Wanderer VR: My First Unreal 4 GameJam (Part 02)

Ankit Passi
Aug 8 · 7 min read

TL;DR — We thought of doing something out of the mainstream, we overcome our obstacles and we won it.

So in the first part of the Story, I talked about the initial issues of participation in the GameJam.

This time I’ll focus on the development cycle and fun we had during that time and the ultimate result of all that intense struggle.

I was studying some advanced techniques used by Game Developers to make their game huge but small in filesize, so I thought why not use those techniques as well. So, we incorporated features such as Procedural Generation and Level Streaming, which allows us to keep a good and steady FPS, mandatory for VR Games without making it too big in filesize for Android Phones.

The game we designed was fairly simple in terms of level structure. It’s a huge map which focuses on Exploration and Player experience and map is generated as the player progresses thanks to, Level Streaming.

The team did the best they could do to make this happen — Akshay created all the Games Assets, comprising of Rocks, Boulders, Checkpoints, Level Base Material, and all the necessary visual stuff; Aditya created an intro video which helps the user to understand the purpose of the Game and I was responsible for Level Design and Gameplay control. Thankfully, I was developing controls specific to this type of game for the past 4 months, so I was able to give more time to the level and environment design which is really a good thing because it is easy to forget important features in all the Development mess within a restricted Time Frame.

After some time, I decided to take a look at the submission thread because of human curiosity and discovered that most of the developers were developing PC Games. I did get hesitant about our VR Approach at first because of no experience in VR but then again, why change your goals because someone is doing something else? So I stick to our approach.

So, like that whole two and a half days went and we were progressing beautifully, surprisingly good for the first-timers. But I forgot one of the basic things we should do whenever we develop something for a specific Platform TEST THE PROJECT ON THE INTENDED PLATFORM. After finalizing the level design, I deployed the application on my Android Device which is Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 but a barrage of errors started to pop up in the unreal compiler like, Android SDK errors, Compilation errors and the scariest of all, JAVA EXITCODE(1) — Because in these sort of errors, cause is never explained so every fix you make is just a shot in dark. I spent around 4 hours fixing those errors and in between my System Overheated multiple times because of excessive heat during summers in New Delhi (It’s pretty hot here in summers). Fortunately, I was able to get rid of all the errors during compilation and packaging for an Android, thanks to kind people on unreal forums and StackOverflow.

Pro tip: Whenever stuck in any sort of programming or development errors, use Google to find its cause and solution and never be afraid to post these queries on Public forums like StackOverflow or Reddit, someone will eventually help you.

Now on the last day, I finished the levels, environment, placed all assets in the level and used all my graphics knowledge, used all sort of “Non-GPU Taxing” Post-processing to make the level pixel-perfect and pleasing to the eye but not heavy on CPU to maintain Game stability. I deployed the application on the Handset and put on my VR Headset, and realized that something in my level was missing- It was looking empty and dead (expected Not empty and Dead). I played and explored other things in the game and everything was working fine. That’s when I realized that the “emptiness” present in the level was due to the absence of Post-processing effects I spent the entire day creating it. Later, I read some documentation about Unreal Post-Process Effects and because of some hardware and memory restrictions of Android, some of the post-process effects are switched off. Well, here goes my Well-planned Lighting Effects. My whole approach to making the level dense with fewer assets and models was to do some amazing post-processing and it failed. So what I did? Well, can’t quit now, my teammates did their part amazingly and now I have to complete it, somehow. It was obvious that I have to change the entire light system. And that entire process took a total of 6 hours and another 1–2 hours to implement AVAILABLE post-process effects to make the level denser.

So after 4 days of intense hard work and all the crap that happened in between, we managed to finish the project somehow. Moreover, I implemented some more features and a Death Mechanic which I never tested because there was no time but I had faith in my Coding ability so, I winged it.

I packaged the Game, took some screenshots, created our Game Banner, completed Game Documentation and made our submission thirty minutes before Competition Ends.

Close Call, phew!

After all that work, the first thing I did was sleep and then moved on with my life with other Hackathons and Competitions. This might seem really stupid but I actually forgot about the Result Date of GameJam. Thankfully, I did set an alarm for the Result Date, in case I forgot.

RESULT TIME

EPIC Games usually announce new features and results during their Weekly LiveStreams which usually goes live at 11:30 p.m. in India due to the Time Zone difference. So, I tuned into the stream, playing in the background while I continued working on some of the other Interface Designs. After an hour or so, out of the blue, they started talking about “a small Android Game was able to clear obstacles of VR and is the winner of Android Category and the name of Game is: Wanderer VR“. I said “hol up, THAT’S MY GAME and I called my Team members that instant, screamed “WE WON GUYS”, they didn’t believe me first, but I asked them to rewind the stream a little and see for themselves.

AND BOOM, WE WON!

It is true, We won the GameJam on our first attempt. I was really happy, so were my parents.

Not going to lie, I really needed this win at that moment in my life because I was actually going through Career Crisis and this just gave me a ray of hope which I really needed at that time. Community Manager of EPIC Games contacted us for our Prizes and all the SWAG sponsored by others. It was really a good day and all thanks to my team for their amazing work and narration.

In the end, I would say that Don’t Stop Pushing forward even if everything falls apart, because, you cannot achieve any success, big or small, without failing and I mean A LOT of Failures and I say this to anyone who seeks my advice about career and stuff, STOP THINKING AND START DOING IT. Surround yourself with People who are the realist in nature, believe in their work and always ready to step out of their comfort zone and get their hands dirty.

Thank you for putting up with this huge story about my first GameJam, I always wanted to share this segment of my life with everyone in hope that it will help student developers like me to participate in GameJam or any competition in general.

My Teammates: Aditya Malhotra and Akshay Sharma.

Thanks, Guys for working together and making this win awesome as hell.

All the In-game Screenshots are available on my Artstation Profile

Thank you for reading this case study, this is one of my first ones and there’s so much I need to learn in order to better my writing skills.

Do point out what I am lacking and I’ll try to improve it.

Also, this case study is also available on my personal website and Behance profile.

Ankit Passi