The ever-entertaining Epic Games VP Mark Rein, sassing "Don't take my picture!" at the photo-hungry crowd before the start of his GDC London talk on Unreal Engine 3 and Gears Of War, was bombastic as usual, quipping of the imminent debut of the X360 title: "Sony says the next generation starts when they say so - bullshit!" He also opined that Gears, as a second-gen Xbox 360 title is likely to look better than PS3 launch titles.
Rein started with a capture of an in-game cut-scene and gameplay footage from the second level of Epic's own Xbox 360 exclusive title. The long footage showed the game's characters clearing out a decaying urban area of the game, plugging up 'Emergence Holes' in the ground with frag grenades to stop the enemy 'Locusts' from appearing, and plenty of frenetic urban duck and dive combat.
The Epic VP then took the stage, commenting that Gears Of War ships in around 6 weeks, commenting: "We're trying to counteract all the hype the game has" by keeping a lot of the game features concealed and fresh. He also revealed that Gears Of War itself will take twelve-and-a-half hours to complete (not a recently cited ten hours, he made sure to point out), and that there is "plenty of replayability" after the fact.
As Gears Of War ends, Rein explained that the concentration is changing to making the Unreal Engine 3 engine for PlayStation 3 better. He notes: "We have a couple of worried customers" regarding the PlayStation 3 and UE3, who are asking: "How are we going to get it to perform as well as the Xbox 360"? But this is now what Epic is concentrating on, as it moves toward the completion of Unreal Tournament 2007 "some time in 2007."
Rein also commented on some of the most notable third-party Unreal Engine 3 titles from this year, from Bioshock through Mass Effect, but was particularly interesting when discussing Lost Odyssey, the Hironobu Sakaguchi-created Xbox 360 RPG.
"Lost Odyssey was a little lost for a while - it took the developers a little bit of time to find out how to use Unreal Engine 3," said Rein. He noted the problem in getting Japanese developers to change their pipeline to UE3, but that it is something developers are getting much better at.
As had been done at Tokyo Game Show, the existence of Epic Games China as an official subsidiary for asset creation was revealed, with Rein countering forum chatter over the question of outsourcing outside the U.S. and 'sweatshops', charging: "Shanghai is a little too expensive for a sweatshop," and further commenting: "We're paying people the absolute top end of the wage scale."
He also discussed the Integrated Partner Program for middleware companies and Unreal Engine 3, explaining it as a "formal business relationship between Epic and selected companies" making sure that middleware companies such as AI.Implant and others will be concretely working with UE3 - 10 companies have signed up so far.
Finally, Rein touched on software rendering support for Unreal Tournament 2007 on the PC, revealing that the company has been talking to a third-party about providing software rendering again "so we can support those crappy Intel chips," commenting that: "If it's possible this time, Epic will do it."