Epic Diaries: InXile

Epic Diaries: InXile

By Mark Rein

November 24th 2010 at 8:00AM

How Unreal Engine is breathing new life into â??80s dungeon crawl games

The lead creatives behind some of the most popular classic dungeon crawl role-playing games of all time – including Baldur’s Gate, Fallout and Icewind Dale – are updating the genre for today’s more action-oriented gamers.

InXile entertainment licensed Unreal Engine 3 technology to bring their new PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 creation, Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, to life.

The RPG, which Bethesda Softworks is publishing, focuses on cooperative exploration both above ground and in the depths of dungeons.

Brian Fargo, CEO of inXile, loved the heyday of dungeon crawl games in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He said the goal going into Hunted was to answer the question – what would that kind of gameplay look like with today’s technology, using the Unreal Engine, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and a really high-end PC?

“We’ve been using UE3 for about five years,” says Maxx Kaufman, game director at inXile.

“We love the tools, and the engine has improved tremendously, especially as it relates to PS3. Epic opening up its PS3 tools was hugely helpful for making this game across all three platforms.”

SAGE ADVICE

The team has relied heavily on Epic’s Unreal Developer Network (UDN), the support hub for Unreal Engine licensees. Having used the service for years, Kaufman says that posting an issue online would always receive brilliantly helpful feedback.

“It’s a huge help when developing a game,” he explains, comparing it to having an entire network of experts at your fingertips.

“We used the majority of the features in Unreal Engine 3 to create this game,” says Kaufman. “All of our cut scenes utilised Matinee. Some of the scripted events within the world also used Matinee.

He adds: “The story is very important in this game. We used Kismet and we also have our own scripting language that we created to work with Unreal.”
In addition to using Epic’s UE3 technology, inXile also drew inspiration from what the studio has done with its Gears of War games in the co-op department. In addition to offering two-player online gameplay, the single-player experience keeps both protagonists in the heat of the action.

InXile Entertainment President Matthew Findley acknowledges Gears was also an inspiration for Hunted’s cover combat system. The team designed the action to mirror the leapfrogging and flanking gameplay that established the Gears franchise as an innovator in the shooter genre.

Findley says the controls for Hunted match nicely with Gears, as well, which will make it easy for console gamers to jump right into the game.

PAST MASTERS
At the end of the day, inXile CEO Fargo hopes that Hunted introduces a new generation of gamers to the genre that he fell in love with in his youth.

“When I used to play all those old games, I would lose myself in them,” says Fargo.

“I like the action games but I also like the break in the action when you’re hearing creepy sounds in the distance and you want to move forward and find out what lies further down that corridor.”

Unreal Engine 3 is the perfect choice to help inXile bring back the feel of the dungeon crawler to old school gamers, while pushing it in new directions with Hunted: The Demon’s Forge.

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