Since the R6/RS community
got confirmation that UbiSoft is working on Rainbow Six: Raven
Shield (or R63), there have been mixed emotions about the
new game. In the press release, we finally received confirmation
that UbiSoft Montreal will develop the game using "the
next-generation Unreal engine". Some fans are angry
about this; others are overjoyed. Other fans are left wondering
whether they should be angry or overjoyed. If you fit in that
last group, read on--you will get all the evidence that you
need in order to make up your own mind on this most recent
burning issue in the R6 community.
There has been some confusion over the phrase
"the next-generation Unreal engine" in some
of the fansite forums. Some people have wondered if that means
that R63 will be using the older Unreal engine, as opposed
to the new Unreal II or Unreal Tournament II engine. Well,
the answer is that there is just one engine, albeit in different
levels of development. It's all one engine, really, which
is constantly being upgraded.
The core engine is licensed out to game
developers like UbiSoft. Unreal II and UT II are both based
on this engine, though it has been highly modified by the
developers of those titles, so that each game has many different
In February of this year, Epic Games released
Unreal engine build 829 to licensees, which introduced quite
a few new features to the already impressive changes made
since Unreal and Unreal Tournament were released. In addition,
there are several new technologies that have been developed
by other companies, in partnership with Epic, that are available
to licensees of the Unreal Engine. With UbiSoft licensing
the Unreal Engine, these are all things that we might see
when we finally get to buy the gaming goodness that will be
Rainbow Six: Raven Shield.
Of Maps and Particle Effects
Over the years, UnrealEd, the proprietary
map-making program for the Unreal series of games, has evolved
more and more. Since the newer versions just build upon the
old foundation, there is a sizeable knowlede base out there
in the Unreal community, including tutorials and forums. UnrealEd
was built from the ground up specifically for making maps
for the game, and is much more user friendly for most would-be
modders than a powerful tool like 3d Studio Max, which was
used to make the maps for the existing games in the R6 series.
Once again, there have been significant
improvements to the editor, to the way the engine handles
the maps and the textures, and to the maps themselves. For
instance, Epic claims that texture performance has improved
since they allow DirectX to manage texture memory. In addition,
they have added fog support to give more depth to maps and
improve performance in larger outdoor areas, presumably by
cutting down on what is visible at any given time to the player,
in order to cut down on rendering scenery--much like Ghost
Speaking of larger outdoor areas, Epic has
improved UnrealEd with an interesting new feature that should
aid in making large-scale terrain. One such tool will allow
you to select a portion of the terrain and raise or lower
it with your mouse. Real-time lighting updating during terrain
painting while working in the editor is now available. In
addition, the new hardware brush technology purportedly lets
Epic "create scenes of 150-200 times more polygons than
what users saw in Unreal Tournament at excellent levels of
performance using hardware T&L."
engine now supports true moving water, thanks to the concept
of volumes. Epic has not elaborated on the idea, except to
say that volumes also let developers do much more with gravity,
slow-motion effects, and particle system forces such as wind.
There is some exciting discussion about particle systems advancements
made by Digital
Extremes that have been incorporated into the engine by
Epic on the Unreal Engine News
Page . DE has done some great stuff with the particle
In this series of screenshots,
you can see a cloud of smoke that realistically dissipates
when a rocket moves through it. In addition, the screens show
off another exciting bit of tech from DE: projective textures.
Note the shadow that is visible on the smoke cloud in the
first screen in the series--that is coming from a meshed fan.
Shadows will not only display on objects and characters, but
on particles, too. In addition, you can create weather effects,
explosions, fire, smoke, blood, ground fog and volumetric
Improved Animation Art Path
Newer versions of the Unreal Engine make
it easier to import skeletal character data from third-party
tools, namely 3d Studio Max and Maya, two advanced tools used
by many game developers. Epic says,
"The latest version of the Unreal Engine
features a more efficient animation art path. Now, game developers
can import skeletal character data exported from Max or Maya
directly into the editor and then meshes and their animations
can be previewed, scaled, adjusted, assigned the proper materials,
game-code notification callbacks, and much more. All this
resource preparation is now done interactively from within
the editor and can be saved directly into the Unreal Engine's
native format, ready to use in the game."
Good news for character modelers/animators.
The Unreal Engine uses a camera system that
is integrated into the game editor that allows developers
to film cut scenes, do level fly-bys, or script in-game sequences.
This tool, known as Matinee, shows quite a bit of promise.
Epic promises "exact control" over camera placement
and movement, as well as easy to set-up visual effects, including
fades, zooms, and orientation changes.
UnrealScript is a powerful tool developed
by Epic to give Unreal's designers a powerful, built-in programming
language that was aimed at the needs of game developers and
mod-makers. It is used for a wide variety of tasks, including
Mutators (slight changes to gameplay, such as lowering gravity
or adding/removing powerups), Game Types (ie. Capture the
Flag, Assault, etc.), new HUDs, GUIs, new weapon types--basically,
anything and everything that you can think of.
Unreal Engine Debugger
The Unreal Engine Debugger is a new tool
that is integrated with the engine for the UnrealScript language.
It is unclear at this point how much of this will trickle
down to mod-makers, but Epic has this to say on the subject:
"This extremely comprehensive tool
will help improve productivity for all Unreal Engine licensees
who develop UnrealScript code and down the road for Mod-makers
Some of the key features of the UnrealScript
- Assign multiple breakpoints and watches
- Break on variable change and null pointer
- Live editing of object properties
- Easy access to all objects
- Support for step into, step over and
step out of function calls
- Expandable variable property lists
- Complete syntax-highlighted source and
- Full session memory
Scott Dalton, of Legend Entertainment--the
developer of Unreal2--had this to say about modding for the
new engine in a recent forum
"Unreal 2 is very much geared towards
ease of use for the mod community. As far as models are concerned
- We're using an entirely new system for skeletal animation
import and control. Chris Hargrove has created GOLEM (our
skeletal system) to be as easy to use and extendable as possible.
The models and their controllers act like plugins, where mod
authors can easily create their own models, skins, and even
control systems for the model. This means that you just save
out new models and skins into a .gem file and drop them into
the meshes directory.
This is great for both us and mod authors
because it allows the artists to get their work into the game
as fast and easily as possible.
I think a real source of cool mod stuff
will be the controllers. Since they're layered plug-ins, like
the head and eye tracking we had on demo at E3, you can easily
add your own controls and effects on top of what is already
Of course a ton of the other stuff we've
been working on will be great for mod authors too. Our particle
engine, scripting system, dialog engine, etc. For instance,
you can easily create an entirely new weapon in just a few
minutes using only a particle system. I can't wait to see
what people come up with."
While the Unreal games have always supported
the modding community, Red Storm has always seemed to fall
into the group of game developers that were not that big on
mods. Mod tools and the knowledge to use them have historically
come more from the fan community than the company. If RSE
wants to treat their games that way, they have every right
to, of course. Some companies view modding differently--they
go out of their way to support it and to give people the ability
to modify their game. They do this because they feel it helps
sales, for the most part.
There is no doubt that the Unreal Engine
will be heavily modifiable. The question now is: Will UbiSoft
pass that along to their consumers? As a licensee of the Unreal
Engine, they will, undoubtedly, modify it to suit their own
needs. Whether or not they release the tools necessary to
modify their game further is up to them. Just because the
tools exist does not mean that they have to release them.
My gut feeling is that they will release tools. UbiSoft bought
out RSE because they had a good, profitable franchise going
with Rainbow Six. Of course Ubi will want to make money off
of it. Since they went to the extreme of licensing the Unreal
Engine, with all of its' goodies, why not release the tools?
They seem to understand that it can only increase sales.
Will the Rainbow Six community have the
same level of mod support that Unreal2 will have and that
other Unreal games have had? I hope so. All will be revealed,
Other improvements include an optional,
complicated physics engine debeloped by MathEngine
plc, AI and animation updates, improved multiplayer networking
code, a return to support for the Linux dedicated server,
easy multilayer textures, spectacular highlights for metal
textures, and support for detailed facial animations. To see
all of this, check out Epic's
Unreal Engine Page.
The Unreal Engine has quite a bit of gaming
goodness to offer Raven Shield, that much is certain. It all
comes down to what UbiSoft does with it, however. Several
of the advanced technologies available to developers for the
engine require extra licenses, so some of them may not make
it into the final product. Undoubtedly, though, the final
product will look great, even with a bare-bones Unreal Engine.
Since UbiSoft is developing this game on their own, they still
have to capture the feeling and the gameplay of the R6 series,
however. Without that, they'll never win over the fans in