The Epic tradition

Rather than have distant development pals beavering away on their games then, Epic brought the mountain to Mohammed. They took the fledgling Scion Studios (led by America's Army mastermind Mike Capps) under their wing and set them to work on Unreal Championship 2 for Xbox, with the intention of rearing them till they could fly the nest, but eventually absorbing them into a glorious whole. More importantly, this was the point at which Epic first had a dedicated team working on the Unreal Engine - helping turn an already ubiquitous engine into something approaching an industry standard.

Above: Lt. Captian McKickass, the (totally made-up) president of Epic will be appearing inUTIII

The reason given by Epic for their success is simple - they approach things with an eye on the long-term as a company like AMD or Intel do - not sitting around until a new generation of machines turns up and then wondering what to do. "For the past couple of years I've been working on early research and development work - prototyping for Unreal Engine 4," explains Tim Sweeney as he describes a leap that he expects to boost both graphical and computing power by the established pattern of a power of 30. "It's a long way off - something that will be tied to the next console generation. Ones shipping around 2011 or 2012."

Epic are important not only because their tech is everywhere and they presumably have a morning ritual where they meet up by their arcade machines and rub each others faces with unused 50 dollar bills, but also because they've been there from the very start. To watch their progress up the ladder is, more than any other company, pretty much to watch PC gaming evolve: from shareware, to a centralized development team and on into the tech-wielding blockbusting giant they are in today's curious world of gaming. With 3D Realms and id in relative hibernation, they're a hoary bear of US games development whose roar has never faded. And whose games are still pretty badass to boot.