How Survios’ Creed: Rise to Glory Revolutionizes VR Melee Combat

Survios has been one of the most successful pioneers in the VR space. The Los Angeles-based developer has an impressive resume of critically-acclaimed VR games such as Raw Data and Sprint Vector. With its most recent release, Creed: Rise to Glory, garnering a ton of praise, the studio has not only created one of the best VR boxing games, but one of the best boxing games period. We recently had the chance to interview several members from the team, and in this post, Survios explains how they were able to solve many hard VR problems while producing a knockout title.

Feeling the Friction

Even though VR can offer unparalleled levels of immersion, clipping through opponents when you’re punching through them can be an immersion breaker. It’s a difficult problem to solve; after all, your opponents aren’t really in front of you to provide friction and resistance. This is why many other VR games avoid melee mechanics and instead rely on gunplay and archery for combat. 

To overcome this issue, Survios needed to revolutionize melee for VR. Setting the stage, Lead Survios Engineer Eugene Elkin stated, “In our initial prototype, we set out two goals for ourselves: punching had to feel great and getting punched had to be impactful. We decided right away that the game would not be a straight boxing simulator, but a cinematic-inspired boxing experience. Despite a relatively compressed prototyping timeline, we were still able to create multiple gameplay iterations. The result of that investigation stage was the set of technological rules and techniques we dubbed ‘Phantom Melee Technology’.” 

Explaining how the system overcomes melee clipping issues, Elkin elaborated, “At all times, there are essentially two separate player avatars that are contextually synced/desynced. One avatar is the representation of the player’s character and is bound by in-game physics like collision, hit reactions, and knockdowns. The second avatar—codenamed ‘Phantom’—always represents the player’s true position.” This separation is quite ingenious as it allows players to punch through opponents without ever feeling like you’re awkwardly clipping through them. 

Lead Designer Valerie Allen was inspired to develop this system after reading a sci-fi manga. As Allen explains, “There was a scene in one of the Battle Angel Alita volumes that involved her brain getting overclocked. In that scene, she zipped forward to deliver a punch, only to find herself crashing to the floor because her mental projection of what she was doing was so far ahead of what her body could handle. This is largely how Phantom Melee Technology works.” 

Despite having separate avatars, combat never feels disjointed. Allen explains, “After playing around enough, players quickly start to acclimate, and rather than wasting their real-world effort punching through things, they start to treat the avatar’s arms more like their own, and thus react to the position of their virtual opponent like a real-life one.”

While Phantom Melee Tech solves one major VR issue, Survios still needed to deal with players that might try and “break” the game by constantly flailing their arms about, which is neither fun nor realistic to the sport, but may be effective. To solve this problem, Survios incorporates limited stamina. Allen elaborates on this design philosophy, “Throwing a lot of of rapid punches leads to the avatar getting tired, so the player must focus on defending until the avatar’s stamina recovers.” The lead designer added, “The more we tested and tweaked stamina tuning, the more our gameplay started to look and feel like an actual boxing match.” Those with outstanding real-life endurance may balk at the inclusion of a virtual stamina system, but Allen explains, “While the avatar may tire out more quickly than the player does, the player isn’t the one experiencing the debilitating effects of being punched in the face and gut.” 

Meaningful Matchups 

This inclusion of limited endurance also made online PvP more enjoyable. Elkin notes, “The stamina system became a very important tool to encourage players to block and defend, strategically deploy their punches wisely, and treat it like an actual boxing match.” Even though Rise to Glory is not the first VR boxing game, it is the first VR boxing game to feature online play. Early on in development, Creed wasn’t going to feature multiplayer, but Survios knew the package wouldn’t feel complete without it. Adding online PvP to a melee-focused VR game while making it feel immersive and fun is extremely difficult. Elkin elaborates, “Unlike traditional fighting games where moves and abilities are predetermined, it’s extremely hard to predict how real-life players will behave in a PvP setting.” This issue is heightened when you consider that Rise to Glory features full-body avatars. On the networking front, Multiplayer Engineer Eva Hopps added, “The biggest challenge we immediately knew we had to deal with was network lag. Since we couldn’t rely on the usual fighting game tricks to mask or compensate for it, we tweaked Phantom Melee’s fatigue-triggered slowing effect as our way of concealing lag from players.” Even though incorporating online play while creating a new revolutionary VR combat system was no small task, Hopps mentioned that, “for the most part, Unreal made this pretty easy for us.”

To ensure that the boxing felt realistic, Survios enlisted the help of professional boxers early on in development. Not only did the team heed their advice, but they signed up for boxing lessons. “To this day, we have boxing coaches come twice a week to our office for lessons, and that experience was invaluable for our designers and engineers in crafting a realistic boxing experience,” Elkin explained, elaborating, “Our marketing team also worked with Buzzfeed to have an Olympic-level boxer, Mikaela Mayer, play the Career mode on the hardest difficulty setting, and she was blown away at how similar the mechanics were to the real sport.”

Hitting Hard

To take the game’s realism to the next level and to reward players who really get into the action, Rise to Glory leverages VR’s accelerometers and motion sensors to track how hard players hit. Allen adds, “We check both the distance and speed of the player’s hand movements, and in some cases the angles as well. We tuned the values to require a reasonable amount of force to throw a punch, but not so much that players feel like they always have to punch as hard and fast as they possibly can for maximum impact.” As a result, Creed ends up being a good workout that takes “shadow boxing” to the next level. Even recovering from a knock down requires players to exert physical energy to get back into the fight. While many past boxing games would often force players to quickly tap a button to recover, Rise to Glory does something wholly unique that gives players more agency than ever before. Allen explains, “I really liked the concept of the player getting hit so hard that they experience a sort of barely-conscious tunnel vision, and that it would require physical effort to run back to their body.” Taking a page from the studios’ past VR racing game Sprint Vector, once players are knocked down for the count, they get shot out into a dark tunnel and must swing their arms to run back to their bodies. Considering you can hear the ref audibly count to 10 in the background, it provides a tremendous sense of urgency and heightens the experience in a fun way that only VR can deliver.

While most VR games opt to render just virtual hands, as it can be really hard to figure out where your elbows, torso, and feet are with only three points of contact, to overcome this issue and render players’ full bodies, Survios wrote a lot of code to create believable inverse kinematics (IK). As Elkin notes, “The body IK system has gone through several iterations here at Survios. The current system is in active development and is shared among most of our projects, but is currently a custom animation solver that determines optimal joint location from three tracked inputs.” The lead engineer added, “Luckily, Unreal makes it pretty simple to create new IK Solvers, which is extremely powerful for us.”

Considering the core Rise to Glory development team consisted roughly of nine developers, Survios has impressively been able to solve many difficult challenges with relatively little resources. Elkin attributes much of the success to the passion of his associates, “I’ve never worked on a more self-motivated team: everybody loved the project from the initial prototype and only wished we could have more time to continue working on it. While it may sound cliché, we truly were making a game that we wanted to play.” 

With this being Survios’ third Unreal Engine 4-powered VR game, Elkin also attributes much of the studio’s success to improving upon an already strong UE4 foundation, “It’s extremely important for us to reuse technology between projects. Throughout the years and over the course of several projects, we have continued building out our custom toolset in UE4, and that has significantly sped up our dev cycles on new projects. Having access and the ability to change engine source code is also invaluable.” Hopps added, “UE4 also makes it easy to move from project to product with a consistent set of tools, so nothing on our end feels like it’s changing drastically as the project evolves from prototype to retail-ready.” 

In terms of specific tools, Elkin had high praise for UE4’s debug stump allocator, “Unreal has great tools for tracking nasty memory stumps and analyzing performance.” As a multiplayer engineer, Hopps praised UE4’s Profiler and noted how “amazingly easy it is to network things in Unreal.”

Continuing the Fight

While Rise to Glory marks Survios’ fourth VR title, Elkin asserts that we’re just at the frontier of VR gaming. “I think that we’re experiencing a time similar to the pioneering days of the ’80s when game developers were exploring, experimenting, and trying basically everything for the first time,” adding, “Right now, developers just don’t know for sure what will work or not in VR; all of the traditional knowledge of game development that has been acquired over decades is just not valid most of the time in VR development. VR is a unique beast and we’re just beginning to scratch its surface–but every day we discover something new, and it’s definitely a very exciting time to be developing in VR.”

Survios recently announced Creed: Rise to Glory’s first content update. Releasing November 27, the free update will feature two new free-play and PvP opponents: Danny “Stuntman” Wheeler and Viktor Drago. Both characters are the two primary antagonists from the upcoming Creed II film. For more information on Creed: Rise to Glory, make sure to visit survios.com/creed.

If you’re interested in creating your own VR game, you can download Unreal Engine for free today.

How Studio Wildcard’s ‘Extinction’ Expansion Evolves the ARK Franchise

ARK: Survival Evolved has consistently been one of the most played games since it hit Steam via Early Access in 2015. Now, with the release of the ARK: Extinction Expansion Pack, the team at Studio Wildcard has delivered new items, environments, creatures, and mechanics that further evolve the franchise. 

We recently had the chance to interview Chris Willoughby, Project Lead for ARK: Extinction, to learn more about how the game’s third expansion really mixes things up by taking the franchise to Earth. We also explore Extinction’s new Titan bosses, modes, and lore while finding out how the studio has grown over the years, how Pokémon had a positive influence on the project and how Unreal Engine 4 has helped the team throughout the development process.
 

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us about ARK: Extinction. What were some of the goals you set out to achieve with the expansion?

We are always looking to bring something new to the table with ARK. With Extinction, our goal was to introduce new mechanics and ideas that we have not been able to do before. Between the base game and two previously released expansion packs, we have created a vast amount of content for ARK players so far. So creating something completely fresh and unique can be a challenge. We think we have a good formula between the various creatures, Titans, and many new mechanics that players will enjoy in Extinction.
 
Studio Wildcard co-founder Jesse Rapczak tweeted that ARK: Extinction is going to challenge and delight players in new ways. Can you explain how the expansion will accomplish this?

Since ARK was first released, our team has grown substantially in both size and talent. We want to give players that joy of experiencing something new, but still hold true to the established ARK experience. This has involved revisiting some of our past successes and improving on those mechanics to elevate ourselves to the next level. We wanted to do the same thing for the player experience. Extinction will be on a level all of its own and players will be able to see the progress that we have made as a studio since 2015. 

 
Considering Extinction now takes ARK to Earth, can you provide the backdrop for the story?
 
The survivors are aware that there is some overseeing force that has been creating these floating biodomes in space known as the ARKs. We know that this force has been collecting samples from all of history and bringing them back to life, preserving them in a way in artificial biomes. This is because Earth had fallen into disarray by the plague of Element. Element was able to infect the planet and the populations within it, which then drove the planet to extinction. In ARK: Extinction, we will learn what exactly happened to planet Earth that caused that downfall to happen, and if we are able to save the planet and start its return to glory.

Where does Extinction fit in with the company’s overall vision for the ARK franchise?
 
Extinction is ultimately the conclusion to ARK’s current storyline. The burning questions in everyone’s mind have always been: how did we get here, and what exactly is an “ARK” anyways? Extinction finally answers both of these questions and more. Over the past few months, we have been teasing this storyline through events called the Extinction Chronicles. Each month we released new Explorer Notes into the already released game and expansion packs that hinted on the story that will unfold in Extinction. 

Can you talk about the new environments, like the overgrown city, you’ve built for the expansion?

Since the expansion is located on Earth, players can expect to see some things that would be familiar to home. However, the Earth, prior to its present day downfall, was progressed further along than current technology has allowed in our lifetime. For example, one of the main areas as you’ve mentioned is the City, now overgrown and decayed, but still surveillanced by a protection force of Scouts and Enforcers. Players can discover other biomes with giant overarching domes, “Proto-ARKs,” containing within them the desert, tundra, and failed experiment: the Crater forest that lies beneath the city itself. The terrain outside of these areas has been ravaged by element, sulphur, and corrupted creatures. 

Studio Wildcard has revealed new, inventive beasts, with creatures such as the seemingly cute Gasbags to the perplexing Gacha. How many new creatures will the expansion introduce and how might they affect gameplay?
 
Extinction offers many new creatures: Velonasaur, Gasbags, Managarmr, Gacha, Snow Owl, as well as temporary tames—the Titans—and craftable creatures like the Scout and Enforcer. There are also the corrupted creatures of which there are many different types, but they are untameable due to their resistance to narcotics and aggressive tendencies. Each creature serves a specific purpose to the player and to Extinction as a whole. For example, the Gasbags is a beast of burden capable of hauling extensive amounts of materials and weight for long distances. It breathes in air and expels it through the lining on its stomach to be able to float gracefully–perhaps awkwardly–through the air. With each of these new creatures we sought out to fill gaps in our current lineup of creatures that allows them to be individuals and useful among hundreds of already established creatures.

How will the new untamable corrupt dinosaurs in Extinction affect the world and gameplay?
 
They are located in the most dangerous area on the map known as the Wasteland. True to its name, the Wasteland is extremely harsh and nearly uninhabitable to humans due to the ever dominating presence of corrupted creatures. While treacherous, this biome remains one of the most valuable to players, too. Players will be able to find Orbital Supply Drops in this biome which they must defend from waves of corrupted creatures at varying levels of difficulty. If successful, they will be awarded top-tier loot, some of which can only be obtained through these drops. Players can base up in this environment if they are able to protect their home from the corrupt, which are able to damage all structures, but it will be a very challenging experience for even for the most veteran of players. 

How does the studio come up with all of the interesting creature designs? Do members of the team research paleontology for inspiration?
 
At the beginning stages, we like to pool ideas from everyone at the studio, this is something that we continue to do throughout the entire creative process. Everyone throws out ideas on what they’d like to see and we pick at the things that stick the most. By keeping everyone involved in the creative process, we are able to produce many unique ideas that may not be possible if we completely segregated the roles at our studio. We do also like to take influence and inspiration from many things, paleontology being one of those. We also have a deep appreciation for games of the past and pop-culture references. 

Can you talk about the massive roaming Titan mini-bosses in the expansion? Will players be able to tame them?
 
Yes, some of the Titans can be tamed for short periods of time! Each Titan uses a different set of mechanics in order to take down the beast and convert it to your side. This also requires a decent amount of teamwork, as these are boss-level creatures and, once summoned, will be difficult to tame. Once tamed, they have saddle platforms and players are able to build defenses in their backs like a giant moving fortress. 

Does Extinction introduce many new weapons and armor?
 
The (literal) biggest addition would be both a combination of armor and weapon: the Mek. Mek’s are crafted by the player and then the player climbs inside their giant weaponized creation. There are multiple weapon types and ammo that can be given to the Mek to change its purpose. You can choose to shield your allies or shoot down your foes with a giant cannon strapped to the back of your Mek. A Mek is required for some of the highest difficulty gameplay on Extinction including Orbital Supply Drop (OSD) and the final boss fight.

Extinction will allow players to freeze creatures into little ice cubes so that they can more easily carry them around. That’s a really interesting mechanic. Can you talk about how you came up with this concept and what it might add to the game?
 
One of ARK’s long standing requests has been a way to manage players hoards of tamed creatures in a meaningful and impactful way. ARK does encourage players to tame large amounts of creatures due to needing a variety of harvesting creatures, egg laying creatures, and creatures for fighting. This new cryo feature allows people to pick and choose what creatures they have around their base at any given time without the negative side effects of having hundreds of mouths to feed, and does come with a performance boost especially if players cryo a majority of their tames. The actual implementation is very reminiscent of Pokémon, which is something many of us have played and enjoyed over the years. 

Extinction will introduce a new PvE event that incorporates tower defense-like gameplay. Can you explain how it works?

This new mode is called Orbital Supply Drop (OSD). Essentially, players will trigger these randomly as they walk throughout the Wasteland. Once a supply drop plummets down from the sky, a tribe of players must defend it from taking damage against waves of corrupted creatures. If successful, they will be rewarded with loot that coincides with the difficulty level of the supply drop. There are four different difficulties: easy, medium, expert, and legendary. At the legendary difficulty it may be one of the hardest things we have ever introduced into ARK and will require substantial teamwork and investment to complete successfully.

Does the team have a favorite UE4 tool or feature?
 
Without a doubt it’s the UE4 Editor itself. All of the tools allow us to build content at a speed that we could not achieve any other way. Whether it’s materials, particles, gameplay scripting, or level design – we can build better things faster than we could anywhere else.

Did the team use UE4’s visual scripting language, Blueprints, for Extinction’s development at all?
 
We use Blueprints extensively in gameplay development. They empower us to make numerous diverse mechanics. In addition, the iteration time when working with Blueprints enables us to develop more with less, keeping the indie vibe while working on a massive game. Beyond that, we use Blueprints as a platform upon which we enable users to mod our game and then drop in their own logic and content, which allows them to take the mechanics even further.

What has been the biggest developmental challenge to overcome?
 
Balancing our team’s passion for the project against time. There’s so much creativity and enthusiasm for what we work on, day in and day out, that it can be tricky at times to rein in our ambition and shelve really cool ideas to ensure we hit our deadlines. That said, this “abundance of imagination” internally along with great feedback from our players allows us to have a pretty vast store of features to think about for the future.

 
What has the studio learned from working on the franchise?
 
ARK is our first game as a studio which I think comes as a surprise to people who have not known us since the beginning. We began as a very small team of developers working out of a team member’s house in the early days. Since then, we’ve grown considerably. There were growing pains as we had to scale up very rapidly to keep up with the demand from our audience. We wanted to deliver our passion to our players just as much as they wanted to experience it but ARK’s immediate success took us by surprise and it was difficult, and still is, to onboard people at a rapid rate who can keep up with the development process that is ARK. Over the years we have made significant progress. We now have two studio locations and dozens of remote employees from around the world. One thing we haven’t learned is to not underestimate your audience. Many times we think we have adequately prepared and our players show up in ways we didn’t expect and we have to scramble to online servers, for example. The amount of dedication from our players is something that we honor very much, but it still takes us by surprise.

ARK: Survival Evolved has been one of the most played games for several years. What do you attribute this to?
 
There is nothing else quite like ARK. That, as well as just how customizable the game is, has kept people playing for thousands of hours. There is a little something for everyone to enjoy. This was quite intentional when it came to developing an open-world game. We wanted all player experiences to be valid, up to and including plenty of modding support for those so inclined. This has allowed many talented creators to develop their own maps, creatures, and content for the game that benefits the entire ARK community greatly. Players can build, fight, tame, explore, and create stories of their own in the world of ARK and we think that is something very special. 

Thanks for your time! Where can people learn more about ARK: Extinction?

ARK: Extinction is available now on Steam and is free to all ARK survivors who own the season pass. PlayStation and Xbox One players will be able to jump in game on November 13th. For any questions, you can also visit our community forums at survivetheark.com.

Considering Studio Wildcard was able to make such a fantastically wonderful world with UE4, if you’d like to experiment building your own virtual world for free today, download and explore Unreal Engine.

Epic Games Announces over $800K in Unreal Dev Grants

Today Epic Games announced the latest recipients of Unreal Dev Grants, a $5 million fund supporting developers working with Unreal Engine 4 (UE4). This new round awards $800,000 to more than 30 individuals and teams, with no restrictions or obligations to Epic Games. As with previous rounds, these recipients illustrate the wide variety of use cases for UE4, including independent games, interactive visualizations, virtual reality surgical simulators and online learning resources.

“The Unreal Dev Grants program has a simple goal: to help talented developers succeed by letting them focus more on their project and less on their bills,” said Chance Ivey, Partnership Manager at Epic Games. “We’re continually amazed by the range of applications built with UE4 and the potential of so many of these projects; this round includes standouts such as Sojourn by Tierceron, Crab Rave by Noisestorm, and VR Cataract Training Solution by Surgical Mind. Congrats to all of these folks for their vision and persistence!”

The latest round of Unreal Dev Grants recipients includes:

FILM / CINEMA: 100 Flowers of God (working title) by 3rd World StudiosWebsite 
3rd World Studios is the Pakistan-based creator of the first animated feature-length film rendered entirely in UE4, Allahyar and the Legend of Markhor, which was released in February to critical acclaim. This Unreal Dev Grant is meant to accelerate 3rd World’s future film projects.

TOOL / PLUGIN: Anomotion Motion Composer and Anomotion BIKWebsite
Anomotion maintains two animation solutions for UE4: Motion Composer, a task-based motion planner which automatically generates precise motion sequences from unstructured animation data; and BIK, an inverse-kinematics system that can model various joint types and define custom constraints for VR avatars, virtual humans and creatures. Anomotion’s solutions have practical applications, from film previs to architectural visualizations. For industrial simulation and shared virtual environments, for example, Anomotion’s technology can be used to populate interactive, adaptive training environments with task-directed virtual characters.

FILM / CINEMA / VR: Awake: Episode One by Start VRTrailer 
Created by Start VR, Awake: Episode One is an interactive cinematic virtual reality experience for HTC Vive and Vive Pro. Awake: Episode One, which uses the latest volumetric capture techniques to bring real-life human performances into VR, officially premiered at SXSW and has been touring the festival circuit ever since. It’s coming soon to Steam.

INDEPENDENT GAME: Black Iris by Hexa Game Studio Website
From Brazilian indie team Hexa Game Studio, Black Iris is an action RPG that takes inspiration from the Dark Souls series of games and Bloodborne. Black Iris in development for PC and console. 

INDEPENDENT GAME / AR: BOT-NET by Calvin LabsWebsite
BOT-NET is a game that turns physical space into a first-person battlefield using a mobile device’s AR features. Massive robots fight while the player engages in ground combat with smaller robots. BOT-NET is available in the App Store.

FILM / CINEMA: Cine Tracer by Matt WorkmanSteam
Developed by Matt Workman of Cinematography Database, Cine Tracer is a realistic cinematography simulator in which the player operates real world-based cameras, sets up lights, and directs talent within UE4 environments. Matt frequently livestreams Cine Tracer development at https://www.twitch.tv/cinegamedev. Creatives can use Cine Tracer to communicate lighting, cameras and storyboarding, and it’s available in Early Access on Steam.

INDEPENDENT GAME: Close to the Sun by Storm in a TeacupWebsite
Developed by Rome-based Storm in a Teacup, Close to the Sun is a first-person horror game that takes place in an alternate version of history in the 1890s aboard a mysterious ship complex created by Nikola Tesla where things are not as they seem. With numerous indie game accolades already under its belt, Close to the Sun is coming to PC and console in 2019.

TOOL / PLUGIN: coreDS Unreal by ds.toolsWebsite 
coreDS Unreal facilitates integration of both High-Level Architecture (HLA) and Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) in UE4 games and applications. Users can integrate once and support HLA and DIS without any other modifications to their UE4 application. coreDS Unreal provides an extensive feature set that eases the integration process, allowing for reduced implementation time, flexibility and highly customizable simulation behavior.

INDEPENDENT GAME: Farm Folks by OvergrownTrailer
Farm Folks is a successfully crowdfunded farming simulator game with a nod to the classic Harvest Moon series. Players can explore Softshoal Island, grow crops, raise livestock, build relationships and more – all the while uncovering the island’s mysteries. Farm Folks, coming to PC, is available for pre-order on Crytivo.

INDEPENDENT GAME / VR: Jupiter & Mars by Tigertron Website
Jupiter & Mars is an underwater adventure game for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR with a powerful message around climate change set in a shocking, future world inspired by ecological events happening now. The player controls Jupiter, a dolphin with enhanced echolocation powers, traveling around the world with AI companion Mars to disable the man-made machinery disrupting marine life, while solving puzzles and encountering magnificent creatures along the way. 

INDEPENDENT GAME / VR: Kaisuo by USC GamesTrailer
Kaisuo is a VR puzzle game in which players use fine motor dexterity to solve enigmatic Chinese puzzle boxes and unlock surreal, extraordinary spaces. Originally founded as an undergraduate student project named Lantern (now the name of the development team) at the University of Southern California, Kaisuo has been showcased at events such as the USC Games Expo and Indiecade @ E3, and is in development through the USC Bridge incubator program for full release on the Oculus and Steam stores.

INDEPENDENT GAME: Koral by Pantumaca BarcelonaSteam 
Developed by Carlos Coronado, one of Barcelona’s leading UE4 experts, this beautiful PC game takes players on a dive through the underwater world where they play as the current on a mission to revive coral reefs. Solving puzzles heals the reefs and replenishes the ocean’s magic. In addition, Carlos’ new training materials on going from zero to expert in UE4 have marked Udemy’s most successful launch of a Spanish game development course in the site’s history.

FINE ARTS / VR: Lemieux Pilon 4D ArtWebsite
The renowned duo of Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon (4D Art) are creating an immersive museum art piece for virtual reality using UE4. 

INDEPENDENT GAME / VR: Mini World VR by Scaena StudiosWebsite
From Korea’s award-winning Chung Ang University 3D VR Lab, Scaena Studios’ Mini World VR is an immersive storytelling experience featuring elaborate hand-animated characters, game-based elements and intuitive interactivity. A cross between a game and a film, Mini World VR can be experienced from the perspective of both player and audience.

INDEPENDENT GAME: Mowin’ & Throwin’ by House Pixel GamesSteam
Available via Steam Early Access, Mowin’ & Throwin’ is a local multiplayer mashup of Bomberman meets Splatoon with a dash of Overcooked. Players control lawn gnomes in a race to wreck their opponent’s yard while keeping their own pristine. Victory goes to the best looking lawn! Mowin’ & Throwin’ is coming to party game collections for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2019.

FILM / CINEMA: Music Videos by Noisestorm – SoundCloud
Irish music producer and artist Noisestorm uses UE4 to create incredibly striking videos to accompany his musical tracks, which are often associated with trap, drum and bass, electro and dubstep. Now with nearly 10 million views, Crab Rave features thousands of CG crabs gathering after a tropical storm to dance it out. Noisestorm’s latest release, Breakout (feat. Foreign Beggars), depicts a tactical prison break with intense firefights, massive explosions, a high-energy helicopter chase and an amazing sniper shot. 

TOOL / PLUGIN: Optim by Theia InteractiveWebsite
Currently in alpha, the Optim plugin applies an accelerated workflow methodology to Unreal Engine’s Datasmith suite of tools and services for enterprise markets. Leveraging the efficiency of Datasmith and the power of Python, artists and designers can use Optim to visualize and customize their Datasmith import process for further optimization.

INDEPENDENT GAME / VR: Planetrism VR by Planetrism TeamGameplay
The future of humankind leads to the distant stars in this VR and PC adventure developed by Finnish duo Kimmo Kaunela and Mike Laaksonen. In Planetrism, players follow the opportunity of a lifetime to lead colonization on an uncharted planet, encountering untold mysteries while building a future for generations to come.

ARCHITECTURE / VR: Real Estate in Virtual Reality by REinVRWebsite
The real estate technology team at REinVR is focused on using UE4 to build advanced immersive consumer buying experiences using digital humans, AI and VR.

INDEPENDENT GAME: Risk One’s Neck by Royce GamesWebsite
Developed by Korean indie team Royce Games for PC and consoles, Risk One’s Neck is a vintage arcade-style beat ’em up game set in a brutal, realistic urban environment. An homage to the Capcom arcade fighters of the 1980s, Risk One’s Neck channels thrilling gameplay for players of all skill levels.

FILM / CINEMA: Robots’ Design Academy by Eric Liu Blog
A student film by Eric Liu, this 12-minute cinematic highlights the art of the possible when a single person sets out to do something wonderful. Powered by the drive and passion to create something spectacular, Eric created a wordless tale about creativity and daring to be different. It follows a robot student learning to design after most of humanity has become extinct from some unknown apocalypse. Dismayed by the institution’s insistence on strictly copying human creations perfectly, the droid protagonist sets out to design something bold and unique with the help of a newfound human pal.

LEARNING RESOURCE: Russian UE4 Lessons and CommunityWebsite YouTube 
This incredible volunteer-driven resource for the Russian development community has been in operation since the public launch of UE4 in 2014. Featuring translations of exhaustive release notes for dozens of major engine updates, along with hundreds of localized tutorials — all created independently, and freely shared online — the group has well over 50,000 members across their networks, which also include popular Unreal Engine Discord and VK channels.

INDEPENDENT GAME: S.O.N by RedG StudiosWebsite 
S.O.N is a modern-day psychological survival horror game in which a father searches for his son who has gone missing deep in the Pennsylvania forest, better known as South Of Nowhere. In a world where fear takes control and the past is never erased, questions linger around what demons will be faced to get back a loved ones. S.O.N is coming to PlayStation 4.

INDEPENDENT GAME: Spellbreak by Proletariat Inc. –  Website
With talent from game studios such as Harmonix, Turbine and Insomniac, Proletariat is bringing a magical twist to battle royale. Currently in pre-alpha on PC, Spellbreak puts a new spin on the genre with its fantasy art style and powerful magic spells that can be explosive when used in combat.

FILM / CINEMA: The Abyss by Kemal GünelVideo
This real-time short film depicts an ominous scenario aboard a desolate spaceship. Built using Kemal’s assets that are available on the Unreal Engine Marketplace, the project is also the basis for his popular UE4 Lighting tutorial series, which has 35 videos and counting.

INDEPENDENT GAME: The Cycle by YAGERWebsite
Currently in Closed Alpha, The Cycle is the latest FPS game from Berlin-based YAGER. Up to 20 players go head to head to fulfill contracts during matches about 20 minutes in length. The Cycle is planned for PC release in early 2019 with support for consoles to follow.

AR / VR: The Hydrous presents: ImmerseWebsite
Jason McGuigan and his team at Horizon Productions have been on the bleeding edge of XR for several years, with a library of AR and VR projects built with UE4 under their belt. A pre-release version of Immerse took the stage at the recent Trojan Horse Was a Unicorn gathering in Malta presented by Dr. Erika Woolsey, CEO of the Hydrous. The Hydrous’ mission is to create open access oceans by bringing conservation education to the masses. Horizon also presented a high-fidelity VR art gallery created in Unreal Engine that featured almost 100 paintings by some of the world’s leading digital artists.

FINE ARTS / VR: The Kremer Collection Virtual MuseumWebsite
Designed by architect Johan van Lierop, Founder of Architales and Principal at Studio Libeskind, the Kremer Museum features 17th Century Dutch and Flemish Old Master paintings from the Kremer Collection and is accessible through Viveport, Steam and Oculus. 

TOOL / PLUGIN: Tools and Plugins by VR ProfessionalsVideoWebsite
Russia-based VR Professionals are on a mission to create more affordable and accessible “out of the box” solutions for VR training and education using UE4. Having identified a desire for UE4 apps to be more deeply integrated into enterprise ecosystems, e.g., SQL databases, analytics, reports, LMS and CRM systems, VR Professionals are developing UE4 tools and plugins to help organizations streamline their use of B2B apps faster and with lower costs. 
 

FILM / CINEMA: Unannounced project by Kite & LightningWebsite
The recipient of the 2018 SIGGRAPH Best Real-Time Graphics and Interactivity Award at the recent Real-Time Live! showcase, Kite & Lightning wowed audiences with the presentation “Democratizing Mocap: Real-Time Full Performance Motion Capture with an iPhone X, Xsens, IKINEMA and Unreal Engine.” This Unreal Dev Grant is given in support of new breakthroughs in live performance-driven entertainment.

INDEPENDENT GAME: Unbound: Worlds Apart by Alien Pixel StudiosSteam
Unbound: Worlds Apart is an atmospheric 2D puzzle platformer in which the player can conjure magic portals to travel between different realities and learn more about a catastrophe that has ravaged his world. Inside certain portals, the physical properties of the character or world elements can change, offering new gameplay possibilities. A dark fairy tale with a cartoonish style, Unbound: Worlds Apart is planned for release on PC and consoles in 2020.

TOOL / PLUGIN:  VR Cataract Training Solution by Surgical MindVideo 
Surgical Mind, a branch of Korea-based Mania Mind, is developing a cutting-edge VR simulator for cataract surgery to enable medical residents to better hone their skills before getting near an eye. Their team maintains that VR simulation training improves performance, minimizes risk and provides greater detail around potential scenarios more efficiently than expensive physical simulators.  

To learn more about Unreal Dev Grants and to apply, visit: http://unrealengine.com/unrealdevgrants
 

BYU Students Bring Rhythm and Fighting Together in ‘Beat Boxers’

Team based game creation at BYU

At Brigham Young University, a team of about 20 students builds a video game each year. This past year’s game was Beat Boxers, which was completed in the summer of 2018.  It won first place at E3’s highly prestigious College Game Competition.

At the start of each summer, BYU invites students in the animation and computer science departments to pitch ideas and choose one as the next group capstone project for various art and computer science majors.

Target piece painted by student Vanessa Palmer

In 2017, Beat Boxers won the vote, a game where we wanted the core experience to give players an opportunity to steal the limelight in a performance battle royale. The project eventually boiled down to a fighting game where the player has a choice of three moves, each of which is more powerful when hitting on the beat of the music. The player has to also choose the right move each beat to trump the other player’s choice, like several rapid games of rock-paper-scissors.

All positions on the project, including producer and director, were undergraduate students, and the person who originally pitched Beat Boxers became the programming lead.

Executing in Unreal

Beat Boxers was not only made for the enjoyment of making a game, but also to further students’ education on game-making principles. One reason we used Unreal Engine is because it is a powerful, stable package that can achieve a professional look. BYU students apply to AAA studios all over the world, so the finished look was important to us. We also used Unreal Engine because it is valuable in teaching deeper principles. Node networks and deep capabilities let students experiment and solve difficult problems. UE4’s Materials system is based in node networks and procedural workflows which our students are used to working in, so it was a good fit for that reason as well.

During the summer, the artists rapidly prototyped using UE4 Blueprints, iterating through several white-boxed character and stage designs, which helped us cement in our minds what experience we wanted players to have and design for that. 

Whiteboxed version of Beat Boxers in Unreal Engine

Beat Boxers is both a fighting game and a rhythm game, but because fighting games and rhythm games each have their own mechanics, we had to figure out the right gameplay that would mix elements of both. The Blueprints system allowed us to create dozens of prototypes varying the gameplay designs quickly and easily. The lead designer could quickly change and add to the gameplay in Blueprints before we added them in C++.
   

Final gameplay screenshot

Controls/gameplay

Striking a balance between fighting and rhythm games was difficult. In order to prevent ourselves from straying too far from either genre, we chose to focus on making a fighting game first and enhancing it with rhythmic elements.

From playtests, we determined it was impossible to encourage players to attack on the beat unless the pace of the game was founded around the beat itself. This led to a design where your inputs are buffered and fire only on the beat, at the same time as your opponent’s inputs. The rock/paper/scissors nature of our moveset allowed us to keep the control scheme simple for people new to fighting games, but also gave us room to use inputs in creative ways for fighting game enthusiasts.
  

Blueprint of the logic to know if a player hit on or off beat

 
Using the FMOD plugin, we fired an event on the beat consistently in sync with music. We used this event in conjunction with timers to open and close an “onbeat window.” This was approximately a tenth of a second before and after the beat of the song. When the “onbeat window” is open (determined by which timers were active) the attack was onbeat, otherwise it was offbeat.

Character Design

The first challenge was to personify genres of music into appealing characters that each had their own attitude. The classical violin character Maestra was developed first. She was based on a concept sketch that was part of the game’s initial pitch. It got everybody really excited about what the game could be. The design went through many different people and many iterations over several months until she became the tall, elegant, and deadly opponent we presented at E3 2018. Unreal Engine allowed us to pull our models in quickly to test out how they looked in context of the assets being made by the other members of the team. We pulled assets into Unreal to see them in context with each other as early as possible.

Comparison between concept art (left) and execution in Unreal (right).

We also wanted to create a second character that contrasted Maestra while belonging in the same world. We decided that a bulky, fun, rock character who loves the spotlight would contrast with the slim silhouette of Maestra and unify the game. He’s been lovingly named Riff. Our process of starting development of characters one after the other instead of all at once was valuable. It let us solve character problems with a single team, then hand lessons learned off to the next character team, so as not to repeat solving the same problems on multiple teams.

Substance Painter was used to texture all of the assets in Beat Boxers. Maestra’s wood texture is completely procedural. Her eyebrows and gold accents are hand painted. The maps were exported from substance as basic texture maps, then additional effects like Fresnel were added via shader networks in Unreal Engine.

Comparison between concept art and execution in Unreal Engine.

Both Riff and Maestra were designed to be quintessential examples of the genres they represent. They were modeled in Maya and Zbrush and textured in Substance painter. Maestra has 37,670 triangles and Riff has 29,747. Both are using only one UV channel.

Animation

Regarding animation, we wanted to make sure the characters look like they were fighting and also performing. We studied many Street Fighter-style games for reference and found ways to make every characters’ moveset unique. We attended concerts and discovered essential differences between the dignified elegance of a symphony and the raw energy unleashed at a rock concert. All of this helped us build the movesets for Maestra and Riff.

Introducing a rhythm component into a fighting game is challenging. Every aspect of the game had to emphasize the importance of tempo and beat. In order to accomplish this, we created two animation files for each attack. We played with the timing and exaggeration of poses so when players timed actions to the beat, they were rewarded with a more powerful and visually interesting moveset animation. When players ignored the beat, they got a weaker version of the move using the second animation (as well as reduced points). We gave the animations to our magical programmers and they strung the files together in node networks to create smooth transitions when a player strung combos together and awkward pauses in the animations when the player acted off the beat. With the finished version, one could feel as if they were being held accountable for performing well—and we were very excited about that.

The movesets were arranged in a state machine with specific criteria such as player input determining the movement between states.
   
Stadium Environment

Many of the assets in the game were designed to be flexible and reusable. We used Houdini to build intricate procedural assets and ported them into Unreal using the Houdini Engine. The Unreal Editor’s flexibility to use the Houdini Engine plugin allowed us to fluidly adjust components from various sources in the Unreal Editor.  This made it remarkably easy to art-direct even complicated pieces like the stadium seating and scaffolding.

Lighting

Minimal lights were used in the game. Each character was lit in isolation through lighting channels. They could be lit up and fine-tuned individually so we didn’t wash out the other character or the environment.  We had to make sure the characters stood out from the background, so elements of the background glowed, but dimly, and we kept all the background lights low and with added fog.  We did iterations of lighting adjustments by working with the art lead who did paintovers for each iteration.

This project has received a lot of high praise for its look, which was made possible by Unreal Engine’s quality artistic tools.  
 
Crowds

The crowds are hardware instanced meshes with animations baked into the texture. Animations are accessed through vertex offset information in the shader.

Normally the CPU has to send a draw call to the GPU for each mesh to be drawn. This can waste a lot of the GPU’s time as it can finish before the CPU is able to send the next call. Using hardware instancing, the GPU stores an array of transformation matrices. With a single draw call the GPU draws the model once for each transformation matrix.

Our hardware instanced crowd

The downside to hardware instancing is it doesn’t work on computers without a dedicated graphics card or with skeletal animations, so the crowd won’t move and will be very uniform.

To get animation on a hardware instanced mesh, start with an animated skeletal mesh, process it and the animation, and the result is a static mesh with very specific data in the vertex color data, a texture representing the animation, and a complicated shader.
 

The node network that animates with a texture.

 

If the color channel was used on the animated texture.

What this process does is calculate the difference in location of each vertex from the bind pose at each frame. You store those differences in a texture, one axis being time (or frame rather) and the other axis being vertex ID (a unique identifier you need to assign to each vertex). We encoded the value of the vertex ID across the RGBA channels of the vertex color data of the model. Then, write a shader that decodes the vertex ID from the vertex color data. With the shader, use the elapsed time to figure out what UVs to sample, and then sample the texture to figure out how far to displace each vertex, putting that value into the vertex offset. Make sure to disable sRGB and use nearest filtering. Also be sure to transform the vertex displacements into world space before applying them to vertex offsets. To combine multiple animations into one image, sample different animations like you would a sprite sheet.

Spritesheet timeline for the animated textures for crowd characters. 

You can vary the individuals within the crowd by using the single random value you can assign to every instance in Unreal’s provided Instanced Static Mesh component. You also ought to transform the location deltas from local space to world space before applying them as vertex offsets (though this can have issues with scaling). You will also notice the normals are screwy. It is still using the normals from their static position. If that becomes a problem, it can be fixed by also calculating, and storing in a second image (or different portion of the same image), the change in normals over the course of the animation.

Optimization

We used Unreal’s fine-tuning options and powerful tools to optimize the game and keep it looking good. We disabled collisions on everything but the characters, and the stage they were on. We also set the background assets to static lightning.

Another thing that we fixed to keep the game’s performance up was to adjust the fog and particle effects that were in the crowd. Originally there were three types of fog effects on the map. Since the viewing angle doesn’t change much in the game, our student in charge of optimization reduced the fog to one and extended it within the camera view. While that may not look as good from other angles, it looks the same as our first iteration from the player’s viewpoint.

We had three master Materials, with incrementing levels of complexity. The simplest one was used for the entire crowd and background. That Material only had a color channel. The second was used for the stage floor and set dressings. That material has color, roughness, normal, metallic, and AO. The last one was used only for the characters, and had all those previously mentioned, but also controls for tinting, Fresnel effects, and a few others. By doing this, we were able to keep all shader complexity levels in the green.
 
Special Effects

Our effects were created using hand-painted animated sprite sheets. These are then read frame-by-frame by Unreal’s Cascade Particle System from left to right; playing as 2D animations in-game and timed to the player’s attacks and actions. Using this process allowed us to plan and design the shapes, pacing, and dissolve of the effects to the stylistic appearance we desired. Then, by layering the animations with sparks, light, and hit effects, we integrated them more smoothly into the 3D gameplay. The resulting effects are more stylized than 3D effects, similar to those achieved by games such as Dragon Ball Fighter Z and Guilty Gears Xrd. We varied which effect would play depending on whether the player hit on or off-beat. 

  

The offbeat effect on the left, the on beat effect on the right.

Conclusions

Unreal Engine allowed us, as a team of students, to learn how to create professional looking content quickly and optimize it to perform well. Its interface was approachable for our artists to upload their own work and deep enough for our programmers to customize gameplay to achieve the experience we were after. Because of this, we were able to iterate quickly and polish, which was one of the key reasons we were prepared for E3’s College Game Competition. Everyone on the team was really excited to be selected for the opportunity to go to California’s E3 conference, rub shoulders with our peers, and see what AAA game studios are making. We were also honored that Beat Boxers won the 2018 college competition. The entire team of programmers, modelers, texture artists, concept designers, gameplay designers, and logistics all worked together to produce an experience we enjoy, and we hope you will enjoy too. The game is available on Steam for free.
 
Credits

Director – David Burnham 
Producer – Jessica Runyan
Design Lead – Mike Towne
Art Director – Vanessa Palmer
Music – Alastair Scheuermann, Jarrett Davis
Sound – Jared Richardson, Dallin Frank

Created by (the following students took on various roles in the making of the game):

Sydney Adams
Dyanara Banana
Paige Caldwell
Andrea Davila
Jessica Davila
Derrick Drysdale
Wyatt Earnshaw
Jedi Lion
Shannon Lyman
Connor Mathewson
Calvin McMurray
Brenna Oldroyd
Do Park
Parin Phurisat
Laura Porter
Alexa Poulton
Andrew Rios
Patrick Spencer
Jordan Stewart
Nate Swinney
Sarah Tippets
Jenessa Welker
Wei Wong

Thriving in Early Access, AMID EVIL is a Retro Fantasy FPS with a Modern Mind

If you knew nothing of AMID EVIL and fired it up for the first time, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve already played it at some point in the distant past. Upon further inspection, you’d discover a modern game with crafty AI, blistering fast gameplay, and ultra cool, out of this world weapons. 

Built with a healthy respect for the games that inspired it (DOOM, Quake, Heretic, and more), AMID EVIL wears its inspiration on its pixelated sleeve, but that doesn’t mean it lacks modern mechanics that make today’s games great.

 
Recently releasing its fifth of seven distinct and unique episodes, AMID EVIL has enjoyed great success in Early Access and received a ton of input from its dedicated fanbase. Not letting the community’s valuable feedback go to waste, Indefatigable has taken the time to read comments and implement changes based on what they’ve seen. Showing their fans they value both their input and their faith in the game’s direction surely lends itself to AMID EVIL’s 98 percent ‘very positive’ rating on Steam.
 
To learn more about the project, we took a moment to chat with Simon Rance and Leon Zawada from Indefatigable about their game, their journey to indie development, and their experience with Unreal Engine 4. Stock up and reload as we talk modern-day retro shooters below!
 

AMID EVIL is the first game from your studio, Indefatigable. Tell us a little bit about what brought the team together and why you decided to jump into indie development!
 
Well, we (Simon & Leon) have been friends since 1994. We grew up playing games and making mods. Most notably Return of the Triad – a full Rise of the Triad total conversion mod for GZDoom. This eventually led to us joining Interceptor Entertainment to work on the official Rise of the Triad reboot in 2012.
 
That was our first jump into indie, so I guess this isn’t our first rodeo. After shipping some other titles with Interceptor, we left in 2016 to start on our own thing, which we had wanted to do for years. By that point, we had a lot of experience and the time just felt right. And so… Indefatigable was born!
 
A few friends who also used to work at Interceptor have joined us as well, such as the mighty Andrew Hulshult, who’s making the (seriously great) music and also doing some sound design. Daniel Hedjazi has helped us out with some of the level design. Chris Pollitt made the really awesome key art for the game, as well as some dope concept art pieces. James Miller (who was the ROTT 2013 QA lead) has helped a lot with QA. Finally, we teamed up with producer Dave Oshry who also worked with us on ROTT 2013 and now runs New Blood Interactive – our publisher. So, to make a long story short – Rise of the Triad brought us all together!

 
The studio name, the word ‘Indefatigable’, carries the definition of ‘incapable of being tired out; not yielding to fatigue, untiring’. How do you bring this philosophy to your studio, game development, and AMID EVIL in particular?
 
We got the name “Indefatigable” from the Horatio Hornblower stories. It was the ship of Admiral Sir Edward Pellew. An amazingly successful ship, in both fiction and real life – hopefully, our studio can be, too.
 
But we do run on low-stress levels at our studio. We don’t crunch and tend to work whenever we feel like it. Some days you just get tons of work done in no time, other days there’s just no mojo flowing and nothing happens; but we don’t sweat it. Trying to force creativity can burn you out easily, and by countering that we’ve gotten a ton of work done between us. Luckily our publisher is also pretty chill about it.

 
You make no qualms about your inspirations for AMID EVIL. Built on the Doom Engine, and released in 1994, Heretic is looked back upon fondly by genre fans. What was your biggest reason for using a game like Heretic as the inspirational building block for a game released into Early Access in 2018?
 
Well, it’s not just Heretic – we set out first and foremost to make a Fantasy FPS game with gameplay inspired by many of the classics such as Doom, Quake, Unreal, etc. A core gameplay loop focused on fast movement, cool weapons, cool enemies, fun levels, and lots of action.
 
There’s Heretic DNA for sure. We got inspiration for soul mode from Heretic’s Tome of Power – which is a really satisfying mechanic. Heretic also had a lot of color going on, which we’ve got happening in AMID EVIL as well.
 
And what most people don’t know is that AMID EVIL actually started as a Doom mod when we were kids way back in 1997. It then evolved into a top-down game. We even made a prototype of that in UDK. That prototype design had a sword that would transform into different weapons, which eventually evolved into the Axe that the player wields now. There are other elements from those old design docs we used in the current game as well. Maybe we’ll dig them up some day.
 
What features does AMID EVIL have that sets it apart from Heretic and other old-school FPS games?
 
Thanks to Unreal Engine’s versatility and use of modular assets, we’re able to have seven distinct episodes – each with a unique setting and unique enemies. This gives the game a ton of variety and means we can constantly keep it feeling fresh. There’s no being stuck in ancient Egypt or Atlantis or military bases or whatever for an entire game. We can change it up.
 
We’ve also got weapons the likes of which have never been seen before. Like an interdimensional mass of glass ribbons that shoots literal black holes and a staff that pulls planets out of space and launches them at enemies; sometimes even Earth (sorry, Earth!).
 
Soul mode is another cool feature which upgrades and overpowers your weapons for a short amount of time, allowing you to shred enemies. This was inspired by the Tome of Power from Heretic but we use it to a much more devastating effect. We don’t think anyone has ever turned a battle axe into a boat propeller… until now!
 
Not to mention that the AI is much more crafty than in most classic FPS games. They path extremely well and will jump up and down ledges to get to you. Some reflect your attacks back, some are able to dodge and flank etc. It adds a lot of depth that the classic games just didn’t have – but also a lot of strategy and fun.
 

 
What were some of the developmental challenges of bringing a retro-FPS to life in the modern era? How did Unreal Engine 4 aid you in realizing your vision?
 
Development wise – it’s been pretty easy! We have a lot of experience with Unreal Engine, so the challenge for us is mainly in our small team. We wouldn’t have been able to make this game if it wasn’t for our experience and Unreal Engine 4’s amazing tools and workflow.  We’d say the real challenge with any retro FPS is trying to appeal to both fans of the classics while trying also appeal to newer players. And creating kick-ass levels.
 
Has anyone on the team worked with Unreal Engine before? If so, how has that experience benefited you in development of AMID EVIL? If not, how difficult did you find it jumping into Unreal Engine 4 for the first time?
 
We’ve been working with Unreal for… six years? We first started using Unreal Engine 3 with Interceptor Entertainment on Rise of the Triad 2013. We jumped to Unreal Engine 4 for the development of Rad Rodgers. The jump to UE4 wasn’t difficult at all honestly. It’s got the fastest workflow of any engine we’ve used by far. You can rapidly turn your ideas into something working in no time. We’re big fans.

 
If you had to choose a favorite Unreal Engine 4 tool, what would it be and why?
 
It would definitely be Blueprints. The iteration times and ease of visual scripting etc. has been one reason why we’ve been able to make this game in less than two years. The game mainly relies on Blueprints, in fact. We don’t have much C++ going on.
 
The visuals in AMID EVIL are very unique. How did you manage to blend ‘90s FPS and modern looks so well? Is it true the weapons are actually sprites?
 
What we’ve created is a style that combines full PBR rendering and other features that Unreal Engine 4 offers (such as volumetric fog, GPU particles, extensive use of the robust material system, and reflection captures) with the old school, unfiltered texture look of the mid-90s FPS games.
 
And yes, for example, the first-person weapons and pickups you see are actually sprites with individual frames using masked materials, complete with normal, roughness, and metalness maps. They’re then baked with perspective from hi-poly 3D meshes, with a fairly unique workflow. We’ve actually got an upcoming technical blog about this aspect of the look we’ve gone for and how it’s done. Stay tuned!
  
Recently launching your fifth of seven total episodes, the feedback from fans and critics alike is hugely positive. How important has feedback been to the further development of AMID EVIL since entering Early Access in March 2018?
 
The feedback has been amazing and we’re truly blown away by how much people like the game. Early Access turned out to be a much better idea than we thought, mainly because the game is practically bug-free because of it!
 
Moreover, the episodic release schedule we’ve taken on has kept players interested and engaged during Early Access as well. So it was definitely the right decision. It’s allowed us to read nearly every comment and suggestion people leave during development since there’s always room for improvement and new ideas. We’ve taken many of these player suggestions into account and implemented them into the game, too – which is cool. Having a community invested in helping you make your game better every day is something seriously invaluable. AMID EVIL wouldn’t be what it is without them.

 
With two episodes to go, has your approach to development changed in any way since that initial release? Have you ‘course corrected’ on anything realizing it could be done better or more efficiently?
 
AMID EVIL’s development is actually quite unusual for us. We don’t really have much in the way of documentation or concepts. We basically just experiment with ideas until we build something cool, then iterate on it ‘til it’s solid all around. It’s neat because each episode has its own feel because of that. Sure, there are always things that could have been done better, some systems could be more modular, more optimized, etc. But it’s been fairly smooth sailing. And Unreal Engine 4 definitely helps with that.
 
What have you learned along your journey so far that you’d pass onto another developer jumping into Unreal Engine 4 for the first time?
 
Unreal is its own thing, some things within it are very similar to other engines, but others definitely not. Take time to read the documentation. Use the tutorials. And remember that the Unreal developer community is huge and welcoming, so there’s a lot of help out there if you ever run into anything. Talk to them!
 
Where are all the places people can go to learn more about AMID EVIL, New Blood Interactive, and Indefatigable?
 
●      http://AMIDEVIL.com
●      http://Newblood.games
●      http://Indefatigable.co.nz
●      https://twitter.com/TheNewBloods
●      https://twitter.com/indefatigablenz
●      http://discord.gg/newblood

Ghost Slinks From the Shadows to the Spotlight Thanks to Unreal Dev Grant

Sky Machine Studios is in the beginning chapters of developing its very first game, Ghost. Jumping into the indie-development scene fueled by their love of the industry they grew up with, this team of six from Sydney, Australia are one of the very grateful recipients of Epic’s Unreal Dev Grants.

In the demanding world of video game development, it can be hard to carve out your piece of the pie, and Sky Machine isn’t taking their good fortune for granted. Extra funding thanks to the Unreal Dev Grant is opening new avenues in their game’s development and also in their marketing and promotion. 

While the stealth genre has seen some hits and misses over the past few years, there’s no denying that a hungry fan base still exists for what could arguably be considered a grossly underserved audience. Specifically taking on the isometric stealth genre, Lead Project Director Robert Wahby and the rest of Sky Machine Studios aim to deliver an engrossing experience that benefits as much as possible from the one thing that every indie studio needs a little bit of — faith.

We caught up with the team to learn more about the project and their approach to a reimagined stealth genre.
 

Sky Machine Studios is a small team comprised of six people and Ghost is your first title. Tell us what brought the team together and what’s driving you to jump into the often daunting world of indie development.

One of the driving forces in developing Ghost is the opportunity to break into the indie scene. We are aware of the challenges that come with indie development, but nothing is worth pursuing unless there is a bit of trial. After all, that is how you learn. But most of all, we are all avid gamers and want to be part of the culture and industry that we fondly grew up in.

Ghost is a pretty ambitious game for a small team like ours. We are a close-knit team, and proud that we are able to bring Ghost to life without needing an army of programmers and artists.

Ghost is in very early stages of development and not on a lot of people’s radar just yet so please tell us a little bit about the game and its premise.

Ghost is an immersive isometric stealth game, set in the city of Anargal. You’re cast in the role of Arthur Artorias, a man stripped of his past, tortured and forced to escape into isolation. Thought to be dead, you return eight years later, a changed man, seeking answers and pursuing revenge.

In Ghost, you’ll explore a world full of mystery, eccentric characters, and compelling missions. Hide in the shadows, ready your blade and seek your revenge. You must hide, explore, and survive if you wish to last the first night of winter.

Does anyone on the team have prior experience with Unreal Engine 4? If so, how is that existing experience benefitting the team now? If not, how has the team found the learning process of such a robust engine? 

Yes, Lucas, our programmer, has had extensive experience with Unreal Engine. As for the rest of the team, we’ve become accustomed to the engine, and while there’s a bit of a learning curve at first (as expected with any piece of complicated software), it didn’t take too long to get a grasp of the engine.

One thing I must say is the level building and lighting portion of the engine is fantastic and very easy to use. Being able to quickly prototype a level has assisted us in fully fleshing out environments and script events.

The main protagonist in Ghost, Arthur, loses his entire family in an attempt on his own life and comes back eight years later to exact his revenge. What can you tell us of Arthur’s motivation? Is it more than just revenge?  

The ideas and concepts seen here revolve around falling into hell and ascending out of the muck. Arthur’s story is one of great demise and the fighting spirit that some individuals have to rise above their dilemma. It’s a narrative of growth, mystery and yes, it’s also a story of revenge. 

From an archetypal point of view, Arthur is no hero. He’s a custodian of his family’s wealth, accustomed to living an extravagant life. However, in Ghost, Arthur is cast out of his familiar world, everything he deems valuable has been stripped from him, forcing Arthur into a life of destitution, to return with a new sense of courage and conviction. Telling a tale of rebirth.

As Arthur continues his story, he will begin to notice how the world has changed in his absence. A religious militant group called the Greater Heaven has taken over the city with their tyrannical ideology. Arthur will soon discover, things are not what they appear to be.

A few months ago, Sky Machine Studios was one of the recipients of an Unreal Dev Grant. Congratulations on this prestigious honor! When you submitted your application, did you ever expect to win? Did you have any fears about submitting your work in such a manner?

Thank you! It’s pretty insane actually. At the time, we were developing a prototype build, fundamentally teaching ourselves how to work as a team, developing a workflow, figuring out how the various systems should function, etc. We submitted the prototype build in the hopes that it was good enough. You know, in the back of your mind, you’re always wondering if the project stands out. After we submitted Ghost to Epic, we, of course, continued developing and eventually turned the prototype into a much more functional game. We really revamped everything.

All in all, it was a pleasant surprise. We had no clue whether or not we would be selected, and as the months went by, our doubts increased. Then, one day, we received an email informing us that we were one of the recipients. I had to read the email a few times just to comprehend what just happened! It’s not every day you are recognized for something as special as this. 

Now that you have the grant, how much does this mean to the studio? How do you think this award will benefit not only your team but the game itself?

Winning the grant was a clear indication to me and the team that we are heading in the right direction with Ghost. The grant essentially places a spotlight on the project and not to mention a healthy boost to motivation.

The grant gives us some breathing room and allows us to be able to implement more elaborate ideas and concepts, such as new 3D assets. For example, we have a pretty cool sequence on a moving train, that may not have come to life if it wasn’t for the Dev Grant. The grant has also allowed us to push some development pipelines forward. For instance, we are currently working on character designs and investing in more advanced animations to bring these characters to life.

Along with improving the current state of the game, we plan on using a portion of the grant in getting our name out there via a marketing push. We are aware that the project is not on a lot of people’s radar at the moment, but hopefully, it will be in the coming months.        

If you were to offer words of encouragement or advice to someone thinking about submitting their own project to the Unreal Dev Grant program, what would you say?

Make sure the project has potential. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but the Unreal Engine team and the public need to see that there is something there. If the game looks too rough or it doesn’t stand out, you’re most likely not going to turn heads, especially considering the caliber of projects that are submitted. Just keep going at it and don’t be fearful of delaying the project until that potential is there.

Isometric stealth games have seen some success in recent years with games like Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun and Seven: The Days Long Gone. How do you feel Ghost stands out against its peers in the genre? Were there any other games that gave you particular inspiration?

With Ghost, we are trying to take the classic staples seen within the genre; such as hiding in the shadows, keeping your feet light, as to not make a sound, and grounding the experience within an isometric perspective, a true stealth experience. I believe this perspective has become somewhat popular in recent years, due to the fact that the stealth genre has primarily been played from a first-person or third-person viewpoint. It’s a reimagining of the genre.

Ghost takes plenty of inspiration from the titans of the stealth genre, primarily from the Thief and Splinter Cell series as they are the bedrock of stealth gaming. Besides the interplay between exposing yourself and not being seen, there is a great sense of open exploration these games offer.

Ghost, much in the same way, is a sandbox experience with the spirit of exploration at its core. Ghost is all about options and is a stealth experience built from the ground up to take advantage of the isometric perspective. This open-ended design is seen through our emphases on seamless verticality and the systems we have implemented to achieve this. This is particularly displayed in multistory buildings. As the player ascends each floor, the entire level is completely animated up into existence (floor, props, walls etc) within a blink of an eye. This allows the player to explore alternative avenues and grant access to such paths as a second story balcony or windows, no matter the elevation and nothing blocking the camera. The entire system, in my opinion, works quite well.

From a graphical perspective, the team spent a lot of time working on lighting and developing a sense of claustrophobia to interior locations such as buildings. For example, the entire outside world is blacked out with a heavy focus on what is in the player’s immediate environment, whenever a player enters a building.

However, one of the stand-out features seen in Ghost is our arrow-crafting system. From crafting water arrows to extinguishing torches, to poison arrows, and even electric-powered ones, it’s a fairly robust system. Now where the system really shines is how you can combine these elements, essentially creating more complicated arrow types. For example: If you take the poison arrow and add smoke to the mix, you’ll get an area-of-effect, basically engulfing the environment with poison smoke. This is one of many examples out of the 30+ different arrow combinations seen in Ghost. The arrow-crafting system, while used for offensive and defensive playstyle, will be an integral part of solving puzzles as well.

Despite being early in your development, how has Unreal Engine 4 helped you to create your environments of contrasting dark and light (which is very important in stealth games!)? Has there been a specific tool you’ve found especially helpful?

I’d have to say the lighting system has been one of the most useful systems found inside Unreal. The flexibility to tweak every scenario, with ease, from mood to directional lighting, has allowed Ghost to have that stylized look. There is something satisfying when placing assets and 3D objects inside the engine. Things just pop out. It makes you appreciate the cumulative efforts and constant refinement the engine has gone through over the years. I fundamentally believe Ghost would have been a much different looking game if we used an alternative engine.   

When it comes to specific tools, I would have to say that Unreal’s profiling tool assisted us in tweaking and optimizing performance. Instead of manually having to check each actor in a scene, the tool allowed us to locate what was causing any performance drops in any given scenario. 

You’ve still got a healthy amount of development in front of you for Ghost. Are there any other tools in Unreal Engine 4 you’re looking forward to using as you work toward release and how do you feel they’ll aid you in the game’s development?

We’re definitely looking to explore a bit more into Sequencer for creating great in-game cinematics since Unreal provides one of the best cinematic tools on the market. Also, we want to make sure we get the best LOD practices from the tools provided, not only on polygon reduction but on instance meshes to give us that little extra performance juice.

Where can people go to find out more about Sky Machine Studios and Ghost?

You can find information on Ghost via our website and social pages across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

How ARK: Survival Evolved Made the Move to Mobile

When Studio Wildcard announced that ARK: Survival Evolved would be coming to mobile platforms earlier this year, the news stunned the video game industry. Considering the graphically-intensive open-world game takes full advantage of high-end PCs and modern consoles, how could it possibly run on significantly less powerful smartphones? 

To turn this monumental task into a reality, the publisher enlisted the help of War Drum Studios, a seasoned developer who’s worked on acclaimed mobile games that include Bully, Grand Theft Auto, and Auralux. The recent release of the mobile version of ARK: Survival Evolved sets a stunning example for how developers can port AAA console-quality titles to mobile devices.

The mobile version of the action-adventure survival game offers an equally thrilling experience as its PC and console counterparts. Available across iOS and Android, it features a massive island, over 80 dinosaurs, and the same crafting and building mechanics from the established game. While many mobile ports of AAA games offer watered-down mechanics, players of the mobile version of ARK: Survival Evolved largely get the same great experience. This certainly isn’t a heavily trimmed-down version of the base game. To see how War Drum Studios accomplished this colossal task, we interviewed CEO Thomas Williamson and Community Manager Jordan Kleeman to learn how they were able to port such a gargantuan title to the smallest of platforms using Unreal Engine 4

Uncompromised quality

One of the main goals that War Drum Studios set out for itself was to faithfully recreate the desktop version for phones and to maintain its high-graphical pedigree in the process, but even they questioned whether they would have to make significant compromises. “Early on, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to support the aquatic and flying creatures,” they told us. Fortunately, they were able to engineer a solution.

While War Drum Studio did tweak some elements of the mobile version to run optimally on phones, they assert that the game is very similar to its desktop counterpart. The developer elaborated that the port was based on the PC’s Early Access 2017 build, “We feature all 50 square kilometers of the island and its surrounding body of water with only a few caves omitted. We removed the boss fights due to size constraints, but we’ve got over 80 different creatures in addition to all of the engrams from the original PC release.” 

Whether you’ve played the mobile version of ARK or have just seen snippets of its gameplay, you know that it looks visually amazing. It raises the bar for how good games on phones can look. Like the desktop version, it features vast draw distances, an immersive day-to-night cycle, and great water and fire effects. The development team is impressively squeezing every ounce of performance from mobile processors. 

How did War Drum Studios get the mobile version looking so good? The developer credits UE4 for much of the help, “Unreal Engine 4 enthusiasts will be very happy to know that 95 percent of this happened just in the editor! This is not too hard if you are working with a complete game that already has an established look and feel, it’s just a lot of asset work.” To keep frame rates smooth, War Drum Studios employed a few intelligent performance-saving measures. “First we created about 20-30 simple materials that replicated the general look of each type of asset (dinosaur skin, beach sand, building materials). Then we re-parented all of the MICs in the game to these new materials and tweaked values,” they added, “New assets entirely consisted of some detailing textures we sampled on top of diffuse textures to get away with a lower texture resolution. That’s where most of our memory savings came from, along with determining which high-level features just wouldn’t fit in memory, such as the bosses.” The developer reiterated how integral UE4 was in the porting process and stated, “It would have taken twice as much time without the Unreal toolset.”

The mobile version is all the more impressive when you consider that it was predominately ported by just 13 people working on the title for a little over a year. “We handle everything in-house: from programming and art, to QA and community management. Studio Wildcard helped us build promotional content, plan the launch, and get our server infrastructure off the ground. By title, we have five programmers, three artists, three QA, and two community managers, but every single person here wears all the other hats in some regard. You have to have that in a small team.”

Team tactics

One benefit of such a scrappy studio using UE4 is that they can quickly iterate to push updates. “Due to our small team size, we’re quite agile and can implement changes rather quickly. For example, we can have a discussion with community members about a new feature on Wednesday, implement it on Thursday, QA it on Friday, and our players are downloading it in an update on their devices by Monday,” the developer exclaimed.

One of the reasons why the port was able to come together so quickly and efficiently was due to UE4’s Blueprints system, which allows non-programmers to code in an easy-to-understand visual-scripting way. “There is no better interface to have between all of the team members. Programmers, artists, and our QA department were able to work with Blueprint graphs and fix bugs and work together,” the developer remarked, adding, “It’s a great common language because it’s so easy to pick up. Because everyone was able to work with Blueprints, user interfaces, gameplay features, and other new content came together very quickly.” 

Mobile evolved

The seasoned developer had a lot of great things to say about UE4 as a mobile development platform, “Frankly, if you have a high-end game that you want to adapt to mobile, Unreal Engine 4 is far and away the best toolset. Things are simple to scale. Every aspect of the engine framework is tweakable. Integration of third party services, if it hasn’t been done already, is trivial.” The company expanded upon how working with UE4 serves as a beneficial long-term investment, “It’s a proven commodity. If you are an independent game developer breaking into the industry, consider this: if a big studio is looking to hire someone or a team for a project, which engine can you sell your experience on? With Unreal Engine 4, you get all the selling points. It’s known to scale well, is used by all the biggest names, and it gives you access to and experience with bleeding-edge technology.”

Even though they had a competent team and the tools to excel, the company still faced challenges along the way. At the onset, the developer questioned whether faithfully recreating the massive and graphically lush world of ARK: Survival Evolved on significantly less powerful mobile devices would be possible without major sacrifices. “Early on, [our build] only ran on the highest-end devices and took up much more memory than we had available,” the developer explained. An easy way out would have been to scrap a ton of features, which was a direction the team flirted with. “We almost didn’t include underwater exploration, but [publisher] Wildcard encouraged us by giving us a few extra months to work on the problem,” the developer stated. The studio was able to engineer a solution that changed how the mobile version streams in level content to solve this issue.  

Optimizing controls from the PC version’s keyboard-and-mouse setup so that gameplay would feel natural on a smartphone’s touch screen was another obstacle for the studio. Luckily, the developer had an esteemed history of porting AAA console games over to mobile platforms and had the experience to tackle this issue. War Drum attributes iteration as the key to their success here, “Our design philosophy stems from one specific mantra: avoid making the player have to know where their thumbs are as much as possible. You end up wasting a lot of attention with a ton of virtual buttons that could be spent on the game experience otherwise,” they added, “You’ll notice this with ARK’s default control scheme. For 95 percent of your in-game actions, your thumb placement on the screen is unimportant to your next action.” The developer elegantly implemented many context-sensitive controls that are intuitive to a touch screen. For instance, while running, players will automatically jump over little hurdles in their way. They also added an undo button to help players finetune their builds. These quality-of-life tweaks make it feel like ARK was built from the ground up to be a mobile game. 

Despite having a large phone-based audience, War Drum Studios found that many players loved having complete control and designed the user interface to suit their needs. “For almost everything we tried to automate, we’ve added the option of a dedicated button, including an on-screen hot bar.” But the mobile version of ARK: Survival Evolved isn’t just for hardcore players. The development team made tweaks to make the game more accessible, too. “We added feedback, such as meters to let you know how much time is left when cooking items or taming creatures. Many of the game’s timers for things like breeding and imprinting creatures have been reduced,” they stated. They also added a casual mode that prevents players from losing all of their equipment and blueprints when they die. This makes the experience much less intimidating for newcomers. In addition, the studio created a Pursuit system, which acts as a tutorial to ease new players into the game and helps veterans adapt to the new mobile control scheme. The Pursuit system provides additional focus and guidance to players as they journey across the game’s island.

Players will also be able to explore ARK’s vast world with numerous others online, as the mobile version supports crossplay between Android and iOS. The studio praised UE4 for being instrumental here, “Unreal Engine took us 95 percent of the way with compatibility between the platforms.” They added, “The engine design makes it very simple to integrate new systems such as metrics, ad services, and networking solutions with new modules. We’re very fortunate to have such a leg up with this project because of Unreal.”

The mobile version of ARK: Survival Evolved represents a landmark title that changes the landscape of what mobile games can be. It proves that a small, scrappy team can produce a AAA-quality experience in a relatively short amount of time. You can download ARK: Survival Evolved for free on iTunes and Google Play today.

If you’re interested in creating your own game, download and explore Unreal Engine 4.20 for free now.

Connect with Unreal Engine Throughout Europe This October

Hello Unreal Engine developers! We are excited to let you know that we will soon be travelling all throughout Europe to witness with our own eyes the quality of your projects and meet you face to face! During our extensive road trip we will strive to meet as many developers as possible as we host various gatherings and technical sessions designed to help you succeed with Unreal Engine.

We will be present in seven European cities this October and we can’t wait to connect with you while in town. Alongside our activities we will have indie booths at multiple game conferences with over 50 Unreal Engine games on display as we help European devs show off their games to press, the public and the entire industry. 

You are welcome to join one of our many events and chat with us at any time as we are here to support and help you however we can!

CIAO MILAN!

The first stop on our European tour will be Milan, Italy, where we will be taking part in Milan Games Week, October 5-7

On October 3, Epic Games will co-host a mixer in association with AESVI. The mixer will take place at Birreria “La Fontanella” in the charming district Navigli in Milan. 

Do not miss the chance for great networking with Epic’s Sjoerd De Jong and Michael Wiessmueller as you enjoy tasty, free beverages! Interested in attending? RSVP here!  

On October 5 you can attend the talk ‘Unreal Engine & The Future’ and stick around for one-on-one discussion with Sjoerd, who is very eager to meet attendees and give advice to anyone in need. More info and registration can be found here.
  

ALO BUCHAREST!

Meanwhile, field marketing manager Milena Koljensic and Unreal Engine evangelist Joseph Azzam will be visiting Bucharest in Romania, where they will participate in the Dev.Play conference, October 4-5
  

Joseph Azzam will deliver two presentations during the conference, so if you are around, don’t miss his talks on the first day, October 4! You can view the speaker agenda here.

Also, be sure to stop by the Indie Expo where you can try out projects by eight Unreal Engine developers as they are showcased throughout the conference. Of course, if you are feeling thirsty, visit us at our Networking Mixer, which will take place at Dev.Play Lounge on October 4, between 6-7PM! 

HALLO MUNICH!

While in Germany we are partnering with Games/Bavaria to put on the second edition of the Munich Unreal Engine Evening on October 8

This productive event, which will be hosted by Epic’s Sjoerd De Jong and our Munich resident- Michael Wiessmueller, will be packed with speakers coming from Bulkhead Darkhorse, FFF Bayern, and Aesir Interactive.

More info about the event and how to RSVP can be found here

CZEŚĆ WARSAW!

Our major presence in Poland starts off with an Unreal Engine Mixer in the capital city of Poland, Warsaw, on October 9!

In partnership with the Warsaw Unreal Engine Meetup group, we are inviting you to join us for talks, soft drinks, snacks and free beer! In Warsaw you can also meet up with Sjoerd De Jong and Roman Goroshkin as you network with us throughout the night. Please do RSVP for our Unreal Mixer here, as the spots are limited .

CZEŚĆ POZNAŃ!  

After Warsaw, Sjoerd and Roman will travel to Poznan where they will be present at two major events. You can meet us at PGA, October 12-14, and visit our large and prominent booth with 24 pods as Unreal developers display their projects to public and press. If you’re in attendance, please stop by and say hello to your fellow devs and our team!
  

You can also meet us at GIC and visit our talks October 12-14. Our friends from Fool’s Theory will be giving a talk on ‘Storytelling Tools Development for an RPG Game in UE4’ and you can also visit two more talks by Sjoerd, including the very first look at his new in-depth Blueprint class, which is described below:

In this advanced talk Epic’s Sjoerd De Jong will go into detail on how to use Blueprint in a future proof and scalable way. Best practices, dos and donts, and recommendations on how to utilize BP to its full potential. Collaboration topics, C++/BP workflow, as well as recommendations regarding Blueprint compilation, run-time performance, and its impact on memory. He will go over crucial but rarely covered topics with the goal of leveling up attendees who already have working knowledge of Blueprint to the point where they are fully proficient in our unique language and all of its finer details.

To pick out the talks you would like to attend, please view the GIC agenda here

We are looking forward to catching up with y’all in Poland!

ПРИВЕТ MOSCOW!

Russia, here we come! October 16-17 is reserved for participation in one of the biggest game conferences in Russia, White Nights
  

If you want to check out the latest games from our developers, please visit the Indie Area powered by Unreal Engine where you will find 10 amazing projects, waiting to be discovered! 

And, if you somehow manage to miss our evangelists during the day, we have another epic party happening during the evening on October 16! More info can be found here

HALLÅ SWEDEN!  

Last but not least is Skovde, Sweden, October 17-19, where Sjoerd will participate in SGC and hold a talk on October 18. The speaker agenda can be viewed here

As we know that conferences can be very exhausting, we have decided to host the fun Award Dinner where we hope you will join us for yummy food, drinks and mingling! Check out the SGC page for Award Dinner updates.

Finally, as we all know that one party is never enough, we connected with our close friends from Goodbye Kansas to host an after party on October 18 at Scandic Billingen, where we wish to network, enjoy drinks and celebrate our developer’s achievements. 

Questions?

We are always here to help you, so if you have any questions regarding these events or how to get in touch with us, please connect with Sjoerd (@Hourences) directly on Twitter.

We can’t wait to see you soon in Europe!

Unreal Dev Days 2018 Details Announced

Taking place first at the JW Marriott in downtown Los Angeles on October 18 and then at the beautiful St. James Theater in Montreal on November 14, Dev Days 2018 is an exclusive series of events designed for developers looking to take their pipeline to the next level with Unreal Engine.

First announced in early September, Epic has today revealed the details of what attendees can expect during this year’s event. The below sessions are geared towards game developers currently in production and are designed to help them be as successful as possible in Unreal Engine.

The Dev Days 2018 presentations are:

Session: Unreal Engine Roadmap
Presenter: Nick Penwarden, Director, Engineering, Unreal Engine, Epic Games
We’ll kick off the day with a discussion of the features and developments coming to Unreal Engine.
        
Session: Overcoming Common Early Challenges in Unreal Engine
Presenter: Zak Parrish, Senior Dev Rel Tech Artist, Epic Games

This practical discussion will present an overview of common issues that arise during a studio’s first six months on a UE4 project, focusing on solutions. Topics will include general best practices, optimization guidelines, and how to avoid common pitfalls of game development.

Session: Introduction to Niagara
Presenters: 
Los Angeles – Wyeth Johnson, Lead Technical Artist, Epic Games 
Montreal – Alan Willard, Senior Dev Rel Tech Artist, Epic Games

In this Q&A-based session we’ll give an overview of Niagara, our new VFX simulation tool, and the philosophy behind our new VFX paradigms. We’ll talk about the Niagara feature roadmap and our new suite of content examples, and discuss the tool and its uses.

Session: Making the Most of Animation Blueprints
Presenter: Kaye Vassey, Senior Technical Animator, Epic Games

This talk will cover Fortnite’s use of animation Blueprints. We’ll cover the use of Blueprints for gluing together character parts after retargeting, dynamic solutions for low LODs, and faking dynamics in higher LODs with procedural animation techniques.

Session: Adjusting Your Content to Perform on Target Hardware
Presenter: Joe Conley, Support Engineer, Epic Games

When building new content for a given platform, or porting from one platform to another, it’s very common to end up with assets that are too demanding for the target hardware. There are many tools inside of Unreal Engine that can help you align the content you made with what the hardware can actually run. In this session, we’ll compare different methods for asset reduction such as polygon reduction, LODs, merging actors, and resizing textures to see which optimizations are effective in improving performance in which scenarios. We’ll also discuss how to make your game load faster and hitch less through profiling and optimizing asset loading and garbage collection.

Session: What’s New for Animation in UE4
Presenter: Jay Hosfelt, Senior Animator, Epic Games

This talk will provide an overview of the latest animation tools in UE4. Topics include the Live Link and Control Rig plugins, and the Animation Retargeting feature.

Interested in attending? Registration is open via the links below. 

Unreal Dev Days 2018 – Los Angeles | Thursday, October 18, 2018 | 10AM – 6PM

Unreal Dev Days 2018 – Montreal | Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | 10AM – 6PM

We hope to see you there!