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

Part Two - Virtual Development

Part Three - Reality Rises
- The Net Effect
- A New 3D Standard?
- Breaching A New Reality?
- Supporting Creativity
Behind the Games
A New 3D Standard?
Thanks to its red-hot technology, Epic has currently licensed the Unreal engine to over a dozen developers. MicroProse will use the technology to bring the aliens of X-COM to life in X-COM: Alliance. And Warren Spector is working on a new game called Deus Ex for Ion Storm and Eidos that will use the Unreal engine to take players through a virtual White House as well as other locations.

Why use the Unreal technology? Spector is to the point: "Unreal offered the best overall package of any 3D engine out there. The editor is second to none. Is it a dream tool? Yeah, I'd have to say it is. The powerful scripting and editing lets me cut back on the number of programmers I need so I can hire more designers."

3D Realms dumped the Quake II engine in favor of Unreal for its upcoming release Duke Nukem Forever.
But perhaps the biggest endorsement of the Unreal engine comes from 3D Realms. In mid-June, the company shocked the industry by announcing that its upcoming release Duke Nukem Forever - already in production for nearly a year using id Software's Quake technology - would immediately switch to the Unreal engine. Why? "We simply felt Unreal was a better fit for us at the moment and for what we wanted to do," explains George Broussard of 3D Realms. Epic's Rein attributed the sudden switch to the importance of tools. "3D Realms now has an incredible set of tools at its fingertips to help create the next Duke Nukem game," he says. Without question, the decision to move the next Duke Nukem game to the Unreal technology (a deal hammered out between the two companies in just four days) was a major coup for Epic. Almost overnight, the Unreal engine has become the hottest piece of technology in the industry.

"Unreal offered the best overall package of any 3D engine out there. The editor is second to none. Is it a dream tool? Yeah, I'd have to say it is."
- Warren Spector

Though the technology has been licensed to other games, the announcements have not yet been made by their publishers. (Rein insists there are already at least 15 Unreal deals signed, though only a handful have been announced.) Does the inevitable competition between Unreal-based games worry designers like Spector? "Not at all," he says. "Execution is everything. It's like a contractor worrying about the fact he's using a saw, hammer, nails, wood, and paint to build a house. You can still build a lot of different houses with the same tools."

As for GT Interactive, it will be building a variety of Unreal houses themselves. The first will be Wheel of Time, developed by Legend Entertainment. Slated for 1999, Wheel of Time matches the Unreal engine with Robert Jordan's incredibly rich role-playing game universe. But that's not all. According to Chaimowitz, "The Unreal engine will be employed in the [next] title from Oddworld Inhabitants, [which will] follow Abe's Exxodus." Oddworld fans, rejoice!

GT Interactive has announced a new Oddworld game based on the Unreal engine.
The Ultimate Extension: The Level Pack
Although licensing has now become a significant part of Epic's business model, the company will continue to make its own products as well. The core Unreal team will be reunited to create an Unreal level pack for release this holiday season, in addition to the Unreal editor that will ship as a separate product in the fall. Although a level pack usually brings to mind a few new levels, a new monster, and a leftover gun scrapped from the first game, Schmalz says Epic's idea is different. "A level pack should be an expanded experience," he says. "It should do something new and take the best of Unreal and make it even better. We want to make some new kinds of deathmatch games and different experiences."

Although Epic is extremely mum about the details of the pack - perhaps because it doesn't want to go through the pain of having an over-hyped product again - Rein says, "Steve Polge will be doing lots of things with his bots and AI in the level pack. Some of the materials for the level pack exist now. Let me just say this: Unreal had to fit on one CD, and there were many areas that were too big and too detailed to be a part of the first game." It's rumored that the level pack will be multiplayer focused (Rein believes that most people who buy level packs already play online), and according to the development team, the idea of adding bots to the single-player experience is a distinct possibility.

Next: Breaching a New Reality?>