- SPOnG caught up with Epic's outspoken bossman, Mark Rein (pictured here) recently for a full and frank chat about the latest Epic, err, epic - Unreal Tournament 3 out now on PC and on PlayStation 3 (in January) and on Xbox 360 (in, gods knows when).
Not one to hold back on his forthright opinions, Rein is that rarest of creatures to be found in the world of game development - a high profile studio boss that is not afraid to call a spade a spade. When asked why the console version of UT3 was noticeably slower than the PC version, Rein told us:
"When you play Halo on PC, you notice the difference too, yeah? This is also the reason why we don't have cross-platform play, between PC and PS3, because you have got to make some compromises for each platform. But you play Halo on console and you find that it's slower too, right...they have to be slower, because your fingers are just not as precise as your whole arm, right? To me the movement and speed as a console gamer is just right."
On appealing to a much wider audience of casual gamers, Rein explains that Epic has, "simplified the game... in the last game, we had like seven game types... this time, we said instead of having 'onslaught' and 'assault' lets meld them together into this 'warfare' mode, let's just do the things that we do really well and make them work on console. It's the single player game that, even though you're playing through all the different levels, feels more like a ladder with a story. It's just a much better introduction to the game".
We then spoke about the issue of mods, and the slightly thorny question of what Epic plans to do when it finally brings UT3 to Xbox 360:
"When Sony originally said, 'Ours is an open network', we said, 'Oh yeah? Well, we'll see how open you are really willing to be'. To their credit, they have been fully supportive of this. There's no question that this kind of modding ability has never happened on console before."
What about the Xbox 360 version?
"Well we're going to do it on 360 - the thing we don't know and don't have the time to figure out right now is how we are going to handle mods. On the PS3, it's an open network... Xbox 360, in terms of talking to the internet, is a closed network. So, how do we get the mods out there? That's something that we have to sit down with Microsoft and have a dialogue about that to figure out, 'how can we do this? Are you willing to let us do that?' and so on....we're going to sit down with them next year and figure out how we are going to do it.
"Worst case scenario? We'll bring the mods to Xbox LIVE... If Microsoft, for one reason or another, can't get their heads around the idea of having mods then we'll build some sort of mod architecture and we'll put the best mods through [Microsoft] certification and we'll offer them on Xbox LIVE. That's not an ideal situation. That would certainly limit what we were able to do and that would funnel the number of mods that would be made available to a very small amount. But that's the worst-case scenario.
"We'll see. I mean, Microsoft is not 'against' user-generated contend. They just want to keep their closed system safe and secure and, more accurately, they want to make sure that the content has been checked, professionally. Sony's willing to take a few more bets..."
SPOnG has contacted Microsoft in the UK today to get a response from the company, to find out what , if anything, it has in store for 2008 for enabling Epic to bring proper modding to the Xbox 360 version of Unreal Tournament 3.
Which brings us neatly onto the million-dollar question, is 2008 going to be the year of PS3?
"Yeah, I'm personally excited about PlayStation 3... It's pretty good value. I'm optimistic that they are going to move a lot of units....They have actually sold a decent number already, don't forget that they are a year behind the 360. I'm not sure that they are a lot further behind where the 360 was a year ago, so yeah, we're pretty optimistic. And we have a great game for it, so hopefully that will help too! I like the machine. We think there is a good opportunity there."
For more on Unreal Tournament 3 and Cliffy B's hair obsession head read the full SPOnG review up later.