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
- The Pressure Mounts
- Maple Leaf
- The Scalpel Comes Out
- Reality on the Horizon

Part Three - Reality Rises
Behind the Games
The Maple Leaf Convergence
Flash back to April, 1997. With the first release date having come and gone, it was decided that the developers must work together in the same office. So, from France, California, Alabama, the Netherlands, and a host of other locales, the entire Unreal development team packed up and moved. They boarded planes destined for Toronto, Canada, and reassembled at the Waterloo, Ontario, offices of Digital Extremes. It was an unexpected move for most of the developers - after all, they planned to be finished by this time. Little did they know that almost a year would pass before they would return home.

The move was tough but inevitable. "Unreal was a learning experience for Epic, and they came to realize that virtual offices don't work," says Chaimowitz. "In the final stages of creating any product, teams must be tightly synchronized.

"It was basically work, sleep, and more work for the whole year."
- James Schmalz

Having all the contributors together benefited the final development process." Although the team agreed that the convergence was the best thing for the game, it wasn't the best thing for their personal lives. Bleszinski felt the move to Canada, coupled with the missed release dates, was a doubly hard blow. "It was really difficult to keep setting these dates for release and then not make the deadline. We were displaced up in Canada, so we'd call back to our friends and say, 'Don't worry, just a few more weeks guys!' The reality of it was that we weren't just a few more weeks away and we kept missing our release dates time and again."

As the Unreal development team converged in Canada, progress on the game began to accelerate.
The dynamics of the move to Canada were intensified by the fact that despite having worked together for years, many of the developers had never met face-to-face. Suddenly, e-mail pals were physically sitting beside each other, working on a game that was late and under past-deadline pressure to be released. "Maybe it helped that we had to relocate everyone because we were sacrificing ourselves to be together with the team," suggests Rein. "We knew we had something special, and we didn't want to lose that."

Although the team would go out and play the occasional game of pool or basketball - it even went paintballing once - working 80-odd hours a week didn't leave much time for socializing. The pressure was on, and as Schmalz recalls, "It was basically work, sleep, and more work for the whole year." But would they do it again? Bleszinski thinks so. "I hate to say it, but I would do it all again if this much was at stake."

Next: The Scalpel Comes Out>