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8. April 2014

 

One of the vaunted features of Unreal Engine 4 is C++ support.  How exactly does that work?  First you need to have an external IDE installed, either Visual C++ on Windows or XCode on Mac.  The Express version will work but the helper toolbar is unavailable.  It’s mostly just a shortcut so it’s not a huge loss.  Integration is pretty solid.  In the Editor in the File menu there are a number of menu options:

 

C++ Coding

 

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By selecting Add Code to Project… you can easily create a new game object using a wizard like sequence.  You select the base class:

 

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Name it and you are done:

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Once you click Create Class, you will be prompted to edit the code:

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You will be brought to your IDE of choice.  From this point on, its just like working with any other Visual Studio or XCode C++ project.

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The result of your project is a DLL file, build as per normal and your game will update in the editor.  It’s only when adding ( like we just did ) a new class do you need to restart the Unreal Engine Editor.  Otherwise a simple refresh should suffice.

 

The actual C++ libraries are fairly massive and far beyond the scope of this brief overview.

 

Building Unreal Engine from Source

 

One of the big advantages of Unreal is you have complete access to the source code.  The code is available in multiple parts, a couple of zip files with most of the external dependencies then the remaining code is available of Github.  You have to associate your Github account with your Unreal account, but the process is basically instant.

 

The GitHub repository is about what you would expect.

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The actual source isn’t that big, about 120MB, while the supporting zips measure in at a couple GB, but they shouldn’t regularly change.  Unreal make a bleeding edge release available for the brave of heart.

 

The actual process is about as simple as it gets.  You do a git pull, download and extract the supporting files into the same directory, then run a script that generates the project or solution file.  Then, in the case of Windows, simply open the SLN file in Visual Studio:

 

As you can see, the solution contains full sources for every tool in the SDK:

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This is nice, when they say with source code, it’s the ENTIRE source, nothing is hidden from you.  On the other hand, have some patience, the build process isn’t exactly fast.  On my machine it took about half an hour, I cant even imagine how long it would take on the MacBook Air, probably a couple of hours.  Then again, I remember the bad old days of all day builds, so this is really a first world problem.

 

Have a fair bit of drive space available too, as building from source is going to require a fair bit of space:

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I’ve only scanned the code but from what I’ve seen it’s pretty clean and well commented.  For the majority of devs, you probably wont ever need to modify the code, but being able to run it in debug mode is certainly invaluable.

 

 

The Documentation

 

A project like this lives of dies on it’s documentation and I am please to say Unreal Engine is well documented.

 

First there are a series of video tutorials.  Even without a membership you can check them out.  As of right now there are 64 video tutorials available.

The documentation is broken down like so:

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Under the Samples & Tutorials some are currently just placeholders.

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The Programming Guide is pretty comprehensive.

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Reference documentation is again detailed:

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They also provide the AnswerHub, a StackOverflow like portal for asking and answering questions.    As you can see from the screenshot below, answers come very quickly and devs are very active in solving problems.  If you run into a problem, you are very well supported:

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In addition to AnswerHub, there is also a full Wiki:

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Currently it is a bit sparse, but expect it to grow over time.

 

Finally there are the forums.  One of the nice things about having to pay to be a member is it gets the signal to noise ratio way down.  This means the only people on the forums are people that are using or evaluating Unreal Engine.

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The forums are also very active and developers actively participate.

 

Summary

 

This of course only scratches the surface of the functionality available.  There shader support, skeletal systems, etc… all nicely integrated in the editor.  What I will say is I am actually shocked at the level of polish of not only the Engine and supporting tools, but also the community they have fostered and the level of support they are providing.

 

When I first downloaded UDK I was actually somewhat underwhelmed with what was included.  Level level of polish present in UE4 shows they are taking this release very seriously.  Don’t get me wrong, UE is NOT a beginner friendly product, this is some seriously powerful but also sophisticated tech you are being given here.  That said, Unreal have done an amazing job making it as accessible and well supported as I could have imagined.

 

Is it worth 19$ a month?  Most certainly, if only just for the learning experience it represents.

Programming


19. March 2014
Unreal Engine 4 for Everyone

 

Today Unreal officially announced the release of Unreal Engine 4.  First a blurb about the Unreal Engine from Tim Sweeny:

 

Unreal Engine 4 launches today. What we’re releasing is both simple and radical: everything.

Epic’s goal is to put the engine within reach of everyone interested in building games and 3D content, from indies to large triple-A development teams, and Minecraft creators as well. For $19/month you can have access to everything, including the Unreal Editor in ready-to-run form, and the engine’s complete C++ source code hosted on GitHub for collaborative development.

This is the complete technology we at Epic use when building our own games, forged by years of experience shipping games like Gears of War for Xbox and Infinity Blade for iOS, and now reinvented for a new generation. Having the full C++ source provides the ultimate flexibility and puts developers in control of their schedules and destinies: Whatever you require to build and ship your game, you can find it in UE4, source it in the GitHub community, or build it yourself – and then share it with others.

Develop in the Unreal Ecosystem

Beyond the tools and source, Unreal Engine 4 provides an entire ecosystem. Chat in the forums, add to the wiki, participate in the AnswerHub Q&A, and join collaborative development projects via GitHub.

To help you get started, we’re shipping lots of ready-made content, samples, and game templates.  You’ll find it in the Marketplace in the Unreal Editor. Right now, it simply hosts free stuff from Epic, but its resemblance to the App Store is no coincidence: It will grow into a complete ecosystem for sharing community-created content, paid and free, and open for everyone’s participation!

[SNIP]

A New Beginning

This first release of Unreal Engine 4 is just the beginning. In the C++ code, you can see many new initiatives underway, for example to support Oculus VR, Linux, Valve’s Steamworks and Steam Box efforts, and deployment of games to web browsers via HTML5.  It’s all right there, in plain view, on day one of many years of exciting and open development ahead!

We have enjoyed building Unreal Engine 4 so far and hope you will join us on this journey as a contributor to the future of Unreal!

 

 

Now the part I didn’t mention:

Ship Games with Unreal

We’re working to build a company that succeeds when UE4 developers succeed. Anyone can ship a commercial product with UE4 by paying 5% of gross revenue resulting from sales to users. If your game makes $1,000,000, then we make $50,000. We realize that’s a lot to ask, and that it would be a crazy proposition unless UE4 enables you to build way better games way more productively than otherwise!

So, will this effort succeed? That’s up to you and your judgment of the engine’s value. Unreal Engine 4 has been built by a team of over 100 engineers, artists and designers around the world, and this launch represents all of our hopes and dreams of how major software can be developed and distributed in the future.

We find this future very exciting. It’s no longer dominated by giant publishers and marketing campaigns, but by a simple and honest proposition: Gamers pay for great games, and anybody who can valuably contribute to building those games can succeed, from indie developers, to large triple-A teams, and to individual programmers and content creators, too.

 

Now part of this is very cool news.  Indie developers are now going to get full source code access to the engine.  If you are setting out to create a game, a flat 5% full code access library is pretty awesome.  However… there is a small blurb this blog missed.

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… a 19$ dollar a month subscription fee.

 

This is capital S STUPID.  No doubt some accountant somewhere thought “Hey, we have all these developers that never ship a product and we are making nothing off them!  Let’s charge a monthly subscription!”

 

Guys… don’t let the accountants do the thinking.

 

What’s 19$ a month you say?  It’s a barrier of entry and a meaningless one at that.  How many indie developers are now not going to bother evaluating Unreal and are just going to go with Unity or another engine instead?  What about schools looking to pick an engine for development?  What about the entire hobbyist community that are just looking to have some fun but accidently make the next Angry Birds and make billions of dollars?  Well, they most likely wont be doing it in Unreal anymore. 

 

They really need to consider how many potential 5% royalty projects are never going to get started because they tried to get 19$ a month from a bunch of hobbyist?  Even if a single hobby developer flukes out an makes a million dollar grossing game, how many developers do they have to sign up in a month to make up that potentially lost revenue?  That would be 2,631 Alex.  Do you think one in 2,631 developers are going to hit it big and make money for Unreal?  Well, now we will never know.

News


11. March 2014

 

From this post on reddit I have learned of the open sourcing of Sony’s game tool creation kit Authoring Tools Framework (ATF).  The ATF is a comprehensive .NET/C# based framework for creating game tools.  It has been used to create all kinds of tools for several shipped games including the level editor for Naughty Dog’s epic Last of Us.

 

In Sony’s own words:

Authoring Tools Framework (ATF) is a set of C#/.NET components for making tools on Windows. ATF has been used by most Sony first party game studios to make many custom tools such as Naughty Dog’s level editor and shader editor for The Last of Us, Guerrilla Games’ sequence editor for Killzone games (including theKillzone: Shadow Fall PS4 launch title), an animation blending tool at Santa Monica Studios, a level editor at Bend Studio, a visual state machine editor for Quantic Dream, sound editing tools, and many others. ATF has been in continuous development in Sony's Worldwide Studios central tools group since early 2006.

 

The license is Apache Version 2, which is a very liberal license with no GNU style conditions.

 

Sample Level Editor created using ATF

 

When I said comprehensive earlier, I meant it.  This is an incredibly well documented project.  There is a 75 page PDF DOM programming guide, a 30 page Getting Started PDF as well as a comprehensive online Wiki, including the ATF Programmer’s Guide.

 

The framework itself contains a number of classes.  It is provided as a Visual Studio 2010 project.  As you can see, ATF provides GUI components, Collada and Perforce support and more.  The core however is um… in Atf.Core, which provides the backbone of the framework itself.

 

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From my quick scan, ATF appears to provide a game orriented MFC style document model.  It’s complex, it will take some time digging before I can fully appreciate what this framework provides.  However, to assist in that, there are a number of included samples:

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Unfortunately, a few of them are missing, including probably the one you would be most interested in, LevelEditor.  Hopefully these get released in short order.

 

It is getting increasingly common to create games using C# and this toolkit should make the job a heck of a lot easier!  Very cool release Sony!

News


10. March 2014

 

Ever heard of FMOD?  As far as game libraries go, FMOD is perhaps one of the most ubiquitous libraries in existence.  It is a low level audio library and the question isn’t really who uses it, but who doesn’t.  FMOD is integrated into just about every game engine you can think of including CryEngine, Unity, Unreal, Trinigy and Source.  It has literally been used to create hundreds of games.  FMOD has always been available for free on free projects, but had a price tag for commercial releases.  Earlier today @FmodStudio made the following Tweets:

 

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The link in question leads to this article on Gamasutra ( although oddly not their own site ).  The press release reads as follows:

Melbourne - 10th March, 2014 - Firelight Technologies announced today that its next generation audio tool suite, FMOD Studio, is now free for indie developers.  FMOD Studio has always been free for non-commercial projects, and from today it will also be free for commercial indie projects.

"We started out as an indie company so we've always felt an affinity with the indie community." said Firelight Technologies CEO Brett Paterson. "They're risk takers, innovators and explorers. We wanted to give back to that community and we can’t wait to see what they do with FMOD Studio."

Firelight Technologies recently released FMOD Studio 1.3 with new features specifically for indie developers:

·         Unity integration plug-in

·         Plugin SDK for creating sound generators and effects with examples on GitHub

These additions come on top of an industry-leading feature set that includes an intuitive and familiar UI, an all-in-one multi-track editor for interactive music and sound effects, and a full-featured mixing desk with dynamic mixer snapshots and control surface support, as well as supporting cross-platform authoring on both PC and Mac.

Since its release last year, FMOD Studio has already been used in a number of AAA titles, including Forza Motorsport 5, which recently won an IGN award for best audio on Xbox One. FMOD Studio is also proving to be popular with iOS and Android developers, with several unannounced titles due in the coming months.

 

So basically if you make less than 100,000K  ( at least I assume that is the case, budgets under 100K strikes me as odd wording ) you can use FMOD for free.  If you make over 100K, you should be able to afford it. Smile 

 

I'm loving how much more accessible game development tools are becoming!

News


10. February 2014

 

About a month ago I reported that the Godot game engine was going open source.  Today it finally has.  In their own words, Godot is:

Godot is a fully featured, open source, MIT licensed, game engine. It focuses on having great tools, and a visual oriented workflow that can export to PC, Mobile and Web platforms with no hassle. The editor, language and APIs are feature rich, yet simple to learn, allowing you to become productive in a matter of hours.

 

Below is a screenshot of the editor in action:

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The website is available here but it is getting clobbered.  The code itself is available on Github.

 

Always nice to see a Unity alternative.

News


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