The original Unreal developed by Epic Games back in 1998 really was the second time when I was genuinely blown away by the mere visuals of a video game in home environment, first one being Doom in 1994. I believe Unreal was back then one of the first games to take every bit out of newly released 3DFX –card: Sophisticated lens flares, colored lights, dynamic reflections on some of the floors, multi-layered textures, volume fog, and so on. And not to mention the moment when I stepped outside of the ship and saw the breathtaking skybox with moving clouds for the first time, I’ll never forget that.
But as a game, Unreal was deemed as a glorified “tech demo”, and I have to agree with that to some extent. In fact, the demo at the Unreal’s start screen, in which the camera flew around this castle, demoing basically everything the engine had on its sleeve, was almost enough for me to get satisfied with.
So, does this sound any familiar?
Yes, Epic pulled off the exact same thing earlier this year when Cliff Bleszinski presented Unreal Engine 3 on iOS with Epic Citadel –technology demo at the Apple event. People, including me, couldn’t believe that the castle in Epic Citadel really was rendered in real-time on a tiny handheld device that iPhone/iPod Touch is, it simply looked too good to be true. But it was.
I think Epic Citadel is an interesting case in many sense.
First of all, it amazes me how Epic provided me almost the same exact sense of wonderment with two different titles 12 years apart, given the rapid progression of the industry. Ok, id Software has no bad track record either, but it breaks my heart to ask how relevant id actually has been lately? [update: RAGE HD on iPhone looks pretty awesome] Epic has become almost a synonym for high quality graphics, and such breakthrough titles under its belt like Gears of War, besides being the best looking title of its time and giving birth to a genre, really have proved Epic’s worth.
Secondly, Epic Citadel’s technology is out of this world. Of course, I’m saying this only because of the platform on which it is, but nevertheless, it’s pretty amazing that we can now run graphics on a device this small that are in some sense on par with of Half-life 2. And the fact that Epic Citadel uses a technology called ▸relief mapping that renders some of the textures in pseudo 3D, which HL 2 lacked altogether, blows my mind the most.
Ok, Cliff Bleszinski could use some medium size t-shirts for a change instead of those extra small ones, I’ll give you that.