At the Adobe MAX 2011 conference in Los Angeles this week, Epic Games' CEO Tim Sweeney demonstrated the Unreal Engine 3 running in fully inside Flash as part of his keynote address. The live technical demonstration saw a version of Unreal Tournament 3 running in Adobe Flash Player 11, which was also released this week. Adobe says the development could lead to console-quality 3D graphics in games running directly in the browser, such as Facebook social games.
Running Unreal Engine 3-based games in a Flash environment is possible due to Adobe Flash Player 11's new hardware-accelerated Stage 3D APIs, with Adobe stating the eleventh edition improves 2D and 3D graphics rendering performance by a factor of up to a 1,000 times over Flash Player 10 and runs at up to 60 FPS on Windows and OS X. It still isn't clear just what kind of graphics card one will need to ensure smooth gameplay, however.
"With UE3 and Flash, games built for high-end consoles can now run on the Web or as Facebook apps, reaching an enormous user base," Sweeney said. "This totally changes the playing field for game developers who want to widely deploy and monetize their games."
While the UE3 engine running in Flash is something Adobe can rightfully crow about, Flash still faces serious challenges. Particularly from HTML5, which has been touted as the future of web gaming. This is highlighted by the fact that Microsoft has followed Apple's lead and will ditch plug-ins, including Flash, in the Metro version of IE10 for use on tablets. This said, there's still quite an established Flash user base that can now look forward to playing 3D games in their browsers.
Launched back in 1998, the Unreal Engine was initially designed to power the FPS title Unreal and was later sold to external developers, becoming the basis of many games, with numerous major gaming market players as its licensees (e.g. Activision, Atari, EA, Microsoft, Sony, Sega, Ubisoft). Apart from Windows, Mac OS X and gaming consoles, Unreal Engine is also compatible with Android- and iOS-based platforms.
The new feature will be automatically available to existing UE3 licensees. There's no details, however, on upcoming browser-based Unreal Engine 3 titles at this point.
Take a look at the following video presenting Unreal Tournament 3 running in Flash Player 11: