Interviewing Mark Rein is kind of like riding a runaway train. He's bursting at the seams with enthusiasm and energy, so the second you ask him a question he'll never stop talking, leaving you to try and interrupt and steer him from one topic to the next. Fail at this and you face the death-like situation of telling Kristan you only got 15 minutes of him saying how much he loves EDGE magazine or something.
Eurogamer: First things first, are we going to see the PS3 version this year? And what's happening with the 360 version?
Mark Rein: The 360 version's not till next year anyway, so all I can say is we're still hoping for the PS3 version to be released this year. Europe's a problem because the certification process in Europe takes longer. They're testing all these different languages in all these different countries, so I doubt it'll be released this year in Europe. But I don't know. We'll have to cross our fingers and wait and see.
That's such a terrible, non-commital answer [laughs]. But that's how it is! Sorry.
Eurogamer: Curse you, Mark Rein. Why is the PS3 version getting all this lovin' over the 360, anyway?
Mark Rein: The mods. We can release any mods we want on PS3 because it's an open system, whereas Xbox Live is a closed system. I remember, Sony came up and told us users could create and share anything at all! And we were like, 'Um, we'd like to test that theory.' Once we're done with the PS3 version I guess we'll sit down and talk to Microsoft and see what we can work out.
"Because yeah, all the mods in the top 10 of the last Make It Unreal could have been games in their own right, and that's something we're hoping to do with UT3. We're thinking of selling them over the Playstation Network, or Xbox Live, just anything to let these guys make some money from their projects.
Eurogamer: Hang on a sec. So PC gamers will be able to download mods for free, while console owners will have to buy them?
Mark Rein: To enter Make It Unreal all mods have to be free, but as Red Orchestra proved a free mod can act as a demo for the full retail version. The boxed version of Red Orchestra had so much extra content, and it was great value and it did really well.
Eurogamer: So there's a new Make It Unreal coming?
Mark Rein: Yeah! I'm just lining up the sponsors now and the editor ships in the box, baby.
But you wanna know something cool, a little known fact? You see all these levels from the single-player movies, like the city you see getting destroyed? That's not a game level. That's a level they built to be part of the movie. But we ship all these levels with the game so there's the opportunity for modders to do something new and different with them. We think people are gonna make some crazy wow flying game type in that city.
Eurogamer: Alright. Let's talk about the game for a bit. (Noise of clunking levers, screeching tracks, screaming passengers.) Previously Epic always seemed eager to cram loads of new, experimental ideas into the UT games, while UT3 seems a lot narrower in scope. Why?
Mark Rein: We wanted to simplify the game a little bit and concentrate on the really popular modes. Obviously Onslaught was the most popular mode in Unreal Tournament 2004 so we wanted to make sure we improved that quite a bit with this new Warfare gametype, and that meant not having as many crazy gametypes as we had before. And hey, the mod guys are gonna fill in any holes, trust me. They're gonna do amazing stuff with this game.
Eurogamer: So Epic are going for a solid core for modders to build on top of?
Mark Rein: We wanted to have a very, very, very solid core. We wanted to simplify the game a little bit, make it a more approachable, and we wanted to concentrate on having a singleplayer that really teaches you how to play the game well so you can then enjoy it for the rest of your life. And hey, it's not Gears of War style or anything, you're only playing the maps from the game and the bots are guiding you through and telling you what to do and there's a storyline. But I'm really enjoying it.
And as I was saying, if we'd had three more gametypes then by the end your head would be spinning. Simplify and improve, is the theme. We bring back the best bits of the original game and combine them with the best bits of the last game. You know, feature-itis is a really dangerous disease because it's hard enough to make a game and decide you're done and actually ship it. And that gets even harder if you try and cram in tons and tons of features and tons and tons of superfluous stuff.
At one point in time one of the the things we experimented with was having these big 64 player battles, and it just wasn't UT anymore. We wanted to make sure this game was the ultimate UT, not yet again something different that took UT in a different direction. So a lot of energy went into the single player, and a lot of energy went into the AI, as well as making the gametypes better and making the weapons feel just right. Plus it's a great console game too which is equally exciting.
Eurogamer: Well, alright then. Still, one of the new features you do have is the hoverboard and grapple beam that everyone gets on the vehicle maps. How did that come about?
Mark Rein: In non-vehicle CTF mode you have the good ol' Translocator, which is great fun, but with Warfare and Vehicle CTF you have these huge maps. We had to figure out a way for you to quickly get back into the action without giving everyone a vehicle, since then it wouldn't be UT. The hoverboard solved that problem, making the game so much more accessible. You're no longer screwed because you spawned and there's no vehicles. But more than that it's fun, especially on console controls, and it's so balanced! As great a getaway device as it is, you take one shot and you're down, boom, you fall off, you're disabled for a second, that's a real balancing feature!
Wonderful. And you PC gamers can look forward to falling off your hoverboard and being disabled for a second when UT3 is released next week. PS3 owners will have to keep their fingers crossed for pre-Christmas hoverboard action, and 360 owners may well be better off building their own hoverboards. Really, how hard can it be?