UT2003 - The Aftermath BeyondUnreal Interviews James Schmalz

The days leading up to the UT2003 demo were pure madness for Unreal fans worldwide. People were camped out on the Cliffy Cam, refreshing like mad, trying to interpret any sign, moved object, or expression of anyone entering the room. Forums were buzzing with wild speculation, IRC chat rooms were full of anxious fans. No doubt the offices at Epic and Digital Extremes were full of activity as well. James Schmalz We decided to catch up with James Schmalz, founder and creative director at Digital Extremes to get his thoughts on the state of the game as it hits retail stores worldwide, and to discuss what the future holds for this busy developer.

BU - First off, congrats on the release. What are your thoughts about this game as it goes gold versus your previous projects?

James Schmalz - We are extremely proud of UT2003 and think we've achieved the goal of making a game that is worthy of being called a sequel to the original.

BU - When you began to work on UT2003 and were deciding on how it should be different from UT, other than implementing the updated engine, what areas did you see that needed to be improved upon?

James Schmalz - Improving upon the gametypes and including 1 or 2 brand new gametypes that would really stand out like CTF or deathmatch was something we were really interested in implementing. Adding subtle changes like double jump and adrenaline were things we thought about to evolve the gameplay without making radical changes that would make it into a different game. Also improving upon on some of the mistakes we made with UT, such as the limited number of characters.

BU - The demo release clogged most of the Unreal fansites for days. People were very anxious to get playing. What did you think of the player reaction you experienced? Any surprises?

James Schmalz - We were thrilled with the number of downloads taking place, it really was impressive and the team was so excited to see the response after working on the game for so long. There weren't too many surprises with the feedback since we had gone through the same thing with the original UT. We were surprised to see the comparisons to Quake III, not that it's a bad thing since it's also a killer game. We were very pleasantly surprised to see the tremendous reaction to Bombing Run since it was such a new gametype and that even though we loved to play it alot we weren't entirely sure what the community's reaction would be.

BU - It was well publicized that the demo would not be released until all known bugs were handled. So basically, the demo would be a reflection of the complete game. Yet many gamers were surprised that UT2003 went gold so fast. Do you feel that one week was sufficient to take care of the bugs and feedback?

James Schmalz - We really felt the demo was pretty solid and a very good representative of the final game so there wasn't a whole lot left to do after the demo released except continue fixing bugs and implement any changes based on sensible feedback from the community. The team worked day and night after the demo was released and we are completely happy with the results of the gold version of the game.