Having already suffered through a six-month delay, gamers awaiting Unreal Tournament 2004 are apparently in store for another unpleasant surprise. In an e-mail sent to Unreal Tournament mod authors yesterday, Epic MegaGames founder/president Tim Sweeney revealed that UT 2004 will not be network compatible with Unreal Tournament 2003. "We had initially planned to support that," said Sweeney, "but the network code has changed so much--in order to reduce bandwidth, support vehicles, and increase performance--that we couldn't keep the two games network-compatible."
Reaction to the announcement was mixed. Some posters on the Beyond Unreal forums were angered by the prospect that UT 2004 users won't be able to play on UT 2003 servers. However, in an e-mail to GameSpot, Sweeney said that this wouldn't be an issue. "All of the UT servers are community-run, so this decision is in the hands of each individual server admin," said Sweeney. "One can continue to run UT 2003, UT 2004, or some combination of both on different ports."
Another complaint voiced in the Beyond Unreal forums was the possibility that most UT 2003 servers and mods will probably upgrade, thus forcing current players to buy UT 2004. However, Sweeney emphasized that UT 2003 players should not worry about server ability. "There are 2,800 servers still running the original Unreal Tournament, released in 1999. As long as there is an active player community, the server admins tend to remain enthusiastic."