Epic to Top Talent: Win and Get Paid

Playing to win will take on a whole new meaning if an Epic Games idea continues to take hold in Hollywood.

Hoping to lure up-and-coming gamer talent to their ranks, the indie developer is offering more than $1.1 million in cash and prizes for altering the content of Unreal, one of its most popular game franchises. The pay concept derives from an activity called mods, the gamer’s term for user modifications of commercial releases. Epic’s Unreal DVD release, for example, comes with all of the tools necessary for consumers to create their own original levels of the hit game.

“There’s no better resume in the gaming business than a mod, which shows a developer that you understand game development techniques,” says Epic vice president Mark Rein. “Prospective employers like us want to see you take an existing game and make it better.” And, Rein adds: "There are a lot of jobs available to those who understand elements like graphics, animation, storytelling, programming, physics and audio engineering.”

The contest runs through spring 2004. The grand-prize winners will be announced at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., in March. There are 13 categories in the current competition, including best mod, best character and best real-time non-interactive movie. All winners will own the rights to their creations. One of last year’s winners now works at Epic.