In advance of the upcoming release of Gears of War, Epic Games' Mark Rein appeared at the Serious Games Summit to promote the Unreal Engine 3 for serious game development. Amid a video demo of the game and the usual PR-speak about how, with the Xbox 360, "the next gen is here now," Rein talked about how Unreal Engine 3 allowed the game to be developed at a fraction of the cost (GOW cost $10 million), time (two years to develop), and manpower (average 30 person team size) of other similar games.
To accentuate this point to the crowd, Rein brought out a developer from Virtual Heroes, a developer of "advanced learning technologies" that's using the engine in their games. He showed off an impressive demo of a full navigable Martian surface, featuring amazing ridges and vistas that were streamed from the hard drive dynamically and constructed using real Martian elevation data from NASA. The demo was thrown together in only four days, according to the developers.
Despite the advantages of the latest Unreal Engine, Rein admitted his team outsourced some art and programming help for Gears of War. Rein noted that with today's games this was practically a necessity: character models that were 3,000 polygons in 2004 have ballooned to nearly 4 million polygons for Unreal Tournament 2007. As Rein himself wryly put it, "Now that's a serious game."