Prometheus (Unreal Mod)…

Prometheus (Unreal Mod) after the break…

Prometheus (Unreal Mod)…

I can remember playing the first game of the video game “Unreal” franchise for the first time. It was a time when “room-over-room” was still a selling point for first-person shooters, sort of like how advertising that your television show was filmed in color to boost sales of color televisions.

A lot has changed since those more innocent days.

Unreal – The franchise & the engine itself, is now sort of the “Pepsi” to rival iD Software’s “iD Tech” engines’ “Coke,” if you will, the “Dreamworks” to Disney’s “Pixar.”

Just a few days ago, the makers of the “Unreal” franchise did something remarkable – They completely gave away all of the tools needed for someone to build a game using the latest version of their “Unreal” engine.

Make no mistake – This isn’t a historic moment. iD Software has open-sourced their older game engines as well. Who, for instance, hasn’t heard of “Quake 1” & the bazillion of variant engines derived from it? In fact, the only engine NOT to be open-sourced yet is the “Doom 4” engine, the so-called “iD Tech 4” engine that was used to create the video games “Doom 4,” “Quake 4,” “Prey” & the recently-released “Wolfenstein,” amongst others. Granted, iD Software is also close to releasing it’s first game with the “iD Tech 5” engine, “Rage,” but since that game hasn’t been released yet, I didn’t count it.

However, the sheer generosity that Epic (the makers of Unreal) & iD Software have displayed has produced huge dividends for the gaming community. In more blunt terms, you reap what you sow – By making available the same tools to create retail-grade games to the unwashed masses, some of the masses have washed themselves up to produce some very nice games.

One of the first examples of how the generosity of large software companies is yielding rewards is a game called “Prometheus,” made using the “Unreal” tool kit. Granted, this game first started life as a mod that needed the video game “Unreal Tournament 3” in order to play but can now be played for free – Thanks to Epic giving away all the essential elements used to create “Unreal Tournament 3.”

I’m always a little leery when I have to confront what I call “Gimmick Gameplay.” That’s when a game’s entire worth hinges on the actual playability of that game’s lone game play mechanic, usually something unorthodox that few people have seen before & no one has seen it quite like that before.

The current poster child for “Gimmick Gameplay” must be acknowledged as “Portal,” a video game where you can create doors (“portals”) where one doesn’t exist to create very improbable doors… Sort of like a personal “wormhole” in space, where two points that shouldn’t be connected are. The game play & setting were novel (Not really – A long-stalled video game called “Prey” used essentially the same gimmick but as a component to a much more conventional first-person shooter) & that game, as short as it was, reaped huge praise as a result.

Now, of course, everyone wants the next “Portal” & some think that this “Prometheus” is it.

I’m here to report that, although Prometheus is a nice game that just didn’t interest me, it’s no “Portal.”

The gimmick in Prometheus is this – Imagine if there were five of you, operating at the same time but one at a time. For instance, imagine if five of you were all living for one minute at the same time. You aren’t allowed to interact with each other in “real time,” just program five people for that one minute time span & then watch the results from that.

This concept is actually fairly close to the “single-player coop” gimmick in the underrated & often overlooked video game “Project: Eden.” In that game, the player controlled 4 people in real time who each had specialized functions. Although you could only control one of these players at any given time, these players could interact with themselves in real time.

Although the concept was appreciated, the game simply felt too puzzle-like for me. A timer is present (and needed) as part of the game play which adds to the tension of needing the right player to make the right move at the right time. Also, like the movie “Timecop,” two clones of yourself can’t touch each other. Why? I don’t know.

I’m not sure of the practicality of the game play gimmick. In the first non-tutorial level, you must deactivate a console before an entire building explodes. It takes all five of you in order to accomplish this feat but couldn’t this feat have been performed by a team of five different individuals all working together instead?

The constraints of the gimmick forces players to scout ahead, start over, make a move, scout ahead, start over, make your first two moves, scout ahead, start over AGAIN & so forth. Did you make a mistake? Enjoy starting over again. In the end, all that scouting ahead & starting over wastes time & inhibits enjoyment.

I’m sure that it took a lot of effort to create this mod/game & I appreciate everyone who worked on it to provide for me the opportunity to even play it at all. However, the game’s gameplay is simply too restrictive for casual enjoyment & a mild challenge.

A part of me wants to download the Unreal Development Kit to try my hand at creating my own first-person shooter. Another, more practical part of me, realizes that, even if I was stuck in a cabin for six months & fooling around with the UDK was the only thing that I could do, I highly doubt that I could produce anything more then a slightly elaborate first-person shooter equivalent of “Hello, World!”

However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t thank Epic for their wonderful generosity to myself & the rest of the netizens who reside on the Internet. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll download the thing in spite of myself because I’ve always had an idea or two of my own…

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