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Timothy D. Sweeney (born 1970)[4] is an American video game programmer and conservationist. He is known for being the founder and CEO of Epic Games and the creator of the Unreal Engine.

Tim Sweeney
Tim sweeney GDCA 2017.jpg
Sweeney at the Game Developers Choice Awards 2017
Born1970 (age 48–49)
Potomac, Maryland, United States
OccupationVideo game programmer and developer
Known forFounding Epic Games
Net worthIncrease $7.21 billion[1]
AwardsAIAS Hall of Fame Award (2012)[2]
GDC Lifetime Achievement Award (2017)[3]


Early lifeEdit

Sweeney was raised in Potomac, Maryland, the youngest of three brothers. At a young age, he had become interested in tinkering with mechanical and electrical devices, and stated he had taken apart a lawnmower as early as 5 or 6, and later built his own go-kart.[5] He became interested in arcade games when they began to become popular in the late 1970s, knowing that like the mechanics devices he took apart and repaired, there were those that had programmed the games in the machines.[5] Though the family got an Atari 2600, Sweeney was not as interested in the games for that, outside of Adventure, and later said he had not played many video games in his life and very few to completion.[5]

When 11, Sweeney visited his older brother's new startup in California, where they had some of the first IBM Personal Computers. Sweeney spent the week there, learning BASIC and establishing his interest in programming; while he had had a Commodore 64 before, Sweeney was much more taken by how easy the IBM PC was to use.[5] When his family got an Apple II, Sweeney began in earnest learning how to program on that, trying to make Adventure 2 in the spirit of the Atari 2600 game.[5] Sweeney estimated that between the ages of 11 and 15, he spent over 10,000 hours teaching himself how to program using information on online bulletin boards, and completed several games, though never shared these with others.[5] He also learned from his brothers concepts of entrepreneurship, making a good deal of money as a teenager by mowing lawns for wealthy residents in the area for half the price of professional services but far better than he was making at a local hardware store job.[5]

Founding of Epic GamesEdit

Sweeney presenting at the 2016 Game Developers Conference

Sweeney attended the University of Maryland in mechanical engineering starting around 1989,[4] though still was fascinated by computers.[5] Around this time his father, who worked for the Defense Mapping Agency, gave him an IBM Personal Computer/AT.[5] Sweeney established a consulting business Potomac Computer Systems out of his parents' home to offer help with computers, but this never really took off and he shelved the company.[4] Later, Sweeney had the idea of creating games that could be sold, programming them at night or over weekends outside college work. This first required him to create a text editor based on the PASCAL language to be able to program the game, but this led to the idea of making a game out of the text editor itself. This became the basis of ZZT. He offered college friends and those around his neighborhood to try it and get feedback, and was aware it was something he could sell to other computer users. To distribute the game, Sweeney looked to the shareware model, and wrote to Scott Miller of Apogee Software, Ltd., a leading shareware producer at the time, for ideas for how to distribute ZZT. He revitalized Potomac Computer Systems for selling ZZT, fulfilling mail orders with help of his father. ZZT sold well enough, a few copies each day that came to about US$100 per day, that Sweeney decided to make developing games his career. Recognizing he needed a better name for a video game company, he renamed Potomac Computer Systems to Epic MegaGames.[4]

Following ZZT, Sweeney started working on his next title Jill of the Jungle, but found that he lacked the skills to complete this alone. He formed a team of four people to complete the game by mid-1992.[5] For continued development, Sweeney sought out a business partner for Epic MegaGames, eventually coming to Mark Rein, who had just been let go from id Software. Rein helped with growing and managing the company; due to the company's growth, Sweeney did not end up getting his degree, short by one credit.[4] Sweeney later began working on the Unreal Engine, used in the Unreal series of first-person shooters and multiple other video games.[6][7]

With the success of Unreal, the company relocated to North Carolina in 1999, and changed its name to Epic Games.[8]

According to Bloomberg, as of July 2019 he has a net worth of $7.21 billion.[1]

Conservation and philanthropyEdit

Sweeney has bought large tracts of land in different parks, largely in North Carolina; such as Mount Mitchell State Park, and Box Creek Wilderness and other large tracts of land to connect national parks and stop development into commercial areas.[9] He has also donated millions on conservation projects in North Carolina and has made statements about his intent to turn a majority of the land into permanent nature conservation.[10] He has also detailed his future plan is to protect the large amount of rare plant and wildlife species in the area, and to connect South Mountains State Park to Chimney Rock, by purchasing land and donating conservation easements to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.[11]

Awards and recognitionEdit

Wired magazine awarded him a Rave Award in 2007 for his work on Unreal Engine 3.[12]

In February 2012, Sweeney was inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) Hall of Fame for changing "the face of gaming with the advent of the Unreal Engine and the commitment of Epic, as a studio, to bring both consumer and industry-facing technology to new heights."[2]

Sweeney received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 17th Game Developers Choice Awards.[3]

In 2019, he was named Person of the Year by British magazine MCV.[13]


  1. ^ a b "Bloomberg Billionaires Index - Tim Sweeney". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Purchese, Robert (August 12, 2011). "Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney enters AIAS Hall of Fame". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on December 4, 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  3. ^ a b Chalk, Andy (January 20, 2017). "Tim Sweeney earns the Game Developers Choice Lifetime Achievement Award". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on December 4, 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d e Edwards, Benj (May 25, 2009). "Features - From The Past To The Future: Tim Sweeney Talks". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on August 9, 2017. Retrieved August 9, 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Totilo, Stephen (July 12, 2011). "The Quiet Tinkerer Who Makes Games Beautiful Finally Gets His Due". Kotaku. Archived from the original on September 6, 2014. Retrieved September 6, 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  6. ^ DeMaria, Rusel; Wilson, Johnny L. (2003). High score!: the illustrated history of electronic games. Computer Games. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 300. ISBN 0-07-223172-6.
  7. ^ Stokes, Jon (September 15, 2008). "Twilight of the GPU: an epic interview with Tim Sweeney". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on May 3, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  8. ^ IGN Staff (February 3, 1999). "Epic Sets up Shop". IGN. Archived from the original on July 13, 2017. Retrieved July 13, 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  9. ^ Hardiman, Jess (January 17, 2019). "Fortnite' Studio Founder Is Buying Forests To Stop Them Being Chopped Down". Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  10. ^ Liberty, John (January 10, 2019). "Fortnite Creator is Buying Thousands of Acres of Forest to Stop It From Being Cut Down". The Mind Unleashed. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  11. ^ VGR (January 26, 2019). "Fortnite Creator Tim Sweeney Puts Millions of Dollars Toward Conserving North Carolina Forests". VGR. Retrieved February 12, 2019.
  12. ^ Wired (April 24, 2007). "The 2007 Rave Awards". Wired. Archived from the original on August 24, 2017. Retrieved August 24, 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  13. ^ "Here are your MCV Awards 2019 winners!". MCV. March 7, 2019. Retrieved March 14, 2019.


External linksEdit