Interlude: The Upside and Downside of UE4

This isn’t the blog post I promised but, whilst starting to put together my turn-based idea, I stumbled onto something that made me think about one of the big differences between UE4 and UDK.

When I used UDK, the Content Browser was a faithful friend. It wasn’t overstocked with meshes and objects but there was enough there to let you throw together an aesthetically interesting level without too much trouble. A far from profound, but certainly noticeable, adjustment to using UE4 is the bare cupboard of a content browser.  It took me a while to understand that, simply, the free content from UDK’s default content browser had been replaced by a shop.


My default reaction, predictable, reasonably, was to be a bit put out. Swapping my free things for expensive things hardly seemed like a good deal. As is often the case (and with the help of a friendly “thank you subscriber, we’re free now” voucher) I was able to see the benefits of the new marketplace.

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First Draft of First Room

It’s been a while since my last update, but my floating prison has been looming all the while. I’ve made a number of changes, all of which has pushed the design forward considerably.

The aim of the most recent changes is to get the first room into a state where it is, in a first draft state, complete. That way I can copy it twice to make the other two rooms of my three room level. Each will serve as an identical base which can be tweaked to fit the tone of the game and the narrative, as required.

First off, this meant upgrading the textures and and lighting. In a prison it would make sense that each section of the building be constructed in the same way, with the same materials, so covering each wall was just a matter of choosing a believable texture for a floating building. You can’t overstate the feel good moment that comes after the last blue and grey polygon has disappeared from your draft!

Alt angle - 1st draft

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Floating Prison Update

Just a quick update on my floating prison level. Since the first blog post I have designed the corridors which link the shells. The windows give away that I’m yet to texture the outside of the shell, but in the bottom corner of the image it is possible to see the cityscape which I am adding to give the level the impression of floating.


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Floating Prison Build

Quite a while ago I posted about my testboard. (That piece is here, for the interested amongst you.)

The aim of the testboard was to experiment with a range of different in-game elements, all based on the idea of a floating prison (or fortress) that was starting to fall to pieces in the face of some kind of attack.


In the screenshot above you can see experiments with scales and sizes, particle effects and room layouts. In the testboard blog piece you can see some scripted moments, matinees and destructible environments.

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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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Over the past few days, on and off whilst tinkering with other things, I have been building levels with the Terrain Editor in Unreal.

It’s fun. Using the tool is tactile, responsive and immediate. If given the choice of building in BSP or throwing something together in terrain, then terrain wins every time. It has a very shallow learning curve which suits me perfectly, and has allowed me to throw together some cool looking terrains after only a few hours practice. The following images chart my learning.

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Tutorial Effects

First things first, a MASSIVE thank you to Eat3D, who continue to help me expand my Unreal knowledge. All the videos on this post are based on the rather spiffy free tutorials they have at their website here. Their stuff is awesome. I followed the tutorials, tweaked and blended them for my needs and now have some more interesting videos and Unreal knowledge.

I have a plan for a level and, without giving too much away whilst it is in the planning stage, I wanted a couple of features and particle effects that I hadn’t really seen in the Unreal content browser. Fortunately (coincidentally, serendipitously) Eat3D based a couple of free vids around these features. First was a convincing local smoke effect, the type you would see around a small fire.

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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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