February 2013 UDK Beta

After a long break, Epic’s latest beta of the Unreal Engine is out! Obviously the most important new addition is Substance, something I don’t fully understand yet since I haven’t had the time to play around with it. But what it claims to do is aid in dynamic texture creation, which not only reduces static texture sizes (and therefore game sizes) but virtually eliminates tiling in large maps. Should be great for mobile if it works there! Oh, and I should probably mention there is support for dynamically changing values in UnrealScript. Insert drooling here.

We also get a neat new showcase of the technology from Allegorithmic, and a free pack of starter materials which you can get here.

This year my work with UDK has slowed pretty much to a crawl, but maybe this was just the thing I needed to get back into it. Such an addition, not to mention dropping an Android version of Epic Citadel, may herald a big batch of goodies just over the horizon for indie developers.

It’s That Time of the Year Again…

That’s right, time for another Top 10 Games list!

Admittedly, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to do it again. My list last year and the accompanying video were a great success (at least by my standards, and I don’t think very many serious Top 10 lists get a 70%+ like ratio on YouTube) considering that they were pretty much spur-of-the-moment. This year I’ve had more time to think, and things like Google’s shutdown of YouTube video downloads in the wake of SOPA and more work at school have made it harder for me to take on such a project.

But what the hay.

This year I’m doing something different, and blogging a bit more about my process before dropping the finished product. So first step, a list of candidates (in no particular order):

  • Halo 4
  • Journey
  • Super Hexagon
  • Borderlands 2
  • Assassin’s Creed 3
  • Dishonored
  • Mass Effect 3
  • Diablo 3
  • Max Payne 3
  • Spec Ops: The Line
  • Darksiders 2
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown
  • COD: Black Ops 2
  • Unmechanical
  • Far Cry 3
  • Hawken

The last two haven’t been released yet, so I can’t very well judge them, now can I? A few of the remaining games I haven’t actually played yet…but like I said, there’s a fair bit of research involved in my selection process. If I haven’t played it and it’s there, that means a lot of other people have not only played it but enjoyed it. And I’ll get around to them eventually.

Last year I restricted my list to the “big-name games” — in other words, the games you see in TV commercials and on the news and such. I did this because it’s inherently unfair to group indie or mobile games with the big guns (a #1 game on a list of Top 10 Indie Games might not even make the Top 10 Overall list, even though it’s the cream of the crop). This year I’m looking for any video game.

If you, dear reader, somehow stumble upon this post and want to add a game of your own, please comment. The more feedback I get the better the final countdown will be.

Critical Point: Incursion

A while back I was asked to help out with the UnrealScript side of things for a video game that was then called Tactical Assault. The stuff they had was absolutely beautiful, so I went through the whole trial process and ended up working on a few backend things for them (weapon alignment and FOV, weapon animation playback, setting up grenades, and several flashbang post process effects).

We’ve had our ups and downs, but I’ve stuck around long enough to see them evolve from a team with a goal to a company with a dedicated website pushing for Steam greenlight. What’s more, they’ve just released a “world premiere” trailer (see below), and I can tell you with full confidence that there’s much more to come.

So congrats to the entire team over at Dominating Studios, and I hope to find enough time to keep working to the end! If this is the first time you’ve heard of these guys, I strongly encourage you to check their website out and support them.

UT Bots Pass Turing Test

In other words, they now play Unreal Tournament more humanly than any human ever could, fooling even an expert panel of human judges! This is a big step forward for game AI research, a topic I’m very interested in at the moment.

Note #1: Okay, not really. The Turing Test is actually a test to see whether a chatbot like Cleverbot can fool humans in natural language conversation. Since this was merely a test of playing ability (or inability, as is more often the case where humans are concerned), it doesn’t really count. Still a big achievement though.

Note #2: You probably won’t see these systems in your favorite game anytime soon. They’re not only highly geared towards UT2004, but they’re research developed for doctorates and stuff. Maybe if you give one of the researchers a cookie he’ll donate the source code…

From UDK To Sparrow…?

School. Ah yes, school.

School just started for me, and I’ve pretty much stopped game development altogether. Which sucks, because I remember a time that I was doing a whole lot of game development for school. Now it’s hard for me to even get near a computer with UDK, let alone dive into one of the projects that I have lined up.

But in the spirit of progress (that is, continuing to make games), I’ve decided to move entirely to mobile. Why? Well…the only computer I do have for school is a Mac. Also sucks, I know, but it’s a chance for me to learn something new.

For the foreseeable future — at least until the semester ends — I’ll be messing around with a neat little engine called Sparrow. I know what you’re thinking: “What about this blog? Or your YouTube tutorials?” Those two resources are all about UDK, so I can’t just veer off into Objective-C land without any warning. But fear not, I’ll still find a way to keep the tutorials coming. In the meantime, I’ve got some work to do :-).

Some Amazing Level Designs

Andrew Yoder’s blog is a real gem of level design…all it takes is one glance at the home page to see that. It seems that he follows a more minimalist path, choosing to work with select textures and BSP to make crazy cool environments. And as this picture clearly slows, he also knows his lighting.

What’s great about this site is that you can download many of the maps for free and try them out right away. Of note is the Hubris level, which isn’t just a level but an entire game reminiscent of Journey (Thatgamecompany, 2012) that focuses on exploration and atmosphere.

Go check it out!

Basic Free Custom Characters in UDK

For my latest game idea I needed custom characters, and I remembered a thread on the forums a while back that offered just that. The thread was a major b#%$& to find, but here it is in all its glory: Layout Starter Kit. Yes, it’s meant to be for testing only, but it also serves as a great starting point for a character of your own. Because the package is not cooked you can right-click on the mesh in the Content Browser and export the original 3D assets, then import them into a program like Blender and start molding them to your liking.

Even better, the creator says:

"Do what ever you want with it, I don't even expect credit."

Of course, giving credit where credit is due is always good practice. So thank you Chris Newman! For those of you who find the link broken, use this one instead or you can email me for the files.