Unreal Engine Masterclass 2018

17 12 2018

     Last December 10, 2018, I was one of the attendees who attended the free Masterclass for Unreal Engine (the software we use for our ‘Crop Circle Warriors’ mobile game) at the College of St. Benilde. The said class was from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. The master class was held by Chris Murphy, an evangelist for Epic Games and founder of Pub Games with over 10 years of experience with Unreal Engine.

  • Introductory Lessons on Unreal Engine

Project setup

Controller setup

Importing assets

Building materials

Creating character classes

Creating AI

Navigation

Blending animation

Spawning enemies

Maintaining game state and configuring in-game UI

Design principles

Blueprint debugging and performance optimization techniques.

All these techniques were used in our mobile game already.

  • Advanced Technical Art

Landscapes

Procedural foliage

Procedural spline tools

Particle effects

GPU particle effects

Material tesselation

material masking

world position effects

Screen space particle effects

Volumetric fog

     The introductory lessons covered all the basics that are needed to create a simple 3D character that moves and followed by enemies in a small level. He taught us how to import animation assets, blending separate animations to create a new animation, create a basic state machine which dictates what animation will play depending on what button is pressed e.g. move forward, move backward, jump etc. All these techniques were used in our game already.

      After the basics, we moved to the advanced part of the class which is technical art that covers shaders, visual effects, level creation tools like the use of spline to procedurally generate landscape paths and procedurally generate foliage. He also taught us the landscape tools and how to sculpt hills and cliffs.

The discussion on Landscapes, Procedural foilage (creating 3D plants easily), world position offset effects (how to manipulate objects in the overall landscape), volumetric fog (realistic fog that adapts to lights), were new to me and this knowledge can help us make our games much better. I will apply the new techniques I learned to the Crop Circle Warriors mobile game.

Unfortunately, I was not able to ask the questions I needed to ask due to the many participants in the auditorium who also had questions and took pictures with Mr. Murphy. Due to the same reason, I was not able to show the sample of our mobile to discuss the problems that I cannot solve by myself.  They said they will be scheduling another Unreal Master Class soon, so maybe we will have another opportunity to show our game.

Words by: Jap Tolentino

Pictures from IGMA

 




Game Seminar at the College of St. Benilde

15 01 2018


      We were invited by Ms. Gwendelyn Abacano Foster last week to a seminar at the College of St. Benilde (CSB), featuring Mr. Ian Garner. Ian Garner works with Another Indie, an independent game publisher from China, that has published multiple critically acclaimed and commercially successful games such as Lost Castle. This was another opportunity for us to learn, especially publishing our game to China, which we don’t have any idea on how to go about it.

Mr. Ian Garner

     We also have a new contributor to the game – Faith Dimaranan. She’s a game development student at the Asia Pacific College. We really need someone, aside from Jap, with game knowledge and game logic to help us in other aspects of our mobile game. She is helping us in fixing the localization, achievements and optimizing the game.

   Ms. Faith Dimaranan

     Jap and Faith joined me at the seminar. We had trouble finding a parking space so we were a bit late when we got to the seminar. There were a few attendees, maybe about 20-30 people. Some were students and some developers. The topic was familiar, like finding a hook (selling point) of your game, and how to email publishers about your game. He also mentioned that developers should always attend events like ESGS and Gamecon because these are the places to get good feedback than having feedback from game testers. It is better to showcase your game to gamers and developers, because they have a better game sense, meaning they know what to look for in a game. He said that Google is not accessible to China, so we really need to have a local publisher in China to have our game published. We can email publishers directly and if our game catches their attention, they will publish it.

     After the seminar, it was a good opportunity for us to show our game to Mr. Garner as well as to the other developers to get feedback. Unfortunately, a lot of people were having photo ops and were pitching their ideas as well. So we showed our games to 2 other people. Ian Christian Sevilla, who is a game developer, programmer and College Instructor at CSB. He also gave feedback last 2016 at ESGS. When he saw it he said it improved a lot, but he commented on the User Experience once again. He gave some feedback on fixing visuals for a better experience for the user. While playing, he commented that we fix the balance of the game. I thought he was referring to the balance of the playability of the characters. He meant the balance of the progression of the game. He said that the game should have a slow progression, we should teach the player what buttons to press first before making him fight monsters at once.

Mr. Ian Christian Sevilla (with backpack)

     He gave us a link to how the Megaman game made players experience each ability at the start of the game.

     Actually, it made sense, because he really had a hard time figuring the controls when he was playing the game. Faith and Jap immediately had ideas on how to fix this.

     Kevin Brian Valmonte, a game developer, programmer and college instructor at CSB also tested our game. He said that the game looked good, and only needed to be polished. Instead of pressing a button to continue from a tutorial, why not just tap the screen to continue. He also said to fix the loading screen, there was a lot of dead space and we should remove the delay between screens. He also commented on the art, but that was just his preference and it wasn’t really that important.

     We had good feedback here and Faith has volunteered on fixing the tutorial integration in the game. She is also optimizing the localization so it will be easier to add more languages later.

     It is good that she has game programming knowledge and she figured out what part of the game needs to be fixed. We are now applying improvements from the feedback we gathered and Faith has committed to helping us optimize and polish the game.

Article and Pictures by Alstaire A. Sarthou





Paul Streitz’s Animation Project

13 10 2017

     Last October 10, 2017, Grace emailed me about Paul Streitz giving a talk about “A Philippine Animation Movie Company?” to be held on October 12 at the New World Hotel from 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm, the talk was for free. I was curious what I can learn from the talk especially the marketing of animation shows, so I registered for the event.

     The talk started about 1:50 pm and ended about an hour later. Paul is a writer and producer from the US, who wrote some books on economics and a string of musical plays for theaters in New York. Paul explained the reason of why he is in the country –  half-jokingly he said after his divorce, he had money to do some animation projects for his past musical plays but he didn’t want to invest a lot of money in building a team of animators to do his project. So he figured out that coming to the Philippines where a local animation company can animate his play entitled ‘Madison Avenue The Subliminal Movie’ in flash animation for 90 minutes before he dies. The idea is to prolong the life of the property; as a live film has a shorter lifespan.

     After the brief introduction, Paul showed the business side of the film business, where the dollar and cents were broken down to show that there is money to be made for all the parties involved – from the writer, owner, producer, distributor, merchandiser, and production company. He showed estimated figures for big hit films such as the Simpsons and a not so well known film only shown in the US but the profit figures are still worth the effort. Mickey Mouse and the financial side of the merchandise part of the character was also highlighted. He said that other stories with expired copyright could be ideal animation projects such as ‘Treasure Island’, Wizard of Oz’,’Oklahoma’ and ‘Annie’.

     Paul then proceeded to pitch his string of plays such as ‘Oh Johnny’, ‘Madison Avenue’and other plays. Being 20 years in market research, he showed some figures that Madison Avenue has great reviews from both critics and audiences alike. He continued to explain the character, about the surprising plot and remastering the sound to make it up to date and recorded the dialogue for the animation project. Paul also talked about Gary Cherpakov, who was the brilliant music and lyrics writer for his plays. Paul was all praised for Gary whom nothing was hard for him to write,  as it all came naturally to him and the work could be done perfectly in a day or two. Instead of using rhyming words, Gary was more on rhyming the sounds, and in Paul’s opinion ‘Oh Johnny’ is one of the top five best musicals.

 

       After the talk, there was some question and answer portion and some light snacks for the attendees. I don’t know anyone in the group except for Grace, the rest were composed of freelance 2D and 3D animators, animation teachers, students, producers for events and live film. After a few minutes of staying around, I left the venue but Grace and other people stayed for many more minutes to ask Paul for more questions. Grace said Paul was more on the music  – 70% rather than on the animation – 30%.  Anyone who was interested to talk to Paul further was invited to lunch the next day at the same hotel.

      The presentation was really new to me, as I am not exposed to musicals, much less to animation musicals. I don’t recall any popular flash animation that pops out right of my mind to compare with the proposed ‘Madison Avenue’ film. If ever pushed through, I think it will be tough for the local animation production company to present the proposed musical to highlight the music, the choreography and character movements that the target audience would respond to.  But just the same, I wish Paul and the team would do well on the project. As for me I’m just focused on finishing and launching the mobile game in the next few weeks and editing and improving our web series.

     Less than a week after the talk, I got to listen to the CD of the Madison Avenue songs that Paul’s assistant handed out each participant. The songs were really nice, clear and had a happy feel to it. It was only after hearing the various songs that I got to appreciate the proposed movie as the songs, message, and topic are one of a kind.