Mark Rein analyses Zombie Studios' recent decision to launch Blacklight: Tango Down as a download-only title with UE3
Independent developer Zombie Studios has been working with Unreal Engine technology for almost a decade, shipping games like America’s Army: Special Forces, Shadow Ops: Red Mercury, and Saw: The Video Game.
The studio’s latest project, Blacklight: Tango Down, is a fully featured, downloadable multiplayer shooter for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and PC slated for release this summer.
Set 25 years in the future, Blacklight: Tango Down is a covert military action epic based more on science-fact than science fiction.
Early buzz has emphasised the game’s high-quality visuals, complete leveling system, Black Ops co-op mode, generous customisation options, equipment like Hyper Reality Vision (HRV) visors and weapons like digi grenades.
Multiplayer modes support up to four players with the ability to seamlessly jump in and jump out of the action at any time.
Zombie has found certain Unreal Engine 3 features to be indispensable for quickly achieving the team’s creative vision.
“I think Epic’s Lightmass and Scaleform GFx features are my favorites in Tango Down,” says Mark Long, CEO of Zombie Studios.
“Ambient occlusion takes scene realism to a new level. Our environments look stunning after just a default pass on lighting."
“What used to take weeks before can be done in hours with Lightmass. The level of control the environmental artists and level designers have allows us to get under the hood to optimise every element, so these visual improvements don’t impact framerate.”
“GFx is Scaleform’s Flash transcoder for UI components,” Long adds.
“Authoring in Flash and exporting directly into Unreal allows our interface artists – and increasingly, our level designers – to rapidly iterate UI designs and to add state-of-the-art motion graphic effects to our menus, HUD and even mini-games. We’re using almost every feature Scaleform offers in Tango Down.”
Long explains how Epic’s direct licensee support in tandem with the prolific community of Unreal Engine developers is crucial to his team’s productivity.
“The Unreal Developer Network (UDN) is Epic’s secret weapon,” reveals Long. “There are literally hundreds of developers sharing information in real time on the UDN."
“The support from Epic is great, but nothing beats the support of a peer trying to solve a similar problem. Epic is way ahead of the curve in community tools and communication.”
Zombie is pushing the envelope even further with its Blacklight property, expanding the military action adventure franchise to include movies and comic books from Fox Atomic Studios. And it’s using Unreal Engine 3 technology in some new and exciting ways.
“We’re doing something really cool with Unreal Engine 3 that no one has tried before,” continues Long. “Through our partners in Blacklight Transmedia, we’re using Unreal to produce a live-action feature film titled Samurai. We just completed a proof-of-concept that composites live-action actors shot on a green screen with props and environments created in Unreal.
"The goal is to share movie and game productions, and it is amazing looking.”
Also on the horizon at Zombie is the Unreal Engine 3-powered, third-person survival horror game Saw II for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Published by Konami, Saw II is scheduled for a simultaneous release with the Saw VII motion picture this fall.
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Mark Rein is vice president of Epic Games based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Since 1992 Mark has worked on Epic's licensing and publishing publishing deals, business development, public relations, academic relations, marketing and business opertaions.