Epic releases free Unreal Development Kit

News: 

Australian game developers have had a rather mixed bag of success when it comes to the Unreal engine. Irrational Games (now 2K Australia) has perhaps the most Unreal engine related success with their Unreal 2 powered Tribes 2 game, although unfortunately sales were just in the tens of thousands. Auran did not fare any better with Fury, which was running on what was the new Unreal Engine 3 at the time. Fuzzyeyes Studios' steampunk themed RPG, Edge of Twilight, seems very much up in the air at the moment, and let's not forget Perception's Unreal Engine 2 powered Stargate SG-1 shooter, the game which was the centre of their well publicised demise.

Pushing all that aside, it's time that we can turn it all around!

Although it may look like the recent announcement of the free Unity engine had inspired Epic Games to follow suite, Epic had been planning to entice indie developers to the Unreal engine by pushing it as a powerful casual game development and game education solution months ago. From Shacknews...

(Mark Rein) Actually we've been working on this for months. Tim Sweeney actually revealed it in an interview he did with G4TV back in July :) He said we were working on an initiative to “open up the engine to more people to use freely and build cool stuff” and that “currently things that you do with Unreal Tournament we'll try to open up to a larger audience

The newly announced Unreal Development Kit features the very capable Unreal Engine 3, and with it includes the amazing level / terrain editor, character / facial animation tools, as well as its tried and true physics, lighting, shaders, AI, and networking capabilities. And for no initial cost, you're able to develop a title which you can later package, redistribute, and charge what ever you like. How cool is that?!

From Epic's press release...

The Unreal Development Kit is the free version of the award-winning Unreal Engine 3, the software development framework used to create computer and video games, 3D simulations, TV shows, films and more

Anyone can download UDK and work with the same game development tools used to create blockbuster games, architectural walkthroughs and digital movies. UDK ships with the latest version of the Unreal Editor, with its unrivaled content creation toolset and rapid prototyping functionality.

UDK is free for noncommercial and educational use. Licensing terms are available to those who wish to sell UDK-powered games or to create commercial products or services for business use at www.udk.com/licensing.

The licensing terms are interesting, and if you do plan on selling your project or game made with UDK, you'll have to pay a $99 license and cough up $1,250 once you reach $10,000 worth of sales. Then it's a 25% cut of royalties from that point, which seems reasonable.

The new UDK solution will contain some assets from Tournament 3 as well as source code, so you can begin mucking around with the engine immediately. For more details, head on over to the UDK website!

Comments

designerwatts's picture

Its great to see another powerful engine platform released. This is especially good for the education department as it gives students and teachers full access to a game development engine that's very much used in today's game development enviornment.

Glancing over the indie pay figures it's something i'm a little bit concerned on.

- $99 as a start off seems great.
- The $1,250 at the $10,000 mark strikes me as a little bit strange as it's pretty much a 12.5% backpayment on your success which is a bit counter-intuitive in my eyes. I'm just not a fan of retrospect fees.
- the 25% royalties past $10,000 is standard fare. Although that is quite a large percentage if you account for your game was taken in by a publisher. Once everyone has taken a piece of the profit pie I wouldn't see much else going to the developer. If you sold the game on steam I could see it working much more in the developers favour but even still.

The engine is very advanced and robust. So I hope many that have good ideas for games that could benefit from such an engine take hold of this opportunity.

souri's picture

I agree, the people who'll get the most out of this option will be students and educational institutions. Here's a professional quality middleware engine that they can learn and work on at no absolute cost. I'd imagine this would be great news for architecture types and those that need a free solution to show off some 3D representation (the medicine field etc). The level building tools are simply great to use.

I do question whether this will really take off for indie developers however, as I reckon other options are much better (such as Unity) for multiplatform small casual / indie type of games, particularly since there are no royalties attached. Anyone know how much Steam takes per sale? I'd imagine it takes quite a chunk off the return after Epic take their 25%, and Steam takes their share.

I just hope no small indie group is considering making the next Gears of War or COD with it. It's good to get excited about the new tech it offers, but those games take a considerable amount of talent and man hours to make.

Anonymous's picture

Pretty sure the going rate for Steam, PSN and XBLA is 30%

Anonymous's picture

all the krome employees were told if they use this while employed at krome then krome owns their work

Anonymous's picture

That's not unusual for a company to claim,

but it would be unusual for a company to hold you to it if you didn;t use their time or resources in any way.

Blitz's picture

Cheers for the advance warning to never apply for a job there!

Anonymous's picture

I reckon most unis and educational institutions would have a similar policy.

Blitz's picture

That's ok, probably won't be applying for jobs there either :)

Anonymous's picture

I'm not sure where that misinformation came from, but it was never said.

One employee said he was concerned about that, and none other than Walshy (the co-owner of the company) sent a company wide email to say that it is not the case. There are plenty of employees at Krome who work on projects in their own time at home and have the companies blessings to do so.

The whole ownership issue was related to installing the Uneal Development Kit on work computers, as the license for UDK states that using UDK in a commercial environment requires the company to buy a $2500 annual license for every machine it is used on.

NathanRunge's picture

Many companies and institutions claim such things, but the legal enforceability of such agreements is often dubious. I am currently attending QUT (whilst running my indie studio) and I believe they might, in theory, be able to claim my work. That said, it depends a lot on what you sign and, if it came down to it, you could probably successfully argue your case in court.

Educational institutions don't often want to claim ownership if your work and only really want to be able to use it for "look what our students do" purposes. Companies, however, usually employ the practice to ensure that employees don't appropriate concept, techniques or other advantages from working at the company and employ them elsewhere for another company or themselves, as extra protection beyond a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Then again, other companies are just run by arseholes. Which category Krome fits into, I am not sure, but I can guarantee that I am not going to be applying there solely from my experiences with them in the past.

Blitz's picture

They don't need to claim ownership to show your work, they only need to retain the right to show your work (i guess you essentially grant them an irrevokable license to do that). However that said anyway, they should only be claiming such rights on work you have done as part of your coursework, funded by them, or used their facilities for.

Companies shouldn't need to employ such a clause for the purposes you describe, as IP, assets etc. are protected already (by copyright laws etc.), and anything not protected by those laws can't be considered something that the person would not have been otherwise able to learn/develop etc. without that company. Also, most companies will have non-solicitation clauses in their contracts which stops you being able to profit from most things that might actually have some level of secrecy around them. You're right that a lot of companies/institutions contain these ownership clauses, and probably correct that they wouldn't stand up in court (if you've developed stuff in your own time, and own equipment without breaking any copyright or IP etc.) as it just defies common sense. I once questioned the clause in my previous employers contract, and was told something along the lines of extra protection to what the copyright and non-solicitation clauses already did. Eg. stop me from developing a competing game using the companies assets/technology. Basically, unless anything i made on my own watch stole their code/assets, or was a direct competitor to one of their titles, it was a non-issue. These seemed reasonable to me.
In kromes case that sounds much less reasonable.

Anonymous's picture

While some may consider such a position by Krome as unfair, from the perspective of a studio there is much more at stake than just trying to claim unpaid creativity or work. The studio usually has to indemnify publishers against the actions of employees as well as agree to non compete and IP assignment clauses. "Rogue development" could therefore put the studio in a precarious legal position.

Working within the studio structure is probably the best way to get anything at a scale which requires the Unreal engine to market. I would suggest if someone feels strongly enough that they want to develop their own games, but does not feel like that is something they want to do within their studio, then they should probably move to a new studio or start one up themselves. Having to wait until you are at home to be passionate about something isn't doing the best for either yourself or your employer.

That being said, if somebody wants to do something at home which doesn't compete with the core competencies of the studio and is unlikely to generate legal issues, and the development in question is brought to the management of the studio *before* development starts, my own position is that it should be allowed where possible.

Regards

Mario

NathanRunge's picture

You are right that they don't need to claim ownership in order to show the work produced by students, but I suspect they wish to reserve the freedom to use it in any manner they wish and, potentially, to act in ways a license may otherwise not permit them to, or in ways they may not foresee when defining the terms of a license. A lot of students develop projects outside of university, and I am hear of the university try to claim any of it as their own. It may simply be that claiming ownership of all work is an easier process than attempting to define licensing arrangements on such a broad spectrum of potential developments.

The companies also don't necessarily need such an arrangement to protect themselves. Having such an arrangement, however, may give them legal recourse to stop an employee's action that may be difficult to define as breaking other agreements. Claiming ownership may also give them the option to bypass legal complications should they choose to act. Regardless, I don't feel that it is a particularly well considered approach.

I am also wondering what the ramifications of such agreements are pertaining to software licensing agreements. If Krome is claiming ownership of all work made by its employees at home, then said work is being produced for a commercial game development studio rather than for personal ownership and use. Does this breach the terms of the license agreement? Potentially such agreements may generate complex legal problems relating to academic and non-commercial software licenses.

Anonymous's picture

After the last twelve months of Aussie game industry FAIL, this is the first good news I've had in a long, long time.

souri's picture

I've always loved 3D video tutorials - there's no better way of learning the ropes than being shown exactly how things are done. They do a whole range of tutorial videos for software and applications, and now there's a whole bunch of freely available Unreal Dev Kit videos as well.

http://www.fileshack.com/browse.x/5627

Invaluable stuff if you're wanting to learn the UDK. Great stuff.