splash image by Corey Coyle, creative commons
Focus: Unreal Engine is a series of posts where I’ll share my experience and discoveries working with Epic’s free Unreal Engine 4 for video game creation. There will is no set time for the articles to end, but I will have a goal: the creation of a playable game level for Halloween in October 2019. I will share the level with everyone for learning and for fun!
What is a Dark Ride?
Now that I’m fully into the project I’m creating in Unreal 4, I should probably be more specific on what it is. It’s a game-based version of the old fairground horror-rides (now called dark rides). Younger readers may not remember, but there were strange and creepy rides at state and local fairs in most states where you got into a cart which took you around various frightening scenes until you were let out 10 minutes later. Most rides were cheesy old horror cliches, but somewhere very frightening.
There is a lot of information on the history of dark rides which I’ve enjoyed dipping into. Check out my two favorite sources: a truly great article on dark ride history and video history of the dark ride by Imaginerding (yes, that’s the correct spelling) which I’ve embedded below
My Dark Ride Project
What I propose to do is create my own game-based version of a dark ride. I won’t be trying to recreate an old classic ride, but using the amazing power of the Unreal Engine create a ride that is a mix of older rides effects and new game effects. For example, in my dark ride game you can drive through fire or water and not be harmed. Or plunge down a long shoot in darkness without hitting the bottom. I plan on creating a game level in Unreal that like is a unique ride experience that has a strong horror theme (and some humor as well).
I’ve already started creating mock game levels and am learning how to create the effects I’m looking for. Most of my posts from now on will be focused on my successes and failures learning how to create my dark ride in Unreal Engine 4.
The Disadvantage of Project-Based Learning
I’ve chosen to learn only what I need to know about the Unreal Engine that helps me create my dark ride project. I thought it would be faster and perhaps easier, but it isn’t. The problem comes when you have to jump into a much more advanced technical feature in the engine when you aren’t ready. I’ve encountered this as I am setting up the basic tracks and carriage system for the dark ride. The instructions are geared towards an intermediate level designer, not a beginner. So I’m forced to learn how the track system works before I can actually use it.
Another basic technique I am struggling with is creating a seamless transition between levels. Sounds easy in the Unreal documentation, but it isn’t. After hours of research and tutorial watching, I still don’t have a working transition between two levels yet. It’s probably my brain, but I sure wish it were easier.
My Dark Ride Work Plans
After getting the basic tracks working along with level transitions, I’ll be creating a simple mock-up of the maps I’ll create. I realized I have to simplify everything if I want to finish by Oct 31st. So I will have 4 levels (haunted house outside, haunted house inside, basement and cemetery). The ride will take you through these 4 levels as it loops back to the beginning. I won’t have time to create an entrance or getting into the ride car because this is way beyond my skill level, so the ride will start as you are moving towards the haunted house. Perhaps I can add and extend the ride into a larger game in the future, we’ll see.
In the next week to 10 days, I’m focused on getting the mock-up ride done so I can share it with you.