After selling Gears of War to Microsoft earlier this year, Epic Games is building a new game and intellectual property to carry the studio forward.
During the "Animation Bootcamp: Animation Prototyping for Games" panel at this year's Game Developers Conference, lead animator Jay Hosfelt detailed the studio's revamped design philosophies as it builds its new game without a publishing partner. No name or release timetable was given, though concept art and character models shown during the panel resembled the unnamed hero of Epic's 2011 "Samaritan" technical demonstration.
"Samaritan" was unveiled during GDC 2011 as a proof of concept and target for the "3.5" version of Epic's Unreal Engine 3, ostensibly aimed at "next-generation" platforms. Epic has left "Samaritan" in a drawer somewhere since 2011, as the studio debuted Unreal Engine 4 in 2012 with its "Elemental" demo.
Epic also showed a new Unreal Engine 4 demo titled "Infiltrator" at last year's GDC.
The below concept art and character model were shown within the context of the game in active development, though no mention was made of "Samaritan" directly. Instead, the model was presented as a character from the in-development but as-of-yet unnamed new IP.
The similarities between the model and the figure in the "Samaritan" demo are clear — they share the same outfit and revolver-style weapon, and the model was shown with two different heads, mirroring the transformation of the Samaritan in the UE 3.5 demonstration.
Hosfelt's panel explained Epic's new game prototyping process, using its new IP as its case study. He described the manner in which non-final character models are rapidly created to use in fast design exercises in an effort to "fail early and fail often." This is a direct response to the increasing time required to create current and next-gen in-game assets — the visual building blocks of the game — which can often take several weeks or months. The process Hosfelt described uses Unreal Engine 4's object-oriented animation tools and iterative abilities to try new design ideas before those assets are completed.
Hosfelt estimated that the time between the idea phase and a playable prototype on their current project is one week. His estimate for a similar stage of playability for Gears of War 3 took approximately 12 weeks.
Epic Games revealed its other in-development project, Fortnite, in 2011. The company is attending this week's Game Developers Conference, where it plans to make an unspecified announcement.
Update: Despite the aesthetic similarities, Epic's new project has "nothing to do" with its Samaritan demo, according to a tweet published this morning by Epic's Paul Meegan.
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
Update 2: Epic Games' PR manager Wes Phillips provided the following official comment to Polygon:
The visuals in Jay’s GDC talk 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.