RALEIGH — Area “modders” are being recruited to “enroll” in Unreal University.

Epic Games, co-creator of the Unreal game franchise, is launching the inaugural Unreal University, an intensive workshop devoted to learning how to create “mods” (a new game or add-on created with tools from the original title) using the Unreal Game Engine.

Unreal University is coming to N.C. State University in Raleigh on Nov. 8-9, and hopes to attract “modders” from across the country who wants to learn how to develop their own content using the Unreal Technology.

Making mods (short for game modifications) is an underground phenomenon, according to Raleigh-based Epic Games, which claims to be a pioneer in the field. It says mods are empowering fans to create their own games and films.

“This event is designed to really reach out to amateur game developers and show them how to create games, films and even architecture,” said Karen Schachter, a spokeswoman for Epic Games.

In addition to Epic, Unreal University is being sponsored the N.C. State Center for Digital Entertainment, NVIDIA, AMD, and Atari.

The Unreal University class presenters will include Epic Games developers and artists, as well as Jason Busby, creator of the 3DBuzz.com site and the MasteringUnreal.com site.

To help modders before, during and after the course, the 3D Buzz Mastering Unreal site contains more than 100 hours of free downloadable Video Training Modules (VTMs) geared toward educating users on how to program and build content using the Unreal Game Engine.

Participants of the Unreal University will get an overview of the Unreal Game Engine’s techniques and technology, as well as insider secrets on how to maximize their skills to create professional-level game content.

$1 million in prizes

The tips and tricks learned at the seminar can be used to create mod entries for the “$1,000,000 NVIDIA Make Something Unreal” contest, a year-long competition that rewards the best and brightest in grassroots mod design.

Unreal University is one of a number of events that is supporting the contest, sponsored by Epic Games, Digital Extremes, NVIDIA, Atari, AMD, and Alias. The event, which runs in three parts, had more than 400 entries in its first round.

The second phase of the contest will start accepting entries at the end of October, with winners announced this winter. The third and final phase will conclude in April 2004, with the finalists being announced at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in May 2004. The grand prize winners will be announced shortly thereafter.

In total, winners will receive cash prizes totaling $500,000, and more than $300,000 worth of high-end PCs that feature the combined processing power of NVIDIA’s GeForce FX graphics, the NVIDIA nForce2 platform and AMD Athlon processors, and more than $30,000 worth of Maya Software. Along with money and a loaded PC, the grand prize winner will receive a commercial Unreal Game Engine license (valued at $350,000).

Unreal Tournament 2004 unveiled

Unreal University will also showcase Unreal Tournament 2004, the latest Unreal title from Epic Games, which builds on last year’s Unreal Tournament 2003. The new title marks the return of the “Assault” mode, updated with new technology, as well as the introduction of an all new game mode, “Onslaught,” which pits players in wide-scale vehicular warfare across massive battlefields.

Unreal Tournament 2004 includes additional upgrades, such as new characters, weapons, skins, maps, voice-over-IP capabilities, software rendering and other technology improvements, while also including all of the content from Unreal Tournament 2003 and its free downloadable bonus packs. Unreal Tournament 2004 will ship for Holiday 2003.

People interested in registering or finding out more about Unreal University can visit the website below. The cost of the seminar is $25, which includes meals and a t-shirt.

Unreal University: www.makesomethingunreal.com

Epic Games: www.epicgames.com