Planet Unreal

Interview by ‘Planetunreal’ (March 25, 2005)

Out of Hell is one of UT2004’s only horror mods, and, simply put, places the player up against lots of zombies – I’ve managed to interview the sole designer behind this mod, and even made it out alive! What’ve I learned? The only thing more abundant than zombies in this mod… is atmosphere.

PlanetUnreal: So your mod is “a horror game set in a zombie-infested town.” How have other [similar] games visibly influenced the development of this modification?

The Silent Hill series has influenced the style of Out Of Hell the most. The grisly graphics and mature themes really inspired me in terms of artistic direction and storyline. The rusted, gory and industrial style is perfect for conveying the run-down hell-hole that is Grinwood County. Other main inspirations include Splatterhouse, Resident Evil, Doom 2, and BW: Rustin Parr. All in all, I tried to implement what I thought was most effective in those games.

PlanetUnreal: Now, what about Out of Hell’s fear factor – will you be scaring the living daylights out of gamers DOOM3-style [ie: sudden attacks out of nowhere], or are you opting for a different approach?

It’s hard to explain the kind of fear present in Out Of Hell without really playing it. It’s definitely subtle, but really builds over time. The first few levels or so you’ll run through, but as you get used to it, you’ll start to know what enemies are worth fighting, what enemies you need to run from, and what enemies you would never approach with anything lesser than a shotgun.

By mid-game you may find yourself emerging from some alley only to see 17 of the ‘bad’ zombies standing right there on the street. That’s when the fear kicks in, a sort of uneasy dread. Of course Out Of Hell has it’s fair share of things popping out of windows and such, but for the most part, it’s dependant on the atmosphere and bleak situations to really freak you out.

PlanetUnreal: Over the course of the entire game, how does this affect how the gameplay plays out?

You’ll definitely become more cautious and paranoid and that’s the beauty of it. It forces you to play a certain way. Caution, avoidance and ammo conservation are the key elements to making it through. Even if you have something like the hunting shotgun at your side, if you decide to rush head first into a swarm of even 6 zombies, you’ll most likely never make it out alive (due to the slow reload times of the gun.) It’s definitely a much slower paced game, but it’s meant to be.

PlanetUnreal: I’ve been told you’re doing this entire mod by yourself… coding, modeling, skinning, animating, the works. How did you obtain such a wide range of skills?

I did attend an art school way back when, but much of what was involved in making Out Of Hell was self-taught. I scoured the net looking for tutorials and with help and direction from some members of the Unreal community, and various other artists and modders. Basically, I learned as I went along.

PlanetUnreal: How does your singular presence affect the mod’s development?

Time is the main thing. It’s been a long time since it’s inception and so much time is eaten up having to create every little thing that is required. There have been people out there who have supported this mod for a long time – and it really sucks to make them wait – but since I started this project with the mentality of learning as much as I could about the game making process, I had to take the long route. There are many downsides in going solo on something like this.

Out Of Hell wasn’t completed as fast as I would have liked, and sometimes you can get so caught up in your own style that you can’t really spot problems that a team member would pick up on. The creativity pool is definitely much smaller, so you may miss out on some great concepts and ideas.

There are some positives though, since the consistency remains the same in terms of visuals and atmosphere/mood, and I’m able to get exactly what I visualize in my head onto the screen. Also, the mod never experienced any slow periods, as I was able to keep myself motivated and put all my energy into the project.

PlanetUnreal: Will you be taking input and maybe releasing patch afterwards, if you see fit?

Hopefully there won’t be too many bugs or complaints, but I will be addressing any issues that may arise… in patch form! πŸ™‚

PlanetUnreal: Some of the greatest fun I’ve ever had was playing a great SP game online or over LAN with a friend – is there any chance of an added co-op mode?

Though Unreal Tournament is the perfect game to add some sort of MP co-op mode, I decided to have Out Of Hell remain strictly single-player. There won’t be any online capabilities in this incarnation of Out Of Hell, but I’m definitely considering it for the next one, since I’ve had a lot of fun playing co-op games as well.

PlanetUnreal: Tell us about your release plans – do you plan to do this in stages, with occasional updates, or are you waiting until it’s practically done before you release it?

It will all be released in one big package. At one point in time I did consider releasing it in chapters to cut down on the waiting time, but I was afraid that the story might suffer from being cut up into sections.

PlanetUnreal: From the environment, to the weapons, to the characters, everything that I’ve seen so far about the mod looks gorgeously horrific – are there any specific aspects of the mod that you’re especially proud of?

I’d have to say my favourite aspect of Out Of Hell is the mood and atmosphere; I did a lot of tweaking and fixing over the entire course of the project to get things looking just right. When you’re in a level that takes place at 5 AM in the morning, it will feel like 5 AM in the morning. It’s just really cool sloshing around on the wet ground in some abandoned train-yard, hiding from zombies before the sun comes out. πŸ™‚

PlanetUnreal: Any ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) for the starving fans? We’ll understand if you’re rather tight-lipped on this one. ;p

That’s still a hard one to say. It will definitely be released in 2005 – and hopefully very soon – but I can’t give a concrete date just yet.

PlanetUnreal: If you could name one thing that you’ve learned over the course of developing Out of Hell, what would it be?

If you have some sort of mod or game idea that you’re passionate about, try to see it through the end, because there’s no greater satisfaction than creating something that you’re happy with and that other people everywhere will enjoy. I’ve been discouraged in the past – it seemed so overwhelming and I didn’t know enough – but I always hung on and kept learning, since I knew I had something different and worthwhile to offer. I’ve seen so many great mods come and go, and it’s a damn shame because everyone loses out on a new gaming experience. PlanetUnreal: Are there any specific features and such that the public doesn’t know about, and you’d like to point out? Just to give us something new to drool over, ya’ know? ;D

There are a couple of really small touches to make the game more intense. If you run out of stamina while using a melee weapon, you’ll have to rest. In this state you are unarmed and completely helpless, forcing you to seek out safe places to hide – this really adds to the building tension. In addition, each time you regain stamina, you can hear yourself breathing deeply – it’s a subtle little feature that really keeps you feeling uneasy. It’s also possible to fumble shells while reloading, so you’ll never feel totally confident with any weapon when fighting a zombie.

PlanetUnreal: After Out of Hell is all said and done, where do you see yourself going?

I have a lot of ideas for new projects, so I hope I’ll have the opportunity to continue making them. I love games too much to quit. πŸ™‚

PlanetUnreal: Thank you very much for the interview! Before we leave, is there anything you’d like to say to the fans, or readers in general?

Thank you [everyone] for all of your support, and be prepared for a truly unique and frightening experience with Out Of Hell, very soon!

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