As this generation comes to a close, Epic's next multiplatform engine is starting to take shape. Unreal Engine 4 is the next iteration of Epic's popular game engine, and it promises to do more than make games look prettier.
"The biggest improvement in Unreal Engine 4 is philosophical," Epic co-founder Tim Sweeney said. "We want designers and creative people to take charge of as much of the game production process as possible."
The engine reportedly creates clear lines of differentiation between programming and design tasks, which will let developers iterate and prototype quickly. The interface has been revamped for a more user-friendly layout, letting designers edit, recompile, and test a game easily. Designers will also be able to make small changes without needing a programmer to step in.
"The inability to iterate kills the creative process, because every time you play telephone, something gets lost in translation," lead artist Wyeth Johnson told Game Informer. Senior technical artist Alan Willard added, "You're talking about cutting off weeks to months of your development schedule just because you don't have to wait for compiles, you don't have to wait to rebuild lightning."
And with less emphasis on graphics, Epic hopes that the games will push innovation in other areas. "Today our daily experience involves social networking and being in constant communication with our friends and the Internet at large through Facebook, YouTube, and all sorts of different media," said Sweeney. "It's vitally important that next-generation platforms tie into that ecosystem that people are a part of as seamlessly as possible. Not just Epic's games, but I would hope everybody should have a much greater degree of connectedness in the next generation than in the past."
Steve Watts posted a new article, The 'philosophical' improvements of Unreal Engine 4.
Epic's senior staff talks about the philosophical shift in creating Unreal Engine 4, and how it hopes that designers will get more direct control over the projects.
I sighed at Sweeney's "connectedness" remark. The current generation's idea of "connectedness" is having games that market-bomb the user's Twitter and Facebook accounts with game status messages. Aside from being a slimeball marketing ploy, it also has the potential to interrupt immersion, or at least be a constant annoyance. I'm the kind of person who shuts off Steam notifications entirely, even for achievements, because I can't tolerate stupid popups distracting me from what I'm concentrating on.
As for workflow optimizations to avoid recompile / recoding steps, that's awesome. That would be a great thing in any generation of game development, on any platform.
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