Mark Rein talks up Infinity Blade and Epic's plans for transforming the mobile market
Epic has been quick to adaptable to the rapid changes of the games industry.
The company’s latest project Infinity Blade, developed by subsidiary Chair Entertainment, has become the fastest-grossing iOS app ever and proved there is much interest in seeing triple-A console experiences on mobile platforms.
To tell us more about Epic’s plans for the mobile development and Infinity Blade’s impact, we contacted Mark Rein, Epic’s VP of engine technology.
Why has Epic decided to bring Unreal Engine 3 to the Apple’s mobile platforms now?
Everyone at Epic loves gadgets. We’ve always wanted to be on mobile devices, but we needed to wait for hardware that was both a performance and features fit for Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) - the iPhone 3GS was that device. It was love at first sight for us. Shortly after that, we got the third generation iPod Touch (16GB and 32GB) and then the iPad and iPhone 4. And now the install base of UE3-capable iOS devices has gone through the roof and gets better every day.
How important to Epic’s business plan is bringing Unreal Engine 3 to mobile platforms?
It’s vitally important. Today, there are some amazing mobile phones that can run our engine well and that will increase significantly as time goes by. Before long, we’ll be able to bring the kind of console game experience our engine is famous for to these mobile devices. Some would say we’re already doing it now with games like Infinity Blade, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’re really just getting started.
How many sign-ups/users has Epic Citadel received since its release?
We’ve had more than 1.5 million downloads of Epic Citadel, which is pretty impressive for a graphical exploration app that isn’t really a game.
With Infinity Blade you’ve gone for a graphically intense 3D experience. Why did you choose to make such a technical game for mobile platforms, where success isn’t always dependent on production values?
The best-selling games on iOS actually have outstanding production values and iOS devices themselves are built to very high-quality standards so one must assume the people who buy them are interested in quality. The reaction to Epic Citadel had already demonstrated to us that iOS users are definitely interested in high-end experiences. Likewise, Infinity Blade has been in the App Store for only a week and already there are gaming sites calling it the ‘fastest-grossing app’ and IGN just named it the 2010 Best iPhone Game!
Who are you targeting primarily with Infinity Blade?
Gamers. But clearly anyone can play the game. Chair did an awesome job producing a game that was easy to learn and also has lots of nuances to master. Do I build up my shields and rely mostly on blocking? Or, do I concentrate on magic and replenish my health more often and cast offensive spells? Do I play with a mastered piece of equipment and sacrifice experience points for easier victories? Or, do I try to eek every experience point out of every item to try to level up more quickly? These are the kinds of questions one deals with when playing the game and the skill level goes up as you play through it multiple times. As with the best iOS games, we’ve [had] some great new free content added to Infinity Blade and a big feature update [is coming soon] to add multiplayer.
What makes Unreal Engine 3 the best choice for mobile developers?
It is a combination of great tools, a hugely productive pipeline, amazing quality and high performance. Plus, UE3 is surprisingly affordable. [Recently], we released support for iOS devices in the Unreal Development Kit. Anyone can download it for free to get started then purchase an inexpensive, royalty-bearing license when they want to commercialise their game.
We have a really cute little demo game that Trendy Entertainment created for us called Chicken Coup. It will come with all the source material so people can dissect to see how it was made. For established professional developers, we also offer full source code licenses with support that are also surprisingly affordable for mobile and inexpensive downloadable games.
Are there plans to bring Unreal Engine 3 to other mobile platforms, such as Windows Phone 7 or Android?
We’re already on Android. We’ve been demoing it publicly for several months and we have customers already building games with Unreal Engine 3 on Android, such as Dungeon Defenders from Trendy Entertainment.
Windows Phone 7 doesn’t allow game developers to use native code; so we’re not supporting it. However, iOS, Android and WebOS all started out without native code support and added it later. Microsoft could change that.
What are Epic’s aspirations in the mobile market?
We want to make great games that people love to play. We want to raise the bar of what’s possible in the mobile space and we want to provide the engine technology for lots of great games.