There is no question that while the success and widespread use of the Unreal Engine has given Epic Games a foothold in the video game industry, it was the Gears of War series that made the studio a household name for even casual gamers. Now that the franchise has been acquired by Microsoft, fans have been left wondering a single question: what is next for Epic?
With the company expected to make some sort of announcement regarding the triple-A shooter they’re currently working on, it was the studio’s advances with Unreal Engine 4 that took center stage at this week’s Game Developers Conference. However, it wasn’t long after the presentation that rumors began spreading. With concept art looking a lot like a concept video released by Epic three years ago, could their new IP actually be ‘Samaritan’?
We’ll admit that video game tech demos are often about as interesting, promising, or compelling as their name implies – used by video game engine makers to show off new particle effects, lighting systems, or photorealistic models. But Epic broke that tradition when they first revealed ‘Samaritan’ prior to E3 2011, pitched as their vision for ‘Unreal Engine 3.5’ and next-gen gaming in general, the video’s shape-shifting protagonist instantly turned heads, and forced the studio to announce that the tech demo was not a hint of their next franchise.
Featuring a trenchcoat-clad human taking on police in a rainy future city (by transforming into a hardened monster), the tech demo succeeded in its goal of exciting gamers of what was possible in just a few short years – even if this particular character and universe wouldn’t be directly adapted. After all, at the time, Epic was still riding high on the Gears brand.
But as Polygon reports, it was during a presentation called ‘Animation Bootcamp: Animation Prototyping for Games’ by Epic’s lead animator Jay Hosfelt that some prototypes were revealed of character models in UE4. The outlet claims they were referred to “within the context of the game in active development,” and their resemblance to the fist-fighting star of the ‘Samaritan’ demo is clear.
The immediate connecting of dots seemed obvious: whether it was Epic’s original intent, or simply in response to the overwhelmingly positive reaction from audiences, ‘Samaritan’ was apparently being developed into an entirely new video game. In the past, Unreal Engine 4 tech demos had been used to tease actual upcoming games, so it seemed plausible. Even if the outlandish ‘Elemental’ tech demo and the stealth-focused sci-fi ‘Infiltrator’ demo that had been released since ‘Samaritan’ showed little connection.
Concept art is telling, but it didn’t take long for Epic Games’ Paul Meegan to dispell the rumor via Twitter:
We love that people are excited about our unannounced game, but it's entirely new and has nothing to do with the Samaritan demo.— Paul Meegan (@PaulMeegan) March 18, 2014
In addition to Meegan’s comment, Epic released an official response claiming that the images and concept models shown during Hosfelt’s talk on the advancements of UE4 “represent sample content we give to Unreal Engine 4 licensees. And even though he talked about our protoyping process, there were no visuals in his presentation that represent our unannounced game.” So with Epic officially refuting the claims – but offering no actual information yet – it seems this rumor should be taken with a large grain of salt for now.
What do you make of these rumors? Would you be happy to see the world and characters of either the ‘Samaritan’ or ‘Infiltrator’ tech demos turn into an entire game world, or something farther removed from the sci-fi of Gears of War? Share your thoughts in the comments, and we’ll keep you up to date on Epic’s new series as information arrives.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.