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Epic Offers Free Unreal Engine 3 Dev Kit, New Licensing Deals
Epic Offers Free Unreal Engine 3 Dev Kit, New Licensing Deals
November 5, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

November 5, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander
Comments
    58 comments
More: Console/PC, Programming



Epic Games has announced a free PC edition of the Unreal Development Kit, also allowing non-commercial Unreal Engine 3 games to be released for free and detailing new royalty-based engine licensing.

The free tools, which Epic call the Unreal Development Kit, is available to anyone with interest in exploring 3D game technology, from professionals to students and hobbyists. Those users will also have access to documentation and resources on an official website -- which also offers information on how to license UE3 commercially.

Developers can now release UE3-powered games for free, which will be particularly popular with non-commercial mod projects.

However, creators will still need to obtain an official licensing agreement to develop a commercial project using UE3; according to the new licensing terms, Epic receives twenty-five percent of revenue after the first $5,000 is made, with a per-seat yearly fee also potentially applying if the project is solely used internally.

Currently, the free kit is only offered to PC users, although Epic says console support is "under consideration." It's intended as a tool for experimentation and hands-on learning.

Epic says the UDK is up to date and in step with the commercial version of Unreal Engine 3, including all its latest upgrades and features. The company promises to continue to support UDK users by offering ongoing, updated builds for free.

According to the company, Unreal development technology is already in use at over 100 schools where game development-related courses are taught, and other universities, like the Art Institutes, DeVry University and the University of Pennsylvania, among others, plan to incorporate the tech into their curricula.

"Iím excited about the possibilities the Unreal Development Kit opens to those who are looking to get into the game business but donít otherwise have the means to acquire world-class technology and tools like ours," says Epic VP Mark Rein.

"UDK is Unreal Engine 3, which has been used to create games in a wide range of genres, as well as military simulations, 3D architectural walkthroughs, animated movies and more. Users are only limited by their imaginations. Go ahead make something Unreal!"

[UPDATE: Information on new Unreal Engine licensing structure added.]


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Comments


Glenn Storm
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This is big news. It would be neat to see stand-alone Unreal mods. I'm wondering about the licensing stuff that apparently is forthcoming with regard to releasing creations commercially. That plus console play for Unreal mods would be huge. Did Unity's recent move just start a trend?

Diogo Fontes
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UUUUUooooooo this is very good, I can not imagine believing!

Martin Reimer
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Even if it doesn't become a trend, this will only help student and indie developers. People need to make sure they understand their options with licensing before moving forward with their projects. What's Garagegames going to do now?

Glenn Storm
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The Unreal community is going nuts this morning. Just to give an idea of how big this news is; check out this from 'neoduck' on Beyond Unreal Forums:



"Man, one thing I hope you guys realize is that this is almost EXACTLY the engine build that we're using here at Epic!



You get every single feature that we've been using here that aren't even in any games yet! We only got some of these features last week!



Can't wait to see some of the cool shizzle that comes out of this :)"

Logan Foster
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I bet the Unity guys are cursing Epic right now. Their kneecaps just got taken out from a blindsided blow.



On the plus side though this will do nothing but benefit a lot of developers who want to use Unreal for their projects (if they can afford a license when it comes time to release) or at the very least give anyone a chance to put "Familiar with Unreal Editors" on their resume.

Vincent Morrison
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My Team here at Orange Curtain Games was about to get started using the Torque Game builder engine... but now that this happened, I am seriously debating a hard switch! This is a total game changer for a small Indie Company like ours, in that now we can be an Unreal Developer at zero cost and work off of a profit sharing model with Epic. This surpasses my wildest dreams!

Waylon Winn
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Wow, this is crazy news.

Mark Timmins
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Fair enough you can get to know the tech - but if you want to use it in a game you intend to sell you've still got to stump up hundred of thousands of $ before you do so.

Martin Reimer
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I was pretty sold on Unity 3D earlier in the week but now im re-evaluating that decision. Im sure thats exactly what Epic wanted. Im curious does anyone know if the example models and textures included in the UDK are covered under all of the licensing models?

Simon Carless
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Mark: Actually, Epic changed their licensing terms and conditions too, we've updated the story to make that clear. It's not clear whether some people previously got similar deals (for lower-budget games, they possibly did), but it's laid out in public now that you can license UE3 on PC for solely royalties.

E Zachary Knight
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For those considering switching from the free unity engine to the Free Unreal engine. keep this in mind:



Unity Free is good for limited commercial application. You can make commercial games with it but you do not have access to some of the cool features in the pay for versions.



Unreal free is for noncommercial purposes. Meaning you can only do the game equivalent of doodling with it. Sure you can make a full fledged game, but you can't sell it. If you want to make any sort of money off of it you have to actually license the engine.



The Unreal deal is only good for students and people wanted to expand their development portfolio using current middleware.

Carlo Delallana
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Gamasutra should do a side-by side comparison of the free versions of Unity and UE3. Features, licensing structure, upgrade path, etc. There's a storm brewing, a mindshare battle for the next generation of game developers.

E Zachary Knight
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Reading the just posted terms, this does make it a better proposition for indie developers.



I guess in the end it all depends on what you plan to develop for. Unity has both PC and Web capabilities and Unreal has only PC. Unreal is more commonly used throughout the games industry so it looks more impressive on a company profile.

Martin Reimer
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Ephriam - This version of Unreal can be used for commercial products, the only catch is a 25% royalty charge on anything over $5000. If you can swallow that cost then your fine or just dont make money.

Soren Nowak
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Unity also has Mac deployment. Just needed to add that to the post above :)



Beyond that you can also go out in iPhone and Wii with additional Unity licensing.



Both engines are great but one should choose carefully because they are quite different 'monsters'.

Erick Passos
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I just hope this thing become a trend... This is no altruism from these companies, knowing that their goal is to make developers "addicted" to the respective tools earlier. But in the long range, I can only see huge benefits to the game development activity as a whole.



Unity and Unreal are two excelent tools, each with its own strenghts (and also some trade-offs), with different target audiences (for now).



I am happy...:)

Bart Stewart
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Given the above comments, a side-by-side comparison of these two development options, laying out the facts about their licensing terms and bullet-pointing each tool's fitness for a specific development purpose, sounds like a great opportunity for a very useful Gamasutra article. ;)

Andrew Dobbs
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Get on it, Bart! :P



This is amazing news for indie developers, modders, and those wishing to break in. Being able to release a mod as a standalone executable is awesome enough. The fact that you can put together a team, release a game, and only start paying royalties *after* you've made 5k is awesome.



This puts a big hit on the appeal of Unity, as well as all the other less popular indie options out there. It also competes with free but harder-to-use solutions like Ogre. Furthermore, serious modders may move away from things like Source. I was raring to go on a Torchlight mod once they released the tools, but now with this announcement I might just go UDK all the way.



Overall, this is a net positive for individual game developers and a shot over the bow at companies in the engine development space. It also means that PC indie developers may be able to coalesce around a standard tool set and work with a pool of talent that all knows Unreal. Thanks, Epic!

Andrew Grapsas
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Let's clear up a few things:



Unreal Engine is, as stated, an engine. It's a complete package meant to be harnessed for first-person shooters.



Unity is somewhere between a framework and an engine. It really provides everything; but, it's not driving towards a specific goal (unlike Unreal).



Ogre3D is a renderer. It is a component of an engine. That's it.



As for the UDK, why use it? It only gives you script level access. Tell me, how fast is script? Add the overhead of a full game engine designed for a specific type of FPS.



Don't get me wrong, it's great for students and modders who just want to change basics of gameplay. But, from a technical stand point, not having native code is an amazing hindrance.

Leo Gura
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Interesting news, although it's not like Unreal wasn't in the hands of amateur developers before this. The last Unreal Tournament shipped with a full-blown U3 editor.



Having developed a bit with Unreal and Unity, I see the two occupying different niches. If you want to make FPSs and rich 3D environments, Unreal is the way to go. Unity won't cut it. If you want to make more casual indie titles, especially for iPhone, Unity is ideal. Unreal would be overkill, and ultimately paying $2000 for Unity is far, far better than paying 25% royalties.

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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I made Elements of War for UT2003/4. I really enjoyed the engine, but was always more of a Counter-Strike fan so I waited for HL2/Source. It's not like they're handing out UT3, so, I'm sure there is a major lack of assets. I wonder how quickly and easily it is to make the game playable. I might check this out (:



Wonder when id will release Doom III/Quake IV's engine under the GPL.

Marcus Mattingly
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I am looking in to developing an Indie game and was pretty excited when Unity announced their free indie version. There are a few features locked, but stuff you can do without considering you are free and clear no matter how much you make from your game.



So do I understand this correctly?...



1) UDK has no locked features.

2) UDK is FREE unless you make over $5000.

3) Anything over $5000, you have to pay 25% of?



I too would like to see GarageGames release a free version of some kind. It could be coming soon I hope.



Thanks,



Marcus

Martin Reimer
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Yes, thats how I understood it too.

Jared Greiner
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I'd love to see a comparison article as well between Unity and Unreal. I've used both (Unity Pro and mods for UT3 and Gears). I'm just curious how hard it will be to make a game from scratch using the UDK verses making a total conversion mod of UT3. How much of the script was exclusively part of UT3?

Andrew Dobbs
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@Andrew The differences between what you get with UDK, Unity, and Ogre are clear. The main point in bringing up all three together is that when indies start with the goal of making a game, those are three likely possibilities as a starting point.



If the game you are creating can't be done with the chosen engine, framework, etc, then it doesn't make sense to use it. If your goal is a 2D iPhone game, you're probably better off using none of those options. If you're a console developer with a million-dollar+ budget, you may be better off developing your own technology, or at least getting a full license.



However, I don't think the potential usage of UDK is limited to students and casual modders. Chair's games and "Whizzle" are all great examples of what can be developed using this technology. If you are an indie developer who doesn't even know if you'll make 5k developing a game, a 25% royalty fee doesn't seem so bad.



Many indie projects get mired in engine, tools, and technology development. Eliminating as many steps as possible to getting a game running is great way to keep people motivated. Additionally, having the option to sell the game at the end (which isn't possible with most mods), also helps keep people who are working in their spare time engaged with the development process.

Benjamin Solheim
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Well there have been a couple games I can think that were not FPS built in UE3. Sure it is more work to get something like LOTRO out of but like life what you get is what you put into it.



I'm guessing since FPS proof of concepts have less pieces that why they are demoed with FPS games. If you use it as is you get a FPS, if you take the time to figure out what you want it to do and keep the parts that are doing what you want, you end up with a more interesting game.



There would not have been so many games built in it, if it did not do something right.

Taure Anthony
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I'm on it...

Teri Thom
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Sweet! finally a professional engine accessible to indies!

Pawel Sasko
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Last thing I have expected. Good move.

Etienne Grandmaison
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It's good to see open competition like this between game engine companies; ultimately it benefits us developers as more and more interesting choices and deals will show up.

Teri Thom
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There is no competition.. I just wish this offer had been available a year ago. We were just browsing the content editor and the UDK sample levels.. there is no comparison. The controls are smart. It's astounding!

Kevin Reese
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This is such great news :)

ken sato
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This certainly is good news but it makes me wonder at UE4 release schedule.



In any case this will consolidate game development by locking in some base requirements. Since most studios are now actively employing tools programmers for their own engines, you can blame UE for that which is a good thing.

Mark Kilborn
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The lack of native source bugs me. Script isn't going to give people the flexibility and power they truly want. I would like to see native source given out as an option for one of the cheaper license fees (perhaps the $2500 one). That would make more sense. I've worked on 5 Unreal 3 based titles now, and I can tell you that heavy source (not script) modification was done to achieve the feature set we wanted, even within the framework of a FPS.



This is cool, I'm not trying to diminish that. It's absolutely cool. But don't think this is your all-in-one wonder tool. There are some limitations, and no access to the source is a big one.

Michael Kolb
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Very cool, golf clap on the sidelines.

Aditya GameProgrammer
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Awsome News just when i thought things couldnt get any better with Unity being available free .

O_O

Sooooo whos next ^_~

cant believe game engines are following suit with the console war/price cuts .

Alexander Bruce
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For those interested, I'm in the process of converting my own game, Hazard: The Journey Of Life (http://www.demruth.com/hazard.htm), to being a UDK game. The same is true of other people / teams who previously had UT3 total conversions, who were already using Unreal Engine 3 as a toolset. I'm trying to get it done by tonight.



This is very good news for people who weren't really developing "mods".

Alexander Bruce
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Also, just another point to people saying that script won't give people the power and flexibility they want, I'm not sure what you're talking about really. It really depends on the kind of game you're making, and Unreal 3 happens to be great at making certain types of games. The UDK isn't for someone like 2K games to say "We're going to create Bioshock 3 with this version instead of licensing the Engine properly". But there are a whole lot of people out there who can make games that don't require changing C++ to get there, not just in Unreal.

Prakash Angappan
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Always there will be some up and downs. Anyway its a Great news!!! Thanks to EPIC!!!

Arun Prasand
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Thats a good news..... i am loving it... Thanks EPIC .... UR one of the best

Marshal Hernandez
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Heh heh heh! Knew this was coming. More is on the way too, ladies and gentleman.

Arjen Meijer
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time to throw away Unity and start with something a little more powerful!

John Kinsey
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As a student I can't even begin to describe how I feel about this. I'm simply amazed! I already respected Epic but my respect just shot through the roof. Bravo epic!

Maurice Thompson
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wooohoo!

Rune Skovbo Johansen
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> I bet the Unity guys are cursing Epic right now.



Nah, competition is good. :) Besides, we (Unity) are not just competing on price, our big selling point is productivity!



After all, companies like EA, LEGO, and Cartoon Networks chose Unity even though they have the money to buy any engine they want.

Marc Andre Parizeau
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Good news! I'm in arcade heaven!



I tried UDK last night... So sweet! ready to play a game within 10 minutes of playing with the engine. Of course, there was no textures or collision but I was roaming the environment with lighting obstacles. replacing the existing character is easy and changing the camera is a click away.



For those who are complaining about a possibility of lack of assets, I would just like to point out that it's a game engine not a complete game package so you don't have to work hard kins of thing. If you want a lazzy solution stay on mods. If you want to make a REAL game, that includes making your own art, animation, programming and everything in between :)



I'm developping a game in TGEA 1.8 right now. It took me less time to understand UDK. Now wich one will give me the better result. I'll have to dig deeper.



But I'm so excited you want to do everything at the same time. So take a deep breath and one step at a time and you will achieve your goal.



So I think I will put TGEA on the side for now and work with UDK :-)





Merry Christmas from Epic... HO, HO, HO







My hat is off to Epic

Nie Xu
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Is Unreal Engine 4 coming?

Glenn Storm
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"Nah, competition is good. :) Besides, we (Unity) are not just competing on price, our big selling point is productivity!



After all, companies like EA, LEGO, and Cartoon Networks chose Unity even though they have the money to buy any engine they want." ~ Rune Skovbo Johansen



Thanks for that response. I was thinking along the same lines. To be crystal clear, I have been a true Unreal geek for several years. Like many others commenting here, I saw Unity's first move as a breakthrough, and this after already being attracted to its functionality, particularly after Windows IDE support, iPhone/Wii support, etc. This move by Epic sort of validates Unity's imho. Floodgates open? Yes.



These were two very different indie development tools before and they remain so. There are things that Unreal can do more effectively and things that Unity can do more effectively. You're right to point out the competition is more on productivity. The determining factors (which I agree should be formally laid out in a side-by-side comparison here on Gamasutra) for choosing which tool is right for any given indie will likely fall along the lines of developer technical capabilities, development time allotment, targeted output platform and the depth of features desired 'out of the box'. That last point, to my eye, would show Unity as having the features that address the typical needs of the smaller scope project, while showing Unreal as having the features that address the details expected in larger scope projects. While I've been a veteran solo indie developer on the Unreal engine for years, my cursory comparison between the two wants to couch Unity as the tool for the smaller development team, Unreal as the tool for the larger development team. But, make no mistake, having *both* these options to choose from is nothing short of amazing! /$my $0.02

Thomas Roy
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Well, I have to say, Iím disappointed. I downloaded the UDK and while it does contain all the tools, editors, and scripting support of the Unreal3 engine, it does not provide any source code. I wasnít actually expecting full source, but I was hoping it would have at least provided libraries and header files that I could compile and link with my own application code. This is a nice set of tools for doing a simple prototype with, but without the ability to build my own application its uses are limited.

Alexander Bruce
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If the UDK provided source code, there'd be little reason for people to license the Engine. The UDK as it has been released sits happily as another platform between licensing and modding.

Vlado Jokic
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25% doesn't sound so bad when you factor in the cost of money and time savings you'll experience on your own budget. Since your budget is limited and shouldn't be breached, the % revenue split makes sense since at that point your income is always positive. I'll have to consider this seriously.

MaurŪcio Gomes
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I think that quake sons (IdTech and Source) are totally screwed :P

Unless Carmack releases the source of Doom 3 (that is still a awesome engine) soon or launches Rage or Doom 4 wih modding tools...

Luis Guimaraes
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I've been modding for UT3 and working on Unity3D. If that 25% is true, I'm considering keep up-to-date on the UE3, if that's just to put on a resume, thanks, that's the same I was doing in UT3, I rather be indie than a slave.



The two engines are very good, Unity3D is better for prototype fast and makes games for Web Browser, Iphone, Mac, PC and Wii (the last 4 if you can buy the respective licenses, and get the Wii licenso also). Unreal Engine 3.0 develops for PC, XBOX360 and PS3 (you know you need respective licenses too). UE3.0 provides cross-platform integration for multiplayer between PS3 and PC, but not XBOX360.



For me, at the end, it's a matter of project, costs, target and team size. If I'm making games alone, I'm a Unity Developer, If I get a team of 3 more specific discipline developers, I can wander about UE3 depending on the scope of the project.



Another thing, I didn't downloaded the UDK again yet since I read this, but in the UT3 you could "export all scripts" (from the classes browser) which also exported all native code, editor tools, renderers and lots of other base things, including the construction of the UScript syntax and functionalities). Isn't it working now?

Alexander Bruce
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Export All Scripts does NOT export Native Code (C++).



If you want the scripts, you can get the latest scripts all off UDN.

Luis Guimaraes
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Oh, thanks Alexander, I clearly remember many classes being in C++ and many opnes refering to "native" in the declaration, but yes I also got the scripts from UDN, maybe it's that.

Alexander Bruce
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The fact that something says "native" doesn't mean the UnrealScript that you have is a native class. It means that there's a native backend to the class, as opposed to something that is purely script. This is to allow you to go back and forth between C++ and UnrealScript.



You may also have classes with cpptext in them. But, you will NOT get C++ source out of UnrealScript files, ever. :)

Luis Guimaraes
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Oh Got it :D

I'm not a programmer so I can't say too much, I thought those classes for vehicle support and all that behind the Object classe in the folders Core, or maybe Engine, where C++. The word "native" means it derives from a C++ class, so that parent class were to be C++. Well I don't know anything anymore XD, let me take a look

Kenneth Deringer
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After taking a good look at this, itís a good enough SDK for making something small or making an Unreal Tournament MOD. But without the ability to create your own application (you have to use the prebuilt EXE provided in the UDK since they do not provide any libraries to link to), this is really only a viable choice for small games from small Indy developers. If you are a real game company (or are planning on it), youíll want to look elsewhere.


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