Completely Machinima History with Ben Grussi – Unreal Engine

Tracy Harwood Podcast Episodes August 17, 2022 Leave a reply

In this episode, Ben goes back to the archives and digs out the earliest days of Unreal…. Long before the launch of Unreal Engine, the first machinima productions were made in Unreal 1 as early as 1998.  Ben then traces the lack lustre performance of Unreal machinima as a genre until such time as the Make Something Unreal Contest was launched in 2003 – then BANG!!!



YouTube Version of this Episode

Show Notes and Links

Unreal 1 Released – 22 May 1998

The Unreal engine added some interesting shorts to the Machinima community portfolio of things created under the engine. Unfortunately, things really did not go very well, the game’s AI and scripting systems caused some unexpected problems for machinima productions. Chief among them, the game struggled to reproduce a recorded scene since the AI would sometimes react differently and cause the movie to breakdown and crash the game or the movie would not play correctly – none of which was the fault of the film creator.

Machinima unfortunately didn’t make a big mark on this game, even with the release of the Unreal Movie Studio suite from UnFramed Productions.  However, it was partly responsible for the creation of Unframed Productions after co-founder James ‘eVOLVE’ Hammer-Morton (years later, a professional voice actor) worked on Unreal films under the banner of Team Evolve. James teamed up with co-founder Hugh McDonald (Solo) to create UnFramed Productions which tried to salvage the Unreal machinima movement with Arcadia.  The project was shelved, however, due to lack of staff.

Unreal Tournament 1 – 23 May 1999

Unreal Tournament was developed as a multiplayer heavy focused game, as was Quake 3 Arena. The game was very popular due to its highly fresh and fun gameplay but machinima development really didn’t happen with any great speed. In fact not many films were produced until a free movie-making tool developed by Internet Team Reactor4 came along, dubbed Real-Time Movie Studio or RTMS for short.  RTMS enabled players to have better control in producing movies that were mostly geared to the action genre (why not, its action game isn’t it 😉 ).  Unfortunately, there are no notable movies attached to this engine but there is one movie still under development which could change that.

Unreal Tournament 2003/2004 

Date: 22 September 2003

Date: 16 March 2004

Unreal Tournament 2003 comes prepared for machinima enthusiasts, being prepacked with a new cut-scene producer and editor dubbed Matinee.  Not much was produced with this new tool.  Eric ‘Starfury’ Baktius was the first machinima film maker (outside of Epic Games) with his test film called Sucker.  In a effort to stimulate the creation of new content using these tools, Unreal Tournament’s developer Epic Games launched a huge contest – the Make Something Unreal Contest aka MSUC -which was intended to promote development of user made content ranging from new models and levels to new gameplay genres. Epic also included a category for machinima productions under the title of Non-interactive Movie in the later years. The contest was originally launched for the 2003 edition of the game, since later years required mods/movies to be made in UT2004. 

Friedrich Kirshner’s aka Feizi’s The Tournament, a runner-up in the contest, was also featured at the 2nd Annual Machinima Film Festival. UnFramed Productions created Lucky Man was also a runner-up.  Other films that won were from previously unheard of creators such as EG_Intro from Hongman Leung and The Showdown by Accelerated Pictures.

screencap: The Journey

Key dates and Events

5 March 2000 

Unreal Movie Studio also known as UMS is released by UnFramed Productions

20 July 2001 

It is discovered that Steven Spielberg has used Unreal Tournament (Epic Games) for the set design of his movie AI (Artificial Intelligence)

20 July 2001

Epic releases details about its new Machinima tool for the upcoming Unreal Engine games called Matinee

7 October 2002 

Starfury makes the First Unreal Tournament 2003 movie with Matinee called Sucker

3 February 2003

Unreal II: The Awakening released 

4 March 2003

Ken ‘3dfilmmaker’ Thain reports that Epic is planning a contest that will include slots for machinima productions made in Unreal Tournament 2003

7 July 2003 

Epic and NVIDA formally announce the $1,000,000 Make it Unreal Competition.  One of the categories is Best Non-Interactive Movie with $50,000 prize for the winner. The Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences also co-coordinated the machinima portion of the contest

Make Something Unreal Contest 2004

16 October 2003

Epic Games releases a FREE version of it’s Unreal Engine for use with education ional and/or non-commercial projects – a massive opportunity for machinima creators and others

Blade Runner and Gate to Mordor Clip

https://archive.org/details/br_game_trailerhttps://archive.org/details/Gate_To_Mordor

4 May 2004

Winners of the Phase 2 – Real Time Movie- Category of the ‘Make Something Unreal Contest’ were announced

  • 1st Place – Infection
  • 2nd Place – EG_Intro Movie
  • 3rd Place – The Showdown
  • 4th Place – Unreal Films: Eternal Combat

Runners Up

  • WrongGame Matinee
  • Hollow Moon
  • The Tournament [Version 2]
  • LuckyMan
  • FlaTClaN_TheMovie

4 July 2004

The GameOn Video project is seeking Unreal 2004 Level Editors for a Machinima project to be nationally distributed by Volvo (The Automaker) https://archive.org/details/Game_On_Short_Film

14 September 2004 

Atari and Epic Games’s Make Something Unreal Contest Phase 4 Submission window closes – it received the biggest Machinima submission to date with 14 entries!

14 October 2004 

Epic Games released the $1,000,000 Make Something Unreal Contest

Phase 4 finalists

Real-Time Non-Interactive Movie Finalists:

Real-Time Non-Interactive Movie Honorable Mentions:

  • Robin Hood & The Kings Ransom (single Player Mod)
  • Neosaka: The Forgotten (?)
  • The Bank Job
  • The Unreality HAS YOU!!
  • Lawdogs (Multiplayer/SP? Mod)
  • Testimony of a Paraqeet
  • Intelligent Life
  • Blade Runner – https://archive.org/details/br_game_trailer
  • Piddly’s Chance (Single Player Mod)
  • Antechamber
  • Hollow Moon (Single Player/MP?) Mod

24 January 2005

Epic Games announced the winners of the Grand Finals of the Make Something Unreal Contest (MSUC) for the Non-Interactive Movie Category

Screencap: Sparked Memory

1 February 2005

A short tidbit from HomeLAN Fed’s interview with the Unreal developers on the Make Something Unreal contest: “HomeLAN: on another subject, why was Journey picked as the Best Movie award winner?  Steve Polge: Journey was unique and well done. It had a thoughtful story line, and unique art. It certainly didn’t look like it was running on the Unreal Engine.”


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