Epic Games opens UK studio

Epic Games opens UK studio
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

August 5th 2014 at 10:00AM

Unreal Engine and Gears of War firm integrates long-time partner Pitbull into its operations

Epic Games is setting up shop in the UK, Develop can reveal.

The tools and development powerhouse, known for its popular Unreal Engine as well as blockbusters like the Gears of War series, has established a UK base of operations.

Epic Games UK will be led from a Sunderland branch – previously Pitbull Studio, which has become part of the Unreal firm. It will be supported by Pitbull’s Leamington Spa office and a new workspace opening in Guildford.

The three offices will aid development on Unreal Engine 4, with the potential to contribute to games like Fortnite. Meanwhile, Mike Gamble will continue to run the UE licensing effort for all of Europe from his UK office, as he has been since 2011.

Founder Tim Sweeney says the UK is a key market Epic has long had its eye on.

“The UK has a rich history of games development, as well as a wide range of experienced developers,” he told Develop.

“We’re also attracted to the expertise in key areas like physics and lighting emanating from British universities such as Cambridge and Oxford.

“Right now, we’re building a world-class talent pool in the UK to contribute to all aspects of Unreal Engine 4. Our aim at Epic is to provide the world’s best and most versatile engine, scaling from indie mobile development to high-budget triple-A games.”

THE BRITISH CONNECTION

James Golding, lead programmer on Unreal Engine 4, told us the UK’s talent base was a major draw for Epic Games, hoping the UK office will attract skilled developers from established studios and promising new graduates.

Golding, who is glad to be back on “home soil” after 12 years working at Epic’s US HQ, also said the new UK location brings the Unreal firm closer to many of its key customers and partners.

“We have lots of users in the UK, including Lionhead, CCP, Rocksteady, and Ninja Theory, as well as elsewhere in Europe, such as Yager,” he said.

“We really want to have a closer relationship with them, to better understand what they’re doing, and to make their games and our tech as good as they can be.

“You need to be physically present to build a good relationship with the games development community here. Being in the UK means we can have frequent, face-to-face communication between our engineers and developers using or thinking about adopting UE4.”

Ray Davis, general manager for Unreal Engine, added: “Having a UK studio helps us become a more meaningful and permanent member of the talented UK development community. We’ve been fortunate to have long partnerships with great studios located in England and with a presence in the same time zone we’ll be able to reach out and support these partners to an even greater degree.

“We’re also excited to get to know some of the smaller development groups that are springing up, and we’re eager to start the conversation with them about how we can make UE4 the best development platform for their ideas.”

GREAT BULLS

Key to Epic Games’ entry into the UK has been the acquisition and integration of Pitbull Studio, a long-time partner of the Unreal Engine creator.

“Pitbull Studio has been working with Epic Games for over three years now as an important development resource on several Epic products – most notably Unreal Engine, but also Gears of War, Fortnite and other projects,” Pitbull’s Robert Troughton explained.

“Over the years we’ve increased our headcount to the point that we’re making very significant contributions – it feels like we’re already part of Epic. The integration of Pitbull as an Epic Games studio seems like a no-brainer for all of us. Everybody here is stoked this is happening, and very excited to see what comes next.”

Davis added: “Pitbull’s engineering talent has helped us build a better UE4 and given us more horsepower to keep moving forward. Not only have they brought great programming know-how to our efforts but they have also provided fresh perspectives and insights into how we can make our technology better. They’ve been a great partner in helping us bring UE4 to developers everywhere and we’re excited to have them as officially part of the Epic family.”

EPIC EXPANSION

The move means a new role for Troughton, who will serve as general manager of Epic Games UK. In this position he will oversee UK operations, ensuring that local offices operate efficiently, recruit new people and work with UE4 devs around Europe.

“Essentially, I’m doing everything I can to make sure that Epic Games UK is a huge success and that it continues to be a valuable asset,” he said.

“Unreal Engine 4 is already by far the best engine available for developers – and now, with a re-invigorated recruitment push aimed at only the very best talent that the industry has to offer, we can take this even further and accelerate the implementation of new features.

“It’s a very, very exciting time to become part of Epic Games – and every single Pitbull employee is super excited to be a part of that.”

As Troughton says, the creation of Epic Games UK has kicked off a new recruitment drive, bringing in fresh talent to help bolster the studio. The company is looking to take on roles such as animation programmers, developer relations engineers, developer relations technical artists, engine community managers and engine and tools programmers.

Among the newest additions has been Michael Troughton, who joins from the nearby Ubisoft Reflections as lead programmer. An industry veteran of 21 years, he has held a number of senior positions – most recently as director of technology at Reflections – and is keen to get to grips with the popular Unreal Engine.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to work on the Unreal Engine 4 platform, pushing hardware to its screaming limits, whilst also empowering games creators with the tools to create the most fulfilling gameplay experiences,” he told Develop.

“Epic is one of, if not the most forward-thinking games developers in the Western world. They’re poised to really take advantage of their class-leading technology across a new gaming arena.

“We already have a hugely talented team, and I want to see Epic Games UK grow into one of Europe’s premier development houses. I’ve worked in many areas of development in my career so far, and I intend to use that knowledge and expertise to continue to improve UE4’s performance on every platform, from mobile devices to super-charged gaming PCs.”

Golding adds that there are plenty of other opportunities at the studio: “We have UK-specific roles, including academic evangelist, community manager, support tech artist and programmer.

“Several positions on the Epic careers page may now be filled locally. If you think you have the skills and are excited about working for Epic in the UK, please do get in touch.”

ARE YOU EPIC?

As Sweeney and Golding both mentioned, Epic is looking for the best UK talent and its recent hires encourage more developers to apply.

 “It takes a special kind of person to work at Epic,” says Michael Troughton. “We want people looking to push the boundaries every day. You need to be exceptional in everything you do, driven and very self-motivated.

“In return you’ll work in a great environment with extremely talented people, and contribute to ground-breaking tech and tools. Everyone here has a voice and can influence the choices made in the development of Unreal Engine 4.”

Epic Games’ expansion into the UK is a significant step for the company, and a testament to how big the tools provider and development behemoth has become.

The new UK base adds to a widespread empire of international studios, with Epic outlets in Poland, South Korea and Japan.

“Epic is not a high-growth company by nature, but at this point in 2014 we’re expanding to meet the enormous opportunity we see with our engine and next generation of games,” says Sweeney.

You can check out the vacancies available at www.epicgames.com/careers.