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 be no set time for the series 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!
Progress and Help from Unreal Tech
This last week has been an interesting one to say the least. Ironically, I’ve been working on our yearly Halloween yard-haunt at my home. So, not only am I working on a digital haunted artwork, but I’m working on a real one at the same time. I like it though.
I continued to work on level design this week. I lit the cemetery scene and cleaned up the lighting in the haunted house. Everything looked good for moving on to setting up the scares in each section. I had planned for a werewolf, zombies, aliens, mutant dogs, tentacles in the lake, skeletons in a casket, monsters, a flaming skull coming at you down the hallway and (my favorite) a giant spider rearing up ready to strike.
But I was most excited about meeting with an Unreal tech guy, Victor, who was going to take me through the process of putting the player camera inside of my ride cart. Despite hours of research, I still wasn’t able to create this very important part of the game.
Victor was amazing. We communicated through the gamers Discord platform (recommended) and not only did Victor help me set up the camera, but he shared a lot of his knowledge about game making in Unreal with me. I was surprised that he didn’t make an elaborate Blueprint for the player camera. Instead, he explained what pawns were in Unreal and helped me make a player pawn which we then parented to a camera. The rest was just checking boxes in the details panel of the pawn Blueprint.
This Game Level Just Doesn’t Work
After I finished my work with Victor, I took a ride in my cart through the entire game and discovered something was very wrong. The player view through the camera looked great until it moved vertically to the second floor and view shifted to some strange angle that looked very bad. Then as the cart moved down the spider hole I had created, it shifted outside of the hole and ended up gliding along the top of the basement level. No amount of adjusting worked to change the angle.
I tried to move the track, but that was impossible because there is a 4-minute lag when I move a pivot point on the track. Then when I built the lighting for the level it froze at 99%. I let it compute all night and it still stuck there. Even after switching to simpler lighting settings the build wouldn’t happen. After research, the solution seemed to be to remove meshes and lights, something I don’t want to do.
I realized after thinking about it that the project was unworkable in this form. To get it to even a functioning level, I’d have to do a lot of tech research and perhaps hook up with Victor again. Right at the time when I wanted to be working on my favorite part of the project - the scare scenes.
So I decided to dump it all and start from scratch. This project was a failure.
Coping with Failure
Sure I was depressed about tossing all of that work for the last month, but rather than fret over it I plan on doing two things: one, figure out why the project was a failure (essentially, what didn’t work) and two, simplify everything. I think my failure was primarily due to having too large of a goal and not realizing that game-creation is a very complex task. Also, I think failure is something that every creative person should use to make their work better.
And that’s what I’m going to do: Start a new project in Unreal that is simpler and not so demanding technically. I’ve learned a lot from this failure, no I’m going to put that learning to work!