As many of our fellow indie devs may have heard by now, Epic made a pretty epic announcement (get it?) at GDC this year. They’ve decided to release their newest game engine, Unreal Engine 4, to the masses for the low cost of $20/month, plus 5% of any gross revenue companies make from games made in the engine. This is a really great deal for many indie developers, who often cannot afford to pay much up-front, but would gladly give a piece of the pie to Epic if it enables them to make their dream a reality. And now Epic gets to enable thousands to start making top-notch games, all the while reaping some of the rewards of successful devs. It really is a win/win situation.
Naturally, as soon as we heard this news, we were intrigued. We immediately began looking into what UE4 has to offer (with our newest developer, Dan, taking the reins on that), and after a short period of several of us purchasing the engine and taking it for a test drive, we decided to make the switch. Ever since, we have been overjoyed, and have already been producing much more polished work than in the past.
I know what you’re probably thinking right now. “But Nick, you guys had already made so much progress with Xeno! You were two weeks into development, and only a few weeks away from the first prototype! Why on earth would you throw that all away to switch engines?!” Let me tell you, dear reader.
Firstly, we were only two weeks into development. In the larger scheme of things, this is not much time at all. We plan on spending at least the next six months working on Xeno, in which case 2 weeks is only about 8% of total development time. And when you take into consideration that we will continue working on other projects in the future, it just starts to seem silly not to switch to superior technology when it only costs 2 weeks’ worth of work.
Secondly, the price structure of UE4 is vastly superior to what we were using (Unity3D), at least for us. We were only using Unity Free, because Pro costs $1500 per developer, which for us would have been $4500. As a new company with no major titles and no income, this comes directly out of our personal pockets. While UE4 does as well, $60 per month is much more manageable than a straight $4500.
Thirdly, a lot of the functionality that we implemented into Xeno in its first 2 weeks is automatically available in UE4. Networking is built in, an AI framework is in place, the sample code provides us with a basic first person shooter, and the list goes on. So even though we lost work, and lost some additional time in the learning phase, we feel like we still came out ahead.
So how much progress has actually been made since we switched to UE4? Anthony has been hard at work reconfiguring all existing assets to be exported into, and look good in, the new engine. The female XMSuit is all but complete, which is a completely new addition since the last official update (although if you’re following us on twitter, you’ve likely seen it dozens of times by now). The starting room of the players has been redone in UE4, and looks outstanding. It now has some creepy red ambient light, with the occasional point light to add some character.
On the coding side, the pistol functionality is mostly finished, with only some minor tweaks left. It has three modes: regular fire, 3-round burst, and piercing shot. There are some minor scripts placed in the test level as well, such as a door that opens as the player approaches, and some basic AI that is able to move back and forth, take damage, and eventually die. These are all mostly from the learning period of the engine, and from here on out things should be getting much more exciting!
And last, but certainly not least, we are happy to announce our new UE4 Blueprints page! Here we will be periodically posting snippets of Blueprints that we are actually using in Xeno, in order to give back to the awesome community that has helped us so much already. Please check out the page here, and provide us with any feedback!
Thanks for reading!