It's sometimes hard to feel good about the state of the video game industry, with certain publishers taking decisions that seem far from the most consumer-friendly approach. We've had the recent controversy surrounding AAA titles such as Assassin's Creed: Unity and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, whilst Nintendo has faced the ire of YouTube video makers over its policy on video copyright. That EA has twice won the title of Worst Company in America is a damning, if rather hyperbolic, indictment of the industry as a whole.
However, there are still some signs that the industry can surprise us, particularly with regards to independently-produced titles. Although Microsoft's strict approach to indie games has been heavily criticised by the indie dev community, other publishers have taken a refreshing approach. Ubisoft allows its developers time aside from its major titles to work on personal projects, in a move that has resulted in such games as Child of Light and the recent Grow Home. Meanwhile, Square Enix has opened the door to developers wanting to work with cult Eidos franchises like Gex and Fear Effect through its Square Enix Collective campaign.
As it turns out, there's another industry heavyweight looking to help cultivate new independent projects. Epic Games, the developer behind games such as Gears of War and Unreal Tournament and creator of the Unreal Engine, has announced that a tantalizing $5 million in grants will be available to developers. The only catch is that the projects proposed must be created using Unreal Engine 4.
Epic Games set out some guidelines in a post over at the Unreal Engine website, and it's not just game developers that will have funds available. Alongside games, Epic will also have their eyes open for "animated features, architectural visualizations, marketplace content" and other interesting content. In particular, the developer seems to be on the lookout for any projects pertaining to education, such as class projects, curricula and tutorials that use the engine. Epic also gave some advice to candidates, stating that working prototypes would be more likely to receive a grant.
Epic Games is releasing the $5 million in grants ranging between $5,000 and $50,000. The developer will have no rights over any of the projects that are successful. Candidates will still own their intellectual property, will be able to use any grant funds without restriction and will be free to publish however they wish. Contending developers simply have to email Epic Games with videos, links and any further information they think would help them earn a grant. An Unreal grant would also not impact on any crowdfunding that projects have earned.
It's an interesting move from Epic Games, and one that will hopefully help create a number of worthwhile projects. It may well help to strengthen the growth of the independent game market, particularly since it now seems that major players like Epic Games and Square Enix have aims at independent content curation. After all, it's another funding option for would-be developers, alongside crowdsourcing via sites like Kickstarter. Here's hoping Epic Games helps to nurture titles worthy of that $5 million investment.
Source: Unreal Engine