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Vol. 2, Issue 12
February 14, 2000
It's Not Easy Being Green

An interview by Russell "RadPipe" Lauzon

B randon "GreenMarine" Reinhart was one of the original members of the Orange Smoothie mod team, those wacky guys that brought us the OSP Tourney Mod (an early prototype for NetGames USA's ngWorldStats) and their infamous Potato Gun in addition to other things, but these days, he's best known for his work at Epic Games, where he was one of the programmers on Unreal Tournament. He is currently hard at work on the Playstation 2 version of the UT engine

Name, rank, and last time you fought in the Mordain wars?

Well, if you want me to write some bombastic crap, we should probably do the interview later, since I don't really feel like it now....

I have to be in a certain mood.

That last interview I did, the guy sent me the interview and I wasn't going to do it since he was throwing me a bone. I'd rather just burst into that stuff when people aren't really expecting it and I've just come off of a Bal-Sagoth listen or something. I left the interview and came back later when I felt like writing something odd.

Feel free to use whatever I'm writing in your interview. That might make it more interesting. A realistic interview instead of me being odd. Shrug :)

How did you join Epic and what position do you currently hold?

I'm a programmer. I was asked by Tim Sweeney to do contract programming for Epic a little over a year and a half ago. After my contract period they asked me to move to Raleigh and I've been here ever since.

To date, what's been the best part of working on Unreal Tournament? Are there things that come up (such as feedback) that make you look back and say, "Damn, we hit it right on there"?

The best part of working on UT has nothing to do with the game, its the work environment. Epic is an amazing place to work, its probably the most liberal game company in the industry. I'll come in to work at two in the morning or something and a bunch of other guys are already here making content or playing games. I've made some really good friends here.

As far as "hit it right" parts of the game. I dunno. There were things that you know are working out well and things that don't. You cut the ones that don't. With UT, it was a very gradual progression. I can't even remember when the game stopped feeling like Unreal and starting feeling like something unique.

At two in the morning? Was that only during crunch-time or is it a regular thing?

It’s a regular thing. None of us live on base-24 days. The married guys tend to stick to a recognizable pattern, but the rest of us work until we are too tired, sleep (either at home or at work), and come back when we are done.

I bought new furniture for my apartment, but I haven't bought bedding for my new bed and its been a month or so. I just sleep on the mattress. Before that, I slept on a foam pad for a year. My money goes into savings and investments because I don't have time to spend a lot. I don't watch TV, which gives me a bunch of extra time.

I do have spare time, but its mixed in with the work.

Wow. Do you have a computer at home or is that just a silly question?

No. If I worked at home, I'd have a computer there, but I'd rather work at the office. I can listen to my music as loud as I want most of the time and I can easily communicate with the other team members. If I want to get away I'll go home and read.

Let's talk about Unreal Tournament on the Playstation 2. What kind of hurdles are you looking at in terms of the code you're responsible for?

I was responsible for everything Playstation 2. I got script execution up and running and the game running in Wireframe. We then starting to shift our focus more on PSX2 so Tim took the rendering code and I implementing minor things like input and so forth. You can actually play UT completely on the PSX2 right now. Its not very fast though. I'm not into graphics programming and I'm really not into low level programming, Tim is much better. He faces the big challenges of working out a fast rendering strategy and making necessary changes to UT's renderer.

Its strange though...our UT project is completely playble, but without fast rendering. The exact opposite of most game development projects :)

What do you know to-date about the control systems (input) that will be available? Are you able to plan ahead?

Adding extra features for new types of controller is pretty easy. Right now we are focusing on the Dual Shock and Dual Shock 2. I'll add support for the older non-analog controller also. The input code is more or less done for now. As we get more into the gameplay side of things, input could change. (And things like...menus to select your configuration and so forth).

What do you think of other FPS games that have been ported to consoles, in terms of interface? Do they adequately capture the first-person shooter feel, or will you be trying to better that?

I'm not really that impressed, but what can you do with a pad? A hardcore first person shooter doesn't really work that well on the console to begin with. The audience is alot different. We all play a lot of games though, so we'll probably come up with a bunch of good configs to choose from (or customize). So far I like using the left analog stick for strafing, the right for looking, L1 for duck, L2 for jump, R1 for fire, R2 for altfire.



It's funny, but there's been numerous attempts by manufacturers to redefine our PC inputs, yet we stubbornly stick with keyboard/mouse combo. Has anyone sat down and said, "Why don't we just stick a keyboard and mouse in the box?"

PCs and consoles are becoming more and more similar. At some point, you'll probably see keyboards and mice coming with the console at launch. Right now though, most console developers and designing their games for console gamers. These kids play a lot of RPGs, sports games, fighting games, and platform jumpers, but not a lot of games that require keyboards... I mean, I'm sure they wouldn't mind attracting more PC guys to the console, but its probably much lower on the goal sheet than selling a game they know will be popular.

How do you like programming on the PS2? Is it easier/better/faster than the PC? Than linux?

Programming is programming. I'm not bothered by programming for any specific platform, so much as I'm bothered by things like making sure my NT box and my Linux box and sourcesafe are all working properly. I would say programming for the PS2 is hard in that a PC programmer has a lot to learn about the hardware. A lot of low level code to write. The APIs for PS2 aren't really APIs, they are more like simple tools to help you set up your DMA transfers and such. You write a lot of code that deals with registers directly. Like any new programming task its just learning the new tools and experimenting.

Let's talk power. How much more powerful is the PS2 than the original PS?

I don't know, really. I don't know a lot about the original Playstation's hardware. My understanding is that the power of the Playstation 2 lies less in the CPU and more in efficient use of the vector units. Since I'm not doing any work with the PS2's rendering code now, I've not been pursuing PS2 technology very closely. You might want to ask Tim, but there is a lot of stuff we can't talk about because of NDAs.

From what I understand, the PS2 will be internet ready though it won't be shipping with a modem out of the box. Will you be plugging ´net functionality into the code in preparation for Internet play?

I don't know anything about Sony's plans for network support. I have not seen any APIs on it or heard any information. If we get information on it, we'll support it.

I understand you were part of the Orange Smoothie team. What do you think of their work on Netgames USA?

Its pretty cool. ngWorldStats is a lot of fun to play with, it adds a lot of value to the game. The Net Games guys are really hardcore. They were all professors and research engineers at the University of Kansas and one day they just said "lets go for it." So they quit their jobs and decided to rough it with their gaming company. That's cool. Its funny because I remember Craig Sparks telling me about his idea for the stat tracking stuff and I used to tell him about how I'd work for a game company at some point. Lo and behold everything worked out.

Lawrence, Kansas must have some kind of gaming enchantment cast on it. KillCreek is from there, you know. So is Scott Dalton from Legend. They both went to KU.

That's very cool. Did you help with the agreement to put support for ngWorldStats support into UT?

It was for granted. We worked up an agreement, but was there any doubt? It was a really cool feature and it didn't take much work to add. I think it really helped give UT some extra replay value. Now you can feel like your nightly game sessions have some impact.

I handled all the NetGames/Epic communication and implemented the features they wanted. Mark took care of getting their logo on the box. It was extremely smooth. I still owe those guys a dinner sometime.

I think it's a great feature, except that it shows some of us how poorly we play UT :)

Anyways, just one more question: What's next for you after the PS2 and UT?

Shrug. I don't plan ahead. Takes too much time and its against my nature.

Thanks Brandon!

-Russell "RadPipe" Lauzon is currently exhausting all his free time researching Beer Goggles.



 

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