Will the next Unreal Tournament live up to its legacy?
Maybe.. maybe not.

by on Jun 16, 2014

Unreal Tournament is my true love when it comes to online gaming. When the original Unreal Tournament was released in late 1999 a bomb was dropped into my world. Everything that was happening at the young age of 14 was put on hold. Everything. Girls, TV, hanging out with friends, and even school was put on the back burner once I got my hands on the game. I was instantly hooked. One game of capture the flag turned into 10 which then turned into an all-nighter. I joined clans, played competitively (and was successful in a team), met some awesome people, created maps, and participated in all things related to Unreal Tournament. To say that my world revolved around Unreal Tournament would be an understatement.

The two subsequent releases of the Unreal series, Unreal Tournament 2003/2004 and Unreal Tournament 3, never lived up to the Unreal Tournament name, in my opinion. Unreal Tournament 2003/2004 changed player movement which made the game feel drastically different from the original. Unreal Tournament 3 tried to go back to the original formula that made the game series so wildly popular but ultimately failed at its attempt to bring back the glory days. UT3 seemed to be aimed at showing the power and flexibility of Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 rather than making a successful game. I’m not saying those games were terrible by any means, but they never came within spitting distance of the glory of the original Unreal Tournament.

An Unreal Tournament game has been released on every major version of the Unreal Engine. When Epic announced Unreal Engine 4’s release, gamers just assumed that a new Unreal Tournament game was in the pipeline. That dream was crushed when Tim Sweeney, the founder of Epic Games, announced at GDC that Epic was not developing any game related to the Unreal series. In my mind, I thought that maybe they just weren’t ready to announce the game yet and that there was still hope that a game could be in development. Just two short months later Mark Rein, VP of Epic, dropped this tweet on the world:

Yes! I knew they wouldn’t leave one of their best series out in the cold. My mind raced with the thought that this could be the Unreal Tournament that would live up to the original. This could be the game that I was waiting for. This could be the game to put competitive first-person shooters back on the map. I might be able to finally relive the days where online gaming meant skill versus skill. Where the only thing that separates me from the enemy is our skill level and the better guy would always win. A game where aim assistance, equalizers, game hints, and hand-holding ceases to exist. All of this is what I expected from the next release of the Unreal series. Now all that was left to do is to eagerly wait a week to see what Epic had up their sleeve. Then the official announcement was made.

Not what I was hoping for at all. There were good and bad things to take away from the official announcement of where the next Unreal Tournament was headed. Let’s start with the good things:

The game will be true to its roots as a competitive FPS.

Awesome. The game could potentially live up to my dream as the next true competitive first-person shooter to the grace the market.

From the very first line of code, the very first art created and design decision made, development will happen in the open, as a collaboration between Epic, UT fans and UE4 developers. We’ll be using forums for discussion, and Twitch streams for regular updates.

A collaboration seems like a good idea; get the community involved in game design, art, map design, and decision making. After all, the community knows what the gamers want because the gamers are the community. Every gamer who cares about the series can voice their opinion and actually be heard and maybe even have an impact on the final product. It will be hard to keep all this information organized and centralized but it could work.

When the game is playable, it will be free. Not free to play, just free.

What more can you ask for? You can enjoy this game for the low, low price of free. You just can’t go wrong with free. No arguments there.

Now for the bad.

We’ve created a small team of UT veterans that are beginning work on the project starting today.

Oh, so you haven’t been working on the game at all and have assembled a small group of veterans to make the game. The Unreal Tournament series is not even worth a proper development team? It sort of seems like a side project that doesn’t even matter to Epic. Honestly, I feel like this is a big middle finger to the fans of the series. Epic doesn’t want to invest much manpower into the project and to supplement this they will feed off the community to help create the game. Maybe it will all work out in the end, only time will tell.

UT-crat2We’ll eventually create a marketplace where developers, modders, artists and gamers can give away, buy and sell mods and content. Earnings from the marketplace will be split between the mod/content developer, and Epic.  That’s how we plan to pay for the game.

Wait, what? Didn’t you just get done telling me the game would be “just free” and not “free to play” If there is going to be a market that will sell mutators, maps, and skins this will definitely not be a free game. Releasing maps that cost money splits communities. Just look at the Battlefield series and what happens every time they release a map pack. The community gets split into two parts overnight. There is one group of players who have purchased the DLC and another group of players who have not. There has to be an in-between solution where content creators get compensated for their work but the community doesn’t get split because of paid content. I understand that Epic has to make money on the deal, but why not just have a proper development team and release the game like every other major release. I would much rather pay $60 for a full game than be nickeled and dimed to death in an Unreal market. The whole thing reeks of Team Fortress 2 syndrome. What’s next? Purchasable hats for the Skaarj? Maybe the Liandri Mining Corporation will drop special crates for players after matches which require keys, purchased will real money, to open.

Don’t get me wrong. I am still excited to see what the end product will turn out to be. I just don’t want my favorite series of all time to become a free-to-play game. Let’s just hope this community version of Unreal Tournament can live up to what gamers expect from the series.