Archive for July, 2009

Retrospect: Why UT3 failed.

Posted in Retrospect with tags , on July 28, 2009 by Baggie

Note: Big Ol’ Wall of text.

Unreal Tournament 3 was released late 2007 by Epic Games. Unreal Tournament has been a successful franchise since it was made in 99. Since then there’s been UT2003 and UT2004, (arguably the same game except UT2003 was terrible), not to mention the incredible amount of content UT99 has been updated with. All of these games were terrific and had something new to enjoy.

Then there was this game.

It wasn’t immediately obvious to me after I first played the game what I felt, but there was something that meant the game felt a little bit wrong. It was still fun, and it looked nice, but somehow it wasn’t as good as it’s predecessors. Clearly the gaming community thought this as well, as the Games multiplayer fell to the point that more people were playing UT99 than this game. Which was quite sad, because it had real potential to be a good game, but somehow it just missed the mark.
After a couple of years, I feel I may have pinned a couple of reasons as to why it failed.

– Unreal Tournament in not a Tournament

Strangely enough, Epic decided that the Single Player Campaign, where you competed in a tournament, choosing which maps to play, which bots to use, wasn’t good enough. They instead decided that they needed to create a single player campaign where you were trying to get revenge on some undead person and to do so you’d have to fight your way through 3 different factions in a linear corridor which makes you play maps OVER and OVER again (One of my personal hatreds in gaming).

While you can argue they have every right to make a plot more substantial than a few GUIs, which is understandable I suppose, I’m wondering what’s happened to the Unreal series? They had a bit of plot, and as far as I know they weren’t shabby. They had a large story component, small multiplayer, and UT had a small story and large multiplayer. And it worked really well. But for some reason they had to spend ALL that time making terrible jokes with paper-thin characters and frankly just killing the fun. It makes me wonder what they could have accomplished with all of that time, which brings me to-

-Lack of Content on release

When I say lack of content I mainly mean maps. When the game was released it had reasonable amount of maps, but all the maps were spread in all 4 gamemodes, meaning the gamemode you happen to like will invariably be undercut in content. Combine this with Technical restrictions and you’re not going to have a bunch of content.

Technical restrictions? Well, the UT3 Engine in itself is a really good engine. So good it doesn’t have a skybox function, so good it renders textures in potentially enormous capacities.
While this allows it to make really detailed environments, it also means that maps take a longer time to develop, means you got to make the characters look that much better. Which means that to make good quality content, you’ve got to make less of it.
Good quality content would be the lesser of two evils, but they seem to have concentrated on making the environments look pretty and not making the maps fun to play. Segue into-

-Where’s my favorite gamemodes?

Warfare is a mash of Assault and Onslaught from the previous games. Both gametypes were good, and a mixture of them would only be good right?
Unfortunately Assault was a very fast paced and the objectives were quick, and Onslaught was a more slow placed vehicle mashup with slow objectives. Combine that with sluggish vehicle controls and bad remakes of previously good maps, and it sort of makes this horrible thing which nobody really wants to play, ruining both gametypes.

They also removed Bombing Run, which was a favorite of mine, and any form of Domination, again another favorite of mine. Seemingly all this game has done is taken what you most loved, and either trashed it or ruined it.

And they made 5 remakes of Torlan from UT2004, god knows why.

But what really ticked me and several other people off too was when they claimed that the community could just remake the gamemodes with their editing tools. And while, yes, you shipped with editing tools, congratulations, after a while it felt like they ruined you favorite gametype, only to seemingly blame you, the community, because you didn’t remake something they could have easily made instead of this pile of junk.

-Gameplay regression

The gameplay of UT has always been based on the predecessor, with a few improvements and changes here and there. Back in UT2004 they added in a dodge move, which could be accessed by doubletapping a movement key. You could also dodge off wall to launch yourself away, and it was all very fun and rewarding. You could also double-jump, which was basically jumping in the air to give you a little more control and height.

So Epic, continuing their path of bad decisions, decided to adjust the double-jump and dodge moves so they were clunky and unfun. Excuuuse us for wanting to be skilled at your game Epic.

-What I did like

I can’t really be negative about everything in the game though, because I never would have picked it up again if I was. To be fair, while a lot of it annoyed me the game was functional for the most part (barring vehicles), and did have some cool parts. Just, only in Deathmatch.

The Deathmatch maps are pretty much a shining example of what the rest of the game should have been. They’re in creative environments, they have a fair amount of exciting elements, and maps such as Heatray (Enormous Tripod of DEATH), Phobos (Gattling Laser on Mounted Platform 200 metres from arena) really acceled in using these elements in fair and fun ways.

The graphics are quite good, as the UT3 engine is good at, but it sort of becomes a bitter acknowledgement rather than praise because if they spent more time on the fun stuff then the game might have been just that little bit better.

-End product

The game had good parts, and was still UT, but so much of it felt like they’d ruined or left out stuff. Coupled with the netcode being pretty shoddy it actually angered the UT Community, which, as the people that pay and enjoy your games, you do not want to get angry. It was really irritating to them that the game that had looked so good beforehand turned out to be something they didn’t really want to play.

So they community pretty much died, and anyone that has a few friends in gaming tends to know when major games are flops. Now your left with a game that annoys players who would have otherwise enjoyed spent a sizable amount of time on. Which being a game so heavily revolved around multiplayer was a very bad thing.

The game eventually converted to steam and released a free, large, update for UT3, and for a while it looked like it may be revieved, but unfortunately it was too little too late, and after a couple of weeks the multiplayer went back to being a Barren wasteland.

NOTE: I also did not use the term EPIC FAIL. Because that would be too easy.