MegaGrants program has awarded $42 million of $100 million to more than 600 recipients.
The latest batch of winners in Epic’s ongoing MegaGrants program includes games, a couple of which break the mold but most intriguingly technology companies that are pushing on the walls of game engine technology to expand where games and game engines haven’t gone before and that of course is one of the major reasons there is an Epic MegaGrant.
In addition, Epic announced two new strategic relationships for the MegaGrants program. AMD is signing on to support MegaGrant winners with graphics hardware. The company is contributing 200 AMD Ryzen 7 3800X desktop processors for new and existing recipients who are invited to apply. Hardware is available on a first-come-first-served basis and based on project merit.
Also, Magic Leap is offering cash assistance and Magic Leap devices to encourage MegaGrants winners to develop for the Magic Leap platform. The company is making 129 devices available for distribution. So far they have awarded one. Developers who are building Unreal Engine spatial applications can apply online to receive Magic Leap hardware. The company says they want to hear from developers from all industries including entertainment, architecture, automotive, and healthcare who are interested in working with Magic Leap.
Epic’s sizzle reel to highlight the new titles and technology winning MegaGrants.
As you might expect, the winners include a number of games that explore new stories, feature new imagery, or showcase technology that opens up the gaming world. F.I.S.T Forged in Shadow Torch by Ti Games is a PlayStation game that presents a beautiful dystopic world that references Blade Runner but includes whimsical characters who’d be comfortable in fairy tales. Slice Back Up by Atomic Kraken Ltd is a perky side-scroller that’s notable for its hero’s single-minded search for food: “I’m not a hero. I’m not a villain. I’m just hungry!” Most of the games winning MegaGrants are not groundbreaking in their gameplay but their themes and imageries are blessed breaks from the never-ending franchises, which interestingly enough, Epic has helped establish with its Unreal game engine.
The company is doing its part to break molds.
ORamaVR isn’t making games, exactly. Mages 3.0 is a VR development platform to enable surgical training and assessment. Mages has an SDK that enables code-free prototyping of operation simulations for medical professionals. The company’s website says technology like this is urgently needed to improve outdated medical training.
Mages brings gaming techniques to surgery, but it’s more than a digital version of Hasbro’s Operation. The company says it includes novel algorithmic techniques including a collaborative networking layer with Geometric Algebra (GA) interpolation engine, supervised machine learning analytics can provide realtime recommendations and user profiling and GA deformable cutting and tearing, and configurable soft body simulation for deformable surfaces.
In short, Mages is just the story of thing MegaGrants was founded to do, support innovative development and engineering that can open the door to better science as well as new games.
The list of award winners also includes companies that have inventive new technology that makes interactive applications more powerful and new effects more accessible. Simbiotic AI, DeepMotion VR, and Cintoo fall in this category. Simbiotic AI generates synthetic data and realistic environments to feed machine learning systems. As a result, the company is addressing the challenge that keeps AI from being accessible—machine learning requires masses of data for training. On their website, the company says their Epic MegaGrant has enabled the Simbiotic to move forward with their development.
DeepMotion founded in 2014 has developed a VR Avatar that can build realistic full-body motion and interaction only 2 or 3 trackers. Their technology, Motion Brain using AI and physics can generate a full-body avatar. The company says they’re using inverse dynamics that recognizes biomechanical joint limits. The company’s use of AI can shortcut the process of motion capture and motion estimation.
Cintoo extends the usefulness of laser scans by enabling them to live on the cloud and be accessible from anywhere at any time. The company says it has a unique cloud-to-mesh technology. Plans call for point clouds to be streamed from the Cintoo Cloud directly in Unreal Engine to create immersive environments and to mix CAD and BIM models with scan data.
Finally, Epic has also seen fit to recognize a competitive game engine, Godot, a node-based open-source game engine built by contributors from all over the world. Godot announced its latest release candidate 3.2.2 on June 26. The highlights of Godot include hundreds of built-in nodes, a visual editor, a flexible scene system that allows instancing and inheritance for node compositions. It features persistent live editing so that changes are saved. It works on all platforms including mobile devices and is customizable.
The people at Epic clearly have a soft spot for open source resources and they are fond of technology that opens up access to creative tools. Blender won a hefty $1.2 million MegaGrant in 2019. Similarly, Godot brings with it an active community of developers.
And, there’s plenty more. These are just the highlights of the highlights. Here’s the list of announcements for this round of MegaGrants:
INDEPENDENT GAME: D.A.N.G.E.R. Team. by On3D Studios – Website
From Colombia-based On3D Studios, D.A.N.G.E.R. Team. is a stylized action game where the player controls a team of three uniquely-capable spies. Experience the game’s secrets, gadgets, explosions, absurd situations, and unforgettable villains alone or with a partner via co-op.
INDEPENDENT GAME: Dreamscaper by Afterburner Studios – Website
From Afterburner Studios, a three-person team of ex-AAA developers, comes Dreamscaper—a roguelite action RPG about lucid dreaming. Play as Cassidy, dive into her subconscious, and use lucid powers to take on the surreal nightmares she wrestles with in order to save her from a dark fate. Dreamscaper is coming to Steam Early Access in August 2020.
INDEPENDENT GAME: F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch by TiGames – Website
Journey into the winding city dieselpunk streets of F.I.S.T., an action-focused Metroidvania title from Shanghai-based TiGames. Explore, solve puzzles, uncover secrets, and take on a robot army with your giant fist, alongside a cast of charming characters.
INDEPENDENT GAME: Hundred Days – Winemaking Simulator by Broken Arms Games – Website
Hundred Days puts you in charge of managing a small and abandoned winery, from selecting the types of vines you want to grow, to naming your final product. Take care of your vineyard, learn to follow the rhythm of the seasons, harvest, label your bottles, and sell them on the market—every choice you make will have an impact on the quality and quantity of the wine you produce and sell.
INDEPENDENT GAME: Slice Back Up by Atomic Kraken Ltd – Website
With a stunning neo pixel art style, Slice Back is a hilarious side-scrolling hack and slashimi game with action that’s as sharp as a sword. Enjoy aerial combat that’s spicier than wasabi, feed on aliens to get new superpowers and, eventually, (spoiler alert) save planet Earth. Grab your soy sauce and get ready for a taste of Slice Back!
ENTERPRISE: ORamaVR by ORamaVR SA – Website
Combining principles in neuroscience, spatial computing, and artificial intelligence, ORamaVR hopes to rapidly accelerate human learning in healthcare through an array of immersive VR medical training simulations.
ENTERPRISE: Self-service Publication for Cloud-streaming by PureWeb Inc. – Website
PureWeb’s self-service and fully-managed high capacity cloud platform will provide users with the tools necessary to easily build, publish, and manage their pixel streaming applications for web and mobile-based users. This toolset will include features such as an Unreal Editor plugin for easily packaging and uploading projects onto the PureWeb platform, as well as a web dashboard for scheduling deployments to different global regions and monitoring capacity and usage.
ENTERPRISE: Simbotic AI by Vertex Studio – Website
Generating infinite amounts of synthetic data for AI models and providing highly realistic environments for intelligent agents to acquire experience—Simbotic AI is a modern 3D simulation engine and AI platform designed to bridge the reality gap between simulation and the real-world.
TOOLS AND OPEN-SOURCE: DeepMotion VR Avatar Tracking by DeepMotion Inc. – Website
DeepMotion’s VR Avatar Tracking solution brings to life realistic full-body motion and interaction with as little as 2 or 3 trackers. Motion Brain, which uses the latest in AI and physics simulation, we are able to generate a full-body avatar that moves with you and interacts naturally with its virtual environment, providing a rich sense of physical presence and embodiment. VR Avatar Tracking simulates full-body motion using inverse dynamics and obeys biomechanical joint limits, instead of a simple approximation provided by inverse kinematics. VR Avatar Tracking runs on Windows and Mobile platforms, with your choice of VR hardware. With DeepMotion’s motion intelligence solutions your characters will move as real as they look in Unreal Engine 4.
TOOLS AND OPEN-SOURCE: Godot Engine – Website
A free and MIT-licensed open-source game engine developed by contributors around the world, Godot Engine offers a complete editor, dedicated 2D and 3D engines, animation tools, multi-platform exports, plugins, a free asset store, and much more.
TOOLS AND OPEN-SOURCE: Live Streaming of High-res, Mesh-based Laser Scan Data by Cintoo – Website
Cintoo is developing a new cloud-client solution that will change the way people use terrestrial laser scans and BIM or CAD models in AEC, manufacturing, and Energy industries. The Cintoo Cloud platform makes terrestrial laser scans fully cloud compatible and available at any time anywhere—viewable in a web browser, shareable, and distributable—by using a unique point cloud-to-mesh technology. Those high-resolution, mesh-based laser scans will soon be streamed from Cintoo Cloud directly in Unreal Engine to create rich, immersive experiences, mixing as-built scan data with CAD and BIM models.
EDUCATION: Free Online UE4 Game Development Learning Opportunities for Computer Science Undergraduates by Ball State University – Website
This project supports the creation of free online content to teach computer science and software development concepts using game programming, focusing on Unreal Engine technology. Video tutorials are included, as well as free online course materials for accessible self-study.
EDUCATION: Unreal Python Repository & Tutorials by Muhammad A. Moniem – Website
Learn, understand, and master python scripting for the Unreal Engine with this step by step guide, complete with real-world production samples.
EDUCATION: Beyond the Stars by S1T2 – Website
Beyond the Stars is an education program that combines interactive storytelling, health research, and school curriculum to inspire children to adopt healthy living habits while considering the impact their actions have on the environment. In the story, children embark on a journey to reclaim the lost knowledge of the Pacific that holds the key to restoring health and happiness to the land.
MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT: Glimmer by Sequin, Inc. – Website
Sequin AR provides augmented reality consulting, creative, broadcast production, and custom Unreal Engine software development services to media companies. Glimmer, an Unreal Engine plugin, makes it easy for non-developers to manage augmented and immersive reality content, leading to more impactful content and speeding the iterative process.
MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT: Faraday’s Magnets by ScienceVR – Website
ScienceVR asks, what if we could see the “invisible forces” around magnets? This experience empowers VR learners to see the “math” around magnets. Users can take their time to try repeatedly to build up their understanding and interact with virtual scientists.
MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT: Zen Universe by ZenArt VR – Website
Bulgarian-based ZenART uses Unreal Engine and advanced photogrammetry techniques to capture natural and historic landmarks, turning them into explorable interactive VR experiences featuring narrative, puzzle-solving, and minigames with awe-inspiring visual quality. The first two Zen Universe locations, Tales of the Rocks and Olympus: Home of the Gods are available now in Steam Early Access.
For a full list of this round of Epic MegaGrant recipients, please visit http://unrealengine.com/blog/epic-games-provides-over-42-million-in-epic-megagrants.
For more information about Epic MegaGrants, visit unrealengine.com/megagrants.
What do we think?
Epic is a mighty rich company with influential investors including Tencent and Sony. The more money they make, the more money they pour into their own R&D and also into outside sources to keep the ecosystem healthy and innovative. That sounds like a lot of platitudes, um, and it is, but the value of the strategy is proved as the company reinvents itself.