Unreal Modders Win Awards, Don't All Clone Gears of WarS

What can a bunch of amateurs turn Unreal Tournament 3 into? The just-completed Make Something Unreal contest offered money in order to find some answers. One is the shot top this post, but that wasn't the winner.

Top honors went to a mod called The Haunted, a horror take on UT3, developed by a six-man crew and set for release as a standalone game. (Check out the official trailer.)

Unreal Modders Win Awards, Don't All Clone Gears of WarS

The Make Something Unreal contest was launched in 2008, offering game modders four stages of competition and a split of $1 million in prize winnings. Intel and Unreal-makers Epic Games put on the competition.

Last week, Epic Games vice president Mark Rein told Kotaku he was "blown away" by the quality of the submissions, feeling they compared well to many professional efforts he has seen. "People have risen to the occasion."

The contest promotes both Unreal Tournament 3 and the Epic-made Unreal Engine 3, the underlying graphics technology behind that game and so many other development studios' projects. Rein said that in addition to promoting the game and the engine, he felt the contest was a good way to highlight the best people in the mod-making scene and reward them.

"Modding is alive and well and a way for people to express themselves in game design, without building standalone games," Rein said. he dismissed the notion that the closing off of major games such as Modern Warfare 2 to any sort of user-modifications could signal a decline in the opportunities for modders to do their thing. He doesn't blame studios for not all offering mod-ready games. It's a time-consuming and resource-draining proposition, he said, one that requires having a support staff for the modders and that could rob from the hours and effort needed to produce a game and its post-release downloadable content. "It's different for us because we already have the engine business," he said.

Rein seemed particularly proud of the fact that not all of the winning entries to the Make Something Unreal contest look like games made in the Unreal Engine 3. He's familiar with the knocks that a lot of UE3 games look like Gears of War clones, but he pinned that on creative decisions by other developers more-so than on technical restrictions of Epic's engine.

Anyone can take a look at the contest-winning entries to test that analysis. Or take another look at the mod pictured atop this post. The screenshot is from fifth-place finisher Hazard: The Journey of Life, which somehow mixes philosophy with a first-person perspective. Here it is in action:

Full list of winners for the Make Something Unreal contest:

Best Game Mod :

First Place: The Haunted by Michael Hegemann and The Haunted Team
Prize: $50,000 + commercial license for Unreal Engine 3
More info

Second Place: The Ball by Toltec Studios
Prize: $40,000
More info

Third Place: Angels Fall First: Planetstorm by the AFF: Planetstorm team
Prize: $30,000
More info

Fourth Place: Prometheus by Rachel Cordone and The Prometheus team
Prize: $20,000
More info

Fifth Place: Hazard: The Journey of Life by Alexander Bruce
Prize: $10,000
More info

The grand prize winners in the Educational category are recognized as follows:

First Place: IT University of Copenhagen
(Steam Racers, The Witching Hour, Cubes of Serenity, Chalupa, Takeshi's Gladiators)
Prize: $10,000

Second Place: Art Institute of California, L.A.
(UT2D Killing Time, vCTF-Boilerplate Team Art Mod, Millagun UT2D, Deadman's Tales)
Prize: $5,000

Third Place: Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia
(Hazard: The Journey of Life, Steel Halo)
Prize: $5,000

Fourth Place: Högskolan i Skövde, Sweden
(Sanctum)
Prize: $5,000

For more information about the Make Something Unreal contest, check out the official site.