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Unreal Tournament

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Unreal Tournament
Unrealtournament.jpg
Developer(s)
Publisher(s)
Designer(s)
Programmer(s)
Artist(s) Shane Caudle
Composer(s)
Series Unreal
Engine Unreal Engine 1
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Classic Mac OS, Linux, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast
Release Windows
  • NA: November 30, 1999
  • EU: December 3, 1999
Classic Mac OS
  • NA: January 17, 2000
Dreamcast
  • NA: October 21, 2000
  • EU: April 20, 2001
PlayStation 2
  • NA: March 13, 2001
  • EU: June 29, 2001
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Unreal Tournament is a first-person shooter video game developed by Epic Games and Digital Extremes. The second installment in the Unreal series, it was first published by GT Interactive in 1999 for Microsoft Windows, and later released on the PlayStation 2 by Infogrames, in 2001 and on the Dreamcast by Secret Level in 2000. Players compete in a series of matches of various types, with the general aim of out-killing opponents. The PC version supports multiplayer online or over a local area network. Free expansion packs were released, some of which were bundled with a 2000 re-release: Unreal Tournament: Game of the Year Edition.

The game is based on the same technology that powered Unreal, but the design of Unreal Tournament shifted the series' focus to competitive multiplayer action. Development took almost a year and a half, and the game was initially intended to be an expansion for Unreal. Unreal Tournament received critical acclaim, with reviewers praising the graphics, artificial intelligence and gameplay, although the console ports were noted for having limitations. The game won a number of awards from a variety of gaming publications, and the series has continued with the releases of sequels Unreal Tournament 2003 in 2002, Unreal Tournament 2004 in 2004, and Unreal Tournament 3 in 2007.

Gameplay[edit]

A typical game of Domination in progress.

Unreal Tournament is an arena first-person shooter, with head-to-head multiplayer deathmatches being the primary focus of the game. The single-player campaign is a series of arena matches played with bots, where the player competes for the title of Grand Champion.[1] The player moves up the tournament ladder in order to challenge the current champion, Xan, a mysterious being with exceptional skill.[2] Also available is a Practice mode, in which, as its name implies, the player practices a match. Match settings (such as score and time limits) can be customized. Also available are "mutators" which drastically alter gameplay aspects, such as "InstaGib", the use of which makes players compete with instant-kill weapons instead of the normal ones.[3] Weapons include Enforcers, Rocket Launchers, and Rippers, which fire ricocheting blades. Most weapons have two firing modes which have different effects: for example, Rippers can also fire non-ricocheting blades which explode on impact. A special weapon is the Redeemer, which causes a very large and powerful explosion.[4]

Items such as Body Armor (which reduce damage taken), health packs (which heal players), and Damage Amplifiers are scattered across levels.[5] Levels are set in a variety of environments, including spaceships, outposts, and buildings such as castles and monasteries.[6] Many contain features such as elevators (lifts) and teleporters, and obstacles such as water and lava.[7] The game is backwards compatible with the majority of Unreal multiplayer maps.[8] The PC version includes a level editor in which players can create their own levels,[9] and the PlayStation 2 version supports the use of a USB keyboard and mouse, enabling players to play in a similar manner to the PC version.[10]

For team matches, bots are used to fill the roles of the player's teammates. The player can choose the bots' skill level or have it automatically adjust to the player's performance. Bots can be further customized by changing attributes such as names, appearance, and weapon preferences.[11] In team matches, players can give orders to bots on their team.[12] The PC version supports multiplayer mode over the internet or a local area network (the original Unreal was mainly a single-player game[13]).[14]

Game types[edit]

  • Assault: This game type is played with two teams, one assaulting a "base" and the other defending it. The map is set up with objectives which the attacking team must complete (usually in sequence) such as shutting down a power generator, or entering an area. The team who first attacks then defends, and attempts to defend for the entire time they attacked. If they accomplish this, they win. If the team defending first assaults the base faster than the other team, they win. If both teams defend for the maximum amount of time the match is a tie.[15] The Dreamcast version does not feature this mode.[16]
  • Capture the Flag: Players compete to capture the other team's flag and return it to their base. Competitive teams must use a great deal of teamplay. Both teams must defend the base from incoming attackers and get into the other team's base, take their flag and return to base. [17]
  • Deathmatch: A classic every-man-for-himself player vs. player combat. The objective is to out-kill all opposing players.[18]
  • Domination: Two teams compete to control various control points to earn points. Standard maps contain three control points. Control of these points is initially accomplished through occupation (physically occupying the space), but control of a point continues until a player from another team occupies the space. The first team to reach the point limit, or that has the most points when a time limit has expired, wins.[19]
  • Last Man Standing: Similar to Deathmatch, the player's objective is to remain alive longer than their opponents, putting an emphasis on number of deaths rather than kills. Players start with all weapons (except the Redeemer) available, fully loaded, and have a set number of lives. Power-ups, including health and ammunition packs, are unavailable. Once a player runs out of lives, they lose.[20]
  • Team Deathmatch: Up to four teams compete to out-kill the opponent teams.[18]

Four "bonus packs" were released, each adding maps, characters, or features. For example, bonus pack 1 adds "relics" as mutators.[21] Relics are special items that grant a significant advantage to their holder. They include (but are not limited to), the Relic of Vengeance, which creates an explosion when its holder dies, the Relic of Regeneration, which regenerates the health of the holder, and the Relic of Redemption, which makes its holder re-spawn elsewhere with full health and weapons intact when they would normally die.[22][23] Bonus Pack 4 adds a new version of Xan.[24]

Plot[edit]

During the Human/Skaarjj war, the New Earth Government was formed. Mining was the primary method of financing the war, though was unpopular with the working class, who grew weary of the working conditions and the war. The humans were losing the war, and riots broke out. The Terran system was surrounded by Skaarj forces, but a government team destroyed their Queen Ship, and the Skaarj withdrew. Afterward, mining incidents were on the increase, and efforts to deal with them were unsuccessful. The government then came up with the idea of giving the violence an outlet instead. "Consensual murder" was legalized, enabling people to fight to the death under organized conditions. Mining conglomerates organized leagues, which proved successful. The Liandri Mining Corporation capitalized on the fights by tri-casting them. This proved to be more popular than the combat itself, their popularity increasing with brutality. By 2341, what is now called the "Tournament" has become more profitable than mining. Liandri Mining Corporation annually hosts the "Grand Tournament", the most popular event.[25]

Development[edit]

Cliff Bleszinski (pictured) and James Schmalz were the lead designers of their respective companies and contributed significantly to the final game content.[26]

With a budget of $2 million and 350,000 lines of C++ and UnrealScript, Unreal Tournament took almost a year and a half to develop.[26] When Unreal (the first installment of the Unreal series) was released in May 1998, it was well received by the press. However, it soon became apparent that the quality of the network code used for multiplayer matches was hampering the game's further success. In the months following Unreal's release, improving the game's multiplayer part became the top priority of the development team.[27] Epic Games started considering an official expansion pack intended to improve the network code while also featuring new maps and other gameplay elements.[26]

The team began work on the expansion in summer 1998, but the task became complicated by Epic's organizational structure. During the development of Unreal, the team members at Digital Extremes were working in Ontario, Canada, while the members at Epic were based in North Carolina, United States, requiring regular travel to Ontario. To remedy this, Epic decided to centralize the teams in Raleigh, North Carolina, and by September, work on the expansion could begin. Lead programmer Steve Polge set about laying the foundations for the new game types, such as Capture the Flag and Domination, and level designers created the first round of maps for testing. The content grew quickly, and soon the team realized that it had underestimated the task. In November, after a meeting with publisher GT Interactive, Mark Rein suggested releasing the work as a standalone game instead of an expansion. The team was reticent at first, but soon accepted the idea, and in December the game became known internally as Unreal: Tournament Edition.[26]

The development team for Unreal Tournament consisted of around 16 people.[26] Most team members had worked on Unreal, though Epic hired a number of new developers to reinforce the team. Programmer Brandon Reinhart was one such hire, joining Epic in August 1998 to help with the support of Unreal and the development of Unreal Tournament. In December 1998, Reinhart discovered an Unreal mod called UBrowser, which provided a new user interface for finding multiplayer matches. After showing it to James Schmalz, the lead designer at Digital Extremes, Schmalz decided to hire the mod's author, Jack Porter. After only a few weeks Porter was already working with the team, replacing the game's existing menu system with his new interface.[26] Epic founder Tim Sweeney and Steve Polge worked on improving the networking code. Polge also wrote the original AI code and focused on player physics and general gameplay.[26][28] Erik de Neve was responsible for the LOD character rendering, and various extra optimizations.[29]

During the game's development, the team lacked artists. The art director at Epic Games, Shane Caudle,[30] and the artists at Digital Extremes could not make enough new textures because of the amount of diversity in characters and maps. In order to supplement the skin and texture production, Epic turned to contract artist Steve Garofalo.[26] The game's level and content management program, UnrealEd, was written in Visual Basic and considered buggy, but no one had time to fix it. The game engine had an object-oriented design, and the scripting language, UnrealScript, was considered to be more like Java. The modularity of the object-oriented design meant that programmers could make large changes without affecting other parts of the game. Other tools used during development included Microsoft Visual Studio and 3D Studio Max.[26] All of the weapon sound effects were created by Sonic Mayhem.[31] The soundtrack for the game, which employed the system of module files,[32] was written by Alexander Brandon, Michiel van den Bos, Andrew Sega, Dan Gardopee and Peter Hajba.[33][34]

On September 16, 1999, Epic Games released a playable demo.[28] This version of the demo was only compatible with Glide-based accelerators.[35] An updated demo version, with support for OpenGL and Direct3D cards, was released on September 28, 1999.[36] Unreal Tournament went gold (became ready for release) on November 16, 1999.[37] The Mac version went gold on December 15, 1999.[38] The Dreamcast version was developed by Secret Level, who had to drop Assault mode, along with many larger maps, due to the Dreamcast having insufficient memory.[16] On December 28, 1999, Brandon Reinhart announced he would release Linux libraries of Unreal Tournament through SourceForge. "I've chosen the Artistic License. I feel that it allows mod developers a lot of freedom with the open code, while not putting Epic into any weird positions with the undisclosed part of the engine," he commented.[39] The goal of the project was to improve the quality of the Linux port of the game as well as strengthen the mod authoring community and teach Epic about open source projects.[39] On August 1, 2000, Loki Software announced an exclusive agreement with Epic Games to maintain and support the Linux version of Unreal Tournament, offering new features, addressing any technical issues and achieving revision parity with the Windows version.[40] Bonus pack 1 was released on February 25, 2000.[41] Unreal Tournament was re-released in fall (autumn) 2000 as Unreal Tournament Game of the Year Edition, which includes the first three bonus packs and mods such as Rocket Arena, a one-on-one combat mode.[42][43][44]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic PC: 92/100[47]
PS2: 77/100[48]
DC: 90/100[49]
Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 4.5/5 stars (PC)[50]
CGW 5/5 stars (PC)[52]
CVG 9/10 (PC)[51]
Edge 7/10 (PC)[45]
6/10 (Dreamcast)[46]
Eurogamer 10/10 (PC)[53]
Game Informer 9/10 (PS2)[54]
GamePro 4.5/5 (PC)[55]
4.5/5 (PS2)[56]
Game Revolution A- (PC)[57]
B (PS2)[58]
B+ (Dreamcast)[59]
GameSpot 9.5/10 (PC)[60]
8.2/10 (PS2)[61]
9.4/10 (Dreamcast)[62]
GameSpy 94/100 (PC)[63]
77% (PS2)[64]
8/10 (Dreamcast)[65]
IGN 9.6/10 (PC)[66]
9.6/10 (Mac)[67]
8.4/10 (PS2)[68]
9.4/10 (Dreamcast)[69]
Maximum PC 9/10 (PC)[70]
PC Gamer (UK) 92/100 (PC)[71]
PC Gamer (US) 90/100 (PC)[72]
PC PowerPlay 94/100 (PC)[73]
PC Zone 90/100 (PC)[9]
Computer Games Strategy Plus 5/5 stars (PC)[74]
The Electric Playground 10/10 (PC)[75]
3/10 (PS2)[76]
9.5/10 (Dreamcast)[77]
Gamezilla 86% (PS2)[78]
87% (Dreamcast)[79]
Happy Puppy 9/10 (Mac)[80]
8/10 (Dreamcast)[81]
Inside Mac Games 9/10 (Mac)[82]
Dreamcast Magazine (UK) 87% (Dreamcast)[83]
NextGen 4/5 (PC)[84]
3/5 (PS2)[85]
4/5 (Dreamcast)[86]
GameFan 95/100 (PC)[87]
CNET 10/10 (PC)[88]
PC Accelerator 10/10 (PC)[89]

In the United States alone, Unreal Tournament sold 100,998 copies by April 2000.[90] The game received a "Silver" sales award from the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA),[91] indicating sales of at least 100,000 copies in the United Kingdom.[92] By November 2001, Unreal Tournament's total sales were close to 2 million units.[93]

Upon its release, Unreal Tournament received universal acclaim from critics, earning an overall score of 92 out of 100 on aggregate review website Metacritic.[47] Mainstream press reviews lauded the title for its graphics, gameplay, and level design. Computer and Video Games concluded "Unreal Tournament is nothing short of a technical and game-playing marvel destined to hold you - as it did us - wailing with happiness and wasting far too many precious hours hammering keyboards. An absolute joy to behold."[51] In March 2000, Unreal Tournament was second on a list of best-selling games in Computer Dealer News trade magazine.[94] However, the development team believed sales would have been higher if the game was released in October 1999.[26]

Jeff Gerstmann of GameSpot praised the graphics, noting "As good as the original Unreal looked, Unreal Tournament looks even better. The character models and skins look excellent, and there are quite a few choices to make when designing your character."[60] He also praised the multiplayer gameplay, weapons and level design: "The first-person shooter genre is fiercely competitive. But Unreal Tournament rises above the rest with its solid multiplayer performance, from its good weapon balance to its great level design."[60] The game was similarly reviewed by GameSpy, who concluded: "Unreal Tournament raises the bar for first person teamplay games. The mutators, bots, teams, and sheer number of maps give the game an awesome depth and replayability. This game is stuffed with content and polished until it gleams."[63] British magazine PC Zone was pleased with the "very intelligent" bots, but criticized the "truly terrible" music.[9] Allgame complimented the addictiveness of Assault mode, and the game's replay value, calling it "a glowing, shining beacon in a sea of multi-player games."[50] Computer and Video Games found the game to have an "excellent" single-player mode, adding that with an average AI skill the player will "progress with little serious effort, taking a thrilling ride through spectacularly atmospheric levels and increasing numbers of opponents."[51] Eurogamer echoed that sentiment, and commented that the game is playable on low-end systems.[53]

Writing for GamePro, Nash Werner said the multiplayer flexibility was "inmense", adding that mutators like low gravity, Sniper Arena, and Chainsaw Melee "change everything about the way deathmatch is played".[55] Game Revolution agreed and praised the bots and maps, although it complained that player models were not particularly varied and that the game was not "as visually appealing as the original Unreal".[57] IGN stated that Unreal Tournament received the highest ever score at the time of their review, describing the game as nearly flawless.[66] British magazine PC Gamer complimented the artificial intelligence,[71] and its American counterpart did the same to the game's "gorgeous" graphics and "incredible" editing tools.[72] Computer Games Strategy Plus described the artificial intelligence as "outstanding", and commented that the Domination and Assault modes add interest.[74] The Electric Playground, who rated the game 10 out of 10, praised the "innovative" level design,[75] while Computer Gaming World gave it five stars out of five, saying "UT has completely redeemed both Epic and the Unreal franchise to action gamers. With the combination of great AI, depth and variety of gameplay, and accessibility to both newbies and the hardcore, UT has shot the pulse-pounding mayhem of multiplayer shooters to new heights."[52]

The Macintosh version of Unreal Tournament was equally praised. IGN enjoyed the "perfect" gameplay and multiplayer options, but criticized the high system requirements and the user interface. Nevertheless, the game was described as "the must have title for your Mac."[67] Happy Puppy described the game as "king of deathmatch" due to its "incredible value" gaming and "amazing" variety.[80] Inside Mac Games praised the replay value, but criticized the high system requirements.[82] In December 1999, Unreal Tournament was inducted into the Macworld Hall of Fame.[95]

Reviewing the Dreamcast version, Gamezilla complimented the sound, but criticized the graphics and lack of a plot.[79] Happy Puppy described the game as "intensely fun", but criticized the "mediocre" sound.[81] Edge criticized the lack of Assault mode.[46] The British Dreamcast Magazine (not to be confused with the Official Dreamcast Magazine or DC-UK) was ambivalent to the port's gameplay, visuals and sounds, noting its "blasting" action and lack of online multiplayer.[83] GameSpy cited both slow framerate speeds and low sound quality as problems with the Dreamcast version.[65]

The PlayStation 2 release did not fare as well as the PC and Dreamcast versions.[48] GameSpy criticized the graphics of the PS2 version, saying "Graphically, the PS2 version of Unreal Tournament seems uninspired."[64] Its conclusion stated "Sluggish gameplay, somewhat washed out colors and textures".[64] IGN praised the replayability, and stated that the sound is faithful to the PC version.[68] Gamezilla criticized the PlayStation 2 version's lack of multiplayer support compared to the PC version along with Game Informer,[78] who said despite its flaws, the game "holds its own as one of the best FPSs out there."[54] On the other hand, the port scored 3 out of 10 in the television show The Electric Playground (now EP Daily), with the reviewer lauding the audio and graphics but feeling that the controls could have been better implemented, stating: "Control, or lack thereof, is the biggest thorn in the side of Unreal Tournament. The game simply does not play well with the Dual Shock controller. Epic has implemented a dual analog layout (one stick controls movement while the other stick controls aim) which sounds good in theory, but is horrid in practice. We tried to use the Dual Shock layout for a solid hour and ended up doing nothing more than walking into walls and spinning around wildly. The other Unreal Tournament contestants probably thought that our character was possessed."[76]

Unreal Tournament received Eurogamer's first ever perfect score, who also named it one of the best games of 1999.[96] Launch editor John Bye chose the shooter as the game of the past decade (1999–2009) and said, "Unreal Tournament is one of the few games in the early days of Eurogamer that I kept going back to months after I'd finished reviewing it, a game that I played to unwind after a long day playing other games. Whether it was trying to break the one-minute barrier in the speed running mayhem of Assault mode, battling back and forth amongst the alleyways of Domination, or dropping shrapnel shells at people's feet with the wonderfully chunky flak cannon in a fast and furious free-for-all deathmatch, Unreal Tournament was an endless source of entertainment."[97] In 2004, Unreal Tournament was inducted into the Computer Gaming World Hall of Fame.[98]

In 2011, G4tv dubbed CTF-Face (Facing Worlds) and DM-Deck 16 one of the "Most Influential FPS Multiplayer Maps Ever".[99] In 2013, PC Gamer labeled the Flak Cannon the greatest gun in PC gaming.[100] In 2014, Complex magazine placed Unreal Tournament as number three on its list of "The 50 Best First Person Shooters Of All Time",[101] while Moviepilot placed it as number two on its list of "The 7 Most Influential Video Games Ever".[102] In November 2014, Kotaku named Facing Worlds the best multiplayer map.[103] In January 2016, Red Bull labeled Facing Worlds one of the 10 greatest FPS multiplayer levels of all time.[104] In July 2016, the game was ranked number 20 on bit-tech's The 50 Best PC Games of All Time.[105]

Awards[edit]

List of awards and nominations
Year Publication Category Result Ref.
1999 Computer Gaming World Game of the Year Won [106][107]
Best Level Design Won
GameSpy Game of the Year Won [108]
Special Achievement in Artificial Intelligence Won [109]
GameSpot Action Game of the Year Won [110]
Game of the Year (Readers' Choice) Won [111]
Action Game of the Year (Readers' Choice) Won [112]
Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Computer Action Game of the Year Nominated [113]
Computer Game of the Year Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering Won
Game of the Year Nominated
Computer Strategy Game of the Year Nominated
Daily Radar Best PC Game of the Year Won [114]
CNET Multiplayer Game of the Year Won [115]
Macworld Best Network Shooter for the Mac Won [95]
GameStar Multiplayer Game of the Year Won [116]
PC Player Best First Person Shooter of the Year Won [117]
PC Zone Game of the Year (Readers' Choice) Won [118][119]
First Person Action Game of the Year (Readers' Choice) Won

Player community[edit]

USS San Jacinto (CG-56) crewmembers playing the game, 2002

Lead designer Cliff Bleszinski credits much of the game's success to its community. As he said in the November 2001 issue of Maximum PC, "Unreal Tournament would not have sold nearly two million copies if it did not have support from the community... We ship the very same tools that we used to build the game, and folks use these tools to realize their own visions of first-person action."[93] Like Unreal, Unreal Tournament is designed to be easily programmable and highly modularized.[120] Through its scripting environment UnrealScript and level editor UnrealEd, developers are able to modify easily most parts of the game to both manipulate default game behavior and to supplement the game with their own mods.[121][122] These range from slight changes on some aspects of gameplay (such as map voting) to total conversions. One modification, ChaosUT, became popular enough that it was included with the 'Game of the Year' edition of the game, while Tactical Ops: Assault on Terror was released as a stand-alone retail product.[123]

Another notable modification is Gamebots, a testbed that enables researchers to conduct experiments in artificial intelligence and multi-agent systems (M.A.S).[124][125] Started at the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute, and jointly developed by Carnegie Mellon University, Gamebots allows agents, or bots, in the game to be controlled via TCP/IP sockets connected to bot clients. The Gamebots server feeds sensory information for the characters over the network connections, such as speed, health and ammunition.[126][127] Based on this information, the client (bot or human player) can decide what actions the character should take and issues commands back over the network to the game to have the character move, rotate, change the weapon, etc.[128] Unlike other standard testbeds, the Gamebots system allows both human players and agents to play simultaneously; thus providing a simulation environment that could be used for collaborative engagement.[124]

Unreal Tournament was played at the World Cyber Games in 2001[129] and 2002.[130]

Legacy[edit]

The success of the original Unreal Tournament spawned four sequels, including Unreal Tournament 2003 and Unreal Tournament 2004,[131][132] Unreal Tournament 3,[133] and the upcoming Unreal Tournament reboot.[134] The yearly naming structure, based around marketing the franchise as a competitive sports title, was abandoned before the launch of the third sequel.[135] Digital Extremes announced Dark Sector in 2000, which was planned as a spiritual successor to Unreal Tournament.[136]

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Sources[edit]

  • Jamie Madigan (1999). Unreal Tournament Official Strategy Guide. Mineapolis: GW Press. ISBN 978-1-56893-946-9. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]