• Bretton Hamilton

Space Crunch - Unreal Game Jam

Overview: This past weekend was a Game Jam at the Northern Sydney Institute. As this was my 18th Game Jam in the past three year period I decided to challenge myself in some new ways.

First off I knew from the very outset that I wanted to learn how to use Unreal 4's Blueprint framework. In addition to that I thought it would be interesting to work with someone who had never had any previous experience in game development. My partner is a freelance product, packaging, and graphic designer. We determined to make a game.

Prior to this game jam my experience with Unreal and visual scripting were at a minimum. - Back in university we were taught some UDK basics. - For the first year I was in Australia I studied programming for games. - I have used Unity for Design and Art Asset implementation over the past few years.

Forty-Eight Hours, a mountain of tutorials, and a barrel of coffee later our game was "complete." I have a much better understanding of how to work Blueprints.

Space Crunch:

A fast paced game with simple directional controls. This game is most similar to the Fish Eat Fish style games. You are a little rock that gets thrown into space by a little boy! You must smash into other space rocks to gain their mass in size. This continues until our smiling friend is consuming tiny moons and planets. Eventually, he becomes so vast that he becomes the second Moon!

The gameplay isn't particularly trying to innovate, but it made for a more compelling project than Pong for the first project on a new platform.

What I Learned: Aside from the most important part; developing a fair understanding of how to use Blueprints. I studied the asset implementation pipeline in UE4. Procedural generation is always something I was uncomfortable tackling in Unity, but I forced myself to make the Space Crunch with procedural generation exclusively.

Outside this, it was very difficult to explain mechanics and required assets to an artist who has never made a game before. Her limited experience to playing games made it particularly challenging to use technical jargon that is so common place in our industry. I had to change my way of speaking for the entire jam to cater to this schism in communication.

What I Want To Learn Next:

While this game jam was a great learning opportunity there is still much I want to improve on for future forays into Unreal 4. - File Structure: I still need to learn common practices for naming conventions, file structure, and commenting for Unreal. I've worked enough in Unity to have a fair idea of how things are structured, maintained, and organized. Unreal likely isn't too far off, but it would be very beneficial to work with an Unreal veteran. - Blueprints: Clearly a vast and powerful framework. I suspect that I've only scratched the tip of the iceberg. I look forward to delving into things in more detail. - Particle Effects: Unreal's particle effect cascade system seemed quite unwieldy. I didn't make enough time to explore it in detail, so perhaps the next project will allow me to focus some time on playing with them.

Concluding Thoughts: I really enjoyed this game jam and the challenges tackled. Some of the core mechanics didn't quite play out correctly, but I'm proud of the result. If you'd like to see the results, you can download the game here! <<DOWNLOAD GAME HERE>>