Tag Archives: epic

Episodic Development with UE3

Grimm Production Timelines

Grimm Time Lines

Develop Magazine is running an article highlighting the episodic development of Grimm using the Unreal Engine 3 technology. From the article:

McGee’s core team explored several engines before settling on Unreal Engine 3 and ultimately found that they were able to integrate content and achieve the visual results they wanted faster and easier with Unreal Engine 3.

“This was primarily attributable to the superior reference materials, tutorials, and content pipeline and tools. Once our decision was made, attracting other team members with UE3 experience and gaining critical knowledge on our own was easy,” explained McGee.

“Because Grimm is such an experimental game concept, rapid prototyping was essential to proving our new ideas. Being able to quickly build a world from near-final content allowed us to focus on the challenges of implementing original ideas.”

If you’re interested in how we pulled off on-time development and distribution of 12 hours of episodic content, while building a studio from the ground up, AND being in a foreign land – then you’ll want to check out the full article. I will say a lot of our success is owed to the robustness of the UE3 toolset.

Attached to this article you’ll see a time-line which roughly illustrates the cycles our production went through in order to accomplish our development goals. This time line only gives a broad picture and a little detail related to Level Design production. There were in fact many similar time lines running concurrently through all departments, including Concept Art, Asset Production, Animation, and Programming.

Soon we’ll release a Post Mortem on the Grimm project which goes into more detail about the development of Grimm. Keep an eye out for it!

Shared Knowledge = Healthy Growth

The Ruins 1

Paths to Knowledge

Just read an interesting blurb over at videogamer.com in which Wheelman Creative Director Simon Woodroffe comments on one of the biggest challenges in making effective use of off-the-shelf engine technology. He says:

“… you know, the biggest factor that hasn’t been touched upon in recent articles is the shared knowledge. We have 600 to 700 devs, all with Unreal experience, all working for the same company, all of whom can talk to each other. When we hit a problem, we have more people working on the engine than anybody – by a long way. And we have a massive pool of resources to draw upon. At least one team has dealt with pretty much every feature you might want in a next-gen game. Which means that we, as designers, are in a great position – because we can actually build games to be games, not just technology showcases any more,”

Now there are two things I find interesting about this. First that James Orry, the guy writing the article, decided to turn Simon’s insightful comments into mudslinging – by giving the article this headline: “Midway: Secret game looks ‘better’ than Gears 2”. Ahem. That’s not the point. But then videogamer.com isn’t Gamasutra, and perhaps we shouldn’t expect anything different from a news site targeted at gamers, not game makers.

Next, I’d like to say “amen” to the idea of shared knowledge! Be it within a development studio where there are multiple teams, or within a publishing organization where there are teams spread around the world, or within the industry – between two “rival” companies who are using the same technology. Honestly, I think the industries “lack of sharing” is one of the biggest spoilers to rapid advancement of games as an art form.

Think about it this way: When film makers get together to do their thing they pull together a “one time use” team made up of the best people they can get their hands on. People from all over the world converge on a project – a DP from London, a Director from LA, a Writer from Sydney, and a whole crew of visual effects people, technicians, lighting people, etc, etc. Each and every one of them bringing unique and valuable knowledge from their personal history of making films.

Compare this to the game industry where people don’t bounce around project-to-project and where our toolsets might vary widely from studio to studio and generation to generation (of code and hardware). In an environment like ours it makes sense to pool our knowledge and share our resources – especially when so many of us are using a common tool like the Unreal Engine.

Epic does what they can to foster this sort of sharing with their UDN (Unreal Developers Network). But developers and publishers could and should go one step further by pushing their knowledge, their tools, and their solutions to interesting problems and challenges out to communal repositories. Who wouldn’t love to “harvest” the latest and greatest tricks from recently released titles? And why not? Once a cool concept is released in a retail product other are going to do their best to copy it. Nothing is truly proprietary for long.

Our goal as an industry is to entertain. We do that by making the most immsersive and compelling entertainment products possible. And doing so requires a huge wealth of knowledge which every team in the world possesses bits of pieces of. Sharing knowledge with each other would help our studios, nurture the industry, and ultimately deliver better games to audience.

We do some pretty amazing things as individual teams – imagine what we might do as a unified industry force.

Engine “Justice”

I read on Develop Magazine this morning of some non-movement with the lawsuit brought against Epic by Silicon Knights. Seems we need reassuring that “something will happen”. From the article:

Denis Dyack has told Develop that he thinks ‘justice will be done’ in the still-in-progress legal spat between his studio Silicon Knights and Unreal Engine creator Epic Games. A year ago, Silicon Knights filed a suit against Epic saying the company had “failed to provide a working game engine” – the studio since then scrapped its use of Unreal Engine 3 and built its own in-house technology. The first game using that, Too Human, is due out next week.

Having used UE3 to build Grimm and spent considerable time in the past working with Id’s tools, I’ve followed this story with amazement. To expect a licensed engine, fresh out of the box, would require no modification or improvements to achieve development goals on a new title is ludicrous. But to build an entirely new engine as an alternative to improving an existing one – sounds a bit unreasonable. And to build that new engine inside 1 year, then ship a title with it? Now things are starting to sound surreal.

Will be interesting to see how this one plays out. My guess is that there’s more than a little UE3 still in “Too Human”.