Thursday, November 10, 2016

Unreal Engine 4 is Seriously Unreal

Unreal Engine 4 Overview

What is a game engine?
Image result for skyrim

All of our beloved games, whether nostalgic classics or new cutting-edge titles, are developed using a game engine, so what is it? A game engine is essentially a collection of organized software that would allow for easier game development which combines many parts to work with each other such as physics (movement), graphics(displaying on screen)  or audio (direction) each with a massive array of tools for you to customize and create with. By using a game engine you don't have to waste time writing code. If you are a company such as Bethesda Softworks(developer of Skyrim) that generally uses their own coded/designed game engine (Creation Engine) you can then reuse that same engine to develop other games which would save an incredible amount of work and time. (For example Fallout 4 which was made with the same engine as Skyrim).
Image result for fallout 4
(Fallout 4)

With these 2 games as an example we can see that they are totally different from each other, but if you have ever played both (which if you haven't, I HIGHLY suggest it) you may notice the similarities in the gameplay mechanics and designs such as Lock Picking which is almost identical in mechanics but re-skinned, given a different audio and animation to look different. This would be much simpler to do in a game engine since all you have to do is edit, not create and code all over again.

Image result for skyrim lockpicking
Image result for fallout lockpicking

What is Unreal Engine 4?
Image result for unreal engine 4

As they put it themselves, Unreal Engine 4 is an array of tools for game developers. Such games can range from 2D mobile side-scrollers to 3D first-person shooters. Functions include VR compatibility, blueprints and even a marketplace of community made assets and code. And best of all, it's FREE. Professionals working for corporations (Microsoft/Apple/etc) and even complete novices alike are able to use this engine. Heck, even I got the hang of it in a week of summer camp.

Some of the notable games developed using Unreal
Image result for gow 4
Image result for batman arkham knight

Brief beginner's rundown

This is what you would start off with when using a default first-person shooter map. As you can see, there are many different function all in one area which makes it confusing at first but will eventually become more of a convenience as you use it more. The topography, spawn points, textures/animations, even blast radius can be modified and changed all in one area. Essentially the best way to start learning is to test and play around like I did. Unreal even provides a character for you to play as to test your map (press play) by walking around/shooting/etc.

And eventually you become more familiar with this engine you can begin to design your first map like I did (I AM BY NO MEANS A PROFESSIONAL).

Here's me testing my map with the character I mentioned before UE4 provided for you (see the gun and icons?).

See the little wires on the table? Those are mesh placeholders for items such as the health pack and ammunition seen below.

Things to note
-I used nothing but what was provided in UE4 (including textures)
-Took me a couple hours to make
-Very much like a mix between Photoshop and a 3D print design program
-This is just barely scratching the surface of this engine's potential

While I could sit here and talk for hours about all the features this engine has to offer, I would recommend that you watch this video to fully grasp the sheer amount of things it can accomplish. If you don't have the time or are just lazy, here are a few screenshots.

The Future
As time progresses and each new triple-A game (highest quality, well known titles)  is released, the demand for more and more hyperrealism increases. Have you ever wondered how far video games could go? UE4 provides some of the best I have ever seen (some may blow your mind)
(Again a few screencaps for you lazy folks)

So you may be wondering, "If this can be done, why aren't games like this?" and the answer to that question is a good thing to think about. What makes a game a game like Skyrim or Fallout is not just the graphics, but the gameplay/content. The samples you see here or in the video are simply there only with animation and with the purpose of looking at. The processors/parts of computers/consoles wouldn't be able to handle this amount of detail along with gameplay. Which means that eventually in the future games will look like this but the technology has yet to catch up to what engines like UE4 can achieve.

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