T H E   G A M E S P O T   N E T W O R K
Blinded By Reality: The True Story Behind the Creation of Unreal
Part One - In the Beginning
- Introduction
- Action Aficionados
- From Carpet to Foot
- Tools of the Trade
- Sculpt Your Own World
- Virtual Recruitment
- The Name of the Game
- GT Enters the Fray

Part Two - Virtual Development

Part Three - Reality Rises
Behind the Games
Action Aficionados
The day after Schmalz's fateful decision to show the prototype, the Epic Apartment was, as usual, entwined in a sea of cables that connected an ungodly number of computers - machines that were supposed to be used for software development. At the time, Bleszinski, then a California high-school senior (complete with pony-tail), was attempting to finish up his new adventure game, Jazz Jackrabbit, while Schmalz was tinkering with the demo that would eventually become Unreal.

Progress was slow. Although software development was their full-time job, Bleszinski and Schmalz were gamers, too, and 1994 was the golden age of Doom. Id Software's first-person shooter was the rage of the industry - a palpable, adrenaline-laced, run-and-gun action phenomena. And Schmalz and Bleszinski were not immune. "The bottom line is that we played a lot of multiplayer deathmatch," says Bleszinski - to the point where they had to hide their habit from company founder Tim Sweeney. "About twice a day, Tim would come over to the apartment to see how things were going on our games - the games we were supposed to be working on. So, when Tim knocked on the door, we'd be in the middle of playing our daily dose of deathmatch. Surprisingly, as soon as the door opened, all the computers would mysteriously be rebooting. 'Oh gee Tim, all the computers just crashed!' we'd tell him."

"Up until that point we had made some pretty cool little platform games and pinball games, but no one really took us very seriously."
- Cliff Bleszinski

Weeks passed, and Schmalz - who does most of the programming, art, and design for his games - was still toying around with his technology demo. "At that point, the game was going to be really small. It was just me doing my own thing," he says. But as work progressed, he decided to take some risks. "I added textures to the environment to make it richer and took off the ceiling of the caverns to see if I could do an outdoor game. Then, medieval elements were added, and I started to add buildings to the environment. It really started looking good, but I needed to crystallize my ideas into a real vision for the product."

One of the first ever Unreal images, based on a test level. This image was released to the public through the ordering information screen of James Schmalz's previous game, Extreme Pinball.
Enter Tim Sweeney, the University of Maryland-grad and programming-genius-turned-Epic-founder. When Sweeney saw Schmalz mapping a demo level on a piece of paper, he realized Schmalz was working in the development equivalent of the Stone Age. "Tim couldn't believe James was mapping things out on paper," remembers Epic's VP of marketing, the ebullient Mark Rein. "So Tim said, 'Hey James, I'm going to build you an editor!'" Sweeney set to work building a computerized palette of shapes and brushes that would make it much easier to build a game environment.

As work progressed on both the demo and the level editor, the excitement - and the trepidation - began to build. The development team didn't know what the demo was going to turn into, but it was becoming clear that it had the potential to take Epic into an entirely new direction. "Up until that point, we had made some pretty cool little platform games and pinball games, but no one really took us very seriously," says a blunt Bleszinski. "We needed to make a huge splash with this game."

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