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Unreal Deal Pack
Nov 29, 2012
Product Release - Valve
Save 66% on Unreal Tournament 3 Black and the Unreal Deal Pack as part of this week's Weekend Deal*!
In Celebration of Unreal Tournaments 13th birthday. The community is releasing the 5th volume of the Community Bonus Pack!
New content includes new character, new maps and more!
*Offer ends Monday at 10AM Pacific Time
In Celebration of Unreal Tournaments 13th birthday. The community is releasing the 5th volume of the Community Bonus Pack!
New content includes new character, new maps and more!
*Offer ends Monday at 10AM Pacific Time
Sep 28, 2012
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - email@example.com (Jim Rossignol)
Phys are reporting that a University Of Texas team won a $7000 in a competition to create game bots that would pass as human. “The winning bots both achieved a humanness rating of 52 percent. Human players received an average humanness rating of only 40 percent. The two winning teams will split the $7,000 first prize,” says the Phys report. “When this ‘Turing test for game bots’ competition was started, the goal was 50 percent humanness,” the bot’s creator, Risto Miikkulainen, is quoted as saying. “It took us five years to get there, but that level was finally reached last week, and it’s not a fluke.” The bot mimicked humans by pursuing grudges, having poor aim at long range, and by using neural networks to “evolve” the bot’s behaviour towards something that would be optimal in the game’s environment.
Does anyone know of any games that use bots for language responses? I can’t think of any offhand, but it must be going on, and there must be an intriguing state of the art for the “real” Turing Test in games.
This article was originally published in issue 218 of PC Gamer, but in light of Cliff Bleszinski's entirely speculative talk of an open-world Unreal reboot, we thought we'd dig it out.
Epic Games, now purveyors of grunting masculinity, offal and chainsaws, once had a line of family-friendly shareware platformers and pinball titles. The reason we no longer think of them as the guys who made Jazz Jackrabbit is solely due to Unreal.
It’s an overlooked great. A journey through an alien landscape with a sense of wonder, grandeur and mystery that almost no shooter has since achieved. BioShock, surprisingly, is its most comparable successor. Both games maroon the player in a lurid and unfamiliar world – which, through pursuing their own selfish aims, they unwittingly save. In Unreal’s case it’s the planet of Na Pali. It’s here that the Vortex Rikers prison ship crashes, spilling its convict cargo out into a dangerous and primitive land, where the Nali tribespeople toil under the jackboot of their technologically superior alien oppressors – the Skaarj.
Few enemies are as much of a delight to battle. Towering, dreadlocked xeno-bastards cut from the same cloth as Predator, each Skaarj is a formidable foe. Part of their brilliance comes from their relationship to Unreal’s armoury: almost none of the powerful weapons will hit their target instantly. Even the Stinger, Unreal’s answer to the chaingun, fires crystal projectiles that move at a finite – and thus dodgeable – speed. Several of the weapons are at their most lethal when charged up: the GES Bio Rifle produces a glob of corrosive goo that can kill in a hit, while the Eightball rocket launcher loads up to eight rounds into its chambers for a simultaneous release. But the Skaarj are extremely nimble – they effortlessly roll away from your charged blasts, pouncing to gut you with wristblades if you try and whittle them down with the AutoMag, and retreating when you unleash volleys of slow moving missiles. Rather than the stop-and-pop gunplay that is almost ubiquitous in shooters of late, firefights here are elaborate dances conducted below a constellation of arcing flak shells.
This isn’t Rapture. Na Pali is not riddled with sophisticated political parables, nor does it make a postmodern critique of the limits of your freedom within the game, but its vast mountainous terrain does create a powerful sense of drama. Its volcanic enclaves conceal a geographical panoply of tropical oases, temples of pseudo-Mayan and Himalayan derivation, medieval castles, mines and monstrous alien overlords.
Inevitably, that terrain does seem crude now. A polygon went along way back then – perhaps even across an entire mountain range in Unreal’s case. What’s remarkable is that, though far from the cutting edge of graphical fidelity, the blocky world of Na Pali is still beautiful in composition and colour. Particularly colour in fact – Unreal’s happy use of neon lighting gives the game a refreshing saturation that is only now coming back into fashion after years and years of glum brown and gunmetal-grey shooters. It’s a natty use of lighting too, that gives Unreal’s skies their voluminous quality as they pass overhead, the clouds receding behind pixely mountains tinted with the sallow rays of a lowering sun. Although boxed into canyons, the skies always manage to evoke the sense of a much larger world spanning beyond the sheer planes of rock texture that surround you.
Then there’s the way the world sounds: the creak of timber in an ancient stairwell, or the whistle of the wind through a deserted mountain temple. Alien birds caw and wind chimes, well, chime. For all the limitations of its technology, few environments are crafted with such care for the feelings they evoke.
Most striking of all is the scale. Unreal may be short on geometrical complexity, but it’s not lacking in grandeur. The trench carved by a fallen starship it is no less staggering in its size now than it was in 1998. The Spire, a stack of rock that rises from the centre of a volcano, is similarly massive, and (as with Half-Life 2’s Citadel) your lengthy approach to it across many levels gives you plenty of time to contemplate this. Jump off its highest point, and it takes over ten seconds to hit the lava at its base – making it larger than the Empire State Building.
It hasn’t got any smaller over the years, either. Unreal is still a game of size in every respect. Its journey feels genuinely epic. Its battles are an elegant chaos that stands out from the pop-up shooting galleries that swamp the genre, even today.
This was the game that propelled Epic Games’ reputation to new heights as creators of bloody, hardcore shooters, and galvanised the 3D industry with its technology. Odd then that what should be considered a landmark of singleplayer entertainment by dint of its historical importance alone has faded in popular gaming memory. Its successes have been overwritten by the popularity of Epic’s subsequent Unreal Tournament series, multiplayer games whose fiction is only tangentially related to Unreal’s. Nor did it help that Legend Entertainment’s attempt a sequel was, frankly, toss. But the killing blow had already been delivered: six months after Unreal’s release, Half-Life hit the shelves.
And yes, Half-Life is still the better game, but not, actually, by any considerable factor. When I first played Unreal, I was awestruck. I invited friends round, standing eagerly behind them as they emerged from the Vortex Rikers into the open skies of Na Pali. “See?” I’d say – smug and delighted to have initiated them into the same sense of wonder I had felt. The years have passed and technological progress has inflamed the tyranny of our expectations, but the planet of Na Pali is still a thing to point at proudly and say, “See?”
Sep 17, 2012
Epic Games frontman Cliff Bleszinski conducted a crowdsourced interview with Reddit over the weekend in the popular "Ask Me Anything" subreddit. A number of noteworthy responses cropped up regarding Bleszinski's thoughts on revisiting older IPs, modding's explosive popularity, and (though very definitely not announcing this) an open-world reboot of Unreal, among other answers. Check out a few choice quotes below:
On the potential for a Jazz Jackrabbit reboot:
"Not any time soon. We're (fortunate) slaves to our success here at Epic with great franchises like Gears of War and Infinity Blade. It seems like a risky bet: Could we see a 2D platform game return and really move that many units, or would it just be a cult hit?
"We make games as a labor of love, but we also try to weigh the choice of what we build based upon a solid understanding of the business. How could Jazz exist and flourish in this market? I don't know, honestly. One idea that George Broussard and I discussed years ago was to bring back Jazz as an FPS, Jumping Flash style. But yeah, we'll do that in our 'spare' time."
When are we getting a return to the PC FPS glory that was Unreal?
"It seems as if you're asking about two entirely different games. The first Unreal was more of a single player exploratory experience whereas Unreal Tournament was a multiplayer focused game with a 'ladder' for the single player. Both have their strengths and weaknesses.
"I was quoted recently on a Fortnite panel about the first Unreal and what a reboot might look like. Having really grown into a big Bethesda fan lately (Skyrim rocked my world), I couldn't help but wonder what a reboot of Unreal would be like if it was more 'SciFi-Rim.' Sure, there would be shooting involved, but exploration would almost be more important. Get back to that sense of wonder that the first game had. (Caves and castles and crashed ships are basically your dungeon instances, whereas the 'overworld' is less intense.) Put it on a high-end PC, and prepare yourself for amazing visuals never before seen in real time.
"As far as a new UT, it's hard to say. Shooters and their sequels are a tricky beast. Often you wind up upsetting your core whenever you make a sequel because sometimes you change things the users didn't want changed, or the users are so very in love with their memory of the original game that there's nothing you can do to live up to the first game. This happened with Counter-Strike: Source, Quake 2, Unreal Tournament 2003, and heck, even Halo 2. All that said, I do personally believe that Unreal Tournament 3 suffered a bit from an identity crisis in regards to whether or not it was a PC or console game.
"So if, when? I don't know, honestly. We're understaffed right now for all of the projects we've got going on, so I can't say if or when it may happen. I do love that IP, and I do hope to return to Na Pali some day.
"P.S.: The delta between the current crop of consoles and a high end PC is incredibly obvious now. Looking at Hawken at PAX versus the other console games and this difference is startling. FYI, Fortnite is a PC-first game."
If there's one current trend (DLC, pre-order exclusives, etc.) you could change in the game industry, what would it be and why?
"I'd make sure there's still a place for survival-horror games to exist and floursh. There have been a few that have come back (Amnesia comes to mind), but by and large the genre has almost vanished. Fatal Frame 2 and Silent Hill 2 are two of my favorite games of all time.
"I believe that one of the main factors for this is the blockbuster-hit driven nature of the business that we have in a disc-based market. You're either Call of Duty, Skyrim, or Gears, or it seems like you're a 'campaign rental' or a used game. When we get to a digitally delivered world, I'd wager that there will be room for, say, a 20 dollar short and fun and scary experience to emerge."
What do you think of DayZ, and as a successful game designer, do you consider the success of games like DayZ, Minecraft, and Kerbal Space Program changing the way you think about gamers and how to design for them?
"I haven't had a chance to play DayZ myself, but I've seen the viral videos. That mod is a prime example of my theory stating, 'Bugs notwithstanding, there's a direct correlation between how cool your game is and how many interesting YouTube videos it can yield.' I loved the 'Never trust anyone in DayZ, especially if they have a helicopter' video. Pure gold.
"So, put the survival and social aspects aside for a second and step back and consider that we're in a world where a mod like that can blow up thanks to the connected nature of the world in which we live. A handful of guys can now have a great idea for the next big thing and put it out and it can explode seemingly overnight! We had seen this before with mods like Counter-Strike, but it's only become more and more frequent lately.
"My wife and I were very hooked on Minecraft for months. It's brilliant, and I have a lot of respect for Notch and the crew at Mojang, and I find it thrilling that unique games like the aforementioned can flourish now."
You have unlimited funds and processing power. What film/novel/comic book would you make into a game?
Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
In 2010, Epic Games released the Epic Citadel tech demo to show off what the Unreal Engine could do on an iPhone. Now, it's re-released that same demo running in a web browser on Flash 11, for you to have a look yourself. Epic also showed off Unreal Tournament 3 and Dungeon Defenders running in Flash, with only a moderate performance hit.
"For the same piece of content there is definitely a penalty on Flash in terms of CPU performance," Epic's Mark Rein told our roving reporter Andrew at GDC, but the Flash version of Unreal Engine 3 still runs around 70% as fast as the regular. Given how much more portable and accessible it is--the Flash Dungeon Defenders only has a 15MB initial download--it's a reasonable hit, and Rein noted he can still run DD on his lowly Macbook Air.
Epic Citadel isn't simply a fancy display of something Epic might do--Flash is now an official supported platform of Unreal Engine, thanks to Flash 11's GPU-accelerated 3D. It should almost certainly be a standard feature of Unreal Engine 4, which Epic plans to unveil this year.
As befits the Game Developers Conference, Epic also whipped together a trailer showing off the various shiny features the Unreal Engine 3 has to offer developers in 2012:
Mar 8, 2012
Unreal Engine maker Epic Games wants to get Samaritan quality visuals working in Flash.
That's the long term goal, Epic VP Mark Rein said during a GamesIndustry International attended presentation at GDC.
The Samaritan tech demo, below, was revealed by Epic Games at GDC 2011. It was designed to show what developers would be capable of with next-generation graphics technology.
Then, Samaritan took three GTX 580 Nvidia cards and a large power supply to run. At this year's GDC, Epic ran the demo on a single, unreleased Nvidia card and a 200 watt supply. This, Rein said, was a "big step forward".
Rein also showed off Dungeon Defenders running full screen in Flash as well as it does on PlayStation 3. "This isn't your father's FarmVille," he said.
He then showed off the Xbox 360 version of Unreal Tournament 3 running in Flash to hammer home his point.
Graphics technology has, according to Rein, advanced faster than Epic predicted. Unreal Engine 4, which is being shown to partners under NDA at GDC, is "blowing people's socks off". Rein expects a public showing later this year.
"People have maybe forgotten about the adrenaline rush of the old school shooters like Quake, Unreal Tournament and, of course, Tribes." Executive producer on upcoming free to play shooter Tribes: Ascend, Todd Harris, misses the twitch shooters of old.
We asked him why he thought they were less popular these days. "I think a lot of it is the multi-platform consideration," he said. "Games have this huge marketing spend so many of these shooters look to go multi-platform, meaning not just the PC but at least two consoles as well."
Todd says controllers don't offer the same freedom of movement as a mouse and keyboard, making it harder for devs to put an emphasis on raw dexterity: "The control scheme on the consoles does limit somewhat the speed and the twitch in which a game can operate – I mean your turn distance is only so far."
"That’s not to say that someone couldn’t make a fast twitch game for those consoles," says Todd, "But it’s easier to go to a lower common denominator - not having to turn as fast, not having to look 360 degrees in an instant - to make more of a hide-and-seek style, corridor-based, tactical shooter," he says.
You should be excited about Tribes. It's superb, and currently in closed beta. Luckily, the latest issue of PC Gamer comes with a beta code and 350 gold - that's enough to unlock a specialist class or pimp out one of you existing ones. Subscribe, or grab your copy of the March issue.
If Epic makes another game in the Gears of War franchise - highly likely give its success - the developer will make sure it feels "fresh and new".
"In the future, who knows?" Epic design director Cliff Bleszinski said during a VGA press conference following the announcement of Fortnite.
"We could be faced with the console transition at some point. We would certainly love to make more experiences in the Gears universe. If we get around to it, I want to make sure we switch it up sufficiently so it still feels like Gears DNA, but it feels fresh and new."
Xbox 360 exclusive Gears of War 3 launched to critical and commercial acclaim. It sold over three million copies worldwide during its first week on sale. The franchise has generated over one billion dollars in sales.
Bleszinski once again stressed that Gears remains closely linked to Xbox maker Microsoft - casting doubt on the possibility of the franchise ever appearing on a Sony console.
"It's technically capable, but we have a good deal with Microsoft, so that's the home of Gears for the foreseeable future," he said.
"Business is business man. We could speculate about anything. What if streaming online services decided they wanted to make a great deal with us? Then Gears would be a streaming game. But as of right now, Microsoft's been an amazing partner for us."
Bleszinski said he hoped the stonking success of Gears of War 3 would help drag the announced movie project out of "development limbo". "It's still in a little bit of a movie development limbo right now," he said, "but hopefully with the success of 3 we'll see it poke back up."
During the press conference Bleszinski was asked about the future of Unreal, an Epic-owned franchise that has gone dark in recent years.
The outspoken developer said he would love to reboot it - but the chances of him doing so seem low.
"I will tell you right now, if you could magically double Epic's team temporarily and just build another game like that I would love to do it," he said.
"I've had all sorts of crazy ideas. I think it would be amazing to reboot the original Unreal with a Fallout/Skyrim vibe, where it's more about exploration than it is about action, and more RPG elements.
"But we're a slave to our success with games like Gears and Infinity Blade. Thankfully we're able to craft a new IP with something like Fortnite right now."
Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney is to be the newest member of the notable AIAS (Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences) Hall of Fame.
Sweeney's name will rank alongside the likes of Nintendo icon Shigeru Miyamoto, id Software mastermind John Carmack, Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime and Sims creator Will Wright.
The AIAS acknowledged Sweeney's "technical innovations" in Unreal Engine, which powers many of today's biggest games, as well as his work on the Unreal Tournament and Gears of War series of games.
He's the nerdy backbone of Epic Games, in other words. The posh term for this is technical director.
"Tim's vision has changed the face of gaming with the advent of the Unreal Engine and the commitment of Epic, as a studio, to bring both consumer and industry-facing technology to new heights," said AIAS president Martin Rae.
Sweeney receives his AIAS 2012 Hall of Fame Award in February. Colleague Mark Rein, Epic Games vice president, will present him with it.
"I've had the pleasure to work alongside Tim Sweeney for nearly 20 years," Rein said.
"Tim's sense of fairness and doing what's right, not just for Epic but for the industry as a whole, is also what makes him so admired among the people who know him.
"I am very proud to call him my friend and mentor, and am thrilled that I will be able to present this well-deserved award to him. I wish everyone in the industry could know Tim as I do."
Sweeney founded Epic Games a hundred years ago in 1991. Back then he made games like ZZT and Jill of the Jungle. And he also put together the first version of Unreal Engine.
That fledgling foray into engine middleware is a far cry from today's Unreal Engine 3, middleware champion of this, the seventh video game generation.
Today, Tim Sweeney concentrates on Unreal Engine 4 - a technology that could shape the next decade of big-budget video games.
A last word on the AIAS Hall of Fame: "The AIAS Hall of Fame is bestowed on game creators who have been instrumental in the development of highly influential games and moving a particular genre forward. These individuals demonstrate the highest level of creativity and innovation, resulting in significant product influence on a scale that expands the scope of the industry."
Last year's AIAS Hall of Fame inductees were BioWare doctor bosses Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk.
Sep 21, 2011
Gears of War developer Epic may be making five new games right now, but a new Unreal Tournament isn't one of them.
"Unreal and Unreal Tournament continue to have a huge influence on the studio here, even though we're not currently working on an Unreal IP project," boss Mike Capps told Forbes.
Capps' comments are sure to disappoint Unreal fans buoyed by the Epic president's July admission that the developer had neglected the franchise in recent years.
"It's been a long time since we shipped an Unreal game, and it's an awfully loved franchise that we hold pretty dear here," Capps told IndustryGamers two months ago.
"We haven't been giving it the attention it deserves because we've been focusing on Gears of War and we're still a relatively small company.
"At some point you wonder why we don't rename the engine the Gears Engine or something," he joked.
"We've been sort of focused on making new properties, which you've seen with Shadow Complex, Bulletstorm and Infinity Blade, but sometimes I think just as a businessman that maybe we should be spending some more time with our existing franchises."
Capps' latest comments pour cold water on that suggestion. Still, Unreal has helped inform Epic's recent games, including the Gears of War franchise.
"Epic's core game making philosophy of 'when everyone says it's done, keep polishing!' came from our experiences with Unreal Tournament," Capps said. "That's the beginning of our quality-focused studio DNA."
Capps revealed at GDC Europe last month that Epic was developing five games. While these remain unannounced, one appears to be the next game from Bulletstrom developer People Can Fly.
Discussing Bulletstorm, Capps said: "We learned that People Can Fly can make a really fun project, and we learned how to work together well - and that's going to show in what they're doing next."
OTT shooter Bulletstorm failed to turn a profit for Epic, despite glowing reviews.
"The studio has shipped AAA content," Capps said in July. "The next thing we do with People Can Fly will be great."