Last year was "quite big" for Epic. Gears of War is, as Mark Rein gleefully tells us, the number one game of the generation so far. Unreal became the engine of choice for next-gen developers. There's no Gears sequel this year, but 2007 will still be big - if not bigger - for the little developer from North Carolina. Unreal Tournament 3 is set to launch in November on PS3 and PC. Gears of War is coming to PC with new content. The games that Unreal powers are starting to arrive in droves - headlined by the likes of BioShock. So Mark Rein, Epic's vice president and chief evangelist, is as giddy as ever. When we run into him in Leipzig, it takes us 15 minutes to drag him into the interview room - he just wants to shoot the breeze. Fortunately he saved some good bits for the tape. Read on for the latest on UT3, Gears PC, the Gears film and Unreal Engine 3.
Eurogamer: How much longer would you say the period is before it starts looking silly with you denying Gears of War 2?
Mark Rein: [Laughs] I'll pass on that one.
Eurogamer: I'm trying to find a way round for you, Mark!
Mark Rein: [Laughing] We're still waiting to see how well the first one does. Did I say that with a straight face? We have the Windows version - that's going to be a fantastic game. We've got five new chapters in the game, we've got a bunch of new multiplayer maps, and the game runs really, really well. We're using Games For Windows Live, which is the perfect complement to Xbox Live. Everything works pretty much the same - it's easy to get into games, and there's going to be a level editor so there's going to be some great mods, great user-created maps. So there's still too much more to do on Gears for us to be talking about the sequel.
Eurogamer: How much story are we going to get out of the additional PC content? You left quite a lot hanging.
Mark Rein: I'm not the guy to answer exactly what the story adds, but we fill in a fairly large block of story right before the final Act in the game. People had a few questions - why am I here, why am I doing this, where did this train come from, where's the Brumak - so we filled in a little bit of that. It's about 20 percent more gameplay than the original.
Eurogamer: You keep saying you can't do the Windows content on the 360, and I think the reasons for that are very well known now, but-
Mark Rein: I want people to understand that it would just be a huge, huge job. People don't realise that we made a lot of changes at the end, and since we locked off the Gears code back in September or October . The code that powers the Xbox is now almost a year old. And we patched it - we made a bunch of updates to that code-base. And to go and to take that code-base and to bring it up to the latest code-base the Windows version is built on? That would be a bigger update than all the updates we've done so far combined. We risk breaking multiplayer compatibility. We risk breaking something else. It's just not worth it. We would spend months and months testing and doing it.
People want us to bring Unreal Tournament 3 to Xbox 360 - well, that would push that back probably five or six months, and we don't want to push that back any further. We have so many things going. It'd be a real house of cards to do that. It may be possible to bring some of the multiplayer maps back - that's a little bit easier - but the single-player code's changed a lot and it's not worth all that.
Eurogamer: Are you going to add anything more to the 360 version?
Mark Rein: I don't know. Maybe we'll do some more multiplayer stuff. We look at it when we have time to do things - where can we effectively spend our time and what would be the best thing to do. I'm really not aware of any specific thing that we have planned, but I wasn't aware of any specific things we had planned before we did the last pack. It's also a question of pacing.
Eurogamer: What impact does it have on you then when a company like id comes along with their series of claims about their new technology and how it can do things better than everybody else?
Mark Rein: They're a good company, and they've always been a strong competitor to us in both the games and the engine, and obviously we love their games. We're looking forward to playing Rage as much as the next guy. Same with Crysis. That's the thing about the shooter market - people see us and they think there's this great, horrible 'you must kill each other' competition, but we don't think that way. We love these games. We don't have competition between us and them, or between us and our licensees. We see it as a great market of great products. It's like - I'm not just gonna read one author if I want to read mystery authors, I'll have five or six or eight that I really love. We think there's a place for everybody in the market and we're quite happy to just be a player in it.