Today Epic Games has announced a new initiative -- one that could see your game netting between $5,000 and $50,000 in no-strings-attached funding from the engine provider.
Unreal Dev Grants is a new $5 million fund aimed squarely at disbursing free money to Unreal Engine 4 developers -- to help them get their projects to market, with the knock-on goal of enriching the Unreal developer community.
"A little bit of funding for a project can make the difference between success and failure," Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney told Gamasutra in a new interview about the fund.
Sweeney would know; he started out creating the shareware game ZZT on his own -- and he self-funded by mowing lawns to raise the capital to release it, which he did in 1991.
"These funds can be used by the developer however they want," Sweeney says.
Sweeney's main hope seems to be that the funds can help developers who come up with an exciting game prototype can kick themselves into production using the funds: the money could help "get from prototype to launch the game," or even "get from prototype to a successful crowdfunding campaign."
"There are a lot of funding sources in the game industry, but a lot of them have a lot of strings attached, so we wanted something very lightweight that helps developers, helps us, and helps the community," Sweeney says.
Everything about the process is designed to be as simple as possible: Your project must be at least a working prototype, using Unreal Engine 4. All that's required for consideration is a video and a text description. Projects can be nominated by anyone -- even fans.
A "little group" of judges at Epic will review the projects that roll in, and then decide who deserves the money -- and how much.
"We're looking for projects that we think have a chance of success, for any number of reasons -- it could be a cool game idea, it could be a cool art style, it could be high-end graphics. It could be any number of factors that lead to innovation, or the game to be set apart from the crowd," Sweeney says.
Better still, there's "no big contract, no rights that Epic seeks to have in the project," Sweeney says. "The developer is free to use funds however they want... We base it on trust. These are serious developers doing awesome things, and we expect they will be using the funds in a responsible way."
One thing that Unreal Dev Grants is not is a competition, says Sweeney. Projects of any size, scope, and platform are welcomed. In fact, the initiative was deliberately conceived to avoid competition, and in light of the fact that the game dev landscape is fundamentally different than in the days when the company ran its Make Something Unreal contest.
"In this generation, Unreal is for everybody," Sweeney says. "We wanted something that was appropriate to that."
"It's not a high-end graphics contest in any way. It's the full gamut [of game development] and we'll consider every project based on merit. 'Merit' doesn't mean the size of the project, or the scope of the project," says Sweeney.
"It's open to everything; it's open to all platforms, all territories. There are developing markets all over the world like Brazil, Chile, Thailand... If we can figure out how to import funds into your country, you can earn a developer grant from that country."
Notably, the fund is also open to games, mods, and non-game projects that use Unreal. Examples Sweeney gave included architectural demos, educational projects that help teach Unreal (such as books), or even asset packs to be released to the Unreal development community.
How do you get involved? Right now, the process is as simple as can be: email firstname.lastname@example.org with your project video and text description -- feel free to include links and whatever content that will help show off your project -- and it'll be slated to be reviewed by the team at Epic. All that's required right now is that you have a working prototype for the team to consider.