The name of the new Unreal Tournament 3 bonus pack, the ‘Titan Pack’, imparts a vision of massiveness and well it should. Byte for byte this pack dwarfs that of any previous free downloadable content for any other version of Unreal Tournament. For some studios, that might even constitute a full standalone retail release. We talked to one of Epic Games’ lead level designers, Jim Brown, to get some insight into Titan.

With the original release a year behind us, why would they spend so much time and effort to release a pack this large now. Brown explains, “Epic has a well deserved reputation for supporting its products long after their initial release, and Unreal Tournament 3 is no exception. With the Titan Pack, we're hoping to excite new players with extra gametypes, characters, weapons, and vehicles, and reward long time fans with some massive improvements to the menus and server browser. Best of all, it's free”

One of the side effects of promoting games long before they hit the shelves is that things that don’t make the cut are often discussed, but simply wind up on the cutting room floor. The Stealthbender, an Axon vehicle, is just such an item. Seeing it finally appear in the Titan Pack, you have to wonder what need it filled in the lineup and why didn't it make the retail release? “At the time of UT3’s initial release, there was nothing to really differentiate the Stealthbender from the Nightshade. Ultimately, we decided to hold off on shipping it until we could really make it an important vehicle in its own right. With the inclusion of several new deployables and some under-the-hood improvements to controls and functionality, we were able to give the Stealthbender its own strategic purpose on the battlefield”, states Brown. He continued, “The Stealthbender is only found in Titan Pack levels, but is available for mod makers to use just like any other vehicle in the game. I would imagine that a vehicle swap mutator wouldn't be too difficult to create, if it hasn't been done already”

The addition of sixteen new (to PC and PS3) levels will surely be a boon to UT3 gamers out there, but how does Epic go about deciding what kinds of levels to highlight? Do they target specific gametypes for level support or is it better to just run with the best ideas your designers come up with, regardless? “Both, actually” Brown explains, “We knew we wanted to create some new maps to support all Unreal Tournament 3 gametypes, and more specifically we wanted to create maps that highlighted the new features of the Titan Pack. Beyond that, our designers have free reign to create what they think is fun, and then we test, iterate, and polish until we're sure that it actually is”

Brown recalls,“WAR-Confrontation, vCTF-Stranded, and CTF-Nanoblack were probably the maps that Epic people enjoyed playing most, and always with the Titan mutator enabled. In fact, we had so much fun with Titans internally that there was a huge debate as to whether or not they should just be turned on by default. When played correctly, they can dramatically change the course of any battle, not to mention that they're loads of fun.”

Prior to actual playtesting, theTitan mutator seemed vaguely similar to Mutant from Unreal Tournament 2004. Turns out it wasn’t. Brown breaks it down, “Titans aren't based on the Mutant mutator from Unreal Tournament 2004, and in practice, they have very little in common. The Mutant is basically an objective, specific to one gametype; Titans are intended to be something exciting and different than can dramatically affect the way all Unreal Tournament 3 gametypes are played. The Titan idea actually started as a whole new gametype that was much more expansive and complicated, but we decided that the game would be better served if we could do something to improve all our gametypes, and keep the community from becoming too fragmented”

One of the hallmarks of Unreal Tournament is that it’s sort of the Swiss Army knife of first person shooters and the list of content reads like an encyclopedia. As content becomes more costly to produce, it seems possible that Epic has become the victim of its own success by setting the bar so high that subsequent efforts could never match up. To that Brown declared, “I must say that it's not an entirely bad thing to be the victim of your own success, but I'll guarantee you that nobody has higher expectations for our games than we do internally. Yes, we have to meet schedules and budgets, but we pride ourselves on going further, delivering more. We also plan in advance for post-release support, including new content. Unreal Tournament benefitted from years of post-release updates, and Unreal Tournament 2004 had several bonus packs and all the content from Unreal Tournament 2003. Unreal Tournament 3 shipped with boatloads of content, and has had much more added since release. We know we can't make everyone happy, but that certainly won't stop us from trying!”

On the subject of expectations, the UT3 game menu was most loudly criticized as coming up a bit short and obviously, Epic is responding to that with this update. Can we expect a change in Epic menu-philosophy going forward? (laughs) Deftly sidestepping the subject, Brown responded, “One of the things that really sets Epic apart is that we're a small studio that cares passionately (some might even say obsessively) about the games we make, and the people who play them. We always continue to improve our titles well after release. We want to make sure that our games are fun and accessible, and we'll do what it takes to get them there.”

Moving on.

One of the questions we most often see asked is whether or not we’re going to see a Mac and / or Linux client for Unreal Tournament 3. An answer was not in the cards today, it seemed, as he replied, “I personally don’t have anything to report”

Of course everyone always wonders what kind of support is still in store. To this day we still hear people clamoring for one an additional patch to Unreal, so what about the future of patches and downloadable content for Unreal Tournament 3. “Impossible to say” he said, “We still have our heads buried in the release of the Titan Pack, and we're looking forward enjoying it online before getting ahead of ourselves”

Fair enough, but what about a new demo? The game has changed drastically since release and even UT 2004 had a second demo. “Not at this time” said Brown.

Well, we can always hope, can't we?

Thanks Jim Brown and Epic for your time and support!