When the first Unreal Tournament—developed by Epic Games—came out in 1999, it helped introduce and popularize the arena FPS sub-genre, bringing multiplayer-focused FPS gameplay to the masses in a futuristic interplanetary setting. Most 90s PC gamers will recall the game’s memorable arcade announcer (“M-M-M-Monster Kill!”), the iconic Capture the Flag map, Facing Worlds, as well as the rivalry fostered with contesting developer id Software’s Quake III Arena which released at virtually the same time. UT went on to spawn 3 sequels before Epic put the franchise on hold after the 2007 launch of Unreal Tournament 3. On hold, that is, until now—Unreal Tournament is back, and this time it’s free.
Epic is using the new Unreal Tournament as a development experiment, of sorts. The game itself will be geared to its core competitive FPS roots and has been assigned a core group of veteran developers, but the studio plans to crowdsource large chunks of the process—they envision a large scale collaboration between Epic, UT fans, and Unreal Engine 4 developers. The code itself will be open and stored on GitHub, and development will be focused for Windows, PC, and Linux. Ultimately, once the game is complete, it will be free. Not free-to-play. Just free. No strings. A marketplace will exist for modders and developers to create and sell content, from which Epic will take a cut, but the core game will be free.
There are a lot of things going on here worth talking about. By crowdsourcing game developement on what might well end up being an AAA title and then selling it for the price of free, Epic is turning over one of its most beloved franchises to its fans—a game by the community, for the community. There is little doubt that this will be a learning process in many ways—large scale development from a non-centralized team could be difficult to coordinate into a unified whole, for one, so the potential exists for different interpretations of a core vision. The timeline becomes understandably indefinite, as a venture such as this is unprecented for Epic and they’re essentially flying blind. It sounds as though the studio is both expecting and prepared to roll with the punches, though, which will be to their ultimate benefit.
And there is appeal to the concept, as well. Aside from being a massive show of goodwill for franchise fans, the large pool of people potentially involved with development creates possibilities to push through ideas and concepts that might never be feasible under a smaller team and stricter timelines. The game and marketplace will also act as a talent showcase for those involved, enabling some to go on to bigger and better. Community talent is eager to get on board; just last week, the original composers of the original Unreal Tournament’s memorable soundtrack, Michiel van den Bos and Alex Brandon, volunteered themselves for work on the new OST via Epic’s community forum.
In other gaming news this week, Halo V is official, Far Cry 4 is on the way and already creating controversy, and Microsoft separates the Kinect from the Xbox One. Read on!
- Just in time for the World Cup, EA’s free-to-play FIFA World is entering global open beta today.
- YouTube may soon be venturing into video game streaming. Rumors are swirling that Google is in talks to acquire Twitch, a game streaming service, to complement YouTube.
- Halo 5: Guardians is now official and on its way to the Xbox One in 2015.
- Assassin’s Creed Unity is being developed simultaneously by ten separate Ubisoft development studios across the globe. Ubi believes this process will enable them to develop more efficiently and push out franchise entries more regularly (though it remains to be seen whether the latter is a positive or not).
- Far Cry 4 is on its way and will launch for Xbox One/360, PS3/4, and PC on November 14. The game has barely been announced and is already generating controversy...
- The next entry in Sid Meier’s Civilization series will take us to space. Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is scheduled to launch this fall.
- Microsoft reported this week that they will be detaching the Kinect from retail Xbox Ones, knocking the price down by $100 and placing it in a position to compete with the PS4’s cost. While cheaper next-gen hardware is a good thing, the detachment of the Kinect could be seen as a step backward for game development in general, as now developers aren’t forced to dedicate the extra resources needed to develop for motion control, preventing the technology from moving forward as an industry advancement. With that said, according to an Xbox engineer, Microsoft may be looking to address this by finding a way to integrate the Kinect directly into the console itself down the road.
- Finally, BoingBoing took a look at game-induced panics throughout the modern age, covering everything from Death Race to GTA.