I'll soon be able to use the Oculus Rift with my microwave, the way things are going, affording me a 360 degree view of my morning porridge as it misses the sweet spot and turns to glue. I can't wait. I'm also quite excited about Unreal Engine 4, which is the latest Games Thing to support the VR helmet. The compatibility comes courtesy of Epic Games' Integrated Partners Program, which is corporatespeak for 'we've signed a deal with some middleware companies'. As of...now, developers with Unreal Engine 4 licenses can implement Oculus Rift in their games, suggesting we might be in for that virtual reality future the 1990s promised us, after all.
Unreal Engine 4
Make Something Unreal Live is Epic Games’ yearly talent competition, challenging European students to cobble together a prototype using the free Unreal Development Kit. Victorious entrants get more than a pat on the head: this year, they scoop an Unreal Engine 4 licence, among other prizes yet to be announced. Needless to say, competition is fierce. I popped along to the final heat of the competition yesterday at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre, in which four student teams are currently ensconced, scrabbling to put the finishing touches to their games before judging begins on Sunday.
This is more like it! All this messing about with old men's faces has been great and all, but it's not really what games are about. Games are about grey corridors, faintly futuristic military hardware and hovering robots that go "WOOWOOWOOWOOooooooooooh" as they fly by. Epic have given us all of that and more with their Unreal Engine 4 tech demo, Infiltrator, unveiled at GDC.
The annual Game Developers Conference is underway in San Francisco. What can we expect? Candid retrospectives? Shock reveals? Will David Cage's Giant Floating Man Face do battle with Nvidia's Giant Floating Man Face above a flaming pit?
We'll be bringing you all the latest from the frontlines and keeping this page updated with all the stories so far.
Some showreel snippets of CryEngine 3 and Unreal Engine 4 have been glimpsed at GDC 2013 and picked up by GameTrailers, but will the next generation of graphics engines from Crytek and Epic make our eyeballs happy? Worryingly, mine are increasingly hard to please. I look at pictures of our planet from space and the brain thinks "OOOH" but the eyes - saturated with the splendour of Bioshock Infinite's flying cities and Dunwall sunsets - remain steadfastly nonchalant.
Perhaps that's why I'm not blown away by the footage we've seen so far of the new engines. But maybe that's the eyeballs talking. What do yours think?
Aptly named developers Zombie Studios have unveiled the first footage of their Unreal Engine 4-fuelled horror game. We mentioned Daylight back in February, but it's particularly impressive in motion, showing its protagonist exploring a seemingly abandoned location, with only a phone (and later flares and glowsticks) for company. Whereas I'd hide in a corner and check Twitter until the ghosts got me, the star of Daylight loads up the Compass app and decides to do some exorcism, cleansing creepily possessed dolls and teddy bears in the procedurally generated hospital she finds herself in.
Phosphor Games - the team behind the customisable action game and Kickstarter hopeful Project Awakened - have released an Unreal Engine 4 tech demo, detailing some of their progress with the middleware. It's clearly early days in the UE4 transition, but it shows off some of the detailed textures and effects possible with the engine. Also some seriously prominent arm veins.
Ah Sony, you never quite got the PC did you? The Vaio range of laptops were nice-looking and all, but overpriced lumps might be best used to describe them. And now you’re making a PC-based console in the guise of the new PlayStation 4.
At least it’ll mean all the poorly coded console ports we've cursed our way through ought to be a thing of the past as everybody will essentially be writing for PC hardware now. Good times. So, with this "next-gen" future now so very close on the horizon with Sony finally kicking off the great closed-box bun-fight, what will it take to build a PlayStation 4-a-like PC?
Zombie Studios sent word last December that it'd licensed the powerful Unreal Engine 4 for an unnamed "psychological thriller game." Now, the studio behind Blacklight has a totally-non-ironic name for its project: Daylight, a horror-wanderer of Amnesia: The Dark Descent ilk set in a decayed, procedurally-generated insane asylum.
Seattle-based developer Zombie Studios - the folk responsible for Blacklight: Retribution - has licensed Unreal Engine 4 for a forthcoming PC-only "psychological thriller game". Due in the second quarter of 2013, no other details are confirmed on the as-yet-untitled game, though we do know that it will be thrillingly psychological.
Epic have announced the finalists of their Make Something Unreal Live 2013 competition, culling the 12 shortlisted teams down to four potential winners. Make Something Unreal challenges student teams from across Europe to develop a game around a particular theme. This year the theme is "Mendelian Inheritance," which is the theory of how hereditary characteristics are carried between generations (thanks Wikipedia!)
As we noted yesterday, Epic veteran Cliff Bleszinski has left Epic, but you don't last that long in this business without learning to psychically project yourself into several places at once. Even as Cliff walked into the sunset with a bundle of Lancer Assault rifles slung over his shoulder, his ghost was over in the Game Informer offices talking up Unreal Engine 4.
"When you ask me what next generation is, it's really the sum of all its parts," says ghost Bleszinski, lounging on the couch like psychic projection ain't no thing. Advanced particle effects, destructibility, light refraction and shinier shininess will bring the next generation closer to visual realism, but Bleszinski highlights Unreal Engine 4's Kismet system as an especially big step forward for developers.
Epic's Cliff Bleszinski announced at a Comic-Con panel today that Fortnite will be first title built with Unreal Engine 4 and will be a PC exclusive. Set for a 2013 release, Fortnite is a cooperative builder-shooter in which you'll build defenses while the sun shines and defend it at all costs when night falls.
"Next-gen's here. It's been here. It's a high-end PC," said Bleszinski, according to Joystiq. See all of the new screenshots inside...
Here it is, part of the Unreal Engine 4 tech demo shown behind closed doors earlier this year, from GameTrailers. Unreal Engine 4 wasn't powering the new games on show at E3, so it'll be a while before we start seeing games using this tech, but it gives us a good look at the levels of spitshine we can look forward to in the coming years.
There's also another video that rolls lots of the techniques shown above into one sequence. It shows an armoured demon waking up and walking outside for a bit of a stretch. He takes his time about it though, so we can get a look at the new effects that Epic's next generation engine has to offer. Take a look.
Some of next year's Frostbite 2-powered games will require a 64-bit OS to run. That's according to a tweet from DICE Frostbite rendering architect, Johan Andersson, picked up by Eurogamer. Battlefield 3 was the first game released to be powered by the new engine, but it's since turned up in other EA titles like Need for Speed: The Run and Medal of Honor. It'll be interesting to learn which 2013 games will also be carrying the new tech.
"If you are on 32-bit, great opportunity to upgrade to Windows 8," says Andersson. Windows 7 64-bit should work just as well. A 64-bit OS lets systems make of more than 2GB of RAM, so it's a useful upgrade whether or not you're planning on playing any EA games next year. It's inconvenient, maybe, but shows that graphics tech is levelling up. Recently, Epic released the first screenshots of Unreal Engine 4. 2013 could be a big year for graphics engines.
Epic have been showing off the next iteration of the Unreal Engine to developers for a short while. Wired got a look recently, and have posted their impressions alongside a few new shots showing a fiery demon, some busy wireframe scenes and a lovely vista.
Epic haven't released the demo video yet, but Wired describe plenty of new tech, including an advanced particle rendering systems and a lighting program that models the way light bounces around rooms entirely in real time, bypassing the typical level design techniques that "bake" light and shadow into the textures of a scene. The days of designers hand-placing individual light shafts in a scene may well be over.
At PAX East last weekend, Epic Games president Mike Capps revealed that the developer "might be working on a PC-only title." Cliff Bleszinski was less ambiguous, responding: "Let me say that again: we are working on a PC game."
So what is it? Some rumors pointed to Fortnite, which was announced during Spike's Video Game Awards late last year. We know little about Fortnite, except that it's a Minecraft-inspired monster defense game with a nifty trailer. On his LinkedIn profile, Epic Games producer Chris Mielke stuck a "(PC)" onto his mention of the project, but that distinction has been removed, and Capps told Joystiq that the PC exclusive is unannounced.
Epic will be showing off Unreal Engine 4 behind closed doors at GDC next week. This time last year Epic showed off the impressive Unreal Engine Samaritan demo above. That demo was running on a souped up super-PC running several GTX580s in parallel, so we're unlikely to see that sort of carefully choreographed loveliness running in the next engine. Still, given how much has been gradually added to Unreal 3 over the years, the new build must be making quite a leap to justify sticking a 4 on the end.