Sin E3 Preview - A Sneak Peek at Ritual's Mad Creation...

Sin. The hype began soon after Ritual released its mission pack for Quake I, and a steady diet of screenshots and tidbits have kept gamers' psyched about this game ever since. There's no doubt that Ritual has some talent on their hands -- names like "The Levelord" come to mind -- but they're facing the same dilemma as every other first-person game hitting the shelves in the next 12 months: How do you get your game noticed in an oversaturated market?

I spoke with Charlie Wiederhold, one of Ritual's level designers, about just that problem. These guys don't seem worried.

Ritualistic (Actually, it's just me, Fargo): Hey there.

Charlie Wiederhold: Hey!

Ritualistic: Now Sin will be using the Quake II engine, correct?

Charlie Wiederhold: That's right.

Ritualistic: And what all have you done with it? I understand you guys have been tearing this thing apart.

Charlie Wiederhold: We have 16-bit art, of course, which makes the visuals a thousand times better. We've also added a scripting language, which makes the functionality of the engine incredible. There's pretty much nothing you can't do with the game, now. Things move and function the way you think they will, they'll break, and it's totally functional. [I got to see this in action myself -- One could rush into an office, shatter the windows, destroy the potted plants, and make mince-meat of the desks and chairs. Not much debris was left after destroying an item, though. -Fargo]

Ritualistic: Let's talk a little about the scripting language. How is it coded? Within the map itself?

Charlie Wiederhold: No, actually, the scripting is saved as a separate text file. So what happens with the level editors is we can create an object, and we can have Sin running and this text file open at the same time. And we can modify the text file -- save the script -- and reload the map and it'll have our changes.

Ritualistic: Without having to recompile and re-vis the map and such?

Charlie Wiederhold: Yeah.

Ritualistic: And different objects in the map can point to different scripts?

Charlie Wiederhold: Yes.

Ritualistic: What else is different here? What are people going to notice about Sin to make it stand out?

Charlie Wiederhold: Well, people will notice the 16-bit art, definately. Also, the AI is totally revamped. It's a simple but much more logical path ... you have to train the characters what to do, where to go ... and they'll know how to go everywhere. And through the scripts we can tell them what we want them to do.

Ritualistic: So enemy AI is in the same scripting language as well? Just like all the other items in the game?

Charlie Wiederhold: Yeah.

Ritualistic: What can people expect from single-player here that they won't find in other games?

Charlie Wiederhold: Mainly, the actual focus of this game is totally on single player. Multiplayer is obviously hard core, and it's there, but the whole game we're focusing on is single player. The whole story is driven by everything you do, there's nothing you do that doesn't revolve around the story and the progression of the game.

Ritualistic: I understand things you do in earlier levels will affect later levels throughout the game?

Charlie Wiederhold: Yeah. "ABO" is what we call it -- "Action Based Outcomes." It's totally flexible, we can do anything. You'll blow up a dam, and later on a whole area might be flooded elsewhere. All kinds of stuff.

Ritualistic: Let's move on to multiplayer. What's going to make it stand out here? There's a lot of competition in this genre over the next few months!

Charlie Wiederhold: Probably the visuals will help it stick out. We're just going for total, hardcore multiplayer. It's got the killer weapons -- they're a total blast -- damage skins are in -- but aside from that, deathmatch is deathmatch....

Ritualistic: Just putting the right elements together and letting the game speak for itself... How about expandibility? Since you're using the Quake II engine, I'm assuming people can code their own DLLs, just go crazy ...

Charlie Wiederhold: Yeah, people can use their own DLLs. And the scripting -- the scripting is really easy. You just sit down and you can treat it like a programming language or as a very simple basic tool, but it's totally expandible. Even more than Quake II.

Ritualistic: That will be documented? People will be able to start doing things right away?

Charlie Wiederhold: Yeah. [Laughs] And I gotta document it. That's my job.

Ritualistic: Any word on the release date?

Charlie Wiederhold: We're still looking at Summer of 98.

Ritualistic: Very soon, then?

Charlie Wiederhold: Oh yeah. Everything is there ... We just gotta make it a game, now.

Ritualistic: Any expansion packs in the works? What have you got going in the future? Is anyone licensing your technology from you?

Charlie Wiederhold: Nobody's licensed our version of the engine. As far as expansion packs, yeah, there is one planned. And ... we've got some other cool stuff planned but I don't think I can talk about that now.

Ritualistic: Not even to me?

Charlie Wiederhold: Nope.

Damn.

Anyways, after speaking with Charlie (thanks, Chuck!), I peered over the shoulder of OneThumb and watched Sin in action. The graphics are far crisper than Quake II, and I saw an open area or two that ran without noticeable lag (large areas are fun because of the cool sniper rifle you'll get.)

It's clear from talking with the developers and watching the game that the scripting language is going to be the Highlight of Sin. The opening level, your character's headquarters, was a superb example of what's possible: One could walk around and interact with the computers, whose display would change as you played with them. In one area, a high-score display was available for the sniper range. You could walk out into the sniper range, a series of targets would randomly pop out, and it would keep track of your score. When you finished, if you had the high score, the computer monitor would display it alongside the other names.

Florescent lights around the base would randomly flicker and turn off in a shower of sparks. Then, a maintenence droid would roll out of a compartment in the wall, ramble over to the broken light, replace it, and stroll back to its home... it knew the best routes to all the lights.

With that kind of level interaction displayed just for kicks in the opening level of the game, I can only imagine the cool stuff people will find in single-player mode. The big question with Sin is whether or not a strong single-player game is enough to make it worthwhile; it's clear that most of their gameplay innovations don't revolve around Deathmatch.

Speaking of innovations, next up is Heretic II, from Raven software. They've converted the Quake II engine into a third-person game, ala Tomb Raider. Click on to see what they're bringing to the table...

Next: Heretic II E3 Preview, on HexenWorld.

For more information on Sin, stay tuned to Ritualistic, your headquarters for Ritual news. You might also want to check out:

- Ritual Entertainment's Sin page
- Activision's Sin page
- Millennium's E3 preview

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