The Epic tradition

For the most part, Unreal's development was a disjointed one, with its creators scattered all over the shop - Steve Polge, creator of the famed AI-laden Reaperbot, was famously hired over the phone from a Scottish hotel room after a conversation Rein had with Grand Theft Auto creator and Crackdown supremo Dave Jones. The general policy at the time was that Epic did most of the programming, while DE were kings of content - and the Epic side of things soon led to the acquisition of actual office space in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Above:Gears of War - coming to a PC nearyou

Then came the Unreal Tournament juggernaut. "UT was originally supposed to be an add-on pack for Unreal, and when it all started coming together we were saying, 'Y'know? This is too good to be an add-on,'" explains Rein before delving into the machinations of changing the publishing deal with GT Interactive (later part of Infogrames, now possibly a morsel of undigested goodness in the withering duodenum of Atari) that meant its announcement came after that of Quake III: Arena, amid much eyebrow-raising from the game community. Tim Sweeney goes on to describe the "credible job" they did in combating the might of id, but the fact that UT vs Quake arguments STILL occasionally flare up is testament to what a clash of the titans took place.

Away from the burgeoning UT franchise, lessons were soon learnt with Unreal II: The Awakening - a sequel developed at far distant Legend Entertainment that was heavy on the boobs 'n' bullets. A long and troubled development (it was originally supposed to be on the first-gen Unreal tech rather than the second) today leaves Mark Rein with a shrug and a shake of the head. "We learnt that we're not that good at managing off-site resources. It's difficult for us to manage and be involved in a project - making sure that it's the sort of game we'd release ourselves," he explains. "It wasn't a bad game, it just turned out that if we want to do justice to our IP we have to build the game ourselves. We can't just pawn it off on somebody else."