Mark Rein looks at two very different Unreal Engine 3 titles
The Mass Effect franchise is a behemoth in video game entertainment; a series that has reshaped the way players think about gaming and its immersive possibilities.
The upcoming third installment, along with its predecessors, is built on Unreal Engine 3.
Mass Effect 3 will feature not only improved environments and enhanced cinematics, but also Kinect integration.
“So much has changed since we began working on this series,” say Casey Hudson, executive producer at BioWare Edmonton.
“When we began, the Xbox 360 hadn’t even come out yet, and yet we had to design a game for it. Now, looking back, we’ve been working with Unreal Engine 3 for quite a few years.
"Even with Mass Effect 3, we’ve been able to find huge new improvements to the engine’s performance.”
And performance is key, according to Hudson. “That’s allowed us to do everything from getting much better acting with the characters to introducing better storytelling methods,” he explains.
“In addition, the engine allowed us to create a richer world and produce more entertaining cinematics.
"We’ve also utilised the improved performance of the engine to bring more enemies on screen at once, so players will contend with a lot more stuff happening in this game.”
Gameplay has also changed dramatically, says Jesse Houston, producer of Mass Effect 3: “If you look at Mass Effect 1 to Mass Effect 3, they’re almost completely different games at this point.
“You’ve seen major changes in combat. You’ve seen major changes in role-playing elements. You’ve seen massive lighting changes; now we have real graphic fidelity that is just so much better than it has been historically.
"You’re going to see performance improvements. We’re 30 frames per second yet again, locked across the board. You can really feel the difference in the controls.
“We’re ultimately an Unreal Engine 3 game, and Unreal Kismet and Unreal Matinee are a major part of any kind of cinematic experience,” continues Houston.
“Our team has been able to utilise Kismet and Matinee to create Hollywood-style cinematics that bring the story to life and enhance the gameplay experience.”
Mass Effect 3 will be released for Xbox 360, PlayStation3 and PC in early 2012.
While Unreal Engine 3 is the choice among many established developers, indie studios like Montreal’s Minority also rely on the technology’s power.
Minority’s upcoming PlayStation Network exclusive, 3D puzzle-platforming adventure Papo & Yo, has already snagged impressive critical accolades.
These include six awards and 20 award nominations at this year’s E3, such as both IGN and GameSpot’s Best Puzzle Game of E3.
GameSpot stated: “Its deeply personal subject matter, clever implantation of puzzles, and surreal art design combined to make something unique and engaging.”
Minority’s choice to go with Unreal Engine 3 had to do with not only the team’s great track record with the engine but also a need for agility throughout development.
Julien Barnoin, lead engineer at Minority, explains: “We knew Unreal Engine 3 would get us creating gameplay mechanics and levels very quickly.
"We wanted to quickly start building gameplay elements and puzzles and iterating on them. UE3’s material editor allowed us to achieve beautiful characters and environments without a lot of work.
“When artists or designers come to me asking for a new feature, I can often just point them to how to do it right in the editor, and can get back to coding the features that are really unique to our game.”
Papo & Yo is scheduled for release on PlayStation Network in 2012.