Book Review: Mastering UDK Game Development

Mastering UDK Game Development

Epic Games released the Unreal Development Kit (UDK) in late 2009, as a Standalone Development Kit (SDK) for Unreal Engine 3 (UE3). To support their standalone release, Epic Games spawned an entire developer community comprising forums, technical documentation and video tutorials.

Mastering UDK Game Development Hotshot builds on the community foundations laid by Epic Games, aiming squarely at advanced UDK users. The author, John P. Doran, is a software engineer working for DigiPen Institute Singapore, with experience working in the games industry, as well as higher education. He co-authored UDK iOS Game Development Beginner’s GuideThe Hotshot series comprises two games development titles, and seven technical topics , including Adobe CS6 and jQuery. 

The flexibility of UDK is greatly demonstrated throughout this book. It looks beyond the standard out-of-the-box first person shooter that UDK provides and focuses on how to use UDK as a game development tool for any genre. The project based nature of the book keeps the content fresh, and challenges readers onto further work. Mastering UDK Game Development Hotshot is aimed at designers and non-programmers who will use the editor based tools of UDK.

Each chapter is formatted to each cover a practical project, with sub-chapters tackling the more specific elements entailed within each project. The book steers away from touting the features of the engine and focuses on how to use the engine as a general development tool. This means covering useful topics such as creating a custom HUD for an RPG, creating loot and managing a loot system, as well as enriching environment and user interface. Strong emphasis is given to UI creation using Flash tool Scaleform. Advanced application of Kismet features heavily in this book, with code segments being well explained and reusable.

The UnrealScript primer at the end of the book is very blinkered in terms of application and scope, and does not add anything more than Epic Games have provided. It would have been nice to see a larger portion dedicated to UnrealScript, because used in combination with the level editor, Unreal Development Kit becomes a very flexible and usable development platform.

The book is available in both traditional printed version and as a PDF eBook via Packt’s website. The PDF version was reviewed, and features a fully linked Table of Contents and Index system. Each chapter spans approximately 30 pages and has lots of colour screen captures with clear and concise explanations. There is an online repository for resources used in the book.

Mastering UDK Game Development Hotshot is an excellent book if you have exhausted Epic’s tutorials and are looking to hone your skills using the UDK editor.

Starting a game is easy. Finishing a game is hard.

A few months ago, the “One Game A Month” (#1GAM) challenge was first announced. As the name suggests, the challenge consists of developing one game every month and to submit it to the #1GAM webpage. The challenge has been most successful, as more than a thousand games from competitors throughout the world have been uploaded. Amongst the competitors are Abengoshis (Alex Saye) and OxyOxspring (Sean Oxspring), who are currently studying Games Computing at the University of Lincoln. In a recent online chat, they were keen on discussing their #1GAM experiences.

#1GAM inspires people and promotes the creation of games” says Alex, “The challenge strongly encourages developing, finishing and releasing great games. There aren’t really any rules, so it ties perfectly with other game jams.” Alex is currently a first year Games Computing student and has submitted a handful of games to the competition. “The challenge doesn’t force you to work on each game for exactly a month, you can release as many as you want in whatever time frame you want – the point is just to get people making more games. #1GAM is more of a target than a game jam.

Sean is currently in the final stages of his BSc Games Computing course. “It is interesting”, says Sean, when asked about what he thinks of the #1GAM challenge, “It requires people to be really self-motivated which is not always easy. But if you can drive yourself to submit those games, then you have really accomplished something amazing. You can also meet a lot of developers, learn a lot, make full games, get them played by many people.

Feel free to have a peek at Alex’s games and Sean’s submissions. Below is a video about Alex’s most recent submission dubbed “A Game about Squares”. Are you currently working on a #1GAM submission? What do you think of Sean’s and Alex’s submissions? Feel free to comment below!

Announcement: Research seminars, Richard Bartle

The well known games industry figureProfessor Richard Bartle, will return to the University of Lincoln to give a talk about his recent video-games related work.  Professor Richard Bartle is considered as one of the pioneers of the massive online game industry, and authored the most comprehensive treatment of virtual world design to-date book entitled “Designing Virtual Worlds”. He will discuss the narrative aspects and storytelling in video-games.

The talk will be given on Friday, 26th April 2013 between 15:00 – 16:00  in the Jackson Lecture Theatre, which is situated in the Main Building of the campus. No registration is required, just pop to the lecture theatre on time. We hope to see you all there!

Get your hands dirty – CanJam 2013

During the course of the weekend of the 9th and 10th March 2013, the computer laboratories of the University of Lincoln were buzzing with excitement, madness and traces of uranium. People reported that they could not fulfil certain computer activities with their shoes on, some others requested their “bro” if they even script, while others were wondering how their baguette would even be able to shoot. Bystanders described that over seventy individuals from many universities (e.g. University of LeicesterDe Montfort UniversityUniversity of Lincoln) merely wished to ‘get their hands dirty’ on some activities that involve developing original, juicy and fun applications, which some of us know as ‘video-games’. This is only a subset of  what could be described as a rather peculiar behaviour. However though, such activities were most common, most normal and seen as everyday routine amongst the participants of CanJam 2013

Canjam 2013 was the second major video-game jam organised by the University of Lincoln Computing Society (ULCS) in cooperation with the Lincoln School of Computer Science (LSoCS). Based on the major success of the ULCS GameJam in 2012, CanJam attracted over 70 competitors, regardless of their background, knowledge, experience or ability to get their hands dirty developing a video-game in less than twenty four hours. Developers from the video-games industry (Crytek GmbH and Rockstar Games) judged games based on their originality, juiciness, fun-factor and best use of the given themes. Over £500 worth of prizes were awarded to the category winners alongside many honourable mentions.

This year, the crowd-sourced themes were based on objects and concepts. On Saturday morning, competitors were requested to submit one object (.e.g. moustaches) and one concept (e.g. smuggling) into the theme suggestion box. Judges chose the most fun and original contribution. This year, they settled on the themes of Uranium (object) and Madness (concept). Following the announcement of the themes, participants rushed towards their teams to discuss game ideas, development plans and workload distributions. Actually, some of them preferred to head towards the local pubs to find some much required inspiration.

CanJam 2013 had a great line-up of representatives of the video-games industry, including Rockstar Games and Crytek GmbH. They took their time throughout the event to chat to all participants, and they provided useful feedback on the games. On Sunday afternoon they independently judged every game submission throughout the game presentation session on Sunday afternoon. Judging was described as a most difficult task, as the judges strongly believed that all of the submissions were worth a prize.

We highly recommend to have a peek at the two minutes team interviews of Canjam 2013 participants on YouTube. Furthermore, some participants uploaded videos of their submissions (e.g. Atomic 92 Uranium Madness, Totally Illogical Meltdown). Additionally, Dmunkeys (GameArt Jinx) wrote a brilliant blog post about their experiences at CanJam, Oxyoxspring describes CanJam as the most tiring yet pleasurable Game-Jam experience, and David Saltares, one of the Crytek GmbH judges, underlines the tremendous effort of the organisers and takes his hat off for all participants.

There were more than 200 pictures taken throughout the event. They are all available on the public Canjam Facebook Page. We wish to thank Jonathan Woodliffe and Joshua O’Rourke (Follow him on Twitter) for their photography skills!

This was a great opportunity to show off students’ skills, to enjoy great fun times with other similarly minded people, to develop a game in teams up to four and to create a great piece of work for their portfolio!

See you all next year for CanJam 2014!

Presentation by David King about Quality Engineering at EA Games

We were pleased to recently enjoy a visit from David King, a former University of Lincoln Games Computing student, who gave a presentation about his experiences within the game development industry. He talked about his role at Electronic Arts (EA), his experiences developing tools and how it feels to work in such a large organisation. Furthermore, he shared tips for students interested in getting into the games industry, and shared news of an exciting opportunity to work with him at EA.

Kindly, David agreed to share his slides with us, which should be visible below, or available here.

Cheers David!