|No installation yet. No really, this thing BARELY works. If I can package it for easy download I will post it here.
I am endlessly curious about game engines and game development. Yes, even though I work on games during the working week. I don't know where it comes from exactly. Call it passion. Call it drive. Call it madness. Actually, call it curiosity, which is where I started this paragraph. About the only drawback to working on a major game franchise is that I only ever get to work on my one small part of it. “Those Dam Nazis!" is a continuing exploration of the other facets of game development, and it was undertaken specifically to learn the in's and out's of Unreal Engine 4.
UE4 came to my attention in, I think, 2014. I had tinkered with UDK (Unreal Engine 3) but found C++ to be an insurmountable barrier to making anything even remotely interesting. I knew that UE4 used something called "Blueprints", which was a visual scripting language, and I found the fact that it was free to be highly intriguing (free unless you publish/sell your project). Here was a fully-featured, triple-A game engine - free to download for anyone who cares to learn it.
2015 was a busy year. I was crunching with the rest of the Treyarch team on Black Ops III, so I only had one weekend day free for several months. I decided to use that day to make some weapons in Maya, sensing that I wouldn't be able to make any real headway practicing Blueprint scripting one day a week.
I focused on weapons mainly because I wasn't animating them at Treyarch at the time (I am now), and I wanted to sharpen those skills if I could. I planned to make a simple first person level in UE4 with a wide selection of weapons to animate.
By way of Google and the Epic forums, I came across this outstanding tutorial series. I'm going to give it its own HTML table with a bunch of padding and even a small thumbnail image to draw as much attention to it as possible:
This guy is awesome - using his free time, he has generously created an unbelievably in-depth tutorial series, which takes you from project setup in UE4, through weapon creation, reloading, and building your first environment. There are also tutorials on behavior trees and some basic AI. I've done quite a few video tutorial series on UE4, as well as a book or two on Blueprints. But none had practical examples that are as
extensive as this one.
For most of my 2016 weekends I sipped coffee and ran through this series. I was not into the idea of using pre-packaged assets, so I frequently stopped along the way to mockup a few basic AI character models and animations - such as the German soldiers, Giant Robot, spider droid, and flying drone.
I soon realized that I should pare down the available weapons
- I ran amok in 2015 and made a ridiculously long list of guns.
There were also some I had skipped which the tutorials wanted me to create, such as the grenade launcher, which I ended up making in Maya in a couple hours.
I reached kind of the end point in the tutorial series - which left the project incomplete, but the tutorials are his personal project, which - like I said - he is doing on his own for everyone's benefit. So they'll be finished when they're finished. Some of what I had done worked and some didn't (I had a few issues where my newer UE4 version didn't match the tutorial screenshots, so I had to improvise in a few places). But I learned a TON. I now know what "Event Handlers" are and how and where to use them. I know how to use Print String to debug state machines. I actually extended the work on my own and figured out how to add first person reload animations. All in all, I found the experience to be highly rewarding and a lot of fun.
In any case, let me conclude this giant wall of text by stating: if you are curious about UE4, I would definitely recommend working through the Shooter Tutorial series.
And make a donation on his page if you can. What follows are the results of my work over the last year and a half or so, following the tutorials. Not sure if I'll continue with this same series when he starts up again, or if I'll switch gears and try something else. Whatever game engine experimentation I do next will definitely be done in UE4 though. I really enjoyed my time with it.