Without a doubt, Unreal Engine in its third generation gained a level of maturity and recognition like no other engine in the industry. Code masters at Epic Games created an unrivalled rock-solid framework for creating games or visualizations, as confirmed by over 100 licensees which include not just game development studios, but movie studios such as Warner Bros, Buena Vista, Columbia Pictures, Sony Picture Entertainment and various colleges such as University of Pennsylvania, North Carolina State, The Art Institute system of schools [nationwide], Drexel University, Westwood College, DeVry Uni and Atlantic college.

The universities mentioned above incorporated Unreal Engine in their official curriculum so you can study how to create visual projects by using UE. As a part of this university-wide push, Epic Games just released Unreal Development Kit – free of charge. According to Epic Games, this suite will continue to receive updates as Epic improves the engine – the only limitations are that this software can only be used for noncommercial or educational purposes and the only supported development environment is the PC platform. If you like what you see and want to build a commercial project using UDK, Epic Games launched a licensing page with different structures, catering to independent developers, start-up companies and the like.

Unreal Engine 3 example - a virtual world
Unreal Engine 3 example – a virtual world

The full list of features only confirms that this is not something that Epic would give lightly, as it includes the following:

  • Easy content creation with the Unreal Editor, a fully integrated suite of top-tier development tools, which comes complete with:
    • Unreal Content Browser, a revolutionary tool for browsing, searching and organizing game assets with collaborative metadata tagging system.
    • UnrealScript object-oriented programming language and Unreal Kismet, a visual scripting system that enables rapid prototyping on the fly.
    • Unreal Matinee, a powerful tool with movie director-class controls for building in-game cinematics and gorgeous cut scenes.
    • Unreal Cascade, an advanced particle physics and environmental effects editor that aids the creation of fire, fog, explosions and other visuals.
    • NVIDIA® PhysX®-powered physics system with Unreal PhAT visual modeling tool for creating character and object physics rigs.
    • Unreal Lightmass, a global illumination system that dramatically lights and shadows with minimal effort required by artists and designers.
    • AnimSet Viewer and AnimTree Editor, which give animators precise control over every muscle and bone movement.
  • Time saved thanks to technology integrations with leading game development middleware tools including SpeedTree®, Bink Video®, and FaceFX®.
  • Output of standalone applications: Games created with UDK run entirely on their own with no additional software required. This means anyone can make UDK content and distribute it for free.

All in all – a very worthy release.