…and back to Unity3D

It’s been a month since I last posted and in that time I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing with Unreal Engine 4’s Blueprint system, created some scenery, tried to follow the C++ FPS tutorial and tweaked the Blueprint FPS template a little bit. While Unreal gives you a lot out of the box, it really does require a significant amount of knowledge upfront to create something workable. A major factor that has turned me off initially is my perception of clunkiness around the coding workflow. Compiling changes to C++ code results in a small delay (a couple of minutes for the first compile in a project, then 5-30 seconds for subsequent iteration), which I find a little jarring as the code I am writing often contains mistakes!

While I accept that Visual Studio is a likely a more mature + fully featured IDE than MonoDevelop, the integration between MonoDevelop and Unity3D feels much tighter – compile times are extremely fast meaning I can make a change and play the game immediately to to test. For someone who actually knows C++ and makes less mistakes, UE4 probably isn’t too much slower to work in. For me, a noob in both C++ and C#, I need the more forgiving workflow style of Unity3D, at least for now.

The obvious answer to the above is ‘use Blueprint’ but something about the visual coding turns me off. I worry that Blueprint is a skill that cannot be used anywhere else, and that Epic might drop it completely at some point as they did with Kismet. Additionally I couldn’t find a full FPS tutorial in Blueprint, despite there being a decent template, I really wanted more. UE4 hasn’t been out long though, and the indie-friendly pricing model is very new so this will probably change over time.

Which brings me onto another problem I encountered with UE4 – the lack of handholding ‘complete’ tutorials. In the Unity3d ecosystem you can throw a stone and hit several excellent tutorials, books, video series, that will take you through the complete creation of a number of different styles of game. UE4 gives you excellent templates to start off, but the video tutuorials available (while very good) are clearly aimed at solving individual problems in isolation. Again, this is a failing more on my side than Epic’s – if I was an experienced gamedev, I would know what I needed from the outset, however right now I am very reliant on (and grateful for) the excellent full tutorials out there for Unity3d.

It’s not all rainbows and flowers back in Unity land though. I have splashed out on the UFPS asset (£30 on sale) in order to shortcut around the character handling (and to learn / extend), and I anticipate having to shell out again for NGUI or some other equivalent. UE4 includes this stuff by default, but even with Blueprint I struggled to keep up. So my revised plan is this – complete the GTGD1 tutorial, then either take that and shoehorn UFPS into it, or start completely from scratch with UFPS and go from there. I have a rough idea of what I want to make as a preliminary foray into FPS dev, and I don’t think I’m asking too much of the tools or myself to get there.

Changing course

Peace, Love and Unreal come to rock our city

Having invested significant time in Unity3D, I decided at the weekend to switch to Unreal Engine 4. I have done this for several reasons;

1: Unity’s uncertain future. Now that they appear to be looking to sell up, I’m worried for the future of the engine, in particular the build support & licensing model. Given their closeness to MS, I don’t want to invest significant time learning something that later becomes ‘Gaming for Windows Mobile Only’.

2: Cost. I was planning to circumvent some areas of development by purchasing the UPFS and NGUI assets from the Asset Store – these would have come to £120 for starters, and I would then still have other assets to buy. I accept that their quality is very high (the reviews for both are fantastic, and I loved the UFPS tech demo), but for my current shoestring budget, the UE4 ‘all-you-can-eat’ monthly sub of £13 is far easier to work into my non-budget.

I’ve learned some useful things from my brief stint in Unity3D that I believe translate well into UE4, and I can always go back if I want to. For now though I’m going to get stuck into Blueprint and C++. I’m hoping to have a working FPS protoype up here within the next couple of weeks.

 

YOU RACK DISSIPRING

In other news I have been very bad at maintaining dietary + fitness discipline over the past few weeks. I need to be in bed by 11PM every night!

 

Space Shooter Tutorial Complete!

I have succesfully been spoonfed instructions on how to create a basic vertical scrolling shoot em up in Unity. I followed the ‘Space Shooter’ tutorial on the Unity website, and have now got a functional asteroids clone, with music, explosions, sound effects, some fairly complex physics logic, and a bunch of game logic to control the game’s start and ending.

I can straight away see a few bugs / areas for improvement and am tempted to just jump in and start pissing around with it, but my end goal is to create a full 3D FPS style game, so I guess it’s time to move on.

You can play Space Shooter in all it’s retro glory here.

(Unity’s web player *will* trigger your browser’s plugin blocker – just grant permission for it to run in order to play)

http://kreza.co.uk/games/ss/

Two Days Of Game Dev

I’ve taken 2 days off work to live in the spirit of a full time Indie Dev, and intend to complete the online Unity3D tutorials, as well as work my way through “Unity in 24 Hours”. This isn’t going to be a long post as I’ll record my progress milestones in smaller updates as I go along.

Sleep Debt, Rocks in space

Weeks of 6 hours a night or less have taken their toll on me, and on Saturday I began experiencing weird numbness in the centre of my chest. I figured that lack of sleep may be to blame, and after a bit of googling discovered this was highly likely to be the cause;

When the body doesn’t get enough sleep, it can have some very unusual physical symptoms. You may find that your nerves seem to fire in weird ways, your legs and arms may tingle at different times, you may get headaches or back aches, and you may find that you experience weird pains and sensations in different parts of your body

Taken from; http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/causes/sleep-debt

I decided enough was enough, and went to bed at 10PM – wildly early for me. I slept till 6am, then woke up and hit the gym for good hard bench session. Later in the day I slept randomly for half an hour at lunch (very rare for me) and despite my stupid brain fighting me at every turn, somehow managed to get into bed at 11:30PM. Not brilliant, but I was able to get out of bed at 6:30 and get some deadlifts done this morning so it’s all good.

In other news, I have made some progress following the Space Shooter tutorial in Unity3D, my game now has a ship that moves around, shoots lasers, and a single randomly rotating asteroid that will destroy both itself and any object that comes into contact with it. It’s not exactly Counter Strike yet but it’s all valuable stuff.

Roll A Ball

I have successfully completed the newbie ‘Roll A Ball’ tutorial project for Unity 3D. After a few nights of plugging away and following the videos, I had a tiny shell of a working game, where you roll a sphere around a tray and collect little rotating cubes, which are counted as points. When all the cubes are collected, a game completion banner pops up. It looks completely horrible, but is a great intro into various areas of Unity and I found it extremely useful.

http://www.kreza.co.uk/games/rollaball/rollaball.html

I’ve decided to move onto the Space Shooter tutorial next as that looks a little more advanced (Textures & Materials, oh my!) and hey, who doesn’t like space. And shooting things, obviously.

In other news, my little blog was becoming plagued with spam comments for ladies footwear. I don’t know what this says about me, but I have removed all the dodgy comments and enabled Akismet filtering, which should hopefully bring this place back to lonely normality.

Game Design, the Attack of Caffeine Monster

Well, I managed to mess myself up on caffeine again. Having read that a black coffee + coconut oil makes a good preworkout, I’d been carefully doing this, limiting myself to that one caffinated drink a day. But somehow it always escalates, and within 2 week I was drinking diet coke during the day, multiple times at weekend, and finding myself wide awake at 2am, having to force myself to go to bed, knowing that I would be late for work in the morning. After yet another caffeine-induced panic attack at work yesterday, I realised that my latest attempt at moderation had failed, and I must go cold turkey again. So the headaches will be on their way soon, awesome.

In other news, my enthusiasm for web design has waned somewhat as the projects that I’d planned have all ground to a halt while the clients (some paid, some pro bono) get their acts together. I could be constructing fake portfolio sites in the meantime, but would far rather work on projects that are real and will see genuine use.

So I’ve decided to give game coding a crack. I used to program simple games in BASIC many years ago, then with something ancient called 3D Construction Kit, then moved onto the Amiga with AMOS and Shoot Em Up Construction Kit. Many years later, having long since discarded the idea of game design, but with a solid technical background from 15+ years work on business systems I find myself looking at the Unity 3D engine and think ‘I could do that’.

So far I have completed the Unity3D “Roll A Ball” tutorial project, and before jumping in for the next project I’m already looking at altering the workflow to suit me. I recently registered a license for the amazing Sublime Text editor, and am installing several Unity3D plugins to enable me to replace Unity’s default editor MonoDevelop with Sublime.

Personal projects, sleep, gym progress

The past couple of weeks have been a wild blur. The new baby has kept us very busy, and it seems we have next to no free time to do anything. On a selfish level this is bad for me, because my creative brain works best in the morning / afternoon. By the time the rest of the family are asleep in bed, the urge to learn or create is gone and all I want to do is shoot people in CS:GO. On the plus side, my progress is CS:GO has been good! But that doesn’t benefit anyone else really.

My gym progress has been good. Without being too strict on the calories, I’ve still eaten fairly sensibly most days and have lost a few pounds each week for the past couple of weeks while still hitting PBs on the weights. Today wasn’t good as I missed my bench session this morning, I’m going to try and get it done today though to retain my streak. I’ve quit using the MyProtein preworkout entirely and have been getting up with the aid of coffee + stevia. Need to get more sleep!

In other news the web design thing has gone a bit cold. The pro bono work I have done for other people has gone completely ignored which is worrying – if people who are getting design work for free aren’t interested, how can I possibly expect to make it work commercially? I still like doing it as evidenced by this site and sw-clan.co.uk, but it’s hard to keep the motivation in the face of apathy for something that is so client-dependant. So I’m changing tack for now and have downloaded the Unity 3D game engine. I’m learning to code up a simple 3D game using C# and so far it’s going quite well. I’ve nearly finished the first basic tutorial on their website, and have bought a Teach Yourself Unity in 24 Hours book from Amazon which looks like fun.

A new baby, Zombies, Run! And more lifting

The arrival of my son completely threw what was left of my flagging fitness regimen into the bin for a good 2 weeks. I was eating cakes, biscuits, ice cream, drinking caffeine to stay awake and resorted to alcohol a few times in an effort to feel ‘normal’ – this predictably ended in fuzzy-headed disaster.

Now that my paternity leave is over I can try and shoehorn some sense of routine back into my life. I have to get my ‘inner game’ straight as this is what has failed me and caused me to swerve on getting enough sleep, correct nutrition and training.

I’ve come back to the world of work with a hardened resolve and some new plans. For the last week I have been getting up with a single coffee and no other caffeine at all during the day or on non-workout days. I have reinstated daily use of MyFitnessPal and in order to get cut before winter, I’m doing CV now, something I hadn’t bothered with for months.

Yesterday I got up at 6am, worked chest at 6:30am, got through the whole day and then ran in the evening, using Zombies, Run! for the first time.

I strapped on my new iPhone armband, downloaded the Zombies Run C25K app and set off around 8PM. The ‘intro’ workout goes on for half an hour, and says ‘walk, jog or run’…

Stupidly I ran as much as I could and ended up doing 5.3k, felt like dying afterwards. I later realised it was intended as a freeform warmup, and I should have taken it a lot easier, as the ‘first’ workout will have me doing walking, jogging and sprinting.

The game is pretty good, it basically just plays songs off your own iphone playlist interspersed with bits of zombie storyline, the story encourages you to run faster when you’re being chased and although the voice acting is a bit ropey in places, in general it’s quite good fun. A bit like Sean Of The Dead.

I’ve created two playlists, a dance one and a metal one. Last night I ran to the dance one;

Blood Rave (from the Blade soundtrack) – The Crystal Method
Absurd (from the Sin City soundtrack) – Fluke
Creep Crawler – Zombie Girl
Dragula (from the Matrix soundtrack) – Rob Zombie
Go Zombie – Zombie Girl
Liberatae Tutemae – Specimen A & Xin m Bass
Cruel feat Julie Thompson – Pyramid
substanceD – hi-cut
Hands Around My Throat – Actual Phantom
Snyper (High Velocity Edit) – Hybrid
Night Stalker (Meat Katie Remix) – Altitude
Evil Voice (Aggressiveness Remix) – Destroyers & Viper X
Night Fighter – Christian J
Acid 8000 – Fatboy Slim
Innocence – Nero
Relapse feat Sam Nalfie – Shock One
Painkiller – Freestylers

I turned off my PC at 10PM and got into bed before 10:30. Today I struggled a bit with my deadlifts but that will get better I am sure.

 

 

Day Four Of No Caffeine

I’m finally starting to feel normal. Stayed up a bit too late last night playing CS:GO but managed to drag myself out of bed this morning without too much pain, and felt pretty awake most of the day. Picked up some cream soda and some ginger beer so that I can still drink something carbonated that’s more interesting than water.

Paid a visit to GNC in town as I was looking for a caffeine-free workout. The guys in the shop talked me into buying USN Creatine X4 – it was expensive at £30 a bottle, but I was suckered in by the promises of taurine and beta-alanine. However I looked the product up online and found very few positive reviews, if anything it was grossly overpriced, plus the type of creatine included was not monohydrate-based, so I decided to return it this morning.

To their credit, GNC didn’t give me any aggro on this at all, it was unopened so they just credited my account. I’ve now got my eye on Hemavol on Amazon now. Again, it’s £30, but Hemavol has mountains of blinding reviews so I know it’d probably my best option for a caffeine-free workout. I just want a decent pump with maybe a bit more endurance, rather than daily anxiety attacks and weird heart palpitations late at night.

In other news, Wildstar launched this morning and so far it seems very good. A few initial bugs on login but nothing serious, and my clan mate has already ground enough gold to form a guild for us ingame :)