Anyone interested in getting involved in videogame development now has a new incentive in the form of $1 million in cash and prizes. Epic Games has partnered with Intel to create the “$1 Million Intel Make Something Unreal” mod-making contest.

The first contest was sponsored by nVidia in 2004, and this marks the second iteration of this mod competition.

The grand prize remains one Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) license from Epic. In addition, there are over $500,000 in cash prizes, including Intel software development products and Velocity micro PCs based upon the Intel Dual Socket Extreme Desktop Platform, formally codenamed “Skull Trail,” with two Intel Core 2 Extreme quad-core processors

“To all you aspiring game developers out there – this is your chance to get in the big leagues,” said Mark Rein, vice president of Epic Games. “We have categories for all kinds of creatively talented people, including programmers, artists, 3D modelers, designers and even aspiring film directors. You get to use the same world-class Unreal Engine 3 toolset we used to create ‘Unreal Tournament 3’ and ‘Gears of War.’”

Rein added that many of the industry’s leading game companies use UE3, so this is truly a chance for would-be game developers to prove their worth and get their feet in the door of the game business while having their work potentially exposed to millions.

To get mod-makers started, the collector’s edition of "Unreal Tournament 3" (UT3), which is published by Midway Home Entertainment, includes over 20 hours of 3D Buzz’s professional-level video training materials for the UE3 toolset.

The 2008 “$1 Million Intel Make Something Unreal” competition will be judged in four preliminary phases and a grand final phase. Judging starts in May 2008 and concludes with the grand prize being awarded in fall 2009. The contest includes a wide range of categories like environments, characters, weapons, gameplay, tools, and vehicles.

The competition is open to anyone who purchases Epic’s latest PC game, UT3. As has been the standard with every Epic PC game release, UT3 comes with a full version of UE3, which allows gamers to modify the game code and create their own “mods” for new levels or entirely new games, as well as Machinima movies using the game engine’s 3D environments and characters.

“The ‘$1 Million Intel Make Something Unreal Contest’ demonstrates Intel’s ongoing commitment to helping game developers harness the capabilities of the PC gaming platform,” said Elliot Garbus, vice president of Intel’s Visual Computing Software Division. “We are passionate about unleashing developers’ innovation through our industry-leading developer tools, our Intel Core 2 processor family and high-performance platforms. Combining Intel products with the Unreal Engine modding tools provides a wonderful opportunity for aspiring developers, machinima artists and modders to jump in and truly change the game.”

The contest is open to educational institutions as well as individuals. This means that universities and high schools will be eligible for prizes for encouraging students to enter the contest. Given the amount of time that the contest covers, it would be possible for computer science classes in high school and colleges to incorporate this contest into their curriculum.

Dr. Peter Raad, founder and executive director of The Guildhall at SMU, the country’s leading graduate video game education development program, thinks there is real value in aspiring game developers entering the contest and creating mods using Unreal Engine technology.

“We were pleased to be a winner in the educational category of the first contest sponsored by Epic and look forward to being part of this year’s competition,” Raad said. “Unreal Engine technology has been a cornerstone of our program and has been a big part of us sending more than 180 artists, level designers and programmers since 2004 to work at more than 70 video game studios around the world.”

The “$1 Million nVidia Make Something Unreal” contest catapulted World War II shooter "Red Orchestra" to fame. Its development team, Tripwire Interactive, was awarded the grand prize, an Unreal Engine 3 license, for overall Best Mod and throughout the contest earned nearly $80,000 in cash as well as computer hardware prizes. Red Orchestra was later shipped to retail outlets worldwide.

"A few years ago, we were just a group of fans with an idea to make a mod that we would all like to play," said Tripwire Interactive President John Gibson. "The Unreal Engine and its mod tools were perfect for the game we wanted to make, and with the hard work and determination of our team we used those tools to create Red Orchestra and win the mod competition.

"Winning the ‘Make Something Unreal’ contest helped the Tripwire Interactive team realize our dream of founding our own development studio and bringing our game to retail. It is a real life ‘rags to retail’ story."

All of the entries for this contest will be available for PC gamers with UT3 to download for free and play.