Unity has its strengths but we chose Unreal Engine 4 to stand out from the crowd, says Rodeo Games

Taking mobile games to the next level

Unity has its strengths but we chose Unreal Engine 4 to stand out from the crowd, says Rodeo Games

Licensing middleware technology is now common-place throughout the games industry.

Still, there's always a burst of interest when a company licenses a cutting-edge piece of technology in a sector for the first time.

That's the deal with UK developer Rodeo Games which is the first purely mobile studio to licence Epic's Unreal Engine 4 for an as-yet unannounced turn-based strategy title using one of Games Workshop's intellectual properties.

We caught up with creative director Ben Murch and technical director Richard Brooks to find out more about why they had made the decision.

Pocket Gamer: Why did you decide to switch from your own internal technology?

Richard Brooks: When we started Rodeo Games, we worked on Hunters: Episode One, which was a more simple sprite game. As we developed Hunters 2 and then Warhammer Quest we slowly built up our own in-house engine and tools.

Hunters: Episode One

However, we found especially during Warhammer Quest's development, we were spending too much time on engine technology and not as much as we'd like on actually making the game. We also found porting onto other platforms a difficult and time-consuming task.

And with that in mind, it was a no-brainer to move to a third party engine.

Everyone else is using Unity, so why have you chosen UE4?

Richard Brooks: Unity definitely has its strengths. It's fast to get things up and running and has an excellent cross-platform reputation. But we want to really stand out from the crowd.

The new Unreal Engine has in-built technologies and systems that are of a triple-A development quality. To be able to use these technologies as a mobile developer opens up so many avenues that previously we couldn't explore.

You only have to look at other Unreal mobile games like the Infinity Blade series, which is undeniably one of the most gorgeous-looking games out there. And they used UE3 for that. So you can imagine what UE4 will be like, especially with the kind of power at our fingertips with modern mobile hardware.

Do you have any previous experience using Unreal?

Richard Brooks: We had no previous Unreal experience at all.

How do you weigh up the cost implications of using an external technology, both in terms of upfront cost and royalty costs?

Ben Murch: We make it all part of our initial project plan. Before we start on any title, there's a segment of time where we decide what our focus will be and roughly allocate budget and resources.

We wanted to make the leap to full 3D this time round so weighed up our different options. Did we want to hire in programmers to create an engine? If not, which off-the-shelf package could we use? How much can we spend on that tech before we have to start pulling budget away from other areas? What kind of royalties are the engine makers asking for? All sorts.

Warhammer Quest

Once we've answered those questions and a few more, we're in a much better position to start making big decisions.

Unreal doesn't have the best reputation in terms of being a cross-platform technology, so does that mean you're more focused on iOS?

Ben Murch: Well, we aren't announcing which platforms we'll be launching our new title on. We have historically been an iOS-focused company though. However, I should say that UE4 is more than capable of crossing over to a multitude of platforms ... should we want to do that.

Richard Brooks: Unreal has always had an excellent reputation for platforms like Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. We already know mobile development. So for us, Unreal is doing the work in the areas we have the least experience.

Your release date of Q2 2015 is a long way away in terms of mobile development, so is that just about development time or have you also had to factor in some time getting up to speed with UE4?

Ben Murch: Getting up to speed with UE4 took a few weeks. Of course, we'll still be learning new techniques and processes over the course of the whole project.

I think our long development time is more of a statement about how seriously we take mobile gaming. Our company focus has always been to make the best turn-based strategy games out there. It shouldn't matter which platform that's on. A player's time is precious. If we're asking you to sit down and play our latest and greatest for 50+ hours, then the quality bar should be no less than a high-end triple-A game.

What do you think is the one thing players of the game will be impressed with that you'd only be able to do with UE4?

Ben Murch: For me it's the whole lighting and particle systems. There are so many tools and features in both those areas that bring the look of the game up to a whole new level.

Richard Brooks: It's difficult to pick just one thing that players will notice. UE4 provides amazing tools that allow the developer to craft the highest quality game possible. And that's what we believe our players will notice.

Thanks to Richard and Ben for their time.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.