UnrealSP.Org is pleased to present this exclusive interview with Mr. Prophet of Team Red Nemesis, in which Hellscrag interviews the 7 Bullets team leader about the inspiration for and origin of the project, and some of the new features it will offer us Unreal Single Player fans.
HELLSCRAG: Firstly, I'd just like to thank Mr. Prophet for taking the time to answer these interview questions. I'm sure we will learn a lot here.
MR. PROPHET: I've been pretty vocal about the mod so far but we'll see :)
So, what exactly is 7 Bullets?
7 Bullets is a single player campaign for UT that revolves around the character Jones from The Xidia Incident and takes place on Na Pali...the planet from Unreal and RTNP. Though the Character is known from Xidia the story actually continues from a short single map SP I did called SkyTown Redux. 7 Bullets takes off right after that map and the story puts the setting twelve years after the events of Unreal and RTNP.
Who is working on it? Who's doing what?
The ten person team is called Red Nemesis. The mappers are myself (doing around 75% of the total mapping), Darthweasel, Waffnuffly, and some gameplay work by Eightball Maniac. To create the voices for the main characters we enlisted the talent of James Hamer Morton (aka eVOLVE), who has made the best character voices I've ever heard in an Unreal SP. To create the soundtrack, which is composed of both new material and remixed versions of certain Unreal songs, was Darkbeat and Zynthetic. UsAaR33 is putting the code together, naturally, and Frieza is contributing a DM map for the bonus mutator. Added to that tally is UnrealArchitect, who is making a really cool script for 7B called the Grass Spreader. Basically it creates tall grass in terrain zones in a similar fashion to UT2K4. For a lot of people who have played terrain after terrain in UT with flat texture grass...this is a godsend and will really give our landscapes a unique feel.
Na Pali - haven't you done that scene? What made you decide to return to Na Pali after going off-world with Xidia Gold? Whose inspiration was the project, and how did you come about it?
Actually, aside from Skytown Redux and the one out of place map I made for Deja Vu, my SP mapping has been off-world and not on Na Pali. I decided to go back to Na Pali for a lot of reasons, most of them being convenience. The skybox is extremely flexible and the ability to have available locations to study and, in 7B's case, revisit and incorporate really made things easy. I never felt like I ever really made a true Unreal styled SP map up to this point. Even my map for Deja Vu didn't feel like it really belonged on Na Pali. I guess you can say I sort of wanted to pay homage to Unreal for all the fun I've had with the game over these last few years. I knew the team generally felt the same way so we all were on the same boat.
The idea behind the project itself is more or less a hybrid of multiple ideas I've had for awhile. There was always certain things about Unreal I felt were never covered yet (you'll see in 7B what I mean). Basically I've wanted to make a sequel for Xidia for the new engine but things happened and I never got into doing it. After Skytown Redux was released I started thinking about gun concepts. I replayed a lot of games like AVP2,Red Faction, and Soldier of Fortune 2 and realized I really liked reloading guns. I knew they could be coded and that potential possibility for a cool arsenal got me into thinking about making a story for a new SP pack. I had the ideas for guns and wanted to make a new campaign with Jones, the character from Xidia and I thought "why not make a pack that mixes my Xidia-styled combat with Na Pali?". The result was about the closest thing to perfect fusion of the two different campaigns (Unreal and Xidia) which would be called 7 Bullets.
How many maps are there? Can you tell me a little about the locations the player visits, in particular those that will be familiar, like in SkyTown Redux and Operation Na Pali?
The packed started with about eight or nine maps to be made and ended up with twelve, which is more than The Xidia Incident. As for locations, I think the one most people know about who have followed the project info I've released publicly is a return to the ISV Kran from Unreal. The segments I reused from the original underwent a lot of redux changes and quite a lot of new content was added to turn the Intergalactic Science Vessel Kran into the Skaarj Bloodpack's Outpost 1J. Aside from the new Kran, several other locations from Unreal get revisited and heavily revamped. The whole game takes place in a diameter of about 3 miles and the areas around the Kran will certainly be visible in 7 Bullets. The most notable redux is the Temple of Vandora, which not only has 70% new content added to the original, but a new segment of the temple is seen for the first time in 7 Bullets. Basically the idea is that the entrance to this "other" area of the temple was buried by the ISV Kran crash and explains why it wasn't seen in Unreal. Of course, twelve years later the segment known as The Lost Passage of Vandora is finally uncovered.
I think people will be pleased with the old areas that will reappear in 7 Bullets. For the most part they aren't just some lighting/texture revamps, nearly all the old areas are met with an equal or greater addition of new locations and content. There are parts of the ISV Kran that have changed in 12 years and it has gone from a grounded Terran starship to a rooted Skaarj science outpost with several new layers fused into the old segments and build around them. The Temple of Vandora has a completely new feel to it and the addition of the "Lost Area" really adds to the depth of the place.
The other revisited areas aren't as significant in terms of new areas but the content added to them will make them appear totally different. There is one map that used to be a bland canyon and now is a toxic wasteland with tall smoke-spewing stacks sticking out of the coarse soil.
Even if you've played Unreal a thousand times these reduxed areas will seem totally new. And the new areas of Na Pali we made are just as good.
I've heard that the pack will feature a heavily modified arsenal. Are the weapons based on those from Unreal, or those from UT? What are the new guns like?
I'll tell you as plainly as I can, the only gun from Unreal that appears is the Dispersion pistol. And that is also the only gun that is unchanged in some way. Essentially all the modified weapons are based old UT cousins. This is for numerous reasons. The eightball from Unreal isn't used because there is no rocket launcher equivalent in 7 Bullets. That's right. Instead, you have explosive projectiles fired from the MK3 reloading Combat Assault Rifle in its newest form. Another grenade launching weapon is found later in the game but since no enemies use the Eightball, it was cut. The Stinger also does not appear and neither does the powerful Mining Tool variation from Xidia and Skytown Redux. The ASMD, Flak Cannon, and Razor jack all appear in their UT appearance, even though the weapons themselves are different. The ASMD Shockrifle is explained to have been a new Heavy Energy weapon designed by UMS, the company that launched the large vessels that appeared in RTNP. Those guns were stored in weapon containers inside the UMS-Bodega Bay and when it was destroyed in RTNP, the intact crates were seized by the Skaarj Bloodpack (as explained in Skytown Redux). The 7B shockrifle is much like the Xidia Gold version, only the ability to zap water is fully utilized now and actually is very important for some fights. Also, the Seven B Shockrifle and the new Flechette Cannon have the ability to "stun" targets (you included) with temporary dizzy effects. The Bloodpack Ripper is actually one of the strongest weapons in the game. The blades not only have a longer lifespan but do twice as much damage for a body shot and has a much more effective instant kill decapitation ability. The alt attack is one of the games strongest explosive attacks and rivals the power of the CAR's grenade launcher. The Machine Mags are a new model of the sidearm (pistols in the futre should be machine guns anyway) and the upgrade explains why they needed a sleeker look. Another UT variation is the USM Plasma Rifle. Basically we have all our bases covered as to why all these new guns are on Na Pali. First off, most of them are your weapons, and second, there has to be different guns on Na Pali then the old U1 versions. One old gun that does appear (and sorta for the first time in Unreal SP) is the Quadshot V8. The weapon was an uncoded, screen blinding green blur in Unreal. UsAaR's Oldskool mod featured a usable version but that was far too weak for my tastes, so I made him make the weapon badass. Finally Unreal players can experience the Quadshot as it should have been.
How about creatures? Will there be many new or modified creature classes? Anything completely new?
Very few creatures remain totally the same. Even the big Flies get new skins and the Skaarj continue to use the dark colors. There is one major class that is new. For the Skaarj, the Skaarj Commando from Skytown Redux reappears along with the Skaarj Soldier, the Brood pupae and hatchlings from Xidia, and The recurring Nemesis known as The Scarred One. Aside from that there is a order to which certain enemies are encountered and they are called Unreal Exclusive variants. On Unreal difficulty some enemies will appear that ONLY appear on that level. One is the Praetorian Pupae, a genetically enhanced juvenile that will grow up into the Skaarj Praetorians of Xidia Gold and Skytown redux (Though there aren't any Praetorian Skaarj in 7 Bullets). Another is a new class of Spinner. The idea is that the Spinners from RTNP were the males and the new exclusive class are the female, egglayers that are twice the size and strength with paler colors.
What about storyline? Both modules of Xidia Gold had storylines of sorts. How will 7 Bullets compare? Any twists and surprises we can hope to discover as we play?
7 bullets has a more involving story than say Xidia. In Xidia you were a pretty generic character with a story that developed with log entries. In 7 Bullets Jones finally has a personality. The Voice acting and cutscenes really create a story that contains a developing protagonist. Basically there is a mission set for you but things get complicated for Jones once again as he finds himself in a situation that keeps him on the planet longer. There will be a big plot twist...and totally unexpected. Aside from that twist there is plenty of sub plot material to follow, like character relationships and the ongoing chase by the Scarred One. To put it bluntly, the story puts Xidia Gold to shame. Jones gets to speak his mind and change along with the story and the explanation of the title is mentioned in voice-over narration and log messages.
Xidia Gold presented often very challenging gameplay, even though its balance had been worked on since the original release. Will 7 Bullets continue in the same vein, or will there be room for the SP newbies as well?
In a lot of ways 7 Bullets is easier than Xidia Gold on the Easy,Medium, and even Hard difficulties. I've pretty much learned how to do this gameplay shit. If anyone complains of a problem in balance I'll have to commit suicide because I've spent so much time trying make this very fun to play. Easy mode is really really easy. You'll start off with better weapons than God and get huge amounts of items along the way. Medium is a bit more realistic but you'll still start with kickass weapons. Hard mode is probably the best difficulty since you don't get too easy of a gun selection on startup and the combat is more challenging. Unreal mode pretty much plops you in the game with the same item loadout as Xidia and totally removes the ration item...a feature that really makes the other 3 modes that much more balanced. Unreal difficulty in 7 Bullets is there for the people who could handle Xidia and want the same effect. I've pretty much covered all the player types here. Nobody should be disappointed.
Additionally, will 7 Bullets offer full coop support? How do you test a project such as this one, with so many variables to consider?
Yes it works in Coop, along with the UT mutator bonus. The testing is the fun part actually, seeing it all come together. Once the map list is done we're gonna do a lot of online testing to make sure it all works over the net. Basically we'll keep playing it until all the bugs are treated.
Was it a relief to work with Nali themes again after seeing so much high-tech in Xidia Gold? In fact, how much of the Nali will we see in 7 Bullets?
Nali themes tend to mean "ancient" or primitive themes and that is still a field I'm still learning. 7 Bullets has a very good percentage of Nali themed environments as well as terrain maps. There is a lot more outdoor stuff than in Xidia, which is mainly us preserving the Unreal theme. As for the Nali, they do make an appearance...but not in a way like Skytown Redux. I thought it better this time to keep the old peasant Nali thing going. One of the characters encountered is a Nali Prophet who plays a fairly interesting part in the game. The Nali also play the slave roll again, especially in one map where Jones finds a group of mistreated priests murdered for no other reason than for the amusement of their captors. This is a very oppressive trend from Unreal and kinda keeps the whole "Nali savior" thing going. Jones obviously isn't here to save the Nali or Na Pali...but the players will still feel compelled to help them anyway.
What are you doing to secure the originality of your settings after so many previous map packs set on Na Pali? Did the increased variety of locations, such as Nali settings and terrain areas, present you with any new challenges as a mapper? This goes for the whole team - how much are you pushing the envelope of your own skills and experience with 7 Bullets?
7 Bullets has my best maps I've yet made for SP (I think so) and brilliant work from Darthweasel and Waffnuffly too. Securing Originality was difficult since everyone has has done something on Na Pali, but I think our story and plot twists allow us to pull off ideas that have not really been utilized in Na Pali maps. The diversity is really noticeable, especially for me since until this point I've primarily done techish shit. Darthweasel has actually stepped outside the tech theme for the first time with his maps for 7 Bullets and I really think he has become a far better mapper now then he was before he enlisted with the project. Even Waffnuffly has bloomed, his map for 7 Bullets really casts a shadow over his own work on Attacked.
In the End, 7 Bullets presents themes we've all seen before on Na Pali but you see it from a different angle. But it really is less about Na Pali and Unreal and more about Jones, a man stuck in this place with a shit deal laying in his lap. That is what makes the game special I think, it is less about the awe of the planet and more about the awe of the situation with Na Pali looming over the player.
I think my work for this pack is the best I've done with any bit of mapping thus far and my fellow mappers certainly seem to have learned a great deal too.
Finally, are there any extra, special features of the 7 Bullets package that you can tempt the playing public with?
The Xidia Survivor mode is a mutator that comes with the pack. It enhances normal UT with 7 Bullets guns and features, along with new DM maps. The new grass spreader really heightens the visual experience as well as all the little features that have been incorporated. New Blood effects, new guns, music, sounds, voices, it all really adds up to a fresh experience. I always like to keep hitting people with new surprises until the end comes :)
My thanks again to Mr. Prophet for taking the time to answer these questions.
No problem, catch 7 Bullets very soon.