Not content with ruling the next gen with its all conquering Unreal Engine 3 - which has been licensed by Microsoft for the 360, Sony for the PS3 and just about every serious next gen PC developer worth their salt - Epic Games has already begun the march to global hegemony in the next next generation, with work on the previously unheard of Unreal Engine 4, now revealed to have begun over two years ago.
"Unreal Engine 4 will be totally groundbreaking and the way games will be done in the future," Rein continued. I don't expect it to be staffed up as a full team for several years. But when people come to work at Epic, they can come here with the knowledge that we're always keeping one eye on the future and they're going to be helping to shape the future of the videogame business" continued Rein.
Well our gobs were well and truly smacked at this bombshell, because we've seen what Unreal Engine 3 can do already and we're only at the beginning of it's potential going into the next gen. Imagine what it'll be like in three year's time when developers have got a full handle on it and can use it to maximum potential with Epic's mature toolset.
But Unreal Engine 4? Our minds veritably boggle at the prospect. God alone knows what Epic are cooking up there, but if it's the generational leap forward that Unreal Engine 3 is, then world look out. Rein hinted that it's designed for the next next generation of hardware. Epic feels they got a two to three year headstart on this generation when they started Unreal Engine 3 and aimed it for hardware that was only in the planning stages at the time. Their gamble paid off when Microsoft and Sony chose that level of hardware to power their upcoming next-gen consoles. Rein says the focus for Unreal Engine 4 is getting a leg up on the competition for the next major paradigm shift in computing hardware that is likely to see the light in future PCs and console systems that are mere concepts today.
So why tantalize us with the possibilities of Unreal Engine 4 when Unreal Engine 3 still has years of development and progress remaining? Talent. It's all about attracting talent to come and work at Epic Games. Rein says he's issuing a plea to developers everywhere to consider joining the team at Epic to help shape that future. Epic are currently on a recruitment drive for both US and international developer signings and he issued the following cheeky challenge: "We're really looking to hire the best in the industry. Nobody should imagine they're paid too well now or that they're too entry level to apply. We want to talk to anyone who has the potential to be at the top of industry. We're looking for talent. Top talent."
Warming to his theme, Rein advises potential development stars to hit the Epic Games web site and mail in their CV. "We have several job openings right now and we'll consider any application, for an advertised job or not, if we think the person will be a genuine asset to our team. We're looking for programmers, engine developers, animators, artists ...everyone. We want quality people with world-class skills that can be a good fit with our team and our goals on both sides of our business - games and engine technology."
"We really want the best of the best, people who today, maybe aren't even looking to change jobs, but who want to work on the cutting edge, who want to work on the future of gaming, and who want to work with the industry's best and brightest." Rein also aims a sideswipe at the industry's code treadmill, "There are insanely great developers sitting behind cubicles working soul-draining hours for big corporations that ultimately treat those developers as disposable resources. I like to think the most talented among them are secretly harbouring the same passion and intensity for technology and gaming innovation that we do. We want them to realize that Epic is looking for people like them and that we're secure and prosperous and could be the long-term career they're dreaming of but don't know it yet. We view people as our key assets and we have a compensation structure that reflects that with a bonus plan, working environment and benefits that are second to none. We want people to join our team expecting a lifelong career rather than just a job. At around 60 people we're not a big faceless company. The fact that we have two game teams and an engine team at that size shows that our philosophy is to out-think our competitors rather than out muscle them. The Unreal Engine, and the huge investment in tools we've made for it, is the secret weapon that allows us to do more with fewer people and then redirect the fruits of our work back into the hands of those people. But our plans are bigger than our staff and we have the room so now is the time for smart expansion."
Epic Games' expansion will be fuelled by a move to a new HQ in Cary NC, USA in October. Epic say they have designed and built a building that they feel will be a great place to work. Rein says it's a fairly modest but extremely comfortable 30,000 square foot building. Approximately 7,500 square feet are devoted to Epic's in-house motion capture facility which is roughly double the size of what they have now. Rein says the building is designed around productivity and comfort with features such as individually adjustable heating/cooling per office, a gymnasium with individual showers, sports field, power generator capable of powering the entire building indefinitely, proper audio & high-definition video studios, multiple kitchens, a terrace overlooking a large grassed area and single-person bathrooms like what you have in your home rather than what you normally see in office buildings. "Nobody is going to come through the new office and think it's overly extravagant but rather they're going to feel that we've created an environment that is enjoyable to work in and has a little room to grow. Although we've moved only about two miles from where we were we now benefit from being within a very short walk to a number of great stores and restaurants and even a 20-screen movie theatre". Rein is quick to point out that building their own building provides costs savings because the mortgage payment will actually be less than what they would have paid to rent the amount of space they currently require. He also says that space in the new office is set aside for when hardware manufacturers' technical staff need to be on site or Unreal Engine licensees visit for support or training.
So how will it all pan out? Epic's Gears of War has widely been touted as the flagship franchise for Xbox360 - possibly a Halo for the next generation? Add to that the very popular Unreal Tournament franchise set to go next-gen with UT2007 as well as Unreal Engine's runaway success and the future looks bright.
Remember developers, Epic want you!