Back to learning to Art, and Jammin’ in Unreal Starts

Back to learning to Art, and Jammin’ in Unreal Starts

Hey, hey, and yo! It’s that time once more. We’ve had thunder, lightning, torrential rain and a full-on heatwave since we last spoke. So while clearly some higher power is trying to end us, we’re soldiering through and working harder than ever!

The last fortnight has been a really interesting one. To start with, I’ve not been doing contract work! We’re in the process of moving onto a new project SockMonkey are orchestrating. However it’s still in a prep phase so I’ve been able to enjoy a little bit of down time. A sensible person would take the opportunity to make some progress on their internal projects, namely Horde. So what have I been doing? Well, I decided to learn Unreal. Bear with me, it makes sense…

Background for non-techies: Unreal (or Unreal Engine 4) is a games middleware package. It is much the same idea as Unity, which I’m hoping by now, you are familiar with (I talk about it enough). It is a suite of tools and features built on top of a core game engine to make creating games a simpler, faster process. Rather than having to write the renderer, input handling, physics, audio etc. all by yourself, a middleware package provides everything you need out of the box to make games, sometimes without even needing to code, though this is rare.

Having such a solid jumping off point has enabled the games development industry, and particularly the indie games industry, to really leap forwards, and has allowed people to make games easier, faster and cheaper than ever before. Unreal and Unity are the two biggest packages out there, though there are many others growing in popularity.

I use Unity every day. Pretty much everything I’ve worked on outside of AAA development and university has been Unity. So why would I choose to learn a new engine? Something entirely unfamiliar that is going to take lots of hard work and effort to get up to speed on? It’s partly because I’m clearly insane, but it’s also for flexibility. It has been on my agenda to learn Unreal for a little while, to close to double the amount of work that can come my way. It has even come up in the past; SockMonkey have had Unreal projects they would have relished the help on, but we’ve been unable to lend a hand. So taking the opportunity to learn while the time is there is, in a lot of ways, just sensible.

I guess the next question is, what are we working on? Well, I recently found an old Trello board (Trello is a project management website that lets you create tasks and move them around a virtual board) with a whole host of game ideas on it. I wrote this board before even working at Tt Games, so it’s old. However there were a couple of ideas on there that piqued my interest. The one I decided to go with focusses on teleporting as a core mechanic. Hence “Vorp” was born. Over a lunch meeting with John, we put our heads together and planned out the game. Simple stuff, but hopefully fun. It’s a top down puzzle stealth game where you use the power to teleport to locations you have previously been to navigate and escape from the dungeon you find yourself trapped in. At the moment it’s all using default assets, but it looks something like this:

You get the idea. We have a bunch of cool puzzle ideas in the works, and if it turns out to be fun to play, maybe we’ll release it, either on or take it further and develop it as a full project. For now though it’s a learning project. I’ve been getting into the meat of the visual scripting system “Blueprint” which allows people to add behaviour without needing to add code, and I’m already feeling more comfortable with the editor as a whole, so I reckon so far, so good!

Continuing the theme of learning, I’ve also been spending a fair bit of free time working on my drawing skills. Those who have been following our socials will have already seen the piece I was working on, inspired by a tabletop game I ran, but for anyone that hasn’t, this is the result:

I’m really happy with the result, and it was cool to see myself honing and refining each iteration of each character. They often started as abominations! Take Edmund here in the bottom right for example, this is how he developed… In reverse.

Horrifying right? Still, reckon it turned out well, so all’s well and all that! I could go on about learning various things for hours I’m sure, but honestly, I think it’s time to dive back into the actual learning itself, I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to talk about soon so watch this space!

Matt out.

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