Summary: Not a whole lot to see at GDC this year, but we did talk to Epic about their new Unreal benchmark, got a ton of info about the upcoming Counter-Strike Condition Zero, and got a peek at a new 3D RTS called Highland Warriors. Check it all out in our GDC 2002 roundup.
The Game Developers’ Conference – as the name suggests, this conference is primarily for game developers to get together, share notes on programming/design techniques through lectures and workshops, and get caught up on the state of the industry. It’s much less of a dog and pony show like E3 where publishers are there to show off their wares. It isn’t a complete waste of time for journalists though, as there are usually a few things for us to cover, and once in a while (Xbox announcements with Bill Gates in 2000), something big. This year was relatively quiet, but we did get to peek at the new Unreal engine technology from Epic Games, Counter-Strike Condition Zero, and a 3D RTS called Highland Warriors.
Unreal Performance Test 2002
As we reported yesterday, Epic officially announced a new benchmark called the Unreal Performance Test 2002. This particular test is based on the technology being used in Unreal 2 and Unreal Tournament 2003, but is actually not a straight timedemo from either of the two games. As was explained to me by Epic’s Steve Polge, the benchmark actually leverages more cpu and graphics intensive technologies that the engine is capable of, but will not necessarily appear in either upcoming game due to the need for each game to work on machines that are less powerful.
Unreal Tournament 2003
While hanging out in the Epic booth we also got a look at Unreal Tournament 2003. Unfortunately there was no way to play against someone so I was only able to run around a CTF map and test fire a few weapons. A lot of your old favorites will be there, including the Flak Cannon, the Impact Hammer, and the Translocator. These have all been given new, funky complicated model representations in-hand, just as you’re used to with an Unreal game. The sniper rifle when zoomed in, has an interesting look on screen. The circular area of the cross hair looks clear, but the area around the circle that is normally blacked out you can actually still see around. It’s as if you’re using the sniper rifle cheat in Counter-Strike where the blacked out area is unobscured, allowing you more peripheral vision while zoomed in. The difference is that with the sniper rifle in Unreal Tournament 2003, the outer area is slightly fuzzed out with interlacing lines. Developed by Digital Extremes, UT 2003 is due out this summer.
CS gets a facelift
While at GDC we got a great look at the upcoming Counter-Strike Condition Zero, a standalone product from Gearbox Software, makers of Half-Life Opposing Force, among others. Condition Zero includes new graphical enhancements to the rapidly aging, but still wildly popular Counter-Strike mod for Half-Life. It also features new weapons, and a single player mode.
Randy Pitchford, head of Gearbox, showed off some of the game’s new visual enhancements by taking us through a few of the new levels. One of them was an urban scene in an unknown Asian locale, complete with the crowded feel of narrow streets and alleyways, and multiple level buildings with balconies and fire escapes overlooking the small walkways. It was raining in this level – weather is something new to CS. The scene also included alpha blended trees and bushes, and more realistic backdrops with high rise buildings that appeared to be far out into the distance, unlike many of the fake looking skyboxes you see in current CS maps. They’re subtle changes but help add to the atmosphere.
Perhaps more impressive is the special effects and materials system that’s been added to the game. Shooting into stone walls will generate squibs and particles flying off the impact point. A full on fire fight may resemble something like the lobby scene in the Matrix where you see chunks of the wall flying off everywhere. This system changes behavior depending on what sort of material it is – three types of glass are modeled in the game, and bullets will also act differently when impacting metal or wooden surfaces. Sound is also part of this materials system so you can bet the sound of bullets ricocheting and hitting metal will be different than plunking into a wood wall. They can even model different sounds of footpads, so you can tell if someone is sneaking up on you, crunching their feet in the snow or tapping their boots on a concrete floor. Or you can even check the snow for their footprints!
The single player game
The single player campaign of CSCZ pits the player as a squad leader of a new multinational counter-terrorist organization. You can originate from one of five different elite squads, including the Navy Seals, the GSG-9, and the Spetsnaz. The game is non-linear, allowing the player to choose the order he undertakes missions in any of six different continents, with three to four different missions in each continent.
Guns guns guns
What’s an update to CS without new weapons? We’ve got a list of all the new goodies that will be in CS: Condition Zero –
Detail, detail, detail
Data Becker and Soft Enterprises showed off their upcoming 3D RTS game, Highland Warriors. This game is based loosely around the historical period in the British Isles between 850AD and 1400AD. Four different factions are in the game, including the Mystics (specializing in magical combat), the Highland Warriors (tough melee combatants), the English (ranged combat with the longbows), and the merchant class (efficient at commerce).
The game is still fairly early in development so there wasn’t much to show in terms of real gameplay yet. There are some interesting gameplay twists though. Spearmen can dig the butts of their spears into the ground and create a barbed barricade against cavalry charges (similar to what you saw in Braveheart). Also, worker units can be upgraded to master craftsmen level after they’ve gained enough experience harvesting a particular resource. If you change one of your miners into a master gold miner, he will gather gold extremely fast, but if you try to switch him to chopping wood, he’ll be very slow at it, even compared to the non-specialized workers.
The developer was most excited about showing off the graphics engine, which features real time lighting and shadows, characters with up to 8000 polygons each, and exquisitely detailed buildings that have 30 different states of build and destruction as they go up…and come down. The engine is capable of displaying 200,000 polygons on screen at once, so don’t be shy about zooming in on those crazy battles. The maps are fully rotatable and zoomable, and the interface windows that show your buttons and resource numbers can be customized and moved about the screen or removed if you like.
Due out this fall, Highland Warriors features 30 single player missions, multiplayer matchmaking through Gamespy Arcade (up to 8 players), and a map editor.
That’s all folks
There wasn’t much in the way of major new hardware to cover at this year’s GDC. Things were quiet for NVIDIA, ATI, and Matrox. We expect to have a ton of new Counter-Strike Condition Zero screenshots next week though, so stay tuned to an update of this article!
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