Space Prison Testboard

The blank piece of paper can be daunting, and needs to be combated. Since I’ve been working in Unreal I’ve had this idea for a flying prison, suspended above a city. It floats above the city to remind the citizens what they stand to lose if they become criminals. It acts as a daily reminder to prisoners of what they’ve lost.

As a level I think will be really cool. That said, without the rigid structure of a tutorial, finding a place to start can be tricky.

My approach was to create a testboard, a large flat level where I could play with different ideas without worrying about precisely measuring sizes, dimensions and pacing. Just a place to see what was fun, what was cool and what I could think about including in the final design.

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Drawing A Line Under the Top Down

It feels like I have been working on this for months, but finally it is done.

First sentence, first lie.

If I learnt one thing from making this top down shooter game it is that, no matter how much you build, and test, and refine, no game is ever truly finished. I’ve got a laundry list of things I’d like to add to this prototype: better matinee for the boss introduction, a more professional front-end, and a visual indicator of the score multiplier. Oh yeah, the game has a score multiplier. If the player defeats every enemy in a wave their score multiplier increases by one. Unless you built the game, you wouldn’t know it.

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Mixing in Some Matinee

(This video is based on a 3D Buzz tutorial, found at

Another 3D Buzz tutorial, this time fattening out my skill set in Matinee. I built a level with a few key points (a switch, a moving door, lift, rocket launcher pickup and robot spawn location) and then, using the framework laid out by 3D Buzz, put together a Matinee sequence which framed the challenge of the level and presented a simple narrative (something is coming to kill you). Other, simpler, matinees were used to work the door and the lift.

It was an exercise in attention to detail. I found that Matinee can be an exacting, sometimes finicky, tool, but one which is clearly hugely powerful. What I enjoyed was how, frame by  frame, I could nuance the exact shot that I was looking for, constantly improving my work. In fact, playing with the camera and tweaking the FOV quickly became an absolute rabbit hole. It would have been possible to spend hours poring over this eight second clip, to the point where I just had to say enough was enough. For example, the door sliding open at 21 seconds was precisely timed, whereas the return camera makes a pretty ugly turn at 28 seconds which could have used more finesse. Ultimately I made a judgement, that I could learn more by leaving this level 99% perfect, and moving on to the next tutorial I am interested in (UI interfaces), rather than tweaking every last frame. If time wasn’t a factor, I would still be looking at it now.

The goal over the next week or so (possibly more) is to take the Matinee and UI skills I learn from the 3DBuzz tutorial and use them to enhance my (Eat3D based) Top Down Shooter prototype. I’m proud of the shooter, but it feels incomplete, and being able to add some more interesting features, some exciting matinee sequences and a professional front end, will turn it into a proper demo. I’m also hyper-conscious of trying to use an iterative approach, always looking to improve what I have when new ideas and skills present themselves.

As of now, my matinee skills feel much more solid, and I am comfortable taking the next step forward. That’s not to say I won’t be back in my simple level to improve it again … because as I’m learning, there’s always something more to add.

Extending Existing Work

(This video is based on the 3D Buzz Kismet tutorial, extended in a number of ways. The original tutorial is available at

Update: I have re-posted the video to remove the “Lighting needs to be rebuilt” message and to correct a bug where the first lightswitch gave no noise.

There is some text in this video. To get the best experience, I advise watching it in full screen.

In the context of learning it seems wasteful not to go back, look at earlier work, and see what can be extended and improved. I wanted to take the basic room building tutorial from 3DBuzz and make it more interesting, both using their Kismet tutorial and the skills I developed from my Top Down Shooter prototype. I’ve done that now and feel pleased with the improvements, but also found some unexpected benefits from going back and practicing skills in a familiar environment. More details after the break.

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Top Down Shooter Prototype

It seems like the best place to start would be with some of the scripting techniques Iearnt by completing this prototype (based on template laid out by Eat3D in their tutorial Kismet 2 – available at

– Using Global Variables (for scoring, damage calculation and setting up Bools for 45degree controls

– Streaming sections of levels to preserve memory

– Attaching cameras (to take Unreal out of the first person default)

– Matinees (for simple enemy movements, intro sequences etc)

– Using True/False bools to develop a control scheme

– Using and calling remote events (triggering enemy waves).

– Many of the limited use case actions and events in Kismet (Camera shake, death, destroy etc).

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New newness

My portfolio has been through a big redesign. Long overdue, but now my work is being shown in the best possible light.

My very best stuff is under the ‘Portfolio’ tab. The specific tabs (‘Game Design’, ‘Writing’ etc) show noteworthy work in particular disciplines and pieces of software, useful if you want to see examples of particular skills.

The ‘Home’ page will be an ongoing blog, updated every time I complete a new design.

It’s a complete picture of everything I’ve done and everything I’m doing.

Thanks for taking the time and do get in touch.