Shenmue 3 is going to be made using a third party engine- Unreal Engine (the first game in the series to not be made on an internal, proprietary engine, actually). This is a big deal, because the original games had custom engines built for them, to be able to create an immersive, living world- which was one of the reasons that they were, and remain, among the most expensive games ever created.
However, making the third one on Unreal Engine changes things. Speaking with Eurogamer at Gamescom, Yu Suzuki, the creator of the series, and director of the upcoming game, talked about how Unreal Engine made things easier for the development of the game.
“Unreal Engine is a great fit for our approach because we can prototype very quickly. To me, this is a valuable feature. In my case, I take on a lot of new challenges and rely on a lot of trial and error. I need to be able to quickly see the results and try out new ideas. I feel that the concept of the Unreal Engine and my approach to developing the game is a good match,” he said.
That said, he did point out that because Unreal Engine was a premade solution, it became harder to finetune things at a lower level with it. “In the case of a game engine like Unreal, however, it’s a kind of ‘black box’ so it’s more challenging to fine tune everything at a lower level. I’m working to find the best way to utilize the engine which means sometimes adjusting the game scenario or plan itself to better accommodate the tools set. Overall, though, I think it’s a really good engine,” he said.
Of course, development on any engine, even a custom proprietary engine, is basically a series of trade-offs- and for a game like Shenmue, Unreal Engine 4, which is versatile, flexible, and cheap, may have been the best bet, to ensure that the new game is cheaper to develop, while also living up to the legacy of the originals. Shenmue 3 is due out next year for PS4 and PC.