Onslaught rocked the Unreal world, plain and simple. But many people don't know that the origins of this gametype lie in the hands of a South Florida company called Psyonix. It's a story of an up and coming developer who not only hit it big, but literally smashed one "out of the park".

BeyondUnreal was able to track down Dave Hagewood of Psyonix studio to bring you the real story behind the game that is taking the world by storm.

BU: Tell us about the origins of Psyonix.

Psyonix officially started up in the year 2000 when we transitioned from working on Internet and multimedia software to game development.

BU: I first remember hearing about Psyonix when Vampire Hunter: The Dark Prophecy was announced as an Unreal Engine game back in 2002. Whatever became of that game and are there any plans in the works with it?

Vampire Hunter was our first Unreal engine based title. It was an action game that was first-person when you were exploring and third-person when you were melee fighting. The project eventually became more than we were prepared to fund at the time and we ended up placing it on hold when we saw a potential opportunity in adding vehicles to UT2003.

BU: I noticed a game called Proteus on your website. Can you tell us about that?

Proteus was our first game project. It was a combat racing game where you raced a mechanized robotic vehicle. We were very unhappy with the engine we were working with at the time and we ended up abandoning that project in favor of moving on to Unreal engine based games.

BU: How was Onslaught originally conceived/What inspired Psyonix to create Onslaught? Was it designed as a stand-alone game?

I loved the energy and fast paced action of UT and UT2003, but I couldn’t help thinking the game could become even better with the addition of vehicles. We had just completed a demo of Vampire Hunter that we were promoting to publishers, so we decided to add a couple of vehicles to UT2003 and see where it went. I didn’t start out with any preconceived notions about whether we were creating a simple mod or a total conversion or a stand-alone game. I really believe that made a difference because we were just focused on making it fun. The idea was that if we could make it an absolute blast to play, it would end up defining itself. I’m very pleased to say that is exactly what happened.

After just a few weeks of development we started to realize how much potential it had and that was when we officially put the Vampire Hunter project on hold. After a couple of months we had a playable version with prototypes of all the vehicles (two wheeled vehicles, the manta, the raptor, the tank, and the bomber). I remember getting really excited by how much fun it was becoming.

BU: Can you tell us about your first contact with Epic Games concerning Onslaught, and was that the original name for the gametype?

That’s an interesting story actually. Our new strategy for game development was “Make it fun first”. We didn’t waste any time trying to come up with a name or even determine exactly what sort of game it would be. We started out calling it “VehicleMOD” as a temporary label since the first version was a UT2003 modification that simply added vehicles. We all felt it could become much more than this, but we knew the quickest way to making it fun was to build off an already fun game.

I remember the exact day I got a phone call from Mark Rein, because it was the day “LOTR: The Two Towers” came out and he actually called while I was in the theater. My phone was muted at the time so I didn’t find out he called until I left and ended up speaking with him in the theater parking lot. He called to ask how Vampire Hunter was coming along and I told him how we started the VehicleMOD project while we were promoting the latest demo of VH. Mark was so enthusiastic about the idea it really helped to fuel our development and belief in the game. We made a deal to show them our progress at the next GDC which was coming up in March.

By GDC we had all the vehicles in-game and playable and we had started to even get multiplayer working. Epic was thrilled to see our progress and was showing it off to everyone who entered their suite. Before the end of the show Cliff Bleszinsky approached me and said that Epic was interested in talking more about the project but they wanted to see how much progress we could make in the meantime. I told him I would bring up the latest version to the Epic offices in about three weeks and show it to them personally. He gave me the “strong” impression that our progress during that time was going to be very important. They wanted to make sure we could really deliver what we set out to accomplish.

After I got back we embarked on the greatest and most intense development crunch you could possibly squeeze out of a handful of guys. I knew that the map we were using was probably the weakest part of the project so I looked to the UT community for the best mappers I could find and basically told them, “Epic Games is very interested in our game, but I need an amazing map for vehicle combat and I need it in just three weeks.” I only needed one good map but I contracted out three maps just to be sure at least one of them would be worthy. I was pleasantly surprised that all three were top-notch and they all eventually made it into the final game.

When I went back up to show Epic our progress they were overwhelmingly pleased. They signed us right then to develop it as a new gametype for UT2004.

BU: How did you come into contact with Streamline studios, and what did you ask them to do for you?

My wife actually met the Streamline guys at GDC that year. While I was showing off VehicleMOD she had to do a lot of waiting in the Epic suite and Streamline was there to talk to Epic about one of their projects in development. They ended up swapping stories about being starving developers and exchanged business cards in case we might collaborate one day. I looked up their website after GDC and was impressed with what they were doing with the engine. That was when I was looking for good mappers to impress Epic so I gave Alexander a call. I have to give Streamline a lot of credit because they really trusted that our project was going somewhere. They agreed to do a map in three weeks and they did an unbelievable job. That map ended up being ONS-Torlan, the first and most famous map in Onslaught.

BU: Did you work with Epic remotely from your studios in Florida or did you go to Epic's North Carolina studios?

I really wanted to keep as close to Epic as possible. I knew if we worked remotely the project would never be as great as it could be if we worked directly with them. Mark Rein agreed and even paid for our moving expenses. We moved the company to Raleigh, NC and set up right inside Epic’s offices.

BU: Did the overall game design evolve or was it implemented pretty much as you envisioned it? Were there any elements of the game that were scrapped?

It definitely evolved. We had a basic idea of base vs base combat in the beginning but we kept the “Make it fun first” concept by keeping our design flexible and following the direction that made the game the most enjoyable.

We did end up scrapping the flyable bomber. It just never panned out to be the vehicle we had hoped it would be and it just wasn’t fun. We left it in the game however so modders could have fun with it.

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