Unreal Engine 4: pfft, I could do that…

July 20th, 2013 -

unreal4babies2

Alright, so… I may be over exaggerating a bit (or a lot). However, over the course of the next few paragraphs, I plan on explaining why you as a gamer should care about this and how I’ve used technology similar to this in various video games. So lets jump right in! (press the read more button) 

  • What is Unreal Engine 4?

First off, I guess we should address what the Unreal Engine actually is… Or maybe what a game engine does? If you’re already familiar with this, feel free to skip ahead to the next bullet point. The game “engine” in its simplest form is compiled code that puts all the pieces of your video game (art, sound, mechanics, etc.) together. Think of it like an operating system for a computer. How did you open that window? Your operating system made that possible. The Unreal Engine is software developed by Epic Games for studios who want to skip the process of writing all the code for a game engine and get right to making their game. Alternatively, you could code your own game engine from the ground up (and a lot of developers do). However, for some studios it’s much more cost effective to license software like this in order to make their video games quickly and efficiently.

  • Why should I care?

As someone who only plays games, you might be saying “why should I care?” Directly, I guess you shouldn’t. You don’t actually make games, so this doesn’t effect your day to day life. However, indirectly this affects the likelihood of great games actually being made. Unreal Engine allows developers that lack the technical ability or man power to write a proprietary game engine. The ability to create their vision, not only in a cost effective way, but in a timely manner as well. This means more great ideas get made into great games. The more often this happens and the easier Unreal gets, the more Bioshocks, Mass Effects, and Gears of Wars are made. Not to mention a slew of awesome indie titles as well.

  • What Should I do?

Nothing in particular; you don’t need to take to the streets with signs promoting Unreal or spamming forums with new info about the engine. It’s more of the awareness that it exists and maybe gratitude for the help that the Unreal Engine has probably brought to building one of your favorite games (List of Games). Its also worth noting that Unreal isn’t the only game engine you can license. It just seems to be one of the most popular. You have probably also heard names like CryEngine (CryTech), Euphoria, and the Luminous Engine shown by Square Enix at E3 in 2012. You can find a list of available game engines at this LINK.

  • How can I try this without going to school?

Well that’s an interesting question. You can start messing around with programs like Game Salad or Adobe Flash. However, if you literally haven’t the slightest clue what goes into game design, those programs may be too advanced. Your best bet is a video game. A video game that makes video games? Yup, any video game that’s designed to make video games has been custom tailored to your brain. The software understands that you have no clue what you’re doing and they help you every step of the way. What titles would I look for? Well there’s always RPG Maker, which allows you to do just that. Minecraft is a literal sandbox of creation, and its red stone system (very crudely) recreates similarities to the Unreal tools. However, I think the absolute best option for any aspiring game designer, or even for someone who is just intrigued at the idea of creating something that someone else can play would have to be Little Big Planet 2 on the PS3.

  • But how close am I really to using something like Unreal Engine?

I’m glad you asked that “arbitrary random question bullet points.” The sole reason I started writing this post was my shock and awe that the folks over at Media Molecule weren’t pulling my chain when they said “the in-game level tools are pretty much the same tools we used to make the game.” Initially I said “pish posh my good sir, I’m playing a video game not using a professional development tool.” However, I think the next part speaks for itself.

Using the supplied tools, I was able to create a fully functioning Mark IV Iron Man armor. Anyone can download the costume and run around pretending to be Tony Stark, but not everyone can take to the skies like our iron clad hero. Using Little Big Planet’s logic system, I strung together a series of inputs or “codes” to tell the game exactly what I wanted the suit to do. So in other words, the Little Big Planet 2 level creation tools are basically a “My First Game Engine.” Think of this as a first step towards a career using professional tools like Unreal Engine 4. It’s a bit of a stretch, but still plausible.

Mind blown?

Check out the full Unreal Engine 4 demo

 

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