Epic's Mark Rein on Infinity Blade's Xbox origins, People Can Fly's side projects, and how the remnants of Big Huge Games could be working on an Epic IP.
Mark Rein's primary job is to sell Epic's Unreal Engine to third-party developers, which makes him a regular at the Develop conference in Brighton, England. His Develop session, though, centred on advising Sports Interactive director Miles Jacobson on how to effectively grow his studio. He claims the various Epic-owned studios now employ around 250 people, compared to the 80 or so at Sports Interactive.
The session provided insight into Epic's past, present, and future projects. Rein claimed the licensing of Unreal Engine, which is now a significant source of income for Epic, came about as "a lucky coincidence".
"We wanted to make an engine that would outcompete other people," he said. The first two Unreal Engine licensees were Microprose and GT, according to Rein, who approached them about using the Unreal tech, rather than the other way round.
Rein also touched on the development story behind Infinity Blade, the iOS action game from Shadow Complex developers Chair Entertainment. "We showed very early Unreal Tournament 3 gameplay on iPhone 3GS a few months after the 3GS came out," recalled Rein. "We decided twin-stick shooters on phones didn't work. We said to Chair--we want you to make the 'Shadow Complex of iOS'." The result was Infinity Blade, which, according to Rein, "was actually a rehash of an idea they had with Kinect".
As for upcoming projects, said Rein, Polish developer People Can Fly is currently working on Gears of War: Judgment, but is "also working on some new ideas". Rein also explained a bit of the backstory behind Epic's hiring of staff from Big Huge Games laid off following the release of Big Huge Games' Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.
"A small group of them approached us and were interested in one of our intellectual properties. They said, 'one of the IPs you have would be perfect for the game we're making.' After some discussion, Epic president Mike Capps brought them on board to create a new Baltimore-based studio. Rein hinted in his session they will indeed be working on one of Epic's existing properties, quoting himself as saying, "We'd like you to work on that IP too!"
Rein also said that though games developers work hard, so do other professionals such as doctors and firemen. "There are lots of people who work as hard as video game makers, they just don't have blogs about it," he quipped.