Epic Games and Midway Games hosted an event in San Francisco to give game journalists the chance to play Unreal Tournament 3 multiplayer for the first time.

The PC game was recently completed back in Cary at Epic’s headquarters. The team is now focused on readying the PlayStation 3 game, which could still ship this year. An Xbox 360 version will ship in early 2008. Midway is the publisher.

While the majority of multiplayer kiosks were PC, the PS3 game was playable as the evolution of the popular Unreal franchise that made Epic such a hit in the video game market continues. Previous versions of Unreal sold millions of copies, and the Unreal game engine has established itself as one of the most popular tools for game development in the market today.

Like Epic’s multi-million selling Gears of War PC game, the PC version of Unreal Tournament 3 will ship with the latest Unreal Engine 3 toolkit, which will enable gamers to created new game mods, as well as give aspiring game programmers the chance to become familiar with one of the most popular game technologies on the market today.

James Brown, lead level designer of Unreal Tournament 3 at Epic, talked about what fans can expect from the new multiplayer game.

Can you talk about your goals with the multiplayer in Unreal Tournament 3?

Many FPS (first person shooter) games today are slower tactical shooters, and that just isn’t Unreal. We are aiming for fast-paced combat with crazy fun weapons and new and interesting vehicle designs. Unreal Tournament is a game that you can play competitively, or just hop online and have fun with friends.

Were there different things you were looking to achieve between the PC and next gen console multiplayer games?

Aside from a few obvious control tweaks, there’s really not much difference between the various platforms. The same maps, gameplay, and goals apply. We’re proud that we didn’t have to sacrifice quality or design in order to accommodate the various platforms.

Are there features for each of the three games in multiplayer that are unique to that platform?

Console movement speed is slightly slower to accommodate the controller, and they have a special “weapon wheel” to help with the lack of a keyboard, but in terms of features or gameplay all platforms are virtually identical.

Can you talk about how the online multiplayer arena has evolved since you first released Unreal?

The online scene has definitely matured, and more obviously, grown in size. Being able to sit in your living room and play with friends on a console really changed the dynamics of gameplay, and opened the door to a whole new audience. The PC scene is more about fine tuning options and pushing the limits of competitive play, while consoles are all about accessibility. That’s a generalized statement, I know, but I think it rings true. The community as a whole is much more tight knit now as well, with the great options available through Gamespy, Xbox Live!, and Sony’s Home networks. PC players would have given anything for those types of features “back in the day”.

How challenging is it today to bring something new to multiplayer?

It’s all about balance. There’s a lot more competition out there now, so you have to find a way to stand out and innovate, while holding true to your roots and delivering the experience that people want and expect. It’s both a curse and a blessing that we have such a dedicated fan base. Even though it’s a near impossible goal, we want to bring new people in and still deliver a product that everyone familiar with the franchise will be happy with.

What games have influenced what you’re doing with multiplayer?

What hasn’t? Everyone here plays games, lots and lots of games. We’re pretty dedicated to playing everything we can and learning from each and every title, regardless of platform. We have long discussions about games over lunch, on the mailing lists, during our own design meetings, and even while we’re just hanging out having fun actually playing games in the evenings.

What really stands out for you as something you’re proud with for this game’s multiplayer?

Balance. With such a huge breadth of weapons, vehicles, environments, characters, and options, it’s easy to get buried or lost in minutia. But we really made an effort to make sure that everything is balanced, fun, and accessible. There’s enough depth there that the hardcore players will find new things for months to come, with a solid enough base that even a new player can jump in and have fun the first time they join a server.