Legend's Scott Dalton tells us all about the XMP multiplayer that will be released as a part of the Xbox version of Unreal II and as a free PC add-on.
The PC version of Unreal II didn't include any multiplayer support when it shipped in February, but Legend Entertainment had intended from the start to include a multiplayer mode called "XMP" (for "extended multiplayer"). While deadline pressures forced the team to cut the multiplayer support a year before the game's release, Legend got the go-ahead from Atari to start work on XMP several months ago. When it's complete, XMP will be released in an expansion pack that will be freely downloadable for PC owners of Unreal II. The upcoming Xbox version of Unreal II will also feature the XMP mode, which will be playable via Xbox Live.
We spoke with Scott Dalton, senior level designer at Legend, to get more details on the team-based multiplayer mode, its three classes, and its vehicles.
GameSpot: Early in the game's development, it was said that Unreal II would have a multiplayer component, but this was later cut. How closely does the XMP mode currently in development resemble the original design?
Scott Dalton: In spirit it's very close to what we hoped we could make for Unreal II originally. However, to orient toward a great online experience, we started the project entirely from scratch with the latest version of the Unreal engine, only bringing in a few pieces of tech that we needed. We took the core ideas of what we'd been hoping to do (the three multifunctional classes, the Citadel-esque multiple-flag type of gameplay, and deployable defenses), and added various features that weren't originally planned (such as vehicles, jump jets, skills, and so on).
So it holds true to the original goals of XMP, but it has evolved some since the original design. Given that we had a small team work on this from design to beta in a few months, we're very pleased with how it's turning out. XMP is something we all wanted to see happen, so it's been great to have a chance to do so.
GS: The Xbox version of Unreal II will also have the XMP multiplayer component. How similar are the Xbox and PC versions of XMP? Is it possible that the two versions will be compatible for online games?
SD: We actually began on XMP prior to Atari's decision to do an Xbox version of Unreal II. At that point, it made a lot of sense to provide XMP for Xbox Live, so we began talking with Tantalus, which is handling the Xbox side of things. The two versions are largely similar. There are a few visual differences between the two, and of course the control schemes are different, but by and large they're both XMP. Unfortunately, due to different optimizations in the code, assets, and levels, the two will not be compatible online.
GS: What's the most distinctive element of XMP that makes it stand out from other multiplayer action games?
SD I think that XMP stands out for the feel of the game mode. It's a unique blend of the capture the flag, domination, and conquest gameplay types. The balance of maintaining team energy and taking strategic deployment points, while trying to take control of all four artifacts and defend them, is really fun. Of course, to support that, there are all the deployable weapons, vehicles, turrets, classes, skills, and so forth. That makes for a lot of variety to the action.
GS: Of the three classes, what's your personal favorite?
SD: I enjoy playing all the classes, so I switch around a lot during most games. My personal favorite is the tech. He's middle-of-the-road in terms of movement capabilities and armor, but he's a fast hacker and has good medium-range weaponry. I enjoy heading out in the field, hacking stuff for my team, and setting up defenses. Plus, there's nothing like a good-close range shotgun blast to show whose generator it is.
GS: Are the weapons in XMP the same as those in the single-player game? Have there been any changes or additions?
SD: While each class has a selection of weapons from the single-player game, we've tweaked every weapon to suit them to the faster pace of multiplayer play. We've also added some mine types, and of course the various types of player-controlled turrets.
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