make new games using the free Unreal Development Kit. We sat down with with technical artist and level designer Alan Willard and Epic's European territory manager, Mike Gamble for a chat about the popularity of the UDK among fledgeling developers, and how it stacks up against popular competitors like Valve's Source SDK. Their verdict: Source is "long in the tooth."

Why would an indie developer use the Unreal Development Kit, and not Source? "Because it's current, right up to now," says Gamble. "It's DX11 if you want it. It's what we built Gears with. Source is a little long in tooth, isn't it? There's a lot of modding done with Source, but I think you'll find a lot more original content made with the UDK."

The Unreal Development Kit has been free to download since late 2009. It offers users a full suite of programming, level editing and movie making tools. Earlier this year, Epic hiked the cap on the amount a developer could make from a game before having to pay Epic a license, easing the pressure on new developers and encouraging more to consider the UDK as a viable option. Still, the number of mods and levels made in Source each month heavily outnumbers those created using Epic's tools. But why?

"Valve has a history of buying mods. I think that's somewhat attractive to people," says Willard. "It's like "hey, maybe if I make a really good mod Valve will buy." It's where Portal came from, it's where Counter-Strike came from, Team Fortress. Counter-Strike was a HUGE mod. It was hugely popular, a lot of people played it, so people are going to be attracted to making a mod for it."

Gamble says that while there may be fewer Unreal Engine mods, their community is more focused on coming up with brand new releases. "Our community is building games. There's IOS games, there's PC games. Things like Hawken. That's a real poster child for us."

The Unreal Development Kit is available now as a free download from UDK.com . There's a wealth of advice with tutorials on how to use the kit on the Unreal Development Network site.

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