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
Tools of the Trade
To match id Software's efforts, Sweeney knew that Epic's game must be a technical masterpiece. Sitting at his digital spinning wheel for weeks on end, his goal was to create a graphic shell that would allow for a visually rich and lush game environment. "Artistically, we looked at Myst and Riven and wanted to go for that quality of art and variety in the levels," he recalls. "We wanted to model a large variety of areas one would see on an alien planet - beautiful temples and castles, large outdoor expanses, crashed space vessels, and mines. We wanted to create an experience that varies from dramatic to scary to mysterious."

"Artistically, we looked at Myst and Riven and wanted to go for that quality of art and variety in the levels."
- Cliff Bleszinski

Developing the toolset to sculpt these environments would prove to be much more difficult than expected, especially since Epic had the dual goal of creating cutting-edge technology and a cutting-edge game simultaneously. The task is roughly the equivalent of a filmmaker developing a new kind of film on which to shoot his movie or a musician developing a new instrument on which to play his music. Although this approach was necessary to achieve the best result, Bleszinski remembers, "It was frustrating because you'd take three steps forward but four steps back lots of times. We'd see a cool new effect Tim had developed, but just sort of chuckle and say under our breath, 'Looks great, but what parts of the engine did you break to do this?'"

The original female player in the game as well as the first incarnation of the Brute, originally called Big Man by the development team. All the textures in this level were never used in the game.
Eventually the effort would pay off, and the effects that Sweeney developed for the engine would change the face of what gamers expected from a first-person 3D action game. One of the first technical improvements over previous shooters was the use of 16-bit or "real" color environments, as opposed to the previous standard of 8-bits, which only let 256 colors be displayed simultaneously. John Carmack of id Software says that Unreal broke the mold by going to real color. "I doubt any important game will be designed with 8-bit color in mind from now on. Unreal has done an important thing in pushing toward direct color, and this gives the artists a lot more freedom."

Other effects that Sweeney would dream up created room for even greater visual realism. Sweeney, an avid runner and in-line skater, remembers, "I was out on a six-mile run late at night after a rain storm, with the streetlights casting luminous spheres of light in the fog. I was thinking, 'Gee, I should be able to program that effect.' But when I got back to the office, I second-guessed myself. A few months later, on a whim, I spent a couple of hours whipping up code for this, and to my amazement, it worked perfectly." Sweeney's efforts in this area draws more praise from Carmack: "Light blooms [the spheres of light], fog volumes, and composite skies were steps I was planning on taking, but Epic got there first with Unreal."

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