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Graphics Programming Software Games

Unreal Engine 4 Is Now Free 143

jones_supa writes In 2014, Epic Games took the step of making Unreal Engine 4 available to everyone by subscription for $19 per month. Today, this general-purpose game engine is available to everyone for free. This includes future updates, the full C++ source code of the engine, documentation, and all sorts of bonus material. You can download the engine and use it for everything from game development, education, architecture, and visualization to VR, film and animation. The business scheme that Epic set in the beginning, remains the same: when you ship a commercial game or application, you pay a 5% royalty on gross revenue after the first $3,000 per product, per quarter. Epic strived to create a simple and fair arrangement in which they succeed only when your product succeeds.
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Unreal Engine 4 Is Now Free

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 02, 2015 @03:18PM (#49166685)

    Or is it still freedom-disrespecting software?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rogoshen1 ( 2922505 )

      go home Stalman, you're drunk.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        go home Stalman, you're drunk.

        I think it really does say a lot about the current Slashdot audience when someone asks if the engine code is freedom-respecting (as in adheres to a free-software license like the GPL) and gets marked as -1 Troll, yet the above quoted comment makes fun of that query by mocking the originator of the free-software movement, and is marked 5 Funny.

        How much clearer does it need to be that we're going backwards in terms of respect for free licensing? I'm not a huge Stallman fan or any

        • by rogoshen1 ( 2922505 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @12:44AM (#49169453)

          Oh, I respect his viewpoint -- he's a net good for the world -- however he's also kind of a crank.

          To be clear though, it was that zealotry, attacking any piece of software that isn't under a license such as the GPL that I was poking fun at. I think it's naive to think that we'd be where we are now if literally everything was 'free' via something similar to a GPL license.

          It's a lot like that APK guy, I use his host file. But I'll still poke fun at him coming out of the blue to spam the shit out of a thread.

          PS: I feel like a dunce for misspelling his name.

    • by davydagger ( 2566757 ) on Monday March 02, 2015 @03:34PM (#49166759)
      terms are pretty fair actually.
    • Depends on who's freedom you want to respect.

    • I can't find references to the actual license text, but the expectation of paying royalties back to Epic certainly makes it non-free with respect to software freedom. This makes it incompatible in the same sense that the Creative Commons License's "noncommercial" clause is incompatible; most copyleft licenses insist on unrestricted redistribution (which would be broken by a requirement of paying royalties).

      The video notes that this is "unprecedented," yet Epic's competitor Id Software [wikipedia.org] used to release all

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The video notes that this is "unprecedented," yet Epic's competitor Id Software used to release all of its engines as GPLv2 once they were ~two generations obsolete

        And this is unprecedented because it's not two generations old. This is their current tech. If this isn't unprecedented, then who set the precedent? Not Id, they never released their current tech to everyone for just a royalty agreement.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stonefoz ( 901011 )

      Of all the things that benefit from being free software, games aren't entirely gaining. A game with source code include all the "spoilers". Part of the magic of a new game is exploring, not drudging though code (an entirely different game). If there is anything given less criticism, let it be games. Sometime it's entertaining to be surprised. That is a games intended purpose, to entertain.

  • Thank you Epic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Monday March 02, 2015 @03:30PM (#49166733)
    Thanks epic. I literally just started re-coding my game from Cocos2d to Unreal. My only regret is not doing this sooner; once I saw how well this worked with mac and the clean C++ just wow.
    • Re:Thank you Epic (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jbssm ( 961115 ) on Monday March 02, 2015 @06:12PM (#49167791)

      I literally just started re-coding my game from Cocos2d to Unreal

      Can you share some experiences with us. What did disappoint you in Cocos2d and what did you find appealing in Unreal Engine?

      I'm about to start developing a 2D game (mostly for fun tough) and I was quite indecisive between Godot and Cocos2d... now I'm indecisive between Godot, Cocos2d, and Unreal Engine. The more choices the more I stall this...

      • Re:Thank you Epic (Score:4, Informative)

        by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Monday March 02, 2015 @06:58PM (#49168037)
        Already a few disappointments. One is that the installed app is around 250Mb for what is effectively hello world. Also the whole environment is slow as molasses and I have a mac pro 2013. On the good side I think that I could develop just about anything that popped into my head. I am a bit worried about this being one of those silver bullets where the normal parts are developed so quickly that the project is seemingly 90% done in no time but the fiddly bits then take 10x as long. One other thing is that I like to release my iOS apps going back to iOS 5.1.1

        I love cocos2dx but I am starting to balk at the 2d part. They are introducing 3D so that is good. The documentation for cocos2d is sparse. The executables are small and the startup delay isn't too bad. It is 64 bit for IOS (critical). Very multi-platform (Win, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, and I think mobile windows). Their release schedule is very fast. Also the C++ is pretty close to the bone which means that the project sort of marches forward at a steady pace including the fiddly bits.

        I recently played with Gameplay3d and was actually quite impressed. Very simple and it just sort of works. The only huge thing was that importing assets in from something like Maya was cumbersome and sort of sucked. The documentation is nearly nonexistent (documentation with useful examples) their sample code was trying to show off how they were such efficient coders and didn't separate out each bit of functionality.

        The platform that attracts me the most is Openframeworks. Except that they don't yet do 64 bit on iOS which is a show stopper. They are promising this with their 0.9.0 release.

        But I might have spoken too soon. I am going to continue now with cocos2d and probably deploy version 1 of my present project in that. But I am going to spend an hour an evening seeing how hard I can push Unreal.

        What worries me is that with Unreal I might alter my game to fit their environment which might make for a very beautiful game that isn't much fun instead of the ugly game that I make that is fun.
      • One other bit; I looked at godot and I would suggest that you just jump in with cocos2dx. It is great if you are 100% 2D. What I am looking at doing is what some call 2.5D and this is where I am having the most problems with cocos2dx.
      • Re:Thank you Epic (Score:4, Informative)

        by odie5533 ( 989896 ) on Monday March 02, 2015 @07:01PM (#49168065)

        The experience using the development environment of Unity/Godot/Unreal is completely different than Cocos2d. Coding in Cocos2d requires you constantly be reading docs, hunting across the net for examples because the docs are horrendously incomplete and outdated, and doing all the coding and asset management by hand. There is a studio editor for Cocos2d, but it is difficult to use and the documentation for it is limited. I never managed to get it to work. Part of the problem is that much of the development of Cocos2d takes place in Asia, so the docs need to be translated to English. By the time this happens, they no longer represent the current state of the library.

        If you try making a simple loading screen and short game in Cocos2d compared to Unity/Unreal/Godot, you will instantly see how very different the two are. The learning curve for Unity-like development is really low. You can start on your game immediately and learn as you go. Cocos2d has a huge upfront learning requirement, and it's hard to pass because of the state of the docs. Frankly, I'm surprised at how many games are made in Cocos2d given the other offerings that are available which include a strong development environment. The biggest pluses to Cocos2d to me are that it's 100% free and that it has great crossplatform capabilities. But when you consider how much more difficult it is to use, and the fact that your game is unlikely to ever make money or cross the royalty threshold, you probably should be using an easier tool that is more popular and might lead to job opportunities. A lot of great engines are offering a free-to-start-with option: Unity, Unreal, Marmalade, Corona, GameMaker, Shiva, Stencyl, Construct2. Many of these didn't use to have a free option other than a 30-day trial.

  • by entertainment ( 749138 ) on Monday March 02, 2015 @03:44PM (#49166825) Journal
    5% on Gross Revenue is horrible. When you look at advertising costs pretty much outstripping development costs 5% is a big chunk.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Compare that 5% of gross with the total cost to build a home-grown engine or the total cost of using other commercially available engines.

      That's how you make a business decision...

      • Anything that charges a percentage is bad, fair scheme should be paid for work done, not charge rent on other peoples work.

        What if Microsoft said pay us 5% of your gross income goes to us because you use our operating system, compare that to developing your own in-house you are making as saving. What about banks changing a percentage of every transaction made (they do in some cases but it is unfair), well set up your own banking system see how much that costs. If everybody that provided you a service charge

        • Anything that charges a percentage is bad, fair scheme should be paid for work done, not charge rent on other peoples work.

          That is up to the business who does the charging to decide.

          The thing is they're not doing any extra "work" as such, simply letting you copy the game engine, source code and all, has an almost zero marginal cost to them. So no doubt you think it should cost you a flat dollar or something.

          In the real world, they have had to invest a lot of money to create the game engine, so it is entirely fair that they want to make some money back on it if it is used to make a commercial product.

          Releasing current soft

    • Good business people don't re-invent the wheel, they improve upon it. If you can't build a game lucrative enough to cover the 5% then you should stay away from making a game.

      • > Good business people don't re-invent the wheel, they improve upon it.

        That's why Notch wrote his own engine for Minecraft and sold Mojang for $2.5 billion.

        Oh wait ... maybe success is not only a factor of the engine, but _gameplay_.

        • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday March 02, 2015 @04:08PM (#49167019) Homepage Journal

          That's why Notch wrote his own engine for Minecraft and sold Mojang for $2.5 billion.

          Oh wait ... maybe success is not only a factor of the engine, but _gameplay_.

          You left out the really critical part of your argument, which is that Notch wrote a shitty new engine, and still made billions. It wasn't even a competent job.

          • Minecraft survived despite how terrible the game engine was. I would probably have been a lot better if it had a good engine behind it. The PC version is for some reason ridiculously slow. The Pocket version for some reason has now problem playing on my 3 year old phone, which only has a Dual-core 1 GHz Tegra 2, and 512 MB of RAM, but the desktop version won't run well on a machine with much higher specs. I used to chock it up to the PC version having an infinite world, but the Pocket version has since b
          • by phorm ( 591458 )

            In Java no less.
            I don't know that the engine is all that shitty though. It's more than I've seen from most with a java-based engine.

          • The first time I saw minecraft, my first thought was "oh, he's just ripping the Cube2 engine and making a game out of it". I still kind of think that.
        • bingo, and lots of promotion until it reaches critical mass.
        • Let me ask you this. How much money have gaming companies made by using existing Engines? Far more than the $2.5 Billion. Mojang had a great idea and made it happen with his own engine. He had to invest TONES of time and money to get there and luckily it all worked out for him in the end. Unfortunately most businesses don't go that direction. So rule to thumb, if you don't need to re-create an engine, don't!

      • It's a race to the bottom just like the music and movie industries. GDC looks now like MacWorld looked shortly before its demise. The fact is Game development is rapidly moving into the hobby space much like home studios did to music and youtube is doing to TV. There is not a big enough market for all the titles and thus Epic is playing the odds as best it can. Many games just advertise franchises like Marvel, DC, Walking Dead, etc... You can make a compelling game in Unity for free, and get most of the
        • by Smauler ( 915644 )

          It's (relatively) easy to build a game world, but it takes time to deliver content for that world. No amount of hand waving about new technologies and the ease to produce a new game can get around the fact that just about every game needs lots of writing.

          FTL is a good example... the engine is simple, the maps are procedural. That was not the difficult bit. Writing scripted events that merge with the procedural framework, and writing enough of them so that the game is not repetitive, that's the difficult

        • You didn't read how the licensing works.

          First $3000, no cost to the dev.
          5% on anything else quarterly.

          As a gaming studio, if your costing model doesn't include the 5% then you need to hire someone to help you with the business side of things.

      • Good business people don't make deals on Gross receipts.
        • And I think that Epic has been in the business long enough to know that the profit you declare is a pretty subjective number you can make be anything you want.
          • Did they come to that conclusion from looking at their own tax returns or Amazon's?

          • And I think that Epic has been in the business long enough to know that the profit you declare is a pretty subjective number you can make be anything you want.

            People always say this about "Hollywood accounting" but I seriously doubt that the tax authorities (for instance) just let film companies make up their profit figure.

            • Considering all the the Harry Potter films lost money, apparently they do.

              I think the reason that it is not so bad for the feds is because the gross still got declared as someones income. So they still got to tax every cent pf the gross, it just showed up in other peoples and businesses financial statements.
            • > People always say this about "Hollywood accounting" but I seriously doubt that the tax authorities (for instance) just let film companies make up their profit figure.

              Hollywood was invaded by organized crime a long time ago through the stagehands labor unions. Read the credits on a film sometime. Do you really need 20 catering staff on call? The method is to pad staffing, with people who aren't really needed, or in some cases don't even exist. The movie production company writes off the expenses, wi

        • I don't recall anybody referring to gross receipts. Gross margin is what was spoken about.

      • It's not about "covering" the 5% cost - it's about the fact that it's a fixed percentage and independent of the total amount of revenue.

        • So what would be more or less "fair" about altering the percentage based on total revenue?

        • Like one investor once said to me. If your product is good enough to sell on a royalty, whoever buys it should be more than capable of capitalizing on it's success. If 5% is too much for you to make money on you should look at other options.

          The royalty system has existed for a long time and many people got rich both from the royalty and from taking advantage of the success of the one selling the royalty.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Problem with your silly theory is, making the engine readily available for free means all the developers will end up eating each other's lunch when it comes to revenue. Not only will the majority fail to recover their development cost but they will slide ride into the bankruptcy hole trying to pay for the engine out of what is left. The scam here, is release it enough and a few will get most of the money whilst the rest lose and the sneaky gain here is driving all of the other gaming engines out of the mar

        • How do you go bankrupt from 5% of revenue? Isn't your costing model flawed from the beginning then? Unity offers their engine for next to nothing yet if anything Unity has allowed indie games to surface and make money.

          If you read the license agreement, the 5% royalty is only taken after the first $3000 quarterly. So as a developer if you make $10 000 per month (after store fees), the royalty will cost you ((10 000 - 3000) x 0.05) = $350. That leaves you with $9650 per month.

          • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

            Gees bloody easy to go bankrupt from 5% of revenue. Say you built a commercial building and you bought 10 million dollars worth of material and paid 10 million dollars for labour to put in up and the land cost you a further 10 million dollars. Now your plane to sell that building for fifty million dollars and make 20 million dollars profit didn't pan out. You are following me, I hope I didn't make it to complex for you so far? Now people think you building sucks and only want to pay you thirty million doll

            • So the morale of the story is the same. Bad business is bad business. It's not the 5% that sunk you, it's the fact that you didn't build a building worth selling.

    • That's $2.50 per copy on a $50 game, or 50 cents per copy on a $10 game. Hardly crushing to the bottom line, and it neatly sidesteps the kind of "Hollywood accounting" that routinely screws over artists of all types.

    • by Shados ( 741919 )

      Development cost for these things is still pretty close to half the whole cost. If you think making an engine from scratch is gonna cost you less than 5% (though do take in consideration the cost of learning/using the engine is, as that's not zero), go for it. Some companies still do it. Fewer and fewer though.

    • 5% on Gross Revenue is horrible. When you look at advertising costs pretty much outstripping development costs 5% is a big chunk.

      Add another 5% on top of your price to cover it then.

      There is no law that says your wonderful game has a divine right to make a huge profit, you know.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Cause they know it won't stand a chance against tomorrow Valve's next Source Release using OGLNext (which is also free from Nvidia shit like Physx which UE4 is not)...

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Monday March 02, 2015 @04:12PM (#49167039) Journal

    I think this is a great strategy, but how would Epic Games know what a developer's gross income was, year after year, on a particular game title?
    Is this a matter of Epic trusting them to report it honestly, or is it part of contractual terms where you're required to supply them with your tax records each year, or what?

    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday March 02, 2015 @04:29PM (#49167189) Homepage

      EULA [unrealengine.com]

      6. Records and Audits

      You agree to keep accurate books and records related to your development, manufacture, Distribution, and sale of Products and related revenue. Epic may conduct reasonable audits of those books and records. Audits will be conducted during business hours on reasonable prior notice to you. Epic will bear the costs of audits unless the results show a shortfall in payments in excess of 5% during the period audited, in which case you will be responsible for the cost of the audit.

      • Reasonable (Score:4, Insightful)

        by phorm ( 591458 ) on Monday March 02, 2015 @04:59PM (#49167421) Journal

        You know, that is one of the most reasonable clauses I've seen in a very long time.

        Basically, we expect you to make decent efforts at bookkeeping. If we think you're shafting you, we'll pay for the audit, unless you really are shafting us in which case you pay for the audit and the licensing-related costs.

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Monday March 02, 2015 @04:53PM (#49167349)

    Software Corp continues to use brain when licensing its software, remains perpetually popular. What a concept. These guys deserve our respect. I remember buying Unreal Tournament 2003 and Unreal Tournament 2004, one of those rare games that acutally shipped with a Linux binary back in those days.

    You guys are Epic! (pun intended)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You guys are Epic! (pun intended)

      Not a pun.

  • Fantastic news, in theory. I'm 3 days in to development of a new game in Unity so I tried to download UE4 to see if it was worth switching. Instead of a normal installer you have to download some Epic "community" app which will then install the engine for you. Except... it doesn't. Googling it reveals that the problem dates back at least eight months and there's still no fix.

  • Anyone who knows both - how does Unreal compare to Unity? I mean from a developer perspective. I've been using Unity since late 1.x / early 2.x days, and one thing that I like it for is that compared to the other engines I know from that time (e.g. Torque), it was always very easy to use and develop with, especially in the early development phases when you're prototyping and want to see some results, fast, so you can test basic gameplay and mechanics.

    How does Unreal compare?

    • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
      unity chugs like a mofo on even the beefiest hardware, UE runs well even on lower end hardware and looks really good on high end hardware.

      source: I play besiege, KSP, and Sanctum 2
  • All right, well is there a version for Linux then? I'd certainly like to give a try now, I'm only seeing Windows and Mac versions for download. I know that people have gotten this working in Linux, maybe there's a guide somewhere for how they did it?
  • Many a use for such an engine has a very small net profit percentage. So 5% of gross revenue (not net) can be completely ruinous. That is effectively 5% of sales over $3000 per quarter. What of cases where the unreal engine is used as a subcomponent of our larger product?

    • by radish ( 98371 )

      That's just the default license. You are free to negotiate something different if you prefer.

    • I think they - reasonably - expect you to do the math before you enter the market with a solution using their software.

    • Re:fair? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Barefoot Monkey ( 1657313 ) on Monday March 02, 2015 @08:02PM (#49168423)

      What if my project requires custom licensing terms?

      If you require terms that reduce or eliminate the 5% royalty in exchange for an upfront fee, or if you need custom legal terms or dedicated Epic support to help your team reduce risk or achieve specific goals, we’re here to help. See the custom licensing [unrealengine.com] page for details.

      Fill out that form and Epic will get in touch with you to negotiate terms for a custom licence.

  • Very cool, although I don't plan to start making maps again.
  • Will they want a cut if the engine is used by an opensource project managed by a nonprofit/not-for-profit foundation?
    • Will they want a cut if the engine is used by an opensource project managed by a nonprofit/not-for-profit foundation?

      Would a non profit have sales revenue? Because that sounds like trading to me.

      • If they're funded only by donations(with unrestricted "freeware" distribution) they don't have sales in strict sense. So I really want to know would donations be considered sales?
  • I've spent the evening with UE and I'm running back to Unity. I don't know about the PC version but the Mac version isn't ready for primetime yet. I know it's quite new so hopefully they'll work on it some more. A lot more.

    Currently, nearly everything fails. Create an empty project and add a Player Controller... fail. Plus this is personal taste but the viewport camera controls are utterly awful. Keep in mind that I use Unity and Blender every day, two apps that are known for their poor viewport controls, a

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