There's nothing like a game engine you can't run. That means the current hardware platform doesn't have what it takes to render the graphical goodness the software has to offer. It also means it's time to invest in new components or, if you're a console junkie, wait for Microsoft and Sony to cough up a new box. That's where we stand with Unreal Engine 4.
"We’ve started a behind-closed-doors showing of the engine to developers; this is part of our very early ramp-up cycle," said Epic CEO Tim Sweeney in an interview on Monday. "We went through this cycle with Unreal Engine 3 starting in 2003 and 2004. At some point, we’ll make public announcements and ramp up to the point where developers are shipping games, but it’s very early right now. We’re aiming very high, and the intended platforms this is aimed at haven’t even been announced."
Later on in the interview, Sweeney was questioned about what Epic wants from the next-generation of consoles that would help make their games better. His answer same in two parts: they want a mainstream device that hooks into all of the user's social circles in addition to the features of the current generation. They also want as many teraflops as is economically possible to deliver to consumers, as this will enable Epic to create the best quality experience as possible which in turn will drive consumers to purchase a new machine.
"The thing that separates consoles from FarmVille is the fact that consoles define the high-end gaming experience," he said. "When you look for the best graphics available in the whole game industry today, you look at Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and those games are the best out there, bar none. And so the big opportunities for future consoles is to bring that to an entirely new level by delivering a dramatic increase in raw computing power."
What Epic doesn't want is a device that's as open as Android. "Android is anarchy," he added. "It's extremely hard to ship a game that actually works on a large number of Android devices, because there's so much variety and so much openness and a lack of cohesive certification process for applications. We do not want open as in Android -- that would be a disaster for the business."
Getting back to Unreal Engine 4, Epic hopes to showcase the new platform in public by the end of 2012. It's also reportedly running on a single card powered by Nvidia's Kepler hardware. Last year the Unreal Engine 3-based "Samaritan" demo required three high-end Nvidia cards and a monster PSU -- now it runs on the same single Kepler-based board used by the UE4 demos.
"We can get so more out of that card than what you saw in Samaritan," said Epic Games VP Rein during GDC. Sounds like hardware is finally catching up with the software.