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GDCE 2011: Mike Capps on why it made Infinity Blade not Shadow Complex 2, and other Epic stories

#gdce Pushing the hardware for success

GDCE 2011: Mike Capps on why it made Infinity Blade not Shadow Complex 2, and other Epic stories
"What's special about our culture?" asked Mike Capps, president of Epic Games, giving a GDC Europe 2011 keynote entitled 'Size Doesn't Matter: How Epic brings AAA attitude to every game, from Gears of War 3 to Infinity Blade'

The studio has worked on a lot of games on a lot of different platforms, but there are key threads that run throughout its almost 20 year history.

"These were the epic events that shaped us. Culture is shared in the stories we tell about these events," Capps explained.

Technology focus

In the early days, with Unreal, the company was coming together for the first time after a history of distributed development - in Ontario, Canada - also learning that highlighting technology - using 3dfx graphics cards - was a great marketing tool.

With Unreal Tournament, the game was delayed for six months because of a publisher dispute.

"All the key stuff that you remember from Unreal Tournament, alt-fire, headshot, multi-kill came from that six months polish time," Capps revealed.

Bump in the road

Not all the lessons were good however.

Outsourcing the development of Unreal 2 and Unreal Tournament 2 proved to be a problem, in terms of managing how to deal with external developers, with the games scoring lower and taking longer than expected.

Even Epic's internal project at the time Unreal Warfare was a problem when the company decided to give away two years of development work as a mission pack for Unreal Tournament 2003, and started work on what would become Gears of War.

"When you realise you're making the wrong game, you have to stop and start making the right game," Capp said.

More memory

That game was Gears of War. Epic's relationship with Microsoft was combative.

For one thing, Epic persuaded Microsoft to include 512 MB of RAM in Xbox 360; something that cost Microsoft around $1 billion in additional costs.

In return, Microsoft eventually persuaded Epic that it had to announce a fixed global release date; albeit only three months prior to release.

Going portable

When it came to Infinity Blade, the decision was to whether to make it or Shadow Complex 2.

"We did it because there was hardware manufacturer which was excited and wanted to show off what its hardware could do," said Capps, showing a photo of himself on stage with Steve Jobs at an Apple press conference.

As for the future, Epic is working on five new games - in various stages - none of which are related to Gears of War, as well as working on Unreal Engine 4. Platforms include renewed a focus on PC including free-to-play titles.

"The secret to making AAA games is hiring people who want to make AAA games and telling them the stories about the company history, which explains why we make AAA games," said Capps of Epic's current 600 employees.
Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz 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.

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