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The Unreal Engine End User License Agreement is the legal document that governs your use of the Unreal Engine and describes your rights and obligations with respect to the projects you create using the engine.This license is free to use for learning, and for developing internal projects; it also enables you to distribute many commercial projects without paying any fees to Epic Games, including custom projects delivered to clients, linear content (such as films and television shows) and any product that earns no revenue or whose revenue falls below the royalty threshold. A 5% royalty is due only if you are distributing an off-the-shelf product that incorporates Unreal Engine code (such as a game) and the lifetime gross revenue from that product exceeds $1 million USD; in this case, the first $1 million remains royalty-exempt. You can find out more about royalties in the Releasing products section of this FAQ.Download the EULA as a PDF here.
Unreal Engine (UE) is a 3D computer graphics game engine developed by Epic Games, first showcased in the 1998 first-person shooter game Unreal. Initially developed for PC first-person shooters, it has since been used in a variety of genres of games and has seen adoption by other industries, most notably the film and television industry. Unreal Engine is written in C++ and features a high degree of portability, supporting a wide range of desktop, mobile, console, and virtual reality platforms.
The latest generation, Unreal Engine 5, was launched in April 2022. Its source code is available on GitHub, and commercial use is granted based on a royalty model. Epic waives their royalties margin for games until developers have earned US$1 million in revenue and the fee is waived if developers publish on the Epic Games Store. Epic has included features from acquired companies like Quixel in the engine, which is seen as helped by Fortnite's revenue.
The first-generation Unreal Engine was developed by Tim Sweeney, the founder of Epic Games. Having created editing tools for his shareware games ZZT (1991) and Jill of the Jungle (1992), Sweeney began writing the engine in 1995 for the production of a game that would later become a first-person shooter known as Unreal. After years in development, it debuted with the game's release in 1998, although MicroProse and Legend Entertainment had access to the technology much earlier, licensing it in 1996. According to an interview, Sweeney wrote 90 percent of the code in the engine, including the graphics, tools, and networking.
At first, the engine relied completely on software rendering, meaning the graphics calculations were handled by the central processing unit (CPU). However, over time, it was able to take advantage of the capabilities provided by dedicated graphics cards, focusing on the Glide API, specially designed for 3dfx accelerators. While OpenGL and Direct3D were supported, they reported a slower performance compared to Glide due to their deficiency in texture management at the time. Sweeney particularly criticized the quality of OpenGL drivers for consumer hardware, describing them as "extremely problematic, buggy, and untested", and labeled the code in the implementation as "scary" as opposed to the simpler and cleaner support for Direct3D. With regard to audio, Epic employed the Galaxy Sound System, a software created in assembly language that integrated both EAX and Aureal technologies, and allowed the use of tracker music, which gave level designers flexibility in how a game soundtrack was played at a specific point in maps. Steve Polge, the author of the Reaper Bots plugin for Quake, programmed the artificial intelligence system, based on knowledge he had gained at his previous employer IBM designing router protocols.
According to Sweeney, the hardest part of the engine to program was the renderer, as he had to rewrite its core algorithm several times during development, though he found less "glamorous" the infrastructure connecting all the subsystems. Despite requiring a significant personal effort, he said the engine was his favorite project at Epic, adding: "Writing the first Unreal Engine was a 3.5-year, breadth-first tour of hundreds of unique topics in software and was incredibly enlightening." Among its features were collision detection, colored lighting, and a limited form of texture filtering. It also integrated a level editor, UnrealEd, that had support for real-time constructive solid geometry operations as early as 1996, allowing mappers to change the level layout on the fly. Even though Unreal was designed to compete with id Software (developer of Doom and Quake), co-founder John Carmack complimented the game for the use of 16-bit color and remarked its implementation of visual effects such as volumetric fog. "I doubt any important game will be designed with 8-bit color in mind from now on. Unreal has done an important thing in pushing toward direct color, and this gives the artists a lot more freedom," he said in an article written by Geoff Keighley for GameSpot. "Light blooms [the spheres of light], fog volumes, and composite skies were steps I was planning on taking, but Epic got there first with Unreal," he said, adding: "The Unreal engine has raised the bar on what action gamers expect from future products. The visual effects first seen in the game will become expected from future games."
Unreal was noted for its graphical innovations, but Sweeney acknowledged in a 1999 interview with Eurogamer that many aspects of the game were unpolished, citing complaints from gamers about its high system requirements and online gameplay issues. Epic addressed these points during the development of Unreal Tournament by incorporating several enhancements in the engine intended to optimize performance on low-end machines and improve the networking code, while also refining the artificial intelligence for bots to display coordination in team-based gamemodes such as Capture the Flag. Originally planned as an expansion pack for Unreal, the game also came with increased image quality with the support for the S3TC compression algorithm, allowing for 24-bit high resolution textures without compromising performance. In addition to being available on Windows, Linux, Mac and Unix, the engine was ported through Unreal Tournament to the PlayStation 2 and, with the help of Secret Level, to the Dreamcast.
By late 1999, The New York Times indicated that there had been sixteen external projects using Epic's technology, including Deus Ex, The Wheel of Time, and Duke Nukem Forever, the latter of which was originally based on the Quake II engine. Unlike id Software, whose engine business only offered the source code, Epic provided support for licensees and would get together with their leads to discuss improvements to its game development system, internally dubbed the Unreal Tech Advisory Group. While it cost around $3 million to produce and licenses for up to $350,000, Epic gave players the ability to modify its games with the incorporation of UnrealEd and a scripting language called UnrealScript, sparking a community of enthusiasts around a game engine built to be extensible over multiple generations of games.
The big goal with the Unreal technology all long was to build up a base of code that could be extended and improved through many generations of games. Meeting that goal required keeping the technology quite general-purpose, writing clean code, and designing the engine to be very extensible. The early plans to design an extensible multi-generational engine happened to give us a great advantage in licensing the technology as it reached completion. After we did a couple of licensing deals, we realised it was a legitimate business. Since then, it has become a major component of our strategy.
In October 1998, IGN reported, based on an interview with affiliate Voodoo Extreme, that Sweeney was doing research for his next-generation engine. With development starting a year later, the second version made its debut in 2002 with America's Army, a free multiplayer shooter developed by the U.S. Army as a recruitment device. Soon after, Epic would release Unreal Championship on the Xbox, one of the first games to utilize Microsoft's Xbox Live.
Though based on its predecessor, this generation saw a notable advance in rendering terms as well as new improvements to the tool set. Capable of running levels nearly 100 times more detailed than those found in Unreal, the engine integrated a variety of features, including a cinematic editing tool, particle systems, export plug-ins for 3D Studio Max and Maya, and a skeletal animation system first showcased in the PlayStation 2 version of Unreal Tournament. In addition, the user interface for UnrealEd was rewritten in C++ using the wxWidgets toolkit, which Sweeney said was the "best thing available" at the time.
Epic used the Karma physics engine, a third-party software from UK-based studio Math Engine, to drive the physical simulations such as ragdoll player collisions and arbitrary rigid body dynamics. With Unreal Tournament 2004, vehicle-based gameplay was successfully implemented, enabling large-scale combat. While Unreal Tournament 2003 had support for vehicle physics through the Karma engine, as demonstrated by a testmap with a "hastily-constructed vehicle", it wasn't until Psyonix created a modification out of Epic's base code that the game received fully coded vehicles. Impressed by their efforts, Epic decided to include it in its successor as an official game mode under the name Onslaught by hiring Psyonix as a contractor. Psyonix would later develop Rocket League before being acquired by Epic in 2019. 781b155fdc