It would be fair to say I was pleased to hear that Epic were working on a new Unreal Tournament. “Fair to say” in that nothing has ever been more true and “pleased” in that I danced around my room. The 2004 edition is a little over ten years old and still easily one of the finest first-person shooters ever made. From weapon balance to movement models, it’s damn near perfect and my love affair with it continues to this day. The new version promises frown-causing community development and an eyebrow-raising commitment to being totally free outside of a user marketplace. Now that the project is a few months old, they’ve ramped up the interaction with weekly livestreams.
There’s been three so far, but this one from last week grabbed my attention most effectively. In it, the team showcases some of the concept art that has been submitted by the community so far, including this incredible Shock Rifle. I was honestly surprised by both the quality of work being produced by outsiders and the enthusiasm of the developers for it. I’d (foolishly) dismissed the idea of involving fans in development as a gimmick to generate interest and headlines, but not something that would be paid more than lip service.
There’s some great passion on show from the development team too. I loved the eight minute conversation on which of the Lightning Gun or Sniper Rifle – two weapons that serve similar purposes with minute, important differences – should make it into the game. Despite the incredibly early stage of their project, they’ve clearly got a mind for the sorts of details that long-time fans of the series will be interested in. As further example, there’s an entire forum set up (with 148 threads and counting) to discuss movement and how it will impact weapon design and map making. There’s all sorts of other details scattered around the forum from the very active devs, so I recommend taking a dive if you’re interested.
Here’s the Twitch channel where the livestreams take place, and the YouTube one where archives are uploaded. They’ve also started podcastising them, which you can subscribe to on iTunes. The folks over at Polycount (who you may remember from a TF2 item update) have a contest running for concept art, with various prizes for their’s and Epic’s favourites. If you haven’t checked it out already, Nathan’s interview with Epic from May is long, detailed and interesting.