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Epic seeds Unreal Engine 4 by offering it free to schools

Gamasutra caught up with Unreal Engine 4 GM Ray Davis to learn more about how the program works, what developers can expect to get out of it and what Epic hopes to gain.
Epic Games is now offering academic institutions and their students free access to the Unreal Engine 4 toolset in an apparent effort to seed its technology among the next generation of game developers. Starting today, academic faculty can apply for a free UE4 license on behalf of themselves or their students through a form on the education section of the company's website. Gamasutra quickly touched base with Unreal Engine 4 general manager Ray Davis over email to learn more about how the program will work, what developers can expect to get out of it and what Epic hopes to gain from seeding free copies of its engine to students around the world. How is Epic rolling this out to academic institutions? Does this version of the engine differ in any meaningful way from the UE4 toolset our readers are currently using? Davis: "Academic institutions and their students will get access to the same UE4 already available to everyone today. Students will be able to take the same projects they’ve created in the classroom with UE4 and continue them at home as though they were a regular game developer. They’ll have access to all the features and updates as we release them, including live access to the engine’s entire source code." Does Epic claim any rights over projects created using the free academic version of UE4, or does it place any restrictions on how those projects may be distributed and sold? Davis: "Epic isn’t claiming any rights over projects created through academic use and students will be free to distribute their works as they wish. There are no hidden surprises – we want students to have the freedom to take what they’ve created through their courses and ship them like any other project. Arguably shipping a game is one of the biggest learning opportunities in the development process and it’d be silly for us to somehow make that more difficult for students." What does Epic get out of this program? Davis: "Our focus is to help grow the talent pool of skilled developers to fuel the next generation of game creators. This means more talented people for the industry to hire and more importantly, more great games being created. We also believe a deeper collaboration with academia will help us refine our own learning resources and tutorials, so we’ll be able to benefit all UE4 developers over time. It’s also an opportunity for us to expose the technology to even more students in other related tracks such as architectural visualization which are seeing increasing demand for high fidelity real-time rendering technology." That's not all Epic gets -- Davis later went on to point out that since students must agree to the UE4 EULA under the terms of this offer, they are obligated to pay Epic 5 percent of the gross revenues (after $3000 per calendar quarter) on any game they ship. Of course, Epic has a history of partnering with academic institutions, including the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Most recently, the company partnered with a British university to provide the school with computer equipment, teaching materials and time from Epic Games employees.

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