Age of Blood’s earliest beginnings held the purpose of demonstrating my 3D environment skills post college and after learning everything I could from Gnomon. It was a great experience for me testing my artistic capabilities and it managed to entice a couple of people to want to help me turn it into an actual game. We invested thousands of hours collectively over the course of a year and a half, proud of how far we had come. But at the end of that sprint I looked back at my contributions, the environment art, and didn’t share the pride in my work that we felt as a team for the overall accomplishment.
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.
So We Challenged Ourselves
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…