Epic Games Inc. held a press conference and reception Thursday in Tokyo to celebrate the opening of Epic Games Japan, and Gamasutra was on hand for all the details.
“We have been playing Japanese games all our lives, so we are very pleased to announce the opening of Epic Games Japan,” said Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney in his opening address, where he explained that the purpose of the new subsidiary is to provide local support to Japanese developers.
Epic Games president Mike Capps said, “Tokyo is the home of game development. This is a big step for us at Epic Games.” He added, “We’re looking forward to giving you support to make the best games ever.”
Goichi Suda, CEO of Grasshopper Manufacture, then took the stage to deliver a congratulatory address. His first action as congratulatory-address-giver was to remove his iPhone from his pocket and say, “If you don’t want to be photographed, please raise your hand.” He then made the audience wait, chuckling, while he uploaded the photograph to Twitter.
“Shinji Mikami and I first met Jay at Tokyo Game Show in 2007,” Suda said. “Jay gave us a private demonstration of the Unreal Engine. We thought, immediately, that this was the engine of our dreams. We decided then and there to use Unreal to develop our next game.”
“Unreal is very easy to learn,” Suda said. “70 percent of our staff are now using Unreal. It allows us to preview ideas instantly.” Suda added, “I hope that Unreal Engine 7 just lets me input a story in novel form and automatically make a game out of it.”
Suda closed his address by reminding Sweeney of a promise from two and a half years ago: “When I finally make it to North Carolina, Tim Sweeney has to give me a ride in his orange Lamborghini.”
Next, Joseph Chou, producer of animation projects “Halo Legends” and the Japanese feature film “Appleseed: Ex Machina”, picked up where Suda left off: “I first realized the glory of Unreal at E3 back in the 1990s. I saw that these guys were driving Lamborghinis, and that really impressed me.”
“The Lamborghinis were what convinced me that Unreal was on its way to being a global standard,” he joked.
Two years ago, Epic VP Jay Wilbur gave Chou a private presentation in Los Angeles, illustrating that Unreal is not just a game engine. Wilbur demonstrated the engine’s real-time rendering and CG animation tools. “I was shocked,” Chou said. “This can change the world of animation.”
Chou and his partners then decided they would use the Unreal Engine in some capacity for their next project. “The Unreal Engine helps us decrease our cost while increasing the degree of our freedom,” Chou continued.
Highlighting the importance of CG in Hollywood, Chou pointed out that “‘Avatar’ is 70 percent CG.” He said that he feels the Japanese animation industry can most certainly use Unreal technology to put out more creative, new material.
Epic Games Japan Territory Manager Taka Kawasaki then began a presentation on the history of Epic Games and the purpose of Epic Games Japan. He gave a brief sales presentation, stressing that Epic Games was ranked number nine on the Develop top 100 developers list in 2009.
He also demonstrated the exponential growth of the engine over the years, showing that characters in Unreal Engine 1 generally contained 560 polygons, while characters in Unreal Engine 2 contained 2,500, and Unreal Engine 3 characters contain 2 million. Twenty-five games used UE1, 40 used UE2, and now well over 100 use UE3.
The main points Kawasaki highlighted when selling the Japanese development community on the Unreal Engine were its streamlining of multiplatform development, its full source code access, its 100 percent real-time preview, its cost performance, and the ability for developers to customize the engine for any given project. “Most importantly, The Unreal Engine allows developers to focus on creativity,” Kawasaki said.
He then explained that Epic Games Japan’s mission is to offer technical support to developers. To start, they will be translation the online Unreal Engine tutorial documentation entirely into clear, concise Japanese.
Epic Games Japan Support Manager Jun Shimoda then delivered a demonstration of the Unreal Engine’s new features.
Shimoda demonstrated global illumination and the new texture density indicator, both of which can be previewed in real-time in the editor window. He showed off improved particle effects, and then the ability to paint over static meshes in the editor window to achieve effects such as moss on rocks or moisture on mountains around a waterfall.
“Unreal Engine is still growing,” Shimoda continued, explaining the engine’s new Lightmass and Autodesk HumanIK and FBX file format support. Shimoda concluded, saying that Japanese-speaking Epic Games representatives will even be available over instant messaging programs to smoothly assist developers with troubleshooting.
Epic also revealed that Scaleform GFX, including 3Di version 4.0, is now available free to all Unreal Engine licensees, and the upcoming Gears of War 3 will use it.
Alex Nagayama, president of Scaleform Japan, gave a short presentation on Scaleform, explaining that Japanese companies such as Bandai, Konami, Capcom, Sony, Koei, From, Dimps, and Yuke’s use their interface design software. More than 600 games to date have used Scaleform.
All of the software’s capabilities will be fully integrated into Unreal, including the ability to make front ends, HUDs, menus, and mini-games. Developers won’t need to use C++ for any of these features.
Nagayama then gave a brief demonstration of a 3D inventory menu in Unreal Tournament 4. The menu hovered like a hologram, and rotated as the in-game camera rotated. “It only took us two days to make this menu,” he explained. Concluding, Nagayama said that Scaleform hopes to have iPhone and Android support ready to demonstrate in the near future.
Outside the reception area in the Fujisoft Building in Akihabara were two enormous flower bouquets, of the common variety given to Japanese businesses on the day of their grand opening. The large wooden nameplate on one of the bouquets read “From Goichi Suda, CEO Grasshopper Manufacture”.
The nameplate on the other read “From Akihiro Hino, CEO Level-5 Inc.” This might lead one to believe that Level-5 may be developing a game with Unreal Technology. Akihiro Hino was not, however, present at the reception.