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  • 01/01/15 09:40 AM
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    From Never Doing Game Code or Game Art... To A Full Game In Unreal Engine 4

    Career Development


    Going From Zero To One

    Well it took me literally 5 months to go from ZERO to ONE! Five months ago I decided to dive deep into game development. Keep in mind...
    • Never coded before UE4
    • Never created 2d or 3d game art before UE4
    • Never created game animation before
    • Never used UE4 (Unreal Engine) before
    EN_screen1_Retina_2048x15361.jpg At the time of this journal entry for myself, I would have classified myself as a CEO who would usually hire a developer and artist. That has changed, simply because I wanted to learn every facet of the game business. Also I knew in the back of my mind that this was a small step in a larger journey.

    The Larger Journey

    Sure, it may be old hat for an experienced coder, but it's been monumental for myself to finish this game, with no coding experience and to learn a completely new engine. I would never invest so much of my time and energy unless I truly enjoyed the experienced and believed I could... in the years to come give back to the community and our gamers. As of this writing, I released the game on mobile to test out the waters and balance out game play. Now Eye Guy is on Steam Green Light with a completely new PC/Mac version. Sure, it's not your typical PC Steam Game, some may say knock it, others will love it, but for me it's about getting something out to the community and getting feedback for the next round of development. And this process of...
    1. Releasing
    2. Learning
    3. Iteration/modify
    Has been a a fantastic end-less loop that has taught me so much.

    A Little Promo Video Of Eye Guy

    [/media] Eye Guy - Reaction Time Rush is now on Steam Greenlight. If you have a minute, consider sending me a "YES" vote.

    In The Beginning

    Starting Up

    When I started Dream Bot Studios, I really did mostly game design and learned the basics from working with developers, artists, and releasing games into the marketplace. My studio pushed out some simple games testing the waters of the mobile game market. Some did well, like Turbo Train and Vlad The Angry Viking. They even had write ups from Game Sauce and one of my games was an Indie Prize candidate at Casual Connect! It was a great learning experience, although I never felt I was able to contribute my ideas and creativity like I really wished for. Also, profits were very dismal and nothing really to build a business around. As an entrepreneur you are always told to hire someone to do the project if you have the budget. I live by this philosophy; it's great advice and I will always hire specialists when I can or think it's a good investment. But I knew making games and entertainment was what I loved. Something deep down was telling me I needed to understand all facets of game development as well as marketing the game by understanding more of the intricate processes of producing a game. Then when the business is ready to grow I would have a tight grasp on game development to build projects myself or have team members work with me.

    My Little 20 Year Vision...

    This means I will be developing really great games and entertainment for the next 20 years of my life. So when you look at a 20 year vision, it makes taking a year or more to dive into a new game engine like UE4, learning visual scripting, learning coding, learning game art and animation not that overwhelming. This meant starting from scratch. I been building businesses since 2002 specializing in technology and internet businesses and creating unique experiences for customers. I am a entrepreneur and have been my whole life, but there was that creative aspect I needed fulfilled. For years now I have been literally seeing huge beautiful worlds in my head with unique characters that were brought to life by scripting and AI, so I made the decision to make time to learn to build games. I wanted to give my self some confidence since I knew very little about game coding and the Unreal Engine. I watched a great Ted talk by Josh Kaufman that explained that by taking 30 minutes to an hour every day for month you can learn anything. [media]
    [/media] He was right, doing consecutive learning exercises of just watching and/or doing I started to get a small grasp on things. During this time I would run my other businesses with help of my team, but at the end of the work day I would take my dinner break after 6pm or 7pm and put my head down and start learning the Unreal Engine. I watched videos, did small little projects and tested my logic in visual scripting. In the beginning it was about understanding the Blueprint system and acquiring a grasp on how to visually code using this new game engine. At times I would get stuck and could not figure out things for 2 to 3 days sometimes. I would request help on Answer Hub and the UE4 forums. Over time, I learned to step away and just think about the logic of how this mechanic would work. Then if needed, present the question to the forums of UE4 or simply dive into the engine and figure it out. Every time it worked... and with more problem solving I became more knowledgeable in developing games.

    Benefits Beyond What Was Expected

    Programming and Visual scripting has really helped me think more clearly. My way of creating processes and solving problems in work and daily life has become exponentially easier. Doing scenarios for my business became much clearer. For example, I was able to foresee when my other business would have inventory issues or if our margins would be too low for the amount of marketing spend and cost we have scheduled. I simply used a spreadsheet and began presenting scenarios like I did when I code a video game. Running each step of a process... It was really enlightening for me to begin seeing multiple benefits of doing something I was passionate about.

    Committing To A New Vision

    Like anything, if you decide on something you must cut off from something else. I was quite alright cutting off parts of my personal life and free time, although some of my colleagues, friends and family were not exactly ok with it, which I totally understood. But this was important to me, so I began to prepare to learn and succeed faster. Of course you take time to spend with family and friends, but you must decide to work when work and play when you play. It's a critical balance... yet I used free time to recuperate and think about how to learn game development faster. For an athlete, you train your body. I believe for a programmer, artist, or anyone else who builds with ideas in one's head, you have to make sure your brain is relaxed, in shape and not toxic. I was using my brain differently than I had usually been when managing my business. For me, this meant that I would need to increase my focus and have a clear thinking of what I wanted to create. I need more thinking power! So over a few weeks I began developing a routine. In the beginning this way transition in it's simplest form... it was simply: Morning:
    • Do Qi Gong, Tai Chi or Yoga
    • Meditation To Relax The Mind
    • Journal Entry (Optional To Track Your Success)
    • Green Juice (Healthyt Vegetable/Fruit Juice)
    • Normal Business Tasks (Do What's Funding Your Dream)
    Mid Day:
    • 30 Min Exercise (Walk, Jog, Swim or Basketball)
    • Quick Lunch (Tried Not To Over Eat)
    • Normal Business Tasks (Do What's Funding Your Dream)
    End of Day
    • Finished Normal Business Tasks
    • Took 30m to 60min Break (Ate Small Dinner)
    • Began Learning Game Development
    • 1st Starting Learning Coding and UE4
    • Then Learned Game Art and Other Things As Needed
    It took discipline, but it was important not to tie myself down to a computer all day trying to solve my game development problems in one sitting. I knew this would take months to understand, maybe years. I was ok with that as this was a 20 year plan and I would be happy know after 20 years when I am 50+ years old, I have acquired some new skills and could pick up a computer and begin building a game from scratch with the knowledge I have committed to learning.

    Seeing The Light

    The Unreal Engine has been fantastic to work with. I tried Unity and felt it was a great tool, started learning C#, but really fell in love with Visual Scripting using Unreal's new Blueprints. blueprint_gamemode.png Was I knew Unreal would be 100% backing and investing time in making the blueprint system. I decided to focus all my energy in their new engine. The blueprint visual scripting allowed me to learn the logic I needed visually. Now when solving problems or trying to figure out how I can build a mechanic, I would visualize it in a similar graph manner as the Unreal Engine 4 blueprint system. I also learned how to setup iOS and Android apps and certificates with the help of the community from Unreal Engine. I learned lots by working with Unreal Engine and can't stress enough the benefits it has given me as a creative entrepreneur who just wanted to build something great.

    Finally A Completed Game... Well, Until My Next Update

    Well, no game is ever complete -- you can always add more cool stuff for your players. Eye Guy was monumental for me. Eye_Guy.jpg So many games are created, yet many of them are never finished by developers. The are just prototypes. This is mostly because it is first really hard to create a game, then to have all the pieces and art working correcting, then the score and many other mechanics in unison. Wow... that is really quite a feat! So that's why with my first game i wanted something simple. I chose to use Paper 2d from Unreal. It was a good way to play around with 2d games and allowed me to create and distribute a game on mobile devices and then on the PC as well. Once I complete the coding part of the game, connecting leaderboards, combos, to the app store and google play. I began focusing on creating art for the game. I did the same process as I did for learning the Unreal Engine. Taking small tidbits of my day to learn Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and a new tool to animate the 2d art called Spine. I created my EyeGuy, something simple which would have a few animations and not really any big body to animate. Just and Eye, arms and legs. This was all planned so I can drop a great main character in the game and not worry about too many animations and collisions.

    My Original Simple Game Trailer Before The Update

    [/media] I took the enemy art from the approved licensed art the engine gives you. There were some cool 2d sprites from Kenny Sprites Pack I used. I simply added these as the enemies so I could implement something and get the game out to the public to test and play. Then the background, I used from another game Dream Bot Studios developed. It was a very nice background I really liked and rather than re-designing it myself, I used it in the game and will be adding on to it in new versions. Lastly, I made some cool particle effects using the Unreal Engine. This was difficult at first because I had never used this tool before. But then once I used it and tested the particles on a mobile device, some particles were just too intense for mobile processors. So I learned a lot by trial and error.

    A Quick Game To Pick Up And Play

    One thing I learned playing games is I didn't want a huge game. Also, I did not want something with a huge learning curve. Simple and easy to pickup and play immediately. I didn't want to sit and re-learn how to play the game each time I started after not playing for a few days. So while Eye Guy version 1.0 is a small, easy to pick up game, it is monumental in my journey as a game developer and working with the Unreal Engine.

    The Mobile Ready Version

    EN_screen1_IPad_1024x768.jpg It's available on the following platforms at the time of writing: Apple App Store (iOS) **Big v1.1 Update Waiting To Approved Included** Google Play (Android) **Some Devices Giving Users Errors, So I Made It Free**

    My Latest Update... I Made A PC Build Just For Steam GreenLight

    EN_screen1_Retina_2048x15361.jpg Eye Guy - Reaction Time Rush is now on Steam Greenlight. If you have a minute, consider sending me a "YES" vote.

    The Grand Plan To Reduce Costs And Inrease Revenue

    I learned something very important when hiring other developers and artist for other games I designed. It was expensive if you're not getting income from the sales of the game, in app purchases or advertisements. So I developed this code so I could constantly re-use it and build different gameplay. This is why we see Call of Duty and Assassins Creed continue using similar game play, just keep adding on and updating their work. It's more efficient and over time you will be able to create better work faster for your players. This is what I plan on doing with Eye Guy. Depending on reviews and testing from our players. I have scheduled to add unique mechanics that will give the game a more deeper and connected experience. Not only that, it will allow me to learn more and add these specific game mechanics into the source code so I can re-use it for many future games I plan on releasing. So this is the journey... and here is a small game, yet a monumental step in my opinion in growing Dream Bot Studios.

    Wait... If You Have A Minute

    If you have a minute, please stop what you're doing and send me a "YES" vote on Steam Green Light. It would be greatly appreciated and I am already planning to journal the success to share with other Indie Developers. This article was originally posted (in a slightly different form) on my website at Dream Bot Studios. Article Update Log 12 Dec 2024: Initial release

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