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Mark Rein: Unreality bites

Epic Games' ever ebullient VP talks state of the industry, 360, PS3 and Revolution, plus the latest word on Unreal Engine 4!

Epic's vice president Mark Rein is a man never short of an opinion or two. Chief evangelist for Epic's Unreal Engine 3, Rein moves through the heart of the games industry bridging publishers, developers and platform holders as well as spearheading Epic's thrust into the next generation - whilst also sounding the charge for two of Epic's own splendid games: Unreal Tournament 2007 and the hotly anticipated Gears of War

Always one of our favourite interviewees, we managed to catch up with Mark Rein during his recent visit to London and draw out his always entertaining opinions and expertise on numerous subjects. Topics as diverse as the 360 launch, what it's like developing for the PS3, what Sony might aim for in its online service, and even the latest word on Epic's far flung future project for the next next generation, Unreal Engine 4, were covered.

Brevity being the soul of wit and all that, we'll not burble on any more but thrust you straight into the throbbing heart of Mr Rein's pronouncements... over to you, Mark.

So how are things shaping up at Epic at the moment?

Mark Rein: Yeah, things are really busy at the moment, we're doing a lot of work on Unreal Engine 3 and we've got Gears of War in development - and of course Unreal Tournament 2007, so we're working really hard.

We saw you were recruiting again recently?

Mark Rein: Yeah, we're constantly recruiting, but now and then you have to turn the volume up a bit to remind people, "Hey you talented people out there, we're looking for you." We've just created a new position which is lead engine programmer and we've never really had anyone in that position in the past, responsible for all the programming of the engine. As the engine team gets to a certain size, that management role gets more important and we got some very good applicants.

You mentioned those two key titles there. How's work going on them?

Mark Rein: Very well. Both games are a lot of fun. The beautiful thing with Unreal Tournament is the way we build it, it's gameplay first; by bringing up levels in a very unfinished state we're able to run around and navigate them and put in all the gameplay elements, then see how much fun they are before we go to the detailed step of decorating them and making everything beautiful. We have quite a few levels up and playable now. We're prototyping the new game types, we have some great new vehicles, we have some cool new weapons - that's how UT goes and it's going well. Come see us at E3 [winks].

And of course the other major title is Gears of War. How's work progressing with that title? We've been keeping a real close eye on that one.

Mark Rein: Cliffy B and the whole team is doing very well. The game is looking spectacular of course as everyone expects, but more importantly, we've got some really great AI now. We've recently been doing some multiplayer play tests and that's always fun, even if I'm getting my butt kicked as usual. Mark Rein equals target practice!

I think people are going to be pretty excited about Gears. We've tried very hard to let excitement ebb and flow naturally, without trying to over hype the game. What we want to do is not reveal a lot of details about the gameplay or the story because it's one of these intensive single-player driven stories. I think if you reveal too much about that you take away the mystery and the fun for the gamer. So we've shielded it to an extent and said, 'Here's a pretty screenshot, don't ask too many questions'.

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