Working with UE4 to make a short game

We all know the capabilities of the next generation consoles and the new game engines made to support them but we haven’t really seen many examples of graphically impressive games that are miles better than the previous generation, well not really until now. I stumbled across this video on Vimeo some time ago and was incredibly impressed with what I saw. I had to interview the creators to find out more. If you haven’t yet seen the video, check it out here.

1) First of all could you tell me your roles in the creating the game/short film?

Francis: My role in the team was to do all of the special effects to give life to the environment such as the demon smoke trail and the god rays for ambiance. I also did a lot of the event scripting to make the run functional.

Samuel: I worked on the lighting, level design and environment. Overall, working on the lighting was the part I enjoyed the most though. For the environment, I modeled most of the catacombs. Apart from those tasks, I also helped with the technical aspects of the project such as blueprints (scripting in the engine) and the master shader so that the environment artists would have an easier time manipulating certain elements of their textures to make them optimal.

Christophe: I was one of the environment artists. I spent the first 5 weeks modeling and texturing most of the assets in the Cathedral. Most of the last 2 weeks were spent on the level art, placing props accordingly to Sam’s level design and helping with the lighting so the player would have an easier time following the path.

Erwan: For this project, I was the character modeler. I made the main character, the demon, the marble statues, skulls and rocks. I started very quickly by the search part of the main character, because the animator has need the proxy to begin work. Then I continued with the devil proxy. Then comes the textures and detail map. I do in parallel : Statues (Mary, Jesus, Pope, skulls) and rock to help the level artists the composition.

David: Alongside with Christophe, I also worked on the environment. My focus was on the architecture of our cathedral. I created and textured the various pieces of our modular kit. Every piece had to be well optimized and sized properly to make sure they would fit together perfectly. I also applied the vertex paint to break the pattern of my tiling materials. After completing my main task, I helped with the creation of different assets such as the organ and the “Holy Chair” that you see on the altar at the end.

2) How was it created and what tools did you use?

Francis: We used a diversity of tools. The engine we used was the Unreal Engine 4, a new powerful engine that pushes the boundaries of realism with cool features such as physical base rendering. Besides Unreal, we used 3DS Max for the modeling, Maya for the rig and the animation, Zbrush for the organic elements (characters, statues, rocks, etc.) and Photoshop for the textures. The great part about Unreal 4 is how user friendly it was when it came to integrating our work. The connection it had with Perforce 4 made it easy for everyone. The integration of the animations were probably our biggest struggle though as we were unfamiliar with the pipeline to get it to work and there was a lack of documentation online on how to make it work.

God left me Preist ue3

3) How long did it take to create?

David: We had exactly 7 weeks to complete this project. The first week was dedicated to concepts, research and setting deadlines. After that, we got into 6 weeks of intense production. We were able to follow our project timeline and keep the last week to polish and complete our project.

4) What is it about? Is there a story behind it?

Christophe: It’s very simple really. It’s the story of an exorcist priest who is losing his battle against evil forces and is now running for his life. He tries to hide in his sanctuary, but he isn’t as safe as he was hoping he would be. The demon under a dark spiritual form chases him, breaking everything on his passage. Our priest’s only hope is to reach the holy bible on the altar and repel the demon with an incantation. Unfortunately, once the priest reaches the altar, the Demon appears as itself and forces our protagonist for a final showdown.

5) Do you plan to add more levels/scenes and release a full game it or is this just a short demo?

Erwan: Although we were tempted to keep working on it, we won’t be pushing the project any further. We prefered to keep this as a simple academic project, but we’re sticking as a team and will be making another grand project in 2015 in which we’re hoping to impress just as much as we did with this one. For God Left Me, the goal was to challenge ourselves by creating a chase in a small level with the maximum of our abilities with little time. We achieved it and are now looking to challenge ourselves with something else.

6) The scene looks incredible, lighting, modeling and particle effects how did you learn to do it?

Christophe: We learned to model across our 2 first years at NAD, finding new techniques and tools to help us along the way. For the lighting and the particles though, it was a whole other story. We had to learn how to get out good results from scratch. Unreal 4 being a fairly new engine, we never did a project with it before. Fortunately, Francis and Samuel are very proficient, so they did all the research they had to do to get out the best results. For the modeling, me, Sam and David used 3DSMax 2014, Photoshop CS6 and Crazy Bump mainly.

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7) What problems did you have a long the way whilst making this?

Samuel: The biggest challenge was the lack of time. How could we do an entire level from scratch in only 7 weeks? Also, we were worried that communication would be a problem, but our team was solid and everything went smooth. Many of us had worked together in others projects, so we knew our strengths and weaknesses and worked on them. In the end it was a great learning experience.

Christophe: I agree with Sam. Time was our biggest challenge in this project but we scoped it well. We surprisingly did not have to cut much from our original idea. In terms of communication, what was great is that we each had our distinctive role and trusted each other in carrying out tasks out and well. We really had a good synergy and I think that’s the main element that helped the project shine.

As I mentioned before, learning an engine in which we never worked before was probably the biggest challenge if you mix it with the lack of time. We did a few projects in UDK before then, so we weren’t completely ignorant about how to use an engine, but Unreal 4 changed quite a bit so we had to adapt. The way it works with Perforce 4 was also somewhat confusing at first, so we lost quite a bit of work by missing saves, not editing on a specific stream (for levels), etc.

8) Finally do you think rendering in real time will be the future of 3D?

Francis: I think realtime 3D will eventually be a standard in the video game industry as well as in architectural design and cinema. With the increasing processing power of computers, real time 3D will prove to be a standard to create beautiful scenery with less data than a 3D rendered scene. It also allows to do things more fluidly artistically because of the fast momentum realtime creates. No need to wait for hours of rendering each time you change a parameter (30 frames per second instead of a waiting time as long as 1 hour per frame!). This video from a professional lighting artist show very well what I’m talking about.

Samuel: I’m currently working on a VR port for God left me. I want to be part of the VR future and push the experience at its limit. I’m a huge fan of this technology and I strongly believe that it will change the gaming experience.