Will Unreal Engine 4 Games Come To Linux?
This week from the E3 Expo there's been new details to emerge about Unreal Engine 4 as the latest game engine that's in development by Epic Games. But will there be any native UE4 Linux games to come or will it face a similar fate to Unreal Engine 3 on Linux?
New trailers were released yesterday of Unreal Engine 4 and it's mighty impressive. The graphics shown by the Unreal Engine 4 demos are absolutely stunning. (They are embedded at the end of this article.) But of course this makes me curious about any Linux plans for Unreal Engine 4.
What I've heard from a reliable source on the matter pertaining to any Unreal Engine 4 Linux client is they are taking a "wait and see" approach. They aren't yet ready to commit to a Linux client for their UE4 launch title, but they also aren't ruling it out. Unreal Engine 4 should be compatible with Linux (though it sounds like the preferred renderer is for DirectX 11), just as all previous versions have been -- including Unreal Engine 3 (and other non-Epic engines that haven't released Linux clients like CryEngine is Linux compatible) -- but it's a matter of whether they decide to release any UE4 Linux titles themselves or find interest from their engine licensees.
They will be monitoring the adoption of Linux, the progress of other initiatives like Kickstarter/HumbleIndieBundle games, other forthcoming Linux games, Valve's Linux work, and other factors -- including driver support -- and then ultimately decide what direction to pursue for Linux with Unreal Engine 4. Unreal Engine 4 isn't expected for release until 2013 at the earliest, so there's still plenty of time for the Linux gaming scene to make or break it for Epic Games and their new flagship engine.
For those that don't recall the situation with Unreal Engine 3, in August of 2007 the Linux client was confirmed by Mark Rein, the VP of Epic Games, and it was confirmed shortly thereafter Ryan Gordon would be handling the Linux version just as he has done in the past with Unreal.
In October of 2007, the Unreal Tournament 3 Linux client still was affirmed and "Icculus" said it will ship when it is ready, but when the game launched in North America that November, the Linux client wasn't to be found. The Linux server for UT3 wasn't even released until one month later.
In July of 2008, Epic Games still said the UT3 Linux client is in the works and it would be coming. That September the Linux client still was being promoted with an Epic Games employee stopping by the Phoronix Forums to mention it will include the editor with the Linux game port.
Ten months after Unreal Tournament 3 was released for the PC, Ryan Gordon showed UT3 running natively on Linux. Ryan posted screenshots and also wrote, "Seriously, there's no conspiracy...so stop sending me email suggesting that Microsoft is paying to block this." But at the one year anniversary of the game's release, there still was no client available.
Into March of 2009, Ryan said the UT3 Linux client work was still ongoing. At that point he claimed it was down to "optimizing and fixing annoying bugs at the moment."
In April of 2009, I was then told by Steve Polge of Epic Games they were not confident that the Linux client would ever be finished as it was up to the external contractor (Gordon).
May of 2009, Gordon again said the UT3 Linux client would come. "Still on its way. Being poked and prodded and optimized and stuff." Come August, Polge told me it was slowly being worked on but they didn't have a completion date. Then in October of 2009, Epic Games became uncertain again about the UT3 Linux future.
In May of 2010, the latest story from Epic's Steve Polge was "There are no other reasons for its delay. Unfortunately, given the lack of progress it seems unlikely the UT3 Linux client will ever be completed."
In September of 2010, we then heard from Mark Rein. "Sorry but I don't think this is going to happen anymore."
Just in time for Christmas of 2010, I was explicitly told by Steve Polge the UT3 Linux client isn't going to happen. So after three years of Linux gamers waiting on this "optimizing" and "fixing annoying bugs", she never came.
Ryan Gordon or Epic Games has never told the back-story about this situation. It's not that Ryan didn't complete his work as he would have almost certainly been under a legally-binding contract. There's been rumors that he wasn't paid for his Linux porting work so he didn't release it (then again, if he was under contract, he should have had means of seeking collection) or that it came down to some middle-ware licensing issues that barred the Linux client from being released. The Linux client did exist as the screenshots showed, but it's still a mystery what happened.
Up until the Unreal Engine 3 debacle, the Linux support was dandy. There were Linux clients for their games and they worked top-notch compared to the Windows build and the versions were generally kept in sync, etc. Those days were wonderful. Whether we will return to those days with Unreal Engine 4 remains to be determined, but until then, you can at least watch some impressive UE4 previews.
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