1. Introducing the UDK

      written by Ray Benefield
      You guys enjoying your holiday break as much as I am? I've kept quite busy over this month. Remember be sure to be here Saturday for Forge Lesson 40 on Foreshadowing and then a new one every weekend after that. Also I will be starting back up RP favorites very soon. I'm being a bit wary about trying to get attention for these maps and waiting til activity has picked up a little bit so the favorites can get a bit more attention. I may do one tomorrow or thursday. We shall see. Until then today I want to cover one of the things that have kept my attention this month. It's time to expand my skillset. And maybe you too will come join me in expanding yours as well. Remember this isn't a forging exclusive site, we are all about design in the gaming industry in general. That includes level design in other games, as well as game design, and gaming community design. I guess I just love understanding how things work and how to do things well. Let's talk about the UDK, shall we? Oh and remember that this Saturday we are hosting a huge New Years custom game session. ;)

      What is the UDK?

      So I'm sure quite a few of you are wondering what the UDK is. UDK stands for Unreal Development Kit. It gives access to the unreal game engine and it was recently made free for non-commercial use to everyone a year or two ago. The Unreal Engine is a powerful engine that has created some very powerful games like Unreal Tournament 3 and the Gears of War series. It has also been ranked the top Game Engine for several years in the Game Developers magazine. The UDK has an EXTREMELY powerful level editor, and since it is free and accessible to everyone that has a computer I feel that it could be very useful for all of us to know. Especially since the unreal engine is used by many professional game development companies and could prove very useful for those wanting to get into the field like myself.

      The power of the UDK

      So why use the UDK as a level designer? You have the ability to make BEAUTIFUL maps and test them in the editor. The editor has tons of tools and tons of assets to create works of art that just aren't possible in Halo's simplified forge editor... no offense Bungie ;). You can scale objects to the size you want, you can add any number of lights you need, change the sky map, add water, terrain, and brush massive walls. You can make staircases, change textures, and SOOO much more with it. Below is two examples of what you can make with what is in the editor. The first is one of the maps that it comes with called Necropolis, while the second one is a custom map made by some guy attempting to make some campaign-esque mission. And this is just a sample of the power that the engine has.

      What about Forge?

      Forge is still an important tool for all of us don't worry. UDK doesn't completely outclass forge. Forge is important because you can focus all on gameplay and get a good idea of how a map layout is going to work and get a good feel for it. Forge is also a lot simpler and is much easier to build a playable map quickly. Halo offers a huge community that you can playtest your map with and since it is on the xbox it has seemless voice chat to get immediate feedback. Personally I would build a map and perfect its gameplay on Halo and forge first. Then when I have a final product, fully rebuild it with the UDK to make it into a masterpiece. If you are trying to create a portfolio for your level design work that is the best way to go. Perfect your gameplay with forge's environment and then use the more powerful and complex UDK to make it into a professional style map with your own custom terrain, and maybe even your own custom textures and models to tweak it to perfection. This progress of the map and how you transferred it from one engine to another can show your proficiency in multiple engines and show that you can keep the core focus of the gameplay of the map in tact between games.

      Getting Started with the UDK

      The UDK is a VERY advanced tool and may take a while to get used to. The three part series below will help you get started with the bare essentials and then from there you can take off on your own and start experimenting and playing around with it. Look up youtube videos and what not on how to do things in the UDK. Also I found a very useful list of all of the hotkeys in the UDK that can significantly improve the ease of use of the UDK. In the future I will start showing you what I'm working on and I will be working on transferring some of my Halo stuff into the engine to show you how awesome the UDK can really be. After a bit it starts to feel like a highly advanced Forge. Take your time... it is overwhelming at first. I'm still learning it as well. Good luck and god speed... ;)


      jflood said...

      Actually UDK can make full on games. Although it does take a bit of unreal script programming (think its similar to Java but its object oriented). I think a really good example is the game Infinity Blade on the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad. Also there is other examples on the download site. Also if you guys want some help with it tutorials and stuff check out: http://udn.epicgames.com/Three/DevelopmentKitHome.html
      It has a bunch of tutorials just click on the levelcreation home. Hope this helped.

      GodlyPerfection said...

      Don't worry I know jflood. I'm definitely way more proficient in the game development side. Unreal Script is very similar to Java, but there are some very key differences. I've already figured out how to make a Gears of War third person camera. ;) I'm working on some other stuff as well.