Raven Software sharpens the heroâ??s claws with Unreal Engine 3

Epic Diaries: Wolverine

Activision’s Raven Software recently shipped X-Men Origins: Wolverine for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in tandem with the 20th Century Fox film starring Hugh Jackman. It’s the first Unreal Engine 3-powered game from the studio, although Singularity is coming out, also from Activision, later this year.

“We had struggled to make Marvel Ultimate Alliance next-gen, and then we saw Singularity and we were like, ‘Holy crap, that’s the type of tech we want to use,’” says Dan Vondrak, project lead on X-Men Origins: Wolverine at Raven Software.

The new game puts players in control of one of Marvel’s most popular characters, Wolverine, and offers an array of abilities and attacks ripped straight from the comics.

Vondrak said that during production, UE3 allowed the artists to jump ahead of the rest of the team. They were able to create huge jungles with sun rays coming through, leaves floating on the wind, and water puddles.

“Working with Unreal allowed us to add depth to the game. That’s why we were able to create a Wolverine model with three layers of regeneration. We have the skeleton; the muscle and skin; plus the clothing on top of that. That’s all made possible using Unreal’s materials and shaders. It’s really powerful when we coupled it with our smart tech guys who put everything together to make it work.”

Vondrak said the designers utilised Unreal Matinee to create the bigger moments from the game, some of which were original and others were expanded from the movie.

Matinee allowed the team to create action sequences featuring moving trucks and flying helicopters. While the final animations were done by animators, Unreal aided them in getting everything just right – like Wolverine’s perfect landing atop a whirring helicopter in mid-air.

“The Kismet tech is really powerful,” added Vondrak. “When you look at what Epic has been able to do with this technology with the Gears of War games and then look at Wolverine, you can see the type of meaty combat that translates across genres.

“Kismet allowed us to throw all of these huge sequences into our game, which gives players a very cinematic experience. All of these set pieces – like when Wolverine is in the air skydiving from helicopter to helicopter – were created by our designers using Kismet.”

One example of Matinee, Kismet and AI all working in tandem can be seen in the epic battle between Wolverine and the 100-foot-tall Sentinel robot.

Players will pit the tiny, but powerful, Wolverine against this monster in a three-pronged battle that starts on the ground and then takes to the air.

Vondrak said that all of the sequences, including what would have been cut scenes, were made playable thanks to Unreal.

“Unreal Engine 3 was just fantastic to work with,” said Doug Smith, senior technical artist on Wolverine at Raven. “One of the challenges with Wolverine is that we wanted to make a game that’s true to Wolverine without spending a ton of time building up our tech. The Unreal Engine was a great stepping stone to make that happen quickly,” Smith remarked.

“It was a great way to actually give something to artists and designers that was mature and fully flushed out. We knew we could make a good-looking game if we worked it right, and I loved working with Unreal.”

Thanks to Raven Software for speaking with freelance reporter John Gaudiosi for this story, which will be posted in full at www.unrealtechnology.com.

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