Before I get too far ahead of myself and loose you in a disorientating jumble of words, maybe I should tell you a few things about myself? I enjoy long walks on the beach, drinking mojitos, and sailing on my yacht. Who am I kidding; I do none of the previous mentioned activities. Instead I spend my days and nights glued to a flat screen monitor slaving away either developing games or playing them. In many cases the later endeavor occurs more often. Nevertheless I create video games, or attempt to. There have been many instances over the course of my game development career that concepts have never left the prototype stage and even the drawing board stage but the ones that do prevail take hours upon hours of time.
If you haven’t noticed I am an inspiring game developer, or to be more specific a level designer. You know, the person that takes everyone else’s work and makes it complete in a level, builds lighting scenes, and sets up the events in the game. Yeah, that’s me.
Enough about me, what about this game Age of Blood? In the simplest terms it is a third-person-action-adventure-puzzler in which the player controls one of two characters through a mess of sticky situations. Which in most cases are solved with the edge of a blade or the tip of an arrow.
You may be asking yourself by now, what has this guy been working on or contribute to the project? Well, I have been working on the “flooded underground”, a nasty level later on in the game in which “Cael” [one of the two protagonists] has been sent crash landing into. Unlike previous levels that have been showcased with AoB the flooded underground is far darker and full of deadly encounters around every room and corner.
So are you ready to hear about level design finally? I thought so. The first step to creating a level is to map it out. Don’t even touch the editor until you have at least a sketch of the floor plan. Doing so will allow designers to visualize the paths players must take and more importantly plan the “flow” of the level. Flow, what is Flow? Flow is the steps in which the designer wants the player to take. Without it your level would be a trip from location A to location B. With it you can add meaningful encounters, situations, use of mechanics and the overall direction.
Once you have a visualization of the flow down, its time to step into the editor and put things together. Step one: Block out the level; this can be one of the easiest steps if you do proper research before implementing what goes into the level. For example, the flooded underground has several cave systems and tunnel systems. I spent a vast amount of time studying and looking at the interiors of caves and the catacombs found in Paris. With this knowledge I was able to communicate with our lead environmental artist to create stellar props for the level.
Step two: Get your Blueprint “A” game on and start making your level into an interactive world. With the new standard of game environments you want nothing less than a believable/immersive environment for which the players experiences. One of the first steps you will want to take when starting in blueprints via visual scripting is setting up your overall game [game mode, characters, etc.]. Once you have gotten this out of the way, you can move onto more level specific scripting. Some of these blueprints could include doors opening and closing, moving chandeliers, enemies, falling objects, death-dealing trap, level specific events and cameras.
Step three: Lights! Unless you are making “darkness the game” you will most likely be dealing with spotlights, point lights, directional lights and captures spheres. This is seen by most level designers as the last task to do before completing the level, but I suggest working on it early on to find the correct direction you would like to take the specific level you are working on. It might even same as simple as throwing in a few lights and calling it good, but take it from me, lights can be a pain in the ass and often take much longer to complete than expected.
If you haven’t noticed by now with all the terms I have been using in the above-mentioned spilling of nonsense, AoB is built using the Unreal Engine 4. Why? Why not use another engine like Unity or UE3? This answer is simple and only contains to words; IT’S BETTER. AoB was originally built with Unreal Engine 3 but with the new upgrades the Unreal Engine 4 offered it was immediate that the game needed a change of venue. Not only did it offer ways to get things done more easily but also it just looks fantastic. Anyone who has converted for UE3 to UE4 can tell you the same thing. The new graphical limitations of the engine alone were enough to spark a new motivation to get the game into the hands of players.
I hope you enjoyed my rambling and didn’t look away with blank stare on your face. Look out for Age of Blood later this year and if you haven’t already checked the game out, do so and tell us here at Galaxy Interactive what you think!
– Justin Terry]]>
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Stay tuned, because more will be added in the coming months as we continue to progress on development. Expect to see more images and more videos. We hope you enjoy the visuals!]]>
From everyone at Galaxy Interactive, have a happy Festivus, Merry Christmas, and just overall great holidays!
Age of Blood began as a portfolio project for myself with the sole purpose of demonstrating my capabilities as an environment artist. I had already been working on a project with Joseph Marin and Joseph Wilhems, so AoB was more of a push my limits and challenge myself sort of deal. It wasn’t long before both of them hopped on board and we started building a game. About a year later the revelation finally hit: “Oh wow guys, we’re building a game!” Fast forward to now and we have come a long way with a small team and a microscopic budget. The team has grown and now we have character artists, concept artists, animation specialists, marketers… the whole deal. I never would have guessed we would be where we are today with so many opportunities in front of us.
But here we are… and it’s time to enter a new phase. Time to focus our efforts. We have more enemies and more bosses in development, more music being scored, more story being written, more spells and skills being made. But we’re at a point now where we will begin pre-alpha testing with small prototypes with the purpose of getting feedback on different elements of the game. I say pre-alpha because things could change based on feedback. The idea is to test not just for bugs and performance, but for the fun factor. After all, if the game’s not fun it’s not done. We will continue this testing philosophy up through alpha, adding more testers which each iteration. The idea is to test and modify based on feedback until we have a great game.
I’m very proud of the team and all that we have accomplished so far. It’s full steam ahead from here. Things are going to grow. The website will grow, you’ll see more images, more video, and before you know it you’ll even get your hands on playable demos. We’re all very excited about this new phase! Next up you’ll be seeing a short teaser trailer focused on some of the environment. That is in the sound department being worked on now and you will be seeing that very soon. We can’t wait to share it with you guys.
Thanks everyone for all the support! Stay tuned for more!]]>
However, thanks to the guiding hand of Epic Games, we have evolved.
Not knocking UDK. It was powerful, and still is. For those unable to pay the license fee for Unreal Engine 3, we got a free version which limited certain features, most notably source code, appropriately. It was a fair deal and it worked. It was great, and it’s still great. However, for all its power, it was still a limited version of UE3.
Looking back, I’m sometimes amazed at what we managed to accomplish within the constraints of UDK’s Unrealscript. At its core, it’s a first-person shooter engine. Seriously. You can polish it up all you want, bind it to third-person and add in close-combat, but it was never intended to be used for heavy action-oriented gameplay that doesn’t involve a gun.
For Age of Blood, UDK proved to be a hassle to use but our best choice. With Unreal Engine 4, I feel like I’m not using a rock to slam in a nail but a true-to-life hammer. C++ source code scripting removed all the limitations of UDK. No more having all weapons derived from guns, spells from bullets, and working out with the base code that more often impeded progress than aided it. Yes, kind of difficult to create a game with AAA influences while using a BBB engine.
Age of Blood was in development for over a year with little to show for it. Sure, we had stuff done. Nearly one complete level, two in-progress ones, and the basics of gameplay. That means combat, rudimentary UI, AI enemies we affectionately named “Derpy”, and simplistic puzzles. To give a sense of how UE4 has changed things up, we made the switch over to UE4 during the Rocket beta. In two weeks, we managed to not only recreate half of everything we already developed, but improve upon it. We’re now at the point where the game has become what we attempted with UDK. And yes, we now have bleeding, ethereal, flaming-skull skeleton warriors intelligent and dynamic enough to provide a fun challenge.]]>
I had learned a lot over that year and half, improved greatly as an artist. I was always thinking progressively, wanting to move forward and create better and better environments. But every time I looked back at some of the early areas we created, it took a lot of willpower to not just scrap it and start over.
Fast forward to December of 2013, when I managed to land myself a gig beta testing Unreal Engine 4. I had been keeping up with every bit of public information that I could find on it prior to that. “This is going to be the greatest game engine ever released, but we won’t see an actual release before 2015 at the earliest,” I said to myself. “We sure wouldn’t see a version available to indie developers before 2017.”
To quote Jeff Bridges: And then… I got in.
The development tools were amazing, easy to use, and truly next gen. I was six years old on Christmas morning again! Blueprint allowed level design and prefab capabilities that would have taken ten times as long in UDK. This revolutionary engine reduced much of the tedium that plagues indie developers with small teams. While physically based rendering was terrifying at first, within that first week with the beta I had a decent enough understanding of it to be comfortable creating for it. That’s when it hit me: What if I brought some Age of Blood assets over, redoing their texture work in PBR, and testing what the game would have looked like if we had been building it in this new. I was amazed at how fast the transition was moving.
I’d only had this beta for 3 weeks when the crazy idea hit me. I was under a heavy NDA with this new tech, witch my agreement actually stating in writing I couldn’t even tell my mom over Mother’s Day lunch about it. But I wanted to see what we could do. So I got in contact with some people at Epic Games with the goal of getting my dear friend and AOB programmer, Joseph Marin, access to this beta. It was my Christmas gift to him. A few days after New Years, Joseph had the beta in his hands and he was just as blown away as I was.
We made a deal based on a challenge. It was a crazy notion, because winning this challenge would have basically meant rebuilding our game from the ground up. But we went through with it. The challenge was to rebuild a two room map complete with all puzzles in those two rooms and all gameplay that currently existed in UDK (from basic combat to the dodge roll mechanic) in two weeks. Certainly a challenge that would be the deciding factor in deterring our minds from this crazy idea of moving the game to an engine that was in a beta that we had know idea when it would be actually released. So we started the clock.
Three days later, we had already surpassed the base challenge and by the end of the two weeks, we had a decent portion of the first map rebuilt and playable. At that point, it was a no brainer. The decision was made. We were moving Age of Blood to Unreal Engine 4. Shortly after the decision, we discovered that the engine would be going live within a few months.
It didn’t take us long to realize moving to UE4 was the best decision we had ever made as a game development team. Development was faster, easier, and more efficient, allowing us to focus less on the quirks of UDK and more on the one thing that mattered the most: building a great game.
And thus, the saga begins…]]>