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
Reality on the Horizon
As 1998 began, the end of the development process was finally in sight. The technology was stable, and the content was starting to meet the standards of "coolness" set forth by the Unreal team. And for its part, GT Interactive - despite having waited a year beyond the original release date - continued to support the team's effort. "GT was very patient with us, and they knew Unreal was worth doing right. They saw constant improvement in the game," says Rein. But as the team moved into their ninth month in Canada, exhaustion was setting in. The developers were working seven days a week and considered themselves lucky if they got four or five hours of sleep a night. What kept them going? "We knew we were capable of doing a number one game - we had the tools and the team to do it," remembers Schmalz. "It was within our grasp, and we were approaching it - that's what kept us going."

"We sat around for an hour and just said 'Wow, we're done.' We laughed. We reminisced, but not for too long - we all wanted to get to bed. It was finally over."
- James Schmalz

In early April, a major milestone was reached. Amazingly, it wasn't some new graphics technology or cool editor feature - it was the fact that the developers were now playing Unreal deathmatch more than Quake II. The game was almost finished, and more importantly, it was fun, and everyone was into it. So much so that the Digital Extremes offices in Waterloo were descending into new levels of untidiness. In one corner, roughly 500 cans of Mountain Dew picked up on a spur-of-the-moment supermarket run had been crafted into a real live "mountain of dew" by the team. As development progressed and the caffeine was consumed, this "mountain" grew into an Everest-like mound.

By the time the Computer Game Developers' Conference rolled around in early May, Epic was quietly telling the press that Unreal would hit US shelves by Memorial Day weekend. At the Digital Extremes offices, the final touches were being put in place - the music was synched, the textures were buffed, and the gameplay tweaked. Unreal was at long last becoming a reality.

On May 18th, 1998, the task was complete - Unreal was done. It was 6:00 a.m. when the team finally decided that the gold master was finished. They gave it to Mark Rein, who immediately jumped on a plane to Baltimore to hand deliver the gold master for final compatibility tests. Back in Canada, the team couldn't believe the journey was over. "It was a really strange and weird feeling when we finally finished the game," reflects Schmalz. "We sat around for an hour and just said 'Wow, we're done.' Then I pulled out some of the really old stuff - old versions of the editor and the first demo I did with those mechs and the castle, and we said 'Wow, we've come a long way, haven't we?' We laughed. We reminisced, but not for too long - we all wanted to get to bed. It was finally over."

This image marks the first time the Unreal team could play deathmatch against each other, shortly after moving to Canada.
The Unreal team members parted company after one of the most exhausting years of their lives. Bleszinski's flight back to California was scheduled to depart just six short hours after the game was completed. A bit later, the rest of the team members would also leave their Canadian stomping grounds, finally heading back to their homes around the globe. They remember their time together, or as Tim Sweeney put it, they remember the one thing they can - namely, "Work." After everyone left, it took a full two days to clean the Digital Extremes Office. It still smells a little funny today.

Next: Reality Rises>