"We're focusing a lot of our development on what we call the classic game types and really trying to refine those," says Steve Polge. "We're spending a lot of time tweaking the tiniest details. We have these esoteric arguments about whether or not jump height should be four units higher and things like that. We're tweaking movement, weapons, just making sure everything feels really solid for DM and CTF. They'll be the modes we most focus on, but we're going to add a lot of new kinds of supporting features too, like automatic matchmaking based on skill rating - similar to Battle.net."
This emphasis on proven game types may sound pedestrian, but the philosophy very much seems to start with established ideas and rely on the power of the new engine to transform them. With CTF for example, there will now be maps with vehicles, using streaming level technology to make environments ten times bigger than previously possible. With Deathmatch, there will be levels littered with physics objects, where it becomes more about knocking things over on a player's head than shooting him with a rocket launcher.
"We're only planning on doing that in a couple of maps, just to see if it's fun," says Jeff Morris. "When you start to give the player the ability to block doorways and change pathways it becomes a completely different game. But we like to have a real variety of gameplay in our maps in UT, so we'll definitely try that."
THE NEW ASSAULT
"Of course we're bringing Onslaught back as well," picks up Polge. "And again we're making refinements to that. Probably the biggest new addition is the second vehicle team. On top of the nine vehicles that shipped between UT2004 and the bonus pack, we'll have another set of nine vehicles that are kind of analogous but different in functionality."
What shape these will take is still very much up in the air, but Steve Polge makes some vague noises about a robotic walker, "not in the mech tradition, but more insectoid". The vision is perhaps to create a more alien counterpoint to the very earthly designs of the existing set.
"The biggest thing however," he continues, "the thing we're most excited about in terms of cool new stuff is the new game type. Internally, we've been calling it 'Conquest'. I'd say it's the successor to Assault, but it's kind of Assault-meets-Onslaught. The idea is to have a big battlefield, with shifting front lines and zones of control - we want to channel the action into certain areas so you don't have people spread out all over the place. We'll have all the vehicles from Onslaught, and in addition to that we're adding some RTS concepts like resources to give it a little more depth."
WE'VE GOT THE POWER
For veterans of games like Savage, this will come as no revelation. However, Epic is being very careful to avoid the frankly dull aspects of that game, making sure to retain the 'instant action' feel that very much defines UT - you spawn and straight away you're shooting people, not tottering off to mine resources. Instead, you'll simply capture some sort of station that, once powered up, automatically deploys little harvesting robots.
"We have just one resource - tarydium," says Polge. "The idea is that it powers your bunkers. The rate at which vehicles rebuild is based on the amount of tarydium divided by the number of bunkers - so the more bunkers you control, the more resources you need."
"We want it so you don't have to play with resources, but a team that does play the resource game will have certain advantages," says Jeff Morris. "Either way, it introduces two new verbs into the game, which are 'protect my resource gatherers' and 'attack the enemy's resource gatherers'."