RaptoR: First of all, tell us a little about yourself and your position at Digital Extremes.

Pancho Eekels: Well, my name is Juan Pancho Eekels and I have been working at Digital Extremes for a while now. I came on board halfway through Unreal and ended up becoming the Lead Designer. It's a crazy world!

RaptoR: How would you describe the current state of Unreal Tournament 2003? What is currently being worked on, and what is completed?

Pancho Eekels: The state of the game is progressing quickly towards release. What is left is to make sure the game gets finished, code and content wise by E3 and after that it is polish, polish and more polish. We want to make sure that this game will be the game you want this summer.

RaptoR: UT2003 has been, according to Mark Rein, scheduled for a June 2002 release. Do you think you'll have the game ready by this date?

Pancho Eekels: We have been working very hard to make this date, however, if we need more time to polish the game up we'll do just that.

RaptoR: In which way would you say that UT2003 improved greatest upon the original.

Pancho Eekels: That is a tough question. We spent time in all areas of the game, looking where it could be improved and enhanced. So, I would say that the entire game is a great improvement over the original.

RaptoR: The 'super weapons' such as the Redeemer and Ion Cannon haven't been seen in action yet. What can you reveal about these?

Pancho Eekels: Well, the Redeemer now hovers above the ground at around player height. You can still steer it like the original Redeemer, plus you can shoot it still when it comes for you. The IonCannon is a satelite up in the sky (in outdoor maps) that you activate by finding the TAG Rifle. With this TAG rifle you can paint your target so that the IonCannon up in the sky can allign itself to release this crazy beam of destruction.

RaptoR: Can you tell us a little about the mysterious 'Lobster Gun'?

Pancho Eekels: Yep, we caught this little sucker off the coast of Nova Scotia and thought it was so cool that we made a gun for UT2003 that closely resembled it. But we ended up eating the sea crawler and the actual gun in the game mysteriously dissapeared. Maybe it's still there, who knows.

RaptoR: How do the announcer and voice taunts differ from those seen in the original UT?

Pancho Eekels: They were done by different people. Plus we added some 'good' taunts for the emotional players among us. Nothing like a good pat on the back from your team mates when you gracefully blow the enemy into high orbit.

RaptoR: What can we expect from DE and UT2003 at E3?

Pancho Eekels: We are aiming to impress the crowd and I believe, without sounding too cocky, we will do just that.

RaptoR: The next big thing to hit the community will be the UT2003 demo. When are you planning to release it?

Pancho Eekels: Our plan is to do this sometime after E3.

RaptoR: Which UT2003 gametype do you think will be the most-played, and why?

Pancho Eekels: I think without a doubt CTF. This gametype is well known and is so matured that it is nearly a perfect team game. However, with the introduction of Bombing Run this preference could eventually tip to this side of the scale, since this gametype is pretty exciting to play. Domination2 should not be underestimated, it is now way more team oriented and a lot of fun as well.

RaptoR: What happened to the 'Survivor' game mode mentioned in some earlier previews of UT2003?

Pancho Eekels: That is still planned to be included, since the single player part of the game uses it.

RaptoR: Which is your currrent favorite UT2003 weapon?

Pancho Eekels: Another question that is hard to answer. The rocketlauncher will always spike my interest since it is so gratifying to use. However, other weapons should not be underestimated since they become handy in different situations.

RaptoR: Who are the best/worst UT2003 players in the office at the moment?

Pancho Eekels: I am the worst player...Tony (Ono) is our absolute best.

RaptoR: Many people will still be playing UT2003 on dial-up connections. How can they expect the game to perform online?

Pancho Eekels: The game will perform very well online. UT always has had very good netcode. Of course this will get tested as much as we can, we did not redeem ourselves with UT after Unreal, only to fall back again. That would be crazy!

RaptoR: Has a scoring system for Bombing Run been finalized yet?

Pancho Eekels: It is as final as final can get. This stuff will always receive little touches here and there. I would say it's 95% final.

RaptoR: On the subject of Bombing Run, will the ball explode at the enemy base as the name suggests?

Pancho Eekels: It will do something, that is for sure. :)

Thanks to Pancho Eekels and Meridith Braun from Digital Extremes for making this interview possible.