Epic discusses 'Samaritan' tech demo, PC gaming

During GDC 2011, game and engine developer Epic Games revealed a tech demo called 'Samaritan' that was meant to showcase the company's hopes for the next generation of games.

In a recent interview, Epic Games Europe boss Mike Gamble and senior technical artist and level designer Alan Willard discussed the intention of the tech demo, the misconceptions hurled at PC gaming, and their thoughts on photo-realistic graphics in games.

"...Nobody wants to go home, sit down and play their own life, I think that's one of the mistakes that a lot of people assume," Willard told CVG when asked about photo-realism in games. "If it doesn't make the game better, if the particle system look great and characters look great but if it does that at the expense of making a fun game that's a trade-off that shouldn't necessarily be made."

Willard noted that everyone wants characters to look "really good" but games like BioShock Infinite and even Epic's own Gears of War 3 manages that feat, without treading the uncanny valley of photo-realism.

As for Samaritan, the tech demo was not meant to announce a new game. "It was exactly what it was meant to be. Here's our vision of what we want to do and here's the best way we can express it, by taking these designs that we've come up for and putting it together as the experience that you saw," Willard said.

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When asked whether or not PC is seeing a "rebirth" as console cycles are drawn out, Gamble was quick to point out that there's a "massively thriving community of hardcore gamers on the PC still." The PC platform, Gamble says, is not in trouble; however, it is now different.

"It happens every so often, we've been having the same talks since Windows 95. It goes up and down, the consoles are here and the PC is in the trough, then the PCs are here and consoles are down there." Gamble notes that, that is how performance works and just the fact that how PC games are delivered is one factor.

Digital distribution on PC is an important element to that platform and, as Gamble says, it's not as "trackable as it once was." Just because it's not sitting on a shelf somewhere, "it doesn't mean it's gone." The pair also discussed how some games are just better suited for the PC platform, like the RTS genre, and the "vibrant" marketplace offered by Steam. When questioned whether or not Epic would ever focus on a PC-exclusive title, Gamble clarified that "If a publisher wanted us to do it and it was the right thing to do then sure."

"There's nothing prohibiting us from making a PC game," Willard said.