Koei Questions UE3 Engine, Epic Responds
Last week, we learned that Koei was having difficulty with Fatal Inertia for the PS3, saying they couldn't get it to "run correctly." The developer attributed their issues to the Unreal 3 engine they're currently utilizing, and as many of us know, the game apparently continues on schedule for the Xbox 360. However, this news has sparked a bit of a debate concerning the popular next-generation engine.
According to Koei's Sales and Marketing Manager, Jarik R. Sikat, the Unreal 3 engine is giving other teams similar problems. He said it "may be worth pointing out that many other publishers are having problems with the UE3 engine on the PlayStation 3." He further referenced the Silicon Knights lawsuit against Epic games, and the Canada.com report that evidently read as follows:
"Many other games using the Unreal Engine 3 have been delayed including Stranglehold, BioShock, Lost Odyssey, Mass Effect, Rainbow Six: Vegas for the Playstation 3, Turok, Frame City Killer, and Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway."
We wanted to learn a little more about this, especially considering how popular the Unreal 3 engine has been. So we contacted Mark Rein, VP of Epic Games, to comment on the issue.
"The bottom line is that making great games is hard work," said Rein. "There is no magic cure-all that completely hides the complexity of making world-class high-performance games on complex computing systems. We're making huge strides toward making the engine fast on next-gen platforms and you can't expect us to get that done overnight."
"Our engine is not a launch-title technology. If you want to make launch titles you take your previous-gen engine and upgrade. If you want to make stunning true next-gen games like Gears of War and Unreal Tournament 3 (which people who license our engine generally often aspire to) you have to accept that it takes time to learn the intricacies of the systems."
Rein also pointed out that the recently released Rainbow Six Vegas uses the engine in question, and has been very well received by critics. Further, he reminded us of how much Gears of War on the 360 (which also used the UE3 engine) "kicked ass" - no argument there - and that Unreal Tournament 3 is looking great. In this recent GameSpot interview, Rein pointed out that UT 3 was actually running better on the PS3 than Gears was on the 360 last year.
In addition, Midway's Steven Allison provided more comments on the matter, primarily because one of their games, Stranglehold, was among the games listed by Canada.com, cited by Koei's Sikat. Is Midway having difficulty with the Unreal 3 engine in working on that title? Well, not really.
"For the record we've had no difficulty with Stranglehold we wouldn't have had with any other tech as our first original next-gen product done at our internal studios," commented Allison. "Stranglehold PS3 is at parity with the 360 version and I think it's the first Unreal 3 engine game to ship on both platforms with no difference between the versions...next gen development is hard work, whatever the tech - everyone is having issues of one kind or another getting their own stuff going, no different in fact than the first couple of years of PS2 which were similar and tough on developers."
Allison concluded by providing the example of EA's Madden 08 and NCAA Football 08 (these titles don't use the UE3 tech), which run at 60fps on the Xbox 360 and only 30fps on the PS3; indicating that the problem of getting a game to "run correctly" isn't limited to the UE3 engine. We don't doubt Koei's problems with the UE3 engine, but it doesn't appear to be an actual failing of that specific technology. As both Rein and Allison clearly pointed out, it always takes some time to adapt to and optimize new technology like this engine.
Koei hasn't responded to our query regarding more specifics on their end, but we'll just assume they'll work through their issues in time. Epic and Midway are confident in the engine, and just today, another developer has licensed the engine: Star Vault, a Swedish-based team, has licensed the Unreal engine 3 for use in an upcoming MMO. So for now, despite Koei's comments, it seems that other publishers aren't necessarily having the same problems.
"We're very excited about [the] Unreal engine 3, the custom changes we've done to the core tech are very impressive and Stranglehold is a testament to that," said Allison. "We believe our use of the engine and how we utilize it across our studios will be a true competitive advantage for our company for this entire hardware cycle from the time we ship stranglehold, in 5 weeks - going forward."
7/23/2007 Ben Dutka