It may have been out on PC and PS3 for a while now, but the Xbox 360 release of Unreal Tournament 3 is still in development at Epic Games, and at publisher Midway's recent Gamers Day ubiquitous vice president Mark Rein was in attendance helping people get to grips. We sat down with him to talk about the 360 version and what Epic's up to in general.
Eurogamer: Why didn't you do a 360 version of UT3 in the first place?
Mark Rein: We chose the PS3 first because Sony was really going to play ball with us on the freedom to do the mods the way we wanted to do them: completely user-exchanged mods that you can download off the Internet, just like you do on the PC. It's a very open system. They've got a web browser on, you can actually go get the mods, stick them on a memory card, use them on a web browser in the PS3, so it just felt that that was the right thing to do.
And obviously it's good for our engine to have the game ship as early as possible on PS3. We've already done incredibly on Xbox 360, so it was just worked out really well. The other thing was that we use GameSpy as our multiplayer system on the PC - well, it's the same on PS3. So it was just easier to do those two versions together, and then come back and retrofit the game to Xbox Live and the other things we wanted to do on 360 afterwards.
We realised that, sure, the 360 would have a larger installed base and would have sold more, but that would have hurt the PC version, because we've got two completely different ways of doing online multiplayer. And so this worked out, it was efficient. We're a small company, so we have to do things efficiently. That's why people license our engine because we really work hard at efficiency, we have a really good tools pipeline, and making it productive for people so small teams can compete with much larger companies like Bungie and Square and whoever else are making the best games out there.
Eurogamer: So is the new stuff that's snuck into the 360 version completely exclusive, or will it finds its way into the other versions eventually?
Mark Rein: For now it's exclusive to 360. Who knows what happens down the road? We've got two new characters, three completely new maps, and then we have three 'envisionings' of Suspense and Downtown. So those are now like Necris versions of those maps - instead of being Axon against Axon, it's Axon against Necris. One side has the break, you know, the Darkwalker and things of that nature. It's pretty cool; really fun to play.
We also brought all the DLC that we've released since the original version to this version as well. You get a lot on the disk here. This is great value - it's a lot of stuff.
Eurogamer: Are you done with UT3 now, or will there be more downloadable stuff coming?
Mark Rein: We're never done. You look at what we've done in the past with UT...one could jump to the conclusion that there's more coming and obviously now we've started the million-dollar Intel Make Something Unreal contest, there's going to be a ton of great content coming to this game, and we want to capitalise on that content and share it around all the platforms if we can.
Eurogamer: Talking of Unreal, it's, what, more than five years since Unreal 2. Are you ever going to make a follow-up to that? Is there any possibility?
Mark Rein: I'm sure that at some point in our future we will make another Unreal, single-player, story-driven game. I'm sure at some point there will be one. There are no plans to do one today.
Eurogamer: Why haven't you chosen to do a follow-up to Unreal 2 to date?
Mark Rein: I think we've been really happy with the multiplayer-oriented Unreal Tournament. Despite what people feel, people get this crazy idea that if you don't sell five million units it isn't a success, but we heard today that we've shipped over 1.2 million units of UT3, not even including the Xbox 360 yet. We make good money on Unreal Tournament, and it's a good game that we love to make, and it's not a five-year-long production and it's a great test-bed for lots of cool things that we want to do. We like making this type of game, and we have Gears of War as our kind of vanguard, single-player graphic showcase type of game.
Eurogamer: You've got your hands full there.
Mark Rein: And we're coming up with ideas for new intellectual properties.
Eurogamer: Announcing this year?
Mark Rein: No, no...ways off! We learned a lot from creating Unreal and Gears of War, there are lessons to be learned.
Eurogamer: Will you stick to your guns, as it were, and keep making shooters? It's proven that the Unreal Engine 3 can handle pretty much any genre you throw at it.
Mark Rein: Haha, stuck to our guns, that's great. Well, there's lots of low-hanging fruit in shooters. We can still do better, we can constantly improve.
Eurogamer: You must play lots of other types of games.
Mark Rein: Is Spielberg bored of making action movies?
Eurogamer: No, but even he does his little arty projects now and again. [What, like Schindler's List? - Ed] Don't you feel like doing something completely unrelated to what you've done before?
Mark Rein: We will, I just don't know when. We just feel like we can do a better job at these. People are seeing with Unreal Tournament 3, and will especially see with Gears of War 2 that we're getting better and better every time. We think we can do better!
Eurogamer: Have you officially retired the Unreal Championship games now that the current crop of consoles can do Unreal Tournament properly?
Mark Rein: Yeah...that's a good question for Mike [Capps - Ed], I mean he designed those games. I think the guys would love to make another Unreal Championship, but there's only so many things you can do in a year.
Unreal Tournament 3 will be released on Xbox 360 in the Summer and will be published by Midway.