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    Interview with Erik de Neve


    Toxin is on a roll! This time, he has interview Erik de Neve, a water/fire special effects programmer at Epic Games

    Gamesurge: Is Epic considering a patch for UT to take advantage for hardware T&L?

    Erik de Neve: Probably not in the near future.

    Gamesurge: Are there any plans to make map packs/ weapon packs for Unreal Tournament?

    Erik de Neve: Weapon packs are being made by the UT community, and I've heard of some being ported from Unreal mods to UT mods, which I'm looking forward to.

    Gamesurge: In the multiplayer aspect of Unreal tournament, will both mac users be able to be in the same server as PC users?

    Erik de Neve: Yes, the Mac version is network compatible with the PC version.

    Gamesurge: How did you join Epic?

    Erik de Neve: I started coding fire texture effects back in 1993, basically before anyone at Epic/DE started on Unreal :-). I sent Epic a fire demo program in January of 1995, and the guys thought it might be cool to integrate it with their 3d game.

    Gamesurge: Their 3d Game? What game would that be?

    Erik de Neve: I don't think the guys had settled on the name 'Unreal' yet at the time :-)

    Gamesurge: :)
    Gamesurge: Ok, did you work on any other major games or anything of the sort before you joined Epic for Unreal?

    Erik de Neve: Epic was my first serious programming work, but I had sold games to magazines before, and the fire program (DOS) was published by SoftDisk, the same company that started the careers of many id programmers.

    Gamesurge: Ok, well now that UT has finally shipped off what do you plan on doing for the next few months?

    Erik de Neve: I'm working on graphics technology but I'll return to Holland for the Christmas holidays and New Year's :-) Gamesurge: What kind of technology are you working on at the moment?

    Erik de Neve: That's all confidential :)

    Gamesurge: Well, I heard that Unreal 2 was to be developed by Legend (WoT guys) will any Epic staff help them, or will this be their own project?

    Erik de Neve: It's mainly being developed by Legend, yes some of the WOT team will work on U2. Epic helps with technical and some design assistance.

    Gamesurge: What was the hardest part of making fire and water effects?

    Erik de Neve: The hardest part was making them work FAST on my 486 computer ( I didn't have a faster system back then )

    Gamesurge: Wow, so you were working on such a system munching game as Unreal (or was this UT?) and you had to make it go FAST on 486. Must've been tough. How long did it take you?

    Erik de Neve: Well I never actually ran Unreal on that 486, but I was able to lift out code segments and optimize them inside small win95 programs. I wrote to test the code :-)

    Gamesurge: How long did it take you to make the general water/fire effects?

    Erik de Neve: The water and fire effects were finalized in a couple of months after I joined the Unreal team in Waterloo, Canada in August of 1997. I worked the rest of time until Unreal went gold on optimizing the software renderer, repalletizing textures, helping out with other optimizations and all sorts of small tasks.

    Gamesurge: If it took one person to make just water/fire how many people did it take to make the entire game engine?

    Erik de Neve: I'd say the engine including the gameplay and physics is the brainchild of both Tim Sweeney and Steven Polge.

    Gamesurge: So it was them two making the engine and you making the water/fire effects? did anyone else help out with anything else?

    Erik de Neve: Other programmers on the original Unreal team include Carlo Vogelsang, creator of the Galaxy sound library which we still use in UT, and also James Schmalz and Nick Michon for script code.

    Gamesurge: What started your career as a water/fire effects guy? Didn't you first think you would like to be a programmer or level designer of sorts?

    Erik de Neve: I just liked to hack around with graphics and the 2D fire effects were initially just a nice exercise in optimizing assembly code. I never thought they'd become fast enough to use inside a 3d game, but Tim convinced me that computers would soon become fast enough to do that :)

    Gamesurge: What programming language do you do most of your programming in (side note - i heard parts of UT was done in Visual Basic :)

    Erik de Neve: Nowadays it's almost all C++ and a little bit of inline assembler, but I used to program in MASM a lot, and TASM with Borland Pascal before that; also, I've written programs in Basic and even Fortran :-) The Unreal Editor's main framework was set up in Visual Basic.

    Gamesurge: What steps do you take in making the fire? Can you explain a little bit how to do that?

    Erik de Neve: Fire effects work because they mimick nature - imagine each pixel in a texture has a certain temperature, which influences neighboring pixels. When you assign a brightness to the temperature, it automatically looks like fire if you start with the right kind of random pixels. In other words, think of it as a really fast repeated blurring algorithm like you'd use in Photoshop or similar programs.

    Gamesurge: What about rockets exploding? Was that your work as well?

    Erik de Neve: Almost all explosions are sequences of pre-rendered animations; those are the work of the texture artists.

    Gamesurge: Do you have a favorite weapon and map?

    Erik de Neve: Yesm my favorite weapon is the sniper rifle;-) One of my favorite maps is DM-Phobos. I've seen all the maps, but I honestly haven't played enough games in each of the maps to know which one plays best - I leave that to the l33t deathmatchers here in the office :-)

    Gamesurge: What is your favorite band?

    Erik de Neve: At the moment I'm listening to a lot of Radiohead :-)

    Gamesurge: What about food?

    Erik de Neve: I've been living on way too many turkey subs lately :-) There's this bread place we have been going to a lot lately. And I also really like the Thai food here.

    Gamesurge: What do you do in your free time? More programming ? Family? Um... hanging out? :)

    Erik de Neve: Lately whenever I have time I like to read, catch up on a lot of cool books. Right now I'm reading "A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving, though I tend to read science fiction and technical books more.

    Gamesurge: Whats your fav. author?

    Erik de Neve: Hmm, several... - Douglas Coupland, Stephen Fry, Samuel Delany, Jack Vance, those are definitely in my top 10.

    Gamesurge: My fav. author is J.R.R. Tolkein, have you read any of his books?

    Erik de Neve: No, but I like good fantasy so I'd probably like Tolkien.

    Gamesurge: You gotta read it. amazing stories. If you have time over Thanksgiving, trust me Tolkien is the best to read :)

    Erik de Neve: I'll keep that in mind :-)

    Gamesurge: Well, thanks for participating in this interview and I wish you the best of luck on this and any other projects that you are working on.

    Erik de Neve: Sure! Thank you.

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