Early this morning (read: rooster kind of early), Epic Games announced that it has released the new Unreal Development Kit (UDK), a free edition of the Unreal Engine 3 for those of us too damn broke to design a game. Epic is making the kit free to anyone, not just game developers: students, hobbyists, researchers, digital filmmakers, anyone with a brain and a desire to create something unreal can grab the toolkit.
The catch is that its only free if used for noncommercial and educational use. Development houses salivating at the thought of saving truckloads of cash will be required to stick with the premium, licensed version. "Commercial terms have been structured to make it easy for independent developers, start-up firms and seasoned professionals to use UDK with minimal financial barrier from concept to deployment," the company said.
Epic also said that the UDK offers all the recently added features and technological enhancements, including features that have yet to be implemented into a UE3-powered game. For now, the UDK is only for the PC, although Epic is currently considering support for consoles. The UDK also provides over 200 pages of support information via an "unlocked" website located here.
It's probably safe to say that the recent mystery surrounding a splash image replacing the Epic website--and then quickly removed--was the upcoming announcement of the UDK, and not another installment in the Unreal series. While it's great that Epic has released a free toolset, we were hoping for the third chapter. Then again, with the fresh and free toolset, we could make our own. Ok, maybe not.