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Fear The Reaper
An Interview with Steven Polge
by Fragmaster, New Vore Times
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If you've played Quake, you've probably spent a few nights fragging away at some Reaper Bots (And if you don't have it yet, you can grab it here). Well the proud poppa of these, the AI (Artificial Intelligence) Demi-God, the man known to his friends only as "That Smart guy with the cool last name", the man who is known to get into accidents by riding a bike, the guy... who.. used to work at IBM... Man, that's a big run-on sentence... Anyhow, the guy who does all that stuff is Steven Polge. Who, if you didn't already know, is now hard at work on Epic Megagame's Unreal. Here we go...
Steven Polge Interview
FM  (Fragmaster: The Living Stewpot): Hey Steve…how ya doin'?
SP: (Could it be... Steven Polge?): I was doing great before I did my taxes. :-) Seriously, I'm really enjoying working with the other Unreal developers - I've never had this much fun.
FM: So why don't you tell everybody who's never heard of you who you are and what you do.
SP: I'm now working for Epic, doing the AI for their upcoming game Unreal. Before that, I wrote the Reaper Bot QuakeC mod for Quake.
FM: How did you come up with the idea for the ReaperBot?
SP: When I first heard of QuakeC, I knew that I wanted to write a bot, because I've always been disappointed in the AI in games. My original goals were to design a bot that could provide a reasonable simulation of deathmatch for a single player, and to be able to increase the apparent number of players in a small network game.
FM: Was it hard to design\program? Are you happy with the way it turned out?
SP: The actual code wasn't very complex, once I knew what I wanted to implement. The design was challenging at times, but in a very stimulating way. I had to imagine all the potential scenarios I would have to handle, and make sure my design would support them. The Reaper Bot mod is unfortunately a far from finished product (you'll have to wait for Unreal to see my "finished" bots). There are a lot of missing or broken pieces, and a lot of details that weren't implemented or tuned. The code itself is somewhat embarrassing, since a lot of it is hacked and needs to be cleaned up/redone There's a lot more I'd like to have done.
FM: The ReaperBot is still the most popular bot out there. Do you still get a lot of email about it?
SP: Yes I do (thanks, but please stop - I need to focus on making Unreal).
FM: What is something that you think most people miss when they play the ReaperBot? (Mannerism, feature, etc.)
SP: I don't know, but my favorite thing is when they panic and run away from you.
FM: Do you actually fight Reaper Bots?
SP: I used to when I was developing them. Since then, I haven't much because I'm always frustrated by their flaws (which I don't have time to fix). My Quake ability has suffered as a result (as well as the fact that I haven't had much time to play Internet quake since I started to work on Unreal). I used to be able to beat Skill 3 bots, but now Skill 2 bots are pretty durn challenging.
FM: Is there anything you wish you could of implemented into the ReaperBot before you got a job?
SP: I had a list of about 160 items to put into the reaper bots before version 1.0. Probably the most important one would have been CTF support. I also needed to tune a lot of things that were already implemented, like their aiming error at lower skill levels.
FM: How did you get your job at Epic? How did the hiring go? Did they email you or something saying "Hey, the ReaperBot Rules…wanna get a job?" or something like that?
SP: That is pretty much what happened. I got an e-mail from Mark Rein, and it went from there...
FM: What do you think of Unreal?
SP: I had been working at IBM for 7 1/2 years before Epic hired me, with a pretty high paying job in the Networking Division. I also had an opportunity to participate in a start up doing network consulting for the banking industry, which would have been very lucrative. Needless to say, I wouldn't have gone to work for Epic on Unreal if I didn't think it had a *lot* of potential. Everyone on the Unreal development team is very talented, and I am amazed by some of the things we are doing.
FM: Is UnrealScript that much different to QuakeC? How does it compare?
SP: UnrealScript is an object oriented language and much more full featured than QuakeC. It should be much easier to combine multiple mods using UnrealScript, and because of the design, it should have a much lower CPU impact than QuakeC.
FM: How will the Monster AI be different in Unreal?
SP: The AI will be much more sophisticated than the reaper bot AI. However, we will provide a wide range of skill levels, so beginners can still enjoy it. By having more sophisticated AI, we can make interaction with other creatures much more realistic and entertaining, and actually incorporate it into the level puzzles. Also, this means that you don't have to make a creature able to withstand 100 rocket hits to make it tough.
FM: Can you give like an example how the Monster AI in Unreal will work? Say I walk into this room with a big gun against two wimpy monsters and this really tough monster. What will happen?
SP: It depends on whether the creatures are coordinating together, or acting as individuals. Other factors, like the aggressiveness of the creatures and their current health also have an impact. Most likely, if they were acting individually and the little guys weren't very aggressive, they would run like hell. Of course, once the big guy beats you up, they might come back to help finish you off.

(Cooooooolllll.... -Frags)

FM: Is it true that the box to Unreal will have sideburns and coupon for a free loaf of Wonder Bread?
SP: Our agreements with Interstate Brands Corp. (makers of Wonder Bread TM) and Proctor and Gamble, Inc. are still confidential at this point.

(Dammit.... I'll bet they'll go with some cheap bread instead ;) -Frags)

FM: What things will Unreal have that Quake doesn't?
SP: Wonder Bread coupons! (whoops - that's confidential)

Umm...24 bit color, colored lighting with MMX, other new special effects, higher polygon monsters, more animation frames, more textures, more sophisticated AI, a more integrated storyline, and lots of other stuff I can't think of now...

FM: What's your favorite part of Unreal? (So far)
SP: The AI :-). Seriously, that is a hard question to answer. There are a lot of cool pieces, but what makes it great is how they work together.
FM: You used to work designing router software and protocols? Did this help you design the Reaper Bot?
SP: The way that I update navigation information is very similar to routing protocols.
FM: What other games do you like?
SP: Doom and Quake have been my favorite games for the last 3 years. I also like Civilization, although it takes too long to play. I haven't played any of the real-time strategy games like C&C, because I'm afraid I'd get hooked.
FM: What websites do you follow? What T.V. shows do you watch?
SP: I check a lot of gaming sites periodically, but the two I follow most regularly are Blue's for Quake news, and Shadows for Unreal news. Of course, <brownnose> I read the New Vore Times every day. I don't watch much TV, but I guess I like the X-Files and Millenium, maybe Friends .
FM: Have you ever fallen off an object over twenty feet tall?
SP: No, but I got hit by a car while cycling once.
FM: Got anything else ta say before we get to "complete the sentence"?
SP: Please...not this..noooo!!!

(Hehehe... I must be getting a rep ;) -Frags)

FM: "Designing the ReaperBot was….
SP: of the smartest things I ever did, since I now have a job which involves doing something I would do even if I didn't have to work.
FM: "Unreal will….
SP: a really fun game.
FM: "The thing that will surprise people the most about Unreal will be….
SP: incredibly good it looks.
FM: "Epic Megagames is….
SP: ...a cool company to work for.
FM: "Pork chops and applesauce…...
SP: ...are two things I never eat.
FM: "People are gonna puke with amazement when they see Unreal's……
SP: ...AI :-).
FM: "If I was President of the United States…of Arab Emigrates… the > > first thing I would do would be…..
SP: ...abolish income taxes, and use consumption taxes to generate revenue.

(Hmmm.... Is it me or does it seem like he's thought of this before? :) -Frags)

FM: "I really hate….
SP: ...doing my income taxes.
FM: "My last name is cool because…..
SP: ...hardly anyone else has it.
FM: "My favorite dream is the one where I....
SP: ...*censored*
FM: "This interview was…..
SP: ...good until we got to "complete the sentence" :-)...

.. Hmm... well toss that idea for an all "complete the sentence" interview :) Big thanks to Steve for doing this Interview and for creating the Reaper Bot, hot dammit. Are the current standards for Artificial Intelligence in games about to be shattered with the release of Unreal? It's a strong possibility... Think of how smart the Reaper bot is... and that wasn't even finished! Unreal has a good chance of giving Quake a run for its money. Are the days of id dominance over? I'll guess we'll just have to wait and see :)

Fragmaster - The New Vore Times

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