Wanderer VR: My First Unreal 4 GameJam (Part 01)
For so long I want to develop and get into something we all know as “Virtual Reality” or VR. I was fascinated by the idea of “Other” sort-of-reality in which we can do somethings that we cannot do in this so-called “reality” and what better way to create this “other reality” in a form of Video Game.
I love everything about Games including Playing them, Studying them and also Developing them. So EPIC Games, creator of one of the iconic and powerful Game Engine, Unreal Engine 4 gave a chance to developers like me, to create something that is unique and also, awesome for the audience, in a form of Unreal Summer GameJam 2017.
Unreal GameJam is a Competition for Indie developers to test and validate their game knowledge and create a play-worthy game and win cool prizes. The objective was simple though, Create a Game based on their selected Theme which was Blessing in Disguise but within 4 days. Sounds easy, right?
I thought so too, But It wasn’t, believe me, You really don’t want to spend 4 days with sleep less than 2 hours, It messes your system up. But again, As long as you enjoy it, It was worth it and being my first GameJam I was pumped AF and I enjoyed it A LOT and that’s the key to these long-ass competitions, Work and Enjoy it as hard as you can, the moment it becomes the Grind, It’s over. I’ll talk more about the life in Hackathons and GameJams in other Posts but for now, let’s stick with GameJam.
Ok, Back to the Topic, So I am working and experimenting with Unreal Engine 4 the moment it was free, which I guess was in 2015? I don’t remember it correctly. but it was my first GameJam so it was intense pressure, don’t know why.
The task I decided for myself was to create a VR game in which user ie YOU can explore the world around you and be cool. This way I can merge my Unreal Engine 4 knowledge with actual Real-Time Environment but there were some issues with this noble concept.
First was, as I said earlier, I didn’t know anything about GameJam so there’s that. I am used to developing Renders and Maps at a slow pace.
Second was, Selecting the Platform on which I want to release my “VR-Game”, I know it sounds cool to develop a VR Game for Windows because PC master race, but all them MasterRace powers come at a cost which in this case was Hardware Requirements which is pretty basic in nature, in other words, I NEED A PC VR HEADGEAR and those headgears are not cheap even for a salaried personnel and here I am unemployed Third Year B.Tech student in India so you can imagine but still I DID check those prices of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and so 5 minutes is all the time I took to decide that my game WILL be an Android Application (now I know why all those Indie Developers release their games on Android). So I searched for Cheapest Android-enabled VR HeadGear which was Google CardBoard decided that Game will be Google CardBoard Enabled VR Game developed in Unreal Engine 4.
There were more of the Issues just like them, but I’ll talk about them in a second.
I thought I can develop this game on my own and hog all glory for myself, but then I came to my senses that there’s only so much a single person can do and I need a team to pull this off. So I contacted 2 of my friends from the college, Akshay, and Aditya, who actually were interested in Game Development but the problem was, they were both Unity Developer.
If you don’t know about Unity, it basically is Microsoft to Unreal Engine 4’s Google.
So they cannot learn about Unreal Engine 4 in just 4 days and make a game that can win SummerJam simultaneously (Yes, I was competing in this GameJam with Intent to Win). And I can’t switch to Unity because, well, It’s Unreal SummerJam. So I said, “Well Fuck it, Let’s give it a go”.
And we began, Name of the team was decided, MadTitans, we discussed the roles of each member. I was the Level Designer and Environment Artist and Gameplay Programmer. Akshay was 3D Model Artist and Material Artist. Aditya was Environment Designer and responsible for look and feel of Level and also, He took it on himself to give the game narration and exploring the purpose of Game which actually helped in the further success of the Game.
Aditya came up with a good story that fits our proposed Game as follows:
Earth is in problems and at the end of its life (as usual) and Earthlings started to leave the Earth in order to explore other planets and search for life and habitable planets.
In one of such exploration missions, A spacecraft got seperated from its mission team and crashed on a Red Dead Planet which no one has ever seen before. His visor is broken and external gases are leaking inside this helmet and his life is decreasing every minute. He must explore and send a distress message to his team before his breath runs out.
The story was simple enough so that we can work on it in the given time span and we can focus on refining existing aspects of Game Design.
So, I registered us, wrote the Game Design Document which clearly states the Things we need like Brief Description Level Design, Environment Design, Types of Materials, Gameplay Elements, Story, and Everything and then THE GAME JAM BEGINS.
I will be covering another part of the WANDERER VR: First GameJam in the second post. Stay Tuned.
TL;DR, we thought of doing something out of the mainstream, we overcome our obstacles and we did it.
You can also see my other work here at my Website.