Monday, April 21, 2014

We made the switch to Unreal Engine 4!!

Unreal Engine 4 is awesome. Just scroll down for screenshots...we know that's what you want.

It has been just about 3 weeks since we got back from GDC...and this whole time we have been nose deep in learning the ins and outs of Unreal Engine 4. In those 3 weeks, we have accomplished a crazy amount of work, transferring and recreating the XING Rainforest Level.

Why did we do it?

There are several reasons why we decided to make the switch:

Being on the Cutting Edge
  • Now we can count on Oculus support for certain when the game is released
  • We can keep up with the times and continue to push for incredible graphics
  • Constant support from Epic for their new engine

UE4 is a more User-Friendly Engine to Use
  •  Blueprints makes coding far more enjoyable
  •  Workflow and speed have been amped up!
    • More streamlined import process
    • Better material editing
    • Art integration with Blueprints
  • We can implement things now we had only dreamed of before

We are trying out new ways of displaying text. In the first screenshot from UDK, we used a system of displaying text we created with Flash, Scaleform , ActionScript and UnrealScript. In the 2nd screenshot, we only used Blueprints, and a Built-in Text-In-Editor display.

Refocusing our Art Style
  • It's not just "better graphics" we are concerned with, we want to continue to make sure XING has consistent and visually rich environments
  • We walk a line between fantasy and realism with our art direction, and UE4 has made that even easier and  - more fun to implement (and more affordable graphics wise)
  • Better dynamic lighting built in = less compromises we have to make
We can better achieve what we picture in our heads

Creative Potential
  • The things we have learned in the past 3 weeks of using UE4 have been tremendous
  • It has shown us the true potential of XING - whether it be implementing mechanics, creating level-specific gameplay moments, or even making basic AI
UE4 Screenshot from the New Rainforest Level

  • Instead of our previous deal of  $100 for the Dev Kit and 25% of our Net income after 50k, UE4 is only $19/mo. for the entire engine, source code included, with 5% of gross income going to Epic (they deserve it!)
  • The source code makes it so that, in the future if (when!) XING becomes popular, we can potentially port it to other platforms ;)

Using UE4 feels like using the future

Switching to UE4 was kind of like switching from a 2002 Toyota Prius to a 2013 Tesla Model S. The Prius was a great step in the right direction for efficiency and got you where you needed to go, but sometimes couldn't get past a certain speed. The Model S gets you where you need to go in modern style and more efficiently, and comes standard with navigation and smooth controls.

What does that mean for the release time?

Hopefully it shouldn't make too much of a difference! At first we decided to spend 4 days seeing how much we could learn and accomplish on the new engine. If we made our set goal after those 4 days, we agreed we would make the switch.

We almost met our goal, and decided to play with the engine some more. After recreating things in blueprints in minutes (that it took us hours to do previously in unrealscript+kismet), we decided that the time it took us to make the switch would most likely be made up by how fast we could get a lot of our mechanics back up and running. What that also means is that mechanics we hadn't yet figured out are also now closer within our grasp :)

According to the clock in XING, we are right on schedule...

Actually Making the Switch:

We're not going to lie, switching from UDK (UE3) to UE4 after about a year of development is a blessing and a curse...

  • The Cons
    • Having to relearn how to make the game work...
      • Epic's new "Blueprints" has replaced Unrealscript and Kismet
    • Recreating the map
      • Almost nothing transfers over...the landscape sort of can, but you have to re-size it and repaint it
      • To be honest at one point, staring at a blank map again with incorrect lighting, no painting and only 5 meshes in my arsenal,  I wanted to cry
    • Importing every mesh and texture again...
    • Recreating Materials (combining different texture layers to make a surface look correct in the world)
    • Now that we have so much more freedom and power at our command, it's easy to get caught up in "what if's"...which sometimes make it into the game. Is that really a con? Pro? Probably a little of both...
  • The Pros:
    • Better user interface!
    • Blueprints are a fun way to code and make things happen per level, or consistently throughout the whole game
    • Awesome light rendering - we can put in more static lights even though we have a dynamic sky system
    • Particles everywhere!
    • Source code (though we haven't touched it yet)
    • Constant support from Epic for their new engine
    • The new engine makes working on the game feel fresh again

*If you are a developer and have any questions about how we made the switch, feel free to email us at

Screenshot Comparisons Galore!

The first level we have decided to tackle is the rain forest, since it was freshly viewed and tested at GDC. Check out the Results:

You can A-B them if you click on them :)

Rainforest Day

Rainforest Rain

Rainforest Night

Thanks for looking and please let us know any of your questions/comments/concerns and general feedback :)

We are still taking Pre-Orders too ;)