Unreal Engine 4.0 the result of a "change in culture" at Epic

James Golding on firm's indie outreach

Unreal Engine 4.0 the result of a "change in culture" at Epic

There's no doubt that the unveiling of Unreal Engine 4.0 in March – complete with is monthly subscription model – was the talk of GDC in San Francisco.

Four months on, however, what has Epic learned from its attempt to woo a greater array of developers? That was the topic at hand when Epic's lead programmer for Unreal, James Golding, took the stand at Develop in Brighton.

"It's been an exciting year and we've got plenty more stuff going on," said Golding. "We're very invested in people having a successful experience and actually make some money."

Getting to the stage where Unreal Engine could, for many, take on Unity's dominance on mobile wasn't easy, however. Indeed, Golding said both launching and delivering the update required a shift in approach across Epic.

Time for a change

"The biggest change was a change in culture," he continued.

"We didn't want 'nickel and dime' developers – we really wanted to connect with our customers. We also tried to collaborate between our teams more – we tried to bring people much closer together.

In the lead up to GDC, we just put most people in the same room.
James Golding

"In the lead up to GDC, we just put most people in the same room. Whether they were building the engine or running our Twitter feed. It was...cosy, but it was a great feeling."

Of Unreal's greater support for smartphones, Golding noted that it is "amazing how mobile hardware is really starting to catch up" with PC and Mac.

"By making an engine that scales down to were we are right now, it's really going to be easy to move forward," he continued.

"It's been a little bit nervy having developers checking over our work all the time [on GitHub], but we're slightly getting over our stage fright now. We've had programmers on camera – that's usually the last thing they want to do, answering question on a Twitch stream – but it's been a really positive thing."

Indeed, Golding said developers have created almost 3,500 forks of Unreal Engine 4.0 since launch, delivering 266 code submissions to fix bugs and so forth. But what's next?

"We're still working really hard on the user experience for new people coming to the engine," Golding concluded.

"One terrifying thing we're going to do is let people get hold of unstable builds – they'll get builds every day. They've past our internal smoke test, they're what we're using, but we have to make people understand they've not gone through two weeks of testing and there might be some bugs there."

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.