After playing a lot of video games, it's time to make them myself!
Where to Start?
To make a game in Unreal Engine you need to download it from https://www.unrealengine.com/. The Software is entirely free for personal use without sales and monetization (such as the creation of non-commercial prototypes or for personal study) while there is a 5% Royalty on commercial products only when the minimum threshold of one million dollars of gross revenue is achieved.
As an independent, if I manage to reach $ 1 million in Gross Revenue with my video games, a 5% fee would be the least of my problems but it's still a noteworthy detail.
It is also possible to publish your games on the Epic Store and in this case, a 12% fee will apply, including the 5% mentioned above. Although the Fees are starting to become important, it is necessary to remember that generally, a publisher could apply even higher percentages (potentially even a 30-35%) in addition to the fact that the Epic Store could give excellent visibility to our product if it is of high quality.
The next step is creating a new Project.
Making a whole game starting from nothing is extremely difficult and therefore, to help us in this activity, it is possible to create a new project starting from one of the available templates.
We will also have to choose the type of platform provided for our game such as if we want to create a game for PC / Console or Smartphone / Tablet, this choice will affect the type of input that the player can use to give commands to the game (via keyboard/controller or via touchscreen) and generally also the technical limits of graphics and computing power to which we will have to refer (for example to polygonal models or frame rate).
In addition to templates, other free content is available in the Marketplace both in the form of permanently free material and in the form of free material available for a limited time.
In the permanent contents, there are parts of games or demos already made in Unreal Engine such as polygonal models for characters or enemies as well as high definition texture scans and real environments.
Every month free content are released in a rotation that can be useful both to improve and integrate our projects and as a possible source of teaching as we can try to "take them apart" to understand how they work or we can try to modify them to better adapt them to our needs ( change a match 3 game into a match 4 game or how to change materials to get different visual effects).
Once obtained, these contents will be available forever for free even if they return for payment at the end of the promotion period.
GreyBox & MVP
Even with free material made available, making a complete video game is not easy at all. The biggest problem is, in a sense, our ambition.
In fact, who wouldn't want to immediately make an immense, engaging, long-lived and technically flawless game that can compete with AAA games created with Unreal Engine such as Final Fantasy 7 Remake or Dragon Ball Fighterz?
The advice instead is to start from extremely simple concepts (often in 2D or without necessarily aiming for photorealism) and then evolve.
Extremely useful for this phase are the concepts of the GreyBox and the Minimum Viable Product (a.k.a. MVP).
The GreyBox is the realization of a functional prototype of a game level with the use of placeholder objects composed of basic figures such as cubes, spheres or cylinders to test the basic functionality of the game and begin to understand the possible gameplay and find errors in programming.
The name derives from the typical colouring of these blocks which are then replaced by the definitive polygonal models built with a greater level of detail.
For example, we can use a coloured cube to indicate an enemy to structure the Artificial Intelligence features and see how to make it useful for Gameplay and only later insert the mesh (3D Model) of a Zombie.
This is very important to understand if we have the potential to run the game before buying Assets from the Marketplace or before making them ourselves.
The aim is to obtain a product that can be considered an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or that can represent in a small way a game segment with a complete sense, it can be a game level to be tested directly in Unreal Engine or a simple prototype functioning that can be extended further.
The creation of the MVP is an extremely important step as it marks the birth of the heart of the game.
Ok, maybe it won't be particularly "sexy" to see and maybe graphically improved and not very long-lived but it can be considered as a Lego brick that individually is not particularly significant but that if put together with others of various shapes and colours allows the creation of more complex and far more satisfying objects.
When you reach the MVP stage you can start to consider other aspects such as the final graphics, the audio department, improving the appearance of the HUD, structuring the various levels of the game and creating a main menu with the various options.
Plus, you can start experimenting with the different game mechanics or delve into the gameplay for the ones you've already made.
Always remember that nothing is ever too strange or too basic to be a video game, one of the major icons in the world of video games is an extremely stereotyped Italian Plumber who saves a princess kidnapped by a giant monkey or a turtle-dragon!
Keep It Simple!
The risk for those who think too big from the beginning is to not be able to build anything with a mechanical sense and to get bored before being able to see something complete sense or to run into technical problems beyond their reach, it is as if we wanted to try to write a book without even knowing how to write the individual letters of the alphabet or the grammar rules.
The amount of notions to learn is extremely large and the learning curve is quite accentuated but there are several sources available to learn both on the Unreal Engine site and Youtube for free!
These tools can provide the foundation but it takes a lot of creativity and discipline to accomplish this arduous task.
The journey is extremely long and may take a few years of programming before you can launch a game that is worthy of note, especially if you are trying to learn how to use Unreal Engine without a tutor to help you.
With a good course or with a tutor who can help you, times are considerably shorter but it depends a lot on the time available to learn the instrument and if you know the programming languages or if you learn easily how to use Blueprints (the visual scripting tool of Unreal Engine).
The rest depends on the type of game we want to make and the level we want to achieve with our game. Is it a pastime game or a very complex game with a plot, characters learning new skills and cinematic effects?
I assure you that the path is extremely difficult and complicated but if you remain faithful to the end, personal satisfaction is much, much greater.
While you might be a little shy, show your game to friends and build an Audience, would you still be happy if you created the best video game in the world but with no one ready to play it?
In addition, you may receive invaluable advice from others with the same hobby or even just from casual players and help you in the design phase as well as report bugs or issues.
One last piece of advice is to try to share this passion with friends and try to create a small team that can collaborate by applying different activities to divide the tasks and make even the most boring phases more interesting.
If you are about to embark on a long journey, remember to bring your closest friends with you. And Mario, of course.
© 2021 Christian Allasia