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GibWorld Interviews!
Tomasz 'Millennium' Jachimczak - Man1c M0g
The gaming world hasn't quite been the same since the advent of the Unreal engine!  With its excellent graphics, superb tools, and superior flexibility, its been used in many action and adventure games, and continues to be licensed for other high-profile projects like 'Duke Nukem Forever' and 'Deus Ex'.  Zentao Interactive, however, aim to be a little different and intend to create Extreme Wing Chun VR, a martial arts trainer that will be educational whilst still loads of fun!  Exact details of the project, however, are scarce, so we caught up with Tomasz 'Millennium' Jachimczak, the project's lead level designer, and gave him a bit of a grilling:


[GW] If its possible, can you sum up Extreme Wing Chun VR in a paragraph?

[Millennium] The scope of what we're accomplishing with Extreme Wing Chun is grand, and it's hard to sum it up in just a paragraph or so, but here goes:
     First off, it's a unique application and none of this has been done before on any scale. In the most basic sense, it's an "Encarta" encyclopedia style home study course, that teaches you Kung Fu, with 3D support by way of the Unreal Tournament Engine. Basically we're creating and combining a really super martial arts course and research engine (covering a really effective style of Kung Fu) with the coolest photo realistic environments and 3D animation yet. It's all designed as a sort of interactive "self-trainer" that can easily guide a complete martial arts virgin to a level where they can perform and train using any of the actions in the martial art. Of course the advanced martial artists benefit from the easiness of being able to do research, they can round out their knowledge, and watch a master of the art performing all of the movements in 3D, with as much detail as they like from any angle they wish at any speed.


[GW] What do you think differentiates Extreme Wing Chun VR from all the other projects out there?

[Millennium] EWC is totally unique, period. It doesn't rely on gore or violence, or multiplayer gaming, or any gaming experience at all. The simplicity of a program like this one is long overdue, and could change how people view martial arts and the possibilities those skills bring when it comes to their health and self confidence. Being able to learn martial arts from the comfort of your home/office just had to be done. The fact that we're using gaming technology to bring it all together just makes it so much better. This project is years (literally) ahead of any competing product. We've assembled a mind blowing team consisting of rock solid business management, awesome programmers, and a level design team other companies can only dream of. Don't take my word for it though, grab yourself a copy once we hit the shelves and you won't be disappointed mate. =)


[GW] How did you become involved in the project? Why did you choose to work on it rather than any of the other mods on the web?

[Millennium] I have worked on quite a few mods and conversions for the Unreal engine, dating back to a few old school mods like Minions of Evil, to a few (then) secret mods like Kiss Psycho Circus. I've done a fair bit of mapping myself (Decadence is still a hot download on Planet Unreal). Then there's www.unrealed.net, which is a real help to the community, and I'm very proud of that.
     I chose this project because it's a ground breaker.. an earth shaker compared to any of the other "games" in development right now. The mod scene will always be fun, but every mod for Unreal/UT has a "shoot to kill" theme, or centers around a form of running/flying/bouncing about and bashing the other players. In a round-about way, this project goes right against that
grain, runs circles around them, and is about something completely new, rather then trying to modify a game, and add a new look to it.


[GW] Do you practice Wing Chun yourself? If so, what move are you most eager to see in the finished version of the game?

[Millennium] No, actually I don't practice Wing Chun, although I have about seven years of martial arts experience under my belt. As for which part I am most eager to see? I want to see the sum equal it's parts! I want to start training myself using it! We've been doing some amazing work, and I'm anxious to see them all gel together and merge into a final mesh.


[GW] Software like this has never been attempted before using an FPS engine - has Zen Tao had much difficulty modifying the engine to behave properly?

[Millennium] The engine is great, and so flexible. Our coder Neil is a natural genius and he's a tireless coder. I'm not at liberty to discuss specifics, but I can say that our choice in using the Unreal Tournament engine is one we're very proud of, and there haven't been any major hitches or problems.


[GW] For this project you will obviously have to license the Unreal Tournament engine - how have you overcome the cost of this mammoth purchase, and how supportive have Epic been during the entire developmental process?

[Millennium] It's very uncommon for developers to license engine technology themselves. It's really in the domain of publisher investment, otherwise most developers would publish themselves and do away with the publisher altogether. As far as support is concerned, it's very well known that Epic continues to be extremely supportive of anyone working with their technology, from community level designers, to full blown mod teams. They're always willing to help and that's the Epic way.


[GW] Moving onto map design now, what do you like/dislike in a level, and how do you help yourself concentrate during the long map development cycles?

[Millennium] For a multiplayer game, I really appreciate realism.. even if it's a futuristic base, or space installation. There isn't anything that shouldn't be done with realistic levels of detail. Grandeur in a level, making the player feel very small and unimportant compared to the rest of the world, is something I really like. I dislike maps that fall short of an author's potential or original goals at the outset. There are tons of maps where a design has been started for a few areas, then it seems that the rest of the level has been rushed into a haphazard conglomerate of rooms.
     Concentration and focus is indeed hard during long cycles, but if an idea is working well, it's normally easy enough to get "lost" in the work, and simply lose track of time. If something isn't working out, then we have to look at what's being done from a new angle. The idea is to be in "the groove" and generally take a step back and see where the design is falling short of its mark.


[GW] What's it like using UnrealEd to design and texture realistic environments completely from scratch? How much harder is it to design a level that has no prerequisites from the original game? (weapons, items, etc)

[Millennium] UnrealEd is a great tool, regardless of it's rough spots. it's is easy to use, and comes with some great tricks. In a way, there's a duality to creation without any existing media.. it makes it harder in the sense that everything has to be more perfect and with reason and purpose.. yet it's easier because nothing is carved in stone.


[GW] What kind of levels will you be including in Extreme Wing Chun VR? Are you sticking with authentic recreations of actual buildings or using a little creative license to produce 'fantasy' levels?  Can you give any examples?

[Millennium] EWC will have over 50 environments! There will be realistic recreations, sure.. and with the team we have here, it would be insane not to make use of the creative talent. There will be some pretty fantastic environments. The idea is for the environments to motivate the learning process.. Just wait and see ;)


[GW] Of all the maps that you have designed (or helped design) for Extreme Wing Chun VR, which is your favorite and why?

[Millennium] At the moment it would have to the Japanese styled palace I'm working on, which is almost completed. It's very classy, and gives that feeling of grandeur I was talking about before.


[GW] Although Extreme Wing Chun VR is mainly pitched as a simulator, what steps have you taken to ensure its popularity with the mainstream gamer?

[Millennium] We never ever pitched it as a simulator, because it's not, and was never intended to be. Gamers seem to want to wear rose colored glasses when it comes to EWC.. and that's ok I guess. Sure, we've got features that will really appeal to gamers, hell the eye candy alone makes it a must for their collection. We've got scripted sequences where the moves are applied, and flythroughs for most of the environments. You could spend weeks with this thing and never be bored. It's not aimed directly at gamers however. Our market extends WAY beyond that. Again, I'm under NDA so I'll leave it at that (we don't want others going after our markets)..!


[GW] How far are you from completion of the project?  When can we expect to see it in the stores?

[Millennium] Our goal for completion is mid 2000, but the rule of thumb is "when it's done". It's all publisher dependant, so it could very well be in stores as early as then, or closer to the holiday season. Watch for it..! =)

 

It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious

So you've opted to be a beta tester and get games ahead of all your friends, but is it all that is cracked up to be? In this article we discuss the job itself, and the work it entails.

So you've opted to be a beta tester and get games ahead of all your friends, but is it all that is cracked up to be? In this article we discuss the job itself, and the work it entails.

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