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McGee Defends UE3 in Epic, Silicon Knights Battle
McGee Defends UE3 in Epic, Silicon Knights Battle
August 19, 2008 | By Leigh Alexander

August 19, 2008 | By Leigh Alexander
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    24 comments
More: Console/PC



As the release date for Silicon Knights' Too Human fast approaches, American McGee is defending Epic's Unreal Engine 3, which lies at the core of an ongoing legal battle between Silicon Knights and Epic.

McGee, designer of Alice, Bad Day LA and, most recently, the pictured Grimm episodic series on GameTap (which he built using UE3), is weighing in on his blog about allegations by Silicon Knights that Epic failed to provide them with a complete engine.

His defense of Unreal Engine 3 is sparked by Denis Dyack's recent comments to the UK-based Develop magazine that Epic "failed to provide a working game engine" to Silicon Knights.

Silicon Knights later used its own technology to develop Too Human, and then filed suit against Epic, claiming that the engine company "...intentionally and wrongfully has used the fees from [Unreal Engine 3] licenses to launch its own game to widespread commercial success while simultaneously sabotaging efforts by Silicon Knights and others to develop their own video games."

"Having used UE3 to build Grimm and spent considerable time in the past working with Idís tools, Iíve followed this story with amazement," says McGee. "To expect a licensed engine, fresh out of the box, would require no modification or improvements to achieve development goals on a new title is ludicrous."

Continues McGee, "But to build an entirely new engine as an alternative to improving an existing one - sounds a bit unreasonable. And to build that new engine inside 1 year, then ship a title with it? Now things are starting to sound surreal."

Looking forward to seeing how things play out, McGee concludes, "My guess is that thereís more than a little UE3 still in Too Human."

For their part, Silicon Knights' original lawsuit claims that: "Progress on the Silicon Knightsí Engine continues to date and, at this time, the Silicon Knights Engine is completely independent of Epicís Engine and certainly derives no benefit from the unworkable source code provided by Epic."


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Comments


David Sahlin
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If I bought a car and was required to work on it as soon as I got it home, I'd be kind of pissed, too.

Anonymous
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There are several things people do not understand when they liscense Unreal; and I'm speaking from experience because it happened to us at a small developer.



We all had expectations that the engine would be able to pull off an open world/ open level design- NOT! the engine was being built for Gears and that's it. Since Gears was a hallway shooter that's what the engine does best.



Now their might be some people who'll say "well use less triangles to get a larger level"- NOT! The way the "shaders" work is directly tied to the material instructions which are directly tied to the "look" that unreal engine games have. SO if you want to spend production time changing the Shaders feel free to do so, however you are losing the natural Power that the engine has.



Why is that important? Because the way the material work is also directly tied frame rate Performance. The less materials the better.



Now you see how sticky it gets, if you fight the Engine and try to make your own game, then your going down a tunnel of hurt.



Second, the way the packages function also are not naturally indusive to creating RPG or Large Itemed games. No package should exceed 1 gig and the parent to child structure is really lame; basically it has to fall on the shoulders of the naming structure. UNLESS you spend time creating a database application which sits on top of the package system. Which means more time away from the natural strengths of the engine.



Devs will also try to put a thousand dynamic lights into a level, does unreal do this NO! Open any gear level up and you'll be astonished at what is really happening.



The list goes on, but in short Epic should have a straight talk orientation to anyone who wants to use Unreal. Otherwise your going to spend your own money trying to create something that Unreal doesn't support Vanilla.



One recent trip to a studio who shall not be named, had several devs who strictly expressed that they would not "fight" the unreal engine and would strictly use it for what it is, a 3rd person hallway shooter with laminated graphics.



So, Silicon Knights does have a point, they spend their own money like so many other studios trying to make something innovative with a very strict engine.



My biggest prediction of failure will be the countless fledging companies out their trying to make MMO's, that's one laugh, second they're using Unreal, that's a real laugh. (i.e. StarGate).

andrew clear
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But, ironically Mass Effect, Last Remnant, Lost Odyssey, all use the unreal engine, and they aren't 3rd Person Hallway Shooters.



No engine will ever be perfect for every project out of the box. All of them will need to be adapted to your project.

Anonymous
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I love how everybody has some snarky comment, when they don't even know the specifics of the case.



Many of us have licensed an engine before, and many of us have seen licensors completely ignore licensees so they can focus on their own game(s). That complaint is all we know about this issue. We don't know any specifics, so it's ridiculous that everybody wants to bag on SK for complaining.



You do realize how much a UE license costs, right? And that it's solid with a strong line of BS about 'unequaled support'? If the customer paid that gigantic fee and didn't get the support they needed, they have the right to complain.



And apparently the courts felt SK had enough of a case that Epic couldn't get it dismissed. So why doesn't everybody back off on judging it themselves and let people who know what's going on figure out the answer.

Anonymous
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The amount that a game differs from the GoW/UT formula is proportional to the amount of necessary modifications to UE. I don't think any developer who has used a middleware engine believes it will work for their game without modification.

Anonymous
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Technology providers and game providers should be different organizations. It's clearly a conflict of interest to sell (and more importantly support) the engine technology from a game which isn't done yet.



Essentially Epic was under contract to get Gears of War done and also to support Silicon Knights due to their license deal. The problem is that there was no way for them to properly achieve both of those goals.



Epic got Gears of War out to critical acclaim and left Silicon Knights high and dry. Everyone should remember that Silicon Knights licensed this engine way before Gears of War was released. The two games should have been contemporaries instead Too Human will be out in the same generation as Gears of War 2.



I don't think Epic was acting maliciously but in the end money from Silicon Knights development budget was poured into Gears of War's development budget because Epic was unable to ship a world class game and simultaneously offer support to a licensee.



I think everyone knows that no engine comes along perfectly suited to every game. Silicon Knights has some impressive products I can't see them being that naive. From what I remember reading this was primarily a problem with Epic offering little to no support for the engine to help Silicon Knights get up to speed with the product. Which of course was also behind the curve as compared to the exact build of the engine used for Gears of War.



Most technology providers have a build of the engine they use and another (usually more stable ) build of the engine provided to license purchasers. It seems that in this instance the stable build was a far cry from the lead build.

Doug Poston
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(@ David Sahlin...and a dozen other people I've heard making weird comparisons).



Game engines are not cars.



Hell, almost everything that gets compared to cars (computers, software, the human body, downloadable music, relationships, etc.) are nothing like cars.



Can we stop comparing everything to cars?

Doug Poston
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...that said. If you bought a street car and expected to race it off road without making serious changes to it, you would be crazy. ;)

Benjamin Cardon
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@David Sahlin



Your analogy completely fails. When you buy a car, you are buying an end product. Your analogy would work fine if you were talking about Too Human and not Unreal Engine.



Unreal Engine is middleware that powers games, it is not a game itself. What you are trying to say is that if you bought a diesel engine and nothing else, you'd expect to just be able to drive around town on it. Of course, that sounds ludicrous, because you will have to put a fram on it, a radiator, and all the other parts that a car needs. You'll also probably have to do a fair amount of modifications to the engine itself to get it to operate nominally for the conditions in which you place it.



This is 100% absolutely no different than that. The engine only provides you the means to build a game, and with modifications to help it operate nominally for the conditions in which you are placing it. It can't build a game for you.

Anonymous
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@Benjamin Cardon



You analogy fails as well. SK bought the "diesel engine" w/ support for fitting it into a car. They are pissed because after spending probably a million on the engine Epic did not give them the amount of support they thought they would be getting. They are a pretty small company, it baffles me that any company can think that they have the man power to support thier engine to so many devs. As stated above it's also a conflict of interset.

Anonymous
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Although the disel engine analogy was better than the whole car itself. It was wrong in respect to you overhauling the engine. You bought the engine, not the block and the rest of the internal parts of the engine. The engine is expected to function under normal conditions as a whole. You would not be expected to gut the engine and replace malfunctioning components that failed to work from the start, which is the whole issue here.

Anonymous
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I tend to agree with the following reasoning :



1) buy engine/middleware

2) ???

3) working game

4) profit !

Anonymous
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Right. But if Epic's own literature promises "full source code" and so forth, it's pretty damn implicit that they are selling a product that *can* be modified. In other words, they're selling an engine plus the instructions to take it apart and put it back together in a different configuration. Otherwise, their literature wouldn't make such claims - including the promise of high levels of customer support.



Personally, I think Epic is arrogant. Have a read of any of their stuff. Read between the lines. A company can't get that successful without it going to their heads. It would be the best thing for them to fall flat on their face over this lawsuit.

Anonymous
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The real problem is that SN programmers were not up to the task of upgrading a AAA engine. Not every programmer can handle the most extreme source code around. So, sure, some of the lesser developers will get burned trying.

Anonymous
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@ "So, sure, some of the lesser developers will get burned trying."



* Cyber Empires (1992)

* Fantasy Empires (1993)

* Dark Legions (1994)

* Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (1996) (Sony PlayStation, Windows)

* Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem (2002) (Nintendo GameCube)

* Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (2004) (Nintendo GameCube)

* Too Human (2008) (Xbox 360)



That's Silicon Knights' history according to Wikipedia. I don't think anyone would consider them "lesser developers". These guys are good and have a long history. The fantastic job they did on the Metal Gear Solid port alone (from Japanese developers no less) shows they know how to dig through other developers' source code with ease.

Benjamin Cardon
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"You analogy fails as well. SK bought the "diesel engine" w/ support for fitting it into a car. They are pissed because after spending probably a million on the engine Epic did not give them the amount of support they thought they would be getting. They are a pretty small company, it baffles me that any company can think that they have the man power to support thier engine to so many devs. As stated above it's also a conflict of interset."



My analogy was correct. Your refutation here doesn't actually refute anything. Epic gave them the engine and the instruction manual (UDN) for using it. In addition, licensees are given full email support with the engine development team, which was detailed here on Gamasutra last year.



Additionally, how often do you EVER get the level of support you THINK you are getting? That is such an arbitrary assumption that perhaps Silicon Knights believed they were getting support at such a level that Epic would be writing huge chunks of engine code to satisfy their needs. That doesn't mean it was promised or actual, I believe my cell phone carrier should give me support like that, but that doesn't mean they do or will.



"Although the disel engine analogy was better than the whole car itself. It was wrong in respect to you overhauling the engine. You bought the engine, not the block and the rest of the internal parts of the engine. The engine is expected to function under normal conditions as a whole. You would not be expected to gut the engine and replace malfunctioning components that failed to work from the start, which is the whole issue here."



Yet you are wrong.



Go to any car manufacturer (or, more appropriately, someone who enjoys building cars from scraps) and ask them if they can just drop an engine into any frame with any parts and have it perform optimally without modification. Chances are they will all tell you the same thing: No.



At any rate, as someone earlier pointed out, the car comparison is pretty stupid. All that really matters is if Silicon Knights was given what was promised in their license. Beyond that, Epic can do whatever they want without legal repercussion because it wasn't part of the agreement. Epic has been selling engine licenses for over a decade, I doubt they left something like that to chance.



"Personally, I think Epic is arrogant. Have a read of any of their stuff. Read between the lines. A company can't get that successful without it going to their heads. It would be the best thing for them to fall flat on their face over this lawsuit."



You're saying everyone that works hard and does well should fall on their faces because someone thinks they are arrogant?

Anonymous
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it has a lot to do with how it is sold to. Epic will say ANYTHING to get you to buy that engine. You know how Mark Rein is. He is like the career guy selling amway who got in your house and cornered you in the kitchen.



They sell it like it can do anything. If you have had any negotiations with them you will know this is true. It is sold as a cure all. It is not a cure all. If you want to make a title that is an fps product, great. Otherwise, get to work.

Isaac Lanier
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Yes everybody have some good points. But this case is simple look at how often update to the "car or engine" was made after it was bought.

Developers do you have to pay every update to middleware? Yes i understand UE1, UE2, UE3, but UE3 to UE3.5 is that a seperate purchase. If not, how often did Epic change and use the changes to the engine, and did SK get that update with source code.

Now if that is a seperate purchase. Then we need to have the phone or Email, any line of communication checked. How often did SK call Epic, and get help.



Ohh dont go so hard on David. Be it a car or engine your gonna make changes to it. We know how the engine, but the car. We have seat cover, stero, the mirrors.



For all of us:

We need to be happy with SK for bring this to light. The last time i read a similar story was in a postmortem-tom-dom whatever.

Ever heard of Renderware. Use to be the #1, know what happen to it. EA bought it or them, can't remember if it was product or company. Acclaim support gone over night. No company said anything until after they released a successful game, and was getting interviewed. I guess thats picking your fights.

Anyway I'm sure GoW use more then just UE3. Most games have 2 and 3 middleware products. Havok(bought by intel) Binx(think they are apart of RAD Game Tools). Im sure Too Human uses more then the 1 engine. I don't think SK would go this far to say its not our fault for the delay(something they are famous for).

In this consumer soon to be Developer opinion:

Epic is in the wrong. So what they used the money to dev GoW we all love it (even thought i took mine back Mass Effect and Lost Odyssey too). Enough companies were buying it they could have employed more across the board. This way when support is needed for the "frame" Epic would have someone from "frame" help. Instead of the over worked know all department being to bizzy to provide proper help.

Isaac Lanier
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What kinda of engine is it.

Graphics, Phyics. Its designed as a do all. thats y it need so much mod time. personally the games on the engine feel the same. want to see if Lucas Arts StarWars Unleashed fix the avitor control speed style.

Benjamin Cardon
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@Issac Lanier



I don't understand a word you just said.



Epic doesn't charge for regular updates to the licensed engine. The question really is twofold:



1) Are changes that a division of Epic working on Gears of War made to the engine themselves considered as part of the engine that SK licensed? Probably not.



2) Did Epic promise SK more support than they actually received? Probably not.



Also, Mark Rein doesn't just throw Unreal Engine licenses around willy nilly. They are very careful about who they license to, and I've known several developers who they have turned down to purchase a license for a variety of reasons.



Finally, the car analogy is over, and your "hit" on it is just silly.



Epic has multiple teams in their office. One of them works on Engine development FULL TIME. These people are available to certain licensees (as determined by their license) for SUPPORT. They aren't there to make your game for you.



I'd also like to see anyone who can provide an actual reputable UE3 licensee that has openly complained about using the technology on anything other than the PS3.

Isaac Lanier
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For someone who didnt understand, you sure answers all my questions. Thanx. Here is the next set.



who said what bout UE3 on the playstation???? didnt know about that.

they make cartoons with the tech. I think WB uses it.

who said what???

Anonymous
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@ Benjamin Cardon



Not to get off topic on vehicles here but I find you're reasoning flawed.



"Go to any car manufacturer (or, more appropriately, someone who enjoys building cars from scraps) and ask them if they can just drop an engine into any frame with any parts and have it perform optimally without modification. Chances are they will all tell you the same thing: No."



Wrong. You are getting confused with Internals vs Externals of the engine. Things like mounting brackets, ecu, spark plugs are all external features. Things like o-rings oil pumps etc are internal and should not be expected to be replaced. Much like any internal hashing algorithm or script interface. If you bought an engine with faulty seals and rad fluid leaked into the oil, you wouldn't expect the manufacture to say, hey you could have fixed the problem on you're own but you didn't, so it's not our responsibility. Heck maybe the manufacture built an external filter that would pull the water back out of the oil and bolted it on their car outside of the engine. That way it wasn't part of what they sold you so they don't need to provide you with a fix. This is exactly the type of stuff that this is about. Faulty internals with no support. Also claims like saying you're engine is capable of doing something and just fails to delivering in the end. Just ask yamaha ;) http://www.motorcycle-usa.com/Article_Page.aspx?ArticleID=2988&Pa
ge=1

Anonymous
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In reply to Anonymous poster of 19 Aug 2008 at 10:17 am PST :



"Second, the way the packages function also are not naturally indusive to creating RPG or Large Itemed games. No package should exceed 1 gig and the parent to child structure is really lame; basically it has to fall on the shoulders of the naming structure. UNLESS you spend time creating a database application which sits on top of the package system. Which means more time away from the natural strengths of the engine."



Are you actually critisizing OO in general ? Because it's strange to hear a comment like this. Yes, you do have mess around creating an interface with a relational database if you intend to store large amounts of information. This isn't an exception though as it also applies to other modern languages such as Java.

Steve Watkins
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1) This "car" analogy stuff is past silly The court case will likely focus on what was delivered vs. what was promised in contracts.



2) I love Anon Aug 19 5:29 PMs "Underpants Gnome" analysis.



3) Renderware was Criterion, I believe. I don't think it belonged to Ack-Lame, though I could be wrong. EA ate Criterion. I think I read they killed the Renderware engine because it wasn't sophisticated enough (paraphrasing) to do what they wanted. (wink wink nudge nudge Say no MORE!)


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