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
From Carpet to Foot
Before development could go much further, the team had to nail down the thematic aspect of the game. "Just like everyone else in the industry, we thought medieval would be the way to go. But then we said, 'Hey, wait a minute, we want guns!'" As time passed and the brainstorming sessions increased in frequency and complexity, Schmalz decided to set the game in a mystical world where the player would be uncertain about his surroundings. This led to a juxtaposition of seemingly disparate gaming elements. "We finally crystallized on the idea of this game being in a medieval world, with aliens to give it a sci-fi feel," Schmalz explains.

As work on Sweeney's design toolbox continued, it soon became evident that the graphic engine was capable of great indoor environments as well as outdoor settings. And that opened up the possibility of creating a Doom-style first-person shooter instead of the original concept, which revolved around a flying carpet. Epic thought long and hard about going down this path. Although the designers felt their graphic technology would be a match for anything else on the market, it was not at all clear that they had the resources necessary to develop a game as good as Doom (let alone the newly announced Quake).

"We finally crystallized on the idea of this game being in a medieval world, with aliens to give it a sci-fi feel."
- James Schmalz

After all, Epic was just a small company, and the developers were a small sub-section of that. They knew they needed more resources. Even with help from the outside, going head-to-head with id Software - developers of the biggest and best 3D technology in the industry - wasn't going to be a walk in the park. Despite the obstacles and an uncertain outcome, Epic decided to roll the dice and do its best to make the next great first-person shooter.

A test image of the dragon created by James Schmalz, which was later dropped from the game.
By now, Schmalz had given most of the control of the engine's development to Tim Sweeney, the affable programmer who GT Interactive chairman and CEO Ron Chaimowitz refers to as "clearly one of our industry's geniuses." But even Sweeney has his heroes - namely id Software's John Carmack. Sweeney's praise of Carmack's influence leaves little room for interpretation: "Much in the same way that no man will ever top Isaac Newton's contributions to physics, Carmack will always remain way ahead in his total contribution to the gaming field, having invented the first-person shooter genre, the multiplayer model for gaming we know today, and much more."

For Sweeney, who founded Epic based on a little-known game called ZZT, developing the engine for Unreal would not only be his biggest programming task ever, but his attempt to beat Carmack at his own game.

Next: Tools of the Trade>