Train2Game & Epic Game Jam interview: Epic’s European Territory Manager Mike Gamble

Train2Game & Epic Games gave Train2Game student teams the opportunity to win one of four places at The Gadget Show Live 2012 and compete for the chance to walk away with a fully licence Unreal Development Kit.  

Epic’s European Territory Manager Mike Gamble was one of the game jam judges, and the Train2Game blog managed to grab him for a chat. In this extensive interview, Gamble talks about Epic’s involvement with the Train2Game Game Jam, UDK, the future of the industry and much more.

Read it here, on Train2Game’s Scribd site,  or listen to it via Train2Game Radio. (Part 1, Part 2)

You can also read Mike’s blog about the Train2Game & Epic Game Jam over at Unreal Insider. Leave your comments here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

We’re here at the Train2Game & Epic Game Jam, can you tell us a bit about Epics involvement with the event?

We’ve been talking with Train2Game about using UDK in their curriculum, as a quite separate item talking about a game jam at The Gadget Show Live and so a natural point of choosing the teams was to be involved in the game jam here.

Tell us about the prize that’s up for grabs at Make Something Unreal Live at The Gadget Show.

There’s a commercial Unreal iOS license up for grabs for the winning team, which essentially means it’s a source code license rather than binary which will allow the winning team to create a game for commercial distribution.

So why do Epic want to get involved with Train2Game and get UDK in the course?

In a purely non philanthropic manner, the more people that use UDK, the more people who are familiar with our tools, the better they are to go into the industry where our engine is pretty ubiquitous.

Can you tell us a bit about the UDK engine which is available for free to anyone to use?

You can download it from www.UDK.com. It’s completely free, you only have to pay anything when you actually commercialise your output, at which point you’d pay us $99 and then a 25% royalty after you’ve collected $50,000. So basically, if you’ve built yourself a little app, a little game, or whatever really using the technology, on PC, or iOS or Mac, you can put it out there on Steam or the iTunes App Store and make a little bit of cash off it.

So it’s been quite successful for teams doing that then?

Yeah, it’s been very successful, we’ve had some cracking titles, quite surprisingly professional let’s say, and there’s some decent money to be made. But often what we find is a development team will start using UDK, and then by the time they’ve finished the project, they decide to swap over to a commercial UE3 license and we have a path for them to do that and some of them have been incredibly successful.

UDK Train2Game blog image

So what are the benefits for Train2Game students of taking parts in events like this, the Train2Game & Epic Game Jam?

Well I think it gives them a real crash course in UDK, it gives them a crash course in games development, it also gives them a crash course in teamwork among people they don’t know in teams selected for them, which was definitely useful for preparing them for going into the jobs market.  And ultimately the benefit for the winners is they go onto The Gadget Show Live and I think everyone who competes there, whether they win or not, stands a very good chance of getting into the industry in a professional manner.

At the time of recording we’re pre-judging, what will you be looking for in the winning games?

Obviously we’re not looking for finished, polished, Triple A sellable games, that would be ridiculous. We’re really looking at a number of criteria: adherence to the theme we’ve set, completeness of the game insofar as the limits to what they can do in this time. But something that’s small and polished and works is preferable to something that’s huge rambling and buggy. We’re looking for the professionalism of the teams, we’re looking for the quality of the games. There are about 6 or 7 parameters we’re scoring out of a hundred in total.

And for everyone involved it’s good that they have a finished product they can show potential employers?

Exactly! Perhaps the most important thing any student can do for themselves is build a portfolio of work. It’s all very well being qualified, but at the end of the day you have to differentiate yourself from every other qualified person, and if you’ve got a kick arse portfolio that’s really going to help.

A little bit about you now, tell us about your role at Epic.

I manage Europe, for Epic, on the technology and licensing front. That means I promote and sell Unreal Engine 3 licenses to developers big and small.

Earlier this year we saw Unreal’s ‘Samaritan’ tech demo, what was the thinking behind producing that? Does it show the future of the industry?

It shows a future. For us it was…well, we’ve called it our love letter to the hardware manufacturers. It shows what can be done with a level of hardware. It was built using PC Direct X 11 hardware that’s available off the shelf today, and it was us saying ‘Look, if you built this into the next generation of consoles, this is what we could do. Obviously we can’t say ‘You must do this,’, and the hardware manufacturers haven’t hold us what they’re doing, but it was for us to stimulate some thinking about what might be possible.

The Samaritan Train2Game blog image

And it goes against those that keep claiming that ‘PC gaming is dead’ when that tech is available on PC?

Yeah totally, PC gaming is not dead by an incredibly long chalk. You only have to look at the popularity of Steam, it’s different now, it isn’t not boxed products, but there’s a PC game for every single person, in a sense it’s  gone niche. You can get a PC game for a hardcore train guy, you can get a PC game for a hardcore RTS guy, there’s everything there, it’s just not available off the shelf, it’s available digitally.

So the PC is a good avenue for people, Train2Game students for example, to get a game out there.

Yes. On PC, Steam is a fantastic way of getting games out into the market and testing the waters. The iTunes App store is also fantastic. Anywhere where you don’t have to have a license from the hardware manufacturer and there’s a market base built is a great way to get your product out.

And how has iOS changed the industry in the last few years?

I think it has made everybody think twice about what a game is. From a development point of view, it’s meant that again there’s the opportunity for small developers to create some very interesting content and make some good money outside of the traditional publisher model, which is incredibly important for nurturing the growth of the industry.

How do you see that developing?

Tricky one that. You could argue there’s been a gold rush and now it’s very difficult to set yourself apart.  I think these things will evolve, they’re(smartphones and tablet computers) going to get more and more powerful and there will be a point where it’s possible for you to essentially have, for all sense and purposes, have the power of a console on your tablet, plug that into your TV, play it with a remote. It kind of changes what a gaming device is and I think that’ll only continue to accelerate.

How did you get started in the games industry?

Well, in real life I’m a mechanical and production engineer, I worked in the Ministry of Defence for ten years and then I worked in the toy industry. Then in the mid 90s I decided to swap over to the video games industry which was at that point becoming slightly professional, and so I joined as a Producer, basically.

And what advice would you give to those looking to get into the industry?

You have to get qualified. I think the days of being able to wing it are gone. But like I said before, portfolio: it doesn’t matter if you’re a designer, programmer, musician, whatever it is you want to do in games, you need to build a portfolio of the stuff you have done yourself.

And UDK can help that with modding?

Totally, yes! Creating mods is a really, really great way of getting a great portfolio. It’s really hard to build a product from the ground up, but as an individual you can mod, and that’s a really good way of doing it.

Great, thanks for your time. 

Thank you.

For more information go to www.train2game.com

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