Unreal Engine 4 blueprint editor

Game Dev Diary #2 – actual progress

Er… so it’s been a while since early March.

So: in that first post I largely talked about having had a solid game idea and trying to formalise it in a design document, and considering which editor project partner Ben and I were going to use to create it. The biggest step since then is that we’ve opted for the Unreal Editor over Unity, which had previously been our default choice.

There are a few reasons for this. It’s worth acknowledging that we’d probably not have even considered Unreal had it not been for the announcement, days before my last post, that Epic were making significant changes to their licensing model. Basically, it’s free to use the full-fat version of the software, and if we release a product built with it we pay 5% on gross revenue after $3,000 per quarter (should we even get that far, obviously). It’s a pretty sweet deal.

There are two other factors worth mentioning in relation to Unreal. The first is that recent versions have introduced a nodal ‘Blueprint’ system that allows the construction or modification of scripts without having to know or write any lines of code. This means that Ben, with his Comp Sci degree, can write what he needs to but also configure it such that I can easily modify variables and the like should I need to, and I can also assemble Blueprints to meet certain needs rather than butting my head against C++ (which I’ve no experience in at all, although I have basic familiarity with similar languages). It’s not simple, and I’d say that Unity still has a strong edge both in terms of overall ease of use and in terms of wealth of tutorials and training available, but it’s definitely something that a relative beginner can get to grips with.

The second is that, well, the Unreal engine is pretty famous for its use in first person shooters. Since this is what Ben and I are creating, the ‘feel’ of the Unreal engine was an attraction. Although both Unity and Unreal offer First Person Controllers out of the box, the Unity equivalent feels wooden, whereas Unreal’s has something of that slick, smooth feel that will be familiar to anyone who has played, say, an Unreal Tournament game.

And, yes, we’re creating a first person shooter. It’s to be an arena-based multiplayer FPS. The world has no shortage of these, of course, but I’m hoping that we can do justice to my concept because it does stand apart from anything else I’m aware of. I’ll reveal more of what the game actually is as development progresses.

Another feature of the Unreal engine that we thought would be attractive was its built-in source control features (SVN, git or… the other one, I forget). As it turned out the built-in source control is currently very basic and doesn’t allow for branching or anything beyond the absolute basics. We’ve ended up not using that and, after a brief sojourn with TortoiseSVN because I was already familiar with it, we’ve settled on a command line github-hosted setup that allows both of us to work together at remote locations.

So far we’re on the cusp of hitting our first major milestone, although to be honest I’d call it a minor milestone more than anything else! The features for this milestone have included a basic projectile, a basic defensive option and a basic character to wield them, a basic UI that reflected functioning variables relating to what for now I’ll refer to as ‘health’ and ‘ammo’, some basic modifications to the default physics, and a prototype level design that gives us something to work with while development continues. Level design is going to be my area and I am going to have to learn a lot in order to create something that is fun to play in.

So, that’s where we’re at! There’s just one more feature left to sort before we hit that milestone, and at some point we need to get down to the pub with a napkin and a pen and work out what our milestones are going to be moving forwards. Yep, we’re trying to do this properly, or at least as properly as you can when you’re learning most of it as you go.

Hopefully the next update will be sooner than three months, but I’m not going to force these updates: I’ll write them when I feel there’s something worth recording or sharing. Thanks for reading!

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