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Interview: Epic Talks UE3 On Flash, Infinity Blade 2

Speaking to Gamasutra, Epic Games president Mike Capps hints at in-house games for Unreal Engine 3 on Flash, while Chair head Donald Mustard said there's room on iOS for games that are "priced a bit higher."
[Speaking to Gamasutra editor-at-large Chris Morris, Epic Games president Mike Capps hints at in-house plans for Unreal Engine 3 on Flash, while Chair head Donald Mustard said there's room on iOS for games that are "priced a bit higher."] Just minutes after Epic Games' president Mike Capps and Chair Entertainment creative director Donald Mustard debuted Infinity Blade 2 at Apple's press conference for the new iPhone 4S in Cupertino, CA on Tuesday, Epic's CEO and technical director Tim Sweeney was on stage at the Adobe Max conference -- roughly 350 miles away in L.A. -- announcing that Unreal Engine 3 would be supporting Flash. It was what you might call a busy day for the company. And barring some unforeseen -- hell, unimaginable -- event, it was one that set Epic up for a tremendous cash windfall. The first Infinity Blade, after all, has generated more than $20 million in revenue since its 2010 launch on iOS. And while the company declines to disclose hard numbers, Unreal Engine 3 licenses have been a substantial source of income for Epic over the past four years. Given Infinity Blade's record debut, there wasn't much doubt that a sequel would follow at some point, but the arrival of UE3 on Flash is what really perked up the ears of game industry watchers. Epic has actually been working on bringing the technology to web browsers has been in the works for quite a while. "We've been working with Adobe a long time on the tech," says Capps. "It's a pretty hard thing to take 1 million-plus lines of code and get it to work in Flash." Tuesday's announcement was an opening salvo of sorts. Sweeney did not announce any titles headed to Flash. But Capps hinted that the company might already be working on converting some internal properties to the medium. "We don't have anything to announce with that," he said. "I will say, though, that we have a long history of only creating technology that we're using in our games." As for existing UE3 licensees on Flash, there haven't been any announcements either. Again, that's likely to be a fairly short period of silence. "In terms of developers, almost everybody we've talked to has an interest in web-based gaming," says Capps. "That's still where the most users are -- on the PC. ... It's just never been practical for [licensees]." Licensing for the Flash-based UE3 isn't likely to be any different than the current model. Capps, noting that his recent focus has been on ensuring that the Infinity Blade 2 demo was sufficiently polished for the Apple event, confessed he wasn't entirely certain, but was "rather sure" the Flash components would simply be attached as an additional platform for people who have (or want) a license. One thing you shouldn't expect anytime soon, though, is a web-based Gears of War game -- or any of the graphically intense console titles that UE3 has powered. "I think it's going to be a little while before you see DirectX 10 running in browsers and flash," said Capps with a chuckle. Infinity Blade 2 For Infinity Blade 2, Epic subsidiary studio Chair wanted to do something with more impact this time around and Mustard says it has succeeded at doing so. The game is several times bigger and less linear than the original. The team also made the game much more customizable, he says, letting players modify every weapon in the game to add special abilities and powers. In addition, Infinity Blade 2 will introduce new online features, including one called "Clash Mob," where players will work together in what Epic calls "massively social" challenges to unlock rare weapons and items. The price of Infinity Blade 2 wasn't revealed Tuesday and the company is still exploring what it will be -- but it's looking very likely that Epic will charge more than it did for the first game, which currently sells for $5.99. "There's a place in the app store for premium content like Infinity Blade, that's priced a bit higher," says Mustard. To bridge the gap between Tuesday's announcement and the game's Dec. 1 release, Epic and Chair also unveiled a $2.99 eBook, "Infinity Blade: The Awakening," written by New York Times bestselling fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, author of "The Way of Kings," "Mistborn" and the latter "The Wheel of Time" novels. Mustard says the decision to bypass hardcopies of the book was deliberate, as the company delves further into what the iPad can do. "This is an interesting experiment for us," he says. "With the iPad, it's an ultimate device that allows us to combine so many forms of media. ... This felt like the perfect opportunity to show what these devices can do. ... What's amazing to me is I can literally be playing Infinity Blade and kill the God King, then pick up the book and see what's next - and that connects right up until Infinity Blade 2." In other words, the book is more a marketing tool than a notable income source. "We're not really doing this for revenue," says Capps. "It's like the Gears of War comics - which if they broke even, I'd be surprised. It's a way for us to build characters."

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