A Force To Be Reckoned With...
Within months, Unreal had become a force to be reckoned with. With partners like Mplayer.com and Won.net, Unreal had become one of the largest online communities on the Internet. But an even greater force was gaining steam on its heels: the Unreal Engine. Shortly before the release of Unreal, a partnership had been announced. Epic was licensing the Engine used for Unreal to Microprose to develop a third-party game: Klingon Honor Guard. The licensees poured in. Over the next months another game would be announced, TNN Pro Hunter, a hunting game by ASC Games. Unfortunately, these two games were less than stellar for the reputation of the engine, due to poor development. However, more games were on the horizon. Wheel of Time had been announced years before Unreal was finished and revealed at E3 1997. Other games, including the Unreal Expansion Pack, Return to Na Pali, were set to release in 1999. Let’s look at the early line-up of Unreal games.
Unreal - May 22nd, 1998:
Unreal, or Unreal 1 as some of us now call it, was developed jointly by two companies, Epic Megagames and Digital Extremes and released in mid 1998. It represented four years of intense work by both the DE and Epic teams, and resulted in a quantum leap forward for first person shooter games. Unreal introduced us to a whole new universe of evildoers, weapons and gameplay. Here is where we first met the Skaarj, Titans, Brutes, Nali, ASMD, Eightball Launcher, RazorJack and more. For those of us who first bought it, there was no turning back...
Unreal was the newest thing. I remember when I bought it I had a Pentium 200MMX and a Riva128 video card. I couldn’t run the game in hardware, so I had to run it in 400x300 on lowest settings in Software Rendering. Even then, it looked awesome.
Probably the biggest draw to Unreal was the ability to mod it. Tim Sweeney (Founder of Epic) wrote a simple scripting engine into the game called UnrealScript. The modders went to work. Within months of the release of Unreal, several interesting mods had been announced and released. Suddenly, RealCTF brought the classic Capture the Flag gametype to Unreal. With speed, several other mods made their way on to the scene. A “top down” mod, Unloaded, changed the whole POV of the game. Real weapons mods like Serpentine and Infiltration were released and it seemed the train would never slow down. Unfortunately, at Unreal’s release, the network code was virtually unplayable online. Thus, the complaining started, and seemingly overnight the Epic MegaBoards transformed into the Epic FlameBoards. Months later, the beta 218 patch was released, which increased the server browser listing by 228% (some sources say). Later patches would add Hardcore mode (faster and stronger weapons), the Fusion Bonus Pack, mutators, and totally changed the online experience of the game. The ability to “mutate” existing gametypes was silently added to the engine in preparation for the release of Unreal Tournament. Within the last few years, mutators have made their way onto Unreal servers to make the game more difficult, or to add monsters and weapons to the game. This has allowed the Unreal community to stay pretty strong to this day.
Klingon Honor Guard - October 9th, 1998:
You're a Klingon Honor Guard cadet called to service early when an assassination attempt is made on the High Council. As the plot thickens, it becomes apparent that there is an ongoing conspiracy within the Klingon order, and only you can be trusted to root out the dishonorable traitors. The game moves you through Klingon space ports and towns, sewers, the icy prison world of Rure Pente, and even zero-g spaceship environments in your quest for honor.(Source)
The textures were muddy, the gameplay was rancid, and the weapons were boring. Possibly worst of all, there seemed to be about three player models, and while the game touted several unique enemies with great AI and intelligence, you usually ended up fighting the same three enemies repeatedly, before anything interesting happened. (Source)
TNN Pro Hunter - November 30th, 1998
But if there is anyone working on a hunting game that serious hardcore gamers might be interested in, it's ASC Games, which has licensed nothing less than the Unreal engine for its first hunting title, TNN Outdoors Pro Hunter.
So rather than scrolling around a pre-rendered sky, as in Deer Hunter, and "moving" by clicking on a 2D map, the gamer/hunter will be in a real 3D world, with actual animals that move, flee, and behave with actual artificial intelligence.
So while the game itself was something new for the time, once again the developers brought us muddy looking textures, flat bushes and sloppy models. Compared to the onslaught of previous hunting games, however, this was leaps and bounds ahead. For the first time, hunting was brought to 3D.