It may be half a year late, but Xbox 360 owners will finally get their chance to play Unreal Tournament III when Midway brings Epic Games' online multiplayer shooter to the system this summer. Will all that extra time mean that the 360 version is the ultimate UT? According to Tanya Jessen, the game's Senior Associate Producer, while this version has more official content than the PC and PlayStation 3 editions, it doesn't have the unofficial stuff. At least not yet.
Crispy Gamer: I think I speak for 360 owners everywhere when I ask: What the hell took so long?
Tanya Jessen: Well, we had to finish the PS3 version, but we added some new stuff to the 360 version.
Crispy Gamer: Did you do that because you felt guilty?
Jessen: No! We actually have a very small company, and we wanted to focus on one platform at a time, so we focused on the PC version, then we focused on the PS3, and then we focused on the 360.
Crispy Gamer: What have you added to the 360 version?
Jessen: There are five new maps, as well as all the maps we added to the PC and PS3 versions later on; two new characters; and a split-screen mode.
Crispy Gamer: Do those two new characters actually bring anything new to the game?
Jessen: No, it's just something different.
Crispy Gamer: Has there been any talk of bringing the five exclusive maps to the PC or PS3 at some point?
Jessen: Right now we're considering them exclusive.
Crispy Gamer: How many maps will the 360 version have at launch?
Jessen: Hmmm...it's over 50 for sure.
Crispy Gamer: For people who haven't played the game on the PC or PS3, what are the major differences between UT3 and the last game in the series, UT2004?
Jessen: Well, one thing we did is consolidate the Onslaught and Assault modes into a new one called Warfare, which is a team-based mode where you have a base and the other team has a base, and you're trying to connect nodes from one base to another. Every time you capture a node, something different happens, depending on the map. Your spawn points might move, or it might unlock different weapons and vehicles. Every map is different.
Crispy Gamer: How many different modes are there in the game?
Jessen: There's Duel, Capture the Flag, Vehicle Capture the Flag, Warfare, Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. You can play them multiplayer, or with bots, and then there's the single-player mode.
Crispy Gamer: What's the difference between the single-player mode and playing the game with bots?
Jessen: The single-player mode has an objective-based ladder system, and you unlock new areas as you go. There's also a story, and you can actually play it four-player co-op.
Crispy Gamer: I assume, if you're just playing with the bots, it's like playing online, just by yourself.
Crispy Gamer: In the course of playing the single-player mode, how many of the different game types do you end up playing?
Jessen: All of them.
Crispy Gamer: How many of the maps do you end up playing?
Jessen: It depends on the path you take. You can take a path where you play every single map, but you can also take a different path and only play about 23 of the maps.
Crispy Gamer: One of the big things about UT3 is that people can make their own mods, their own arenas and characters, but you have to make the mod on a PC. The game doesn't have a built-in level editor, right?
Jessen: Right. You need the mod tools we included in the PC version, but you don't need a PC to download a mod. You can just use the PS3's Web browser to go to ut3mods.com and download the mods directly.
Crispy Gamer: So I could just download the mod on my PC, put it on a USB drive, and bring it to my 360 that way?
Jessen: Actually, no, because mods aren't supported on the 360 version.
Crispy Gamer: They're not? Because at one point Mark Rein [Epic's VP] said he was talking to Microsoft about doing it.
Jessen Well, we're still talking to them about it, but to get the game on the 360 as fast as possible, we're releasing it without mod support.
Crispy Gamer: So it's a technical possibility?
Jessen: Yeah, but Xbox Live is a closed system, and they don't want people to download viruses or something, so they have to come up with a system for mods.
Crispy Gamer: If mods do become available on the 360, will people be able to use the same mods that are already available for the PC and PS3?
Jessen: Speaking hypothetically, yes, you'd be able to cook any mod for the 360 the same way you cook them for the PC and PS3. We have a set of tools for the PS3 called Unreal Front End, which converts a mod into a PS3 format, and if we are able to do mods for the 360, you'd do the same.
Crispy Gamer: Since this is still just a hypothetical, has there been any talk of making some of the existing mods available for download off Xbox Live instead?
Jessen: Well, we're talking to Microsoft about a lot of things, but nothing's been decided, yet.
Crispy Gamer: Do you have a favorite mod?
Jessen: Yeah, I was really impressed with the LEGO mod. Someone basically built a map out of LEGOs, and it actually has the properties of LEGOs, so when you shoot a rocket at a house, all the individual pieces break apart.
Crispy Gamer: One unique feature of games on the 360 are Achievements. Are there any really funny ones, like if you blow yourself into chunks with a rocket launcher five times you unlock the "Stew You" Achievement?
Jessen: Ha! No. Microsoft actually won't let you do an Achievement where you kill yourself or your teammate, but there were some pretty interesting ones that got suggested. What we did is we opened up the floor to everyone in the company, including the testers, and asked them what Achievements they wanted to see. Someone suggested one you would get if you grappled from one air vehicle to another and then landed without dying, though that didn't make it in the game.
Crispy Gamer: Besides UT, Epic's other big franchise is Gears of War. Did anything in Unreal Tournament III come out of things you guys either did, or tried to do, with Gears? Or has anything in Gears 2 come out of something in UT3?
Jessen: There wasn't anything specific that got moved, but there are times when someone will come up with an idea and realize that it would work better for UT or Gears. I think the biggest lessons we learned from working on Gears was how to have a console control system for shooters than was really intuitive and made sense.
Crispy Gamer: Has there been any talk of doing a Gears vs. Unreal game?
Jessen: Ha! You know, there's been all sorts of stuff like that floating around, but nothing too serious. That would be interesting, though.
Crispy Gamer: So besides Unreal Tournament, what is your favorite online multiplayer shooter?
Jessen: I'm really partial to Counter-Strike. I was actually a competitive Counter-Strike player. I was in a clan for a long time and played in the amateur leagues for like two years. I used to play for eight or nine hours a day every day. I'd come home from work and that's all I'd do.
Crispy Gamer: Does that mean you're the best UT player at Epic?
Jessen: Oh, no, no. UT is a whole other breed. Also, a lot of our employees were huge fans of the game and made mods themselves -- that's how they came to our attention -- and a lot of those guys are really, really good. One of our gameplay programmers, Matt Oelske, he's the guy to beat at UT.