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Beast Mode: Night of the Werewolf Postmortem aka How I made a game in just over two months and you can too!

The following are a few takeaways from my 2 month development period of Beast Mode: Night of the Werewolf using Unreal Engine 4.

Peter Ryan, Blogger

April 13, 2017

11 Min Read

*Disclaimer – the time it took me to put Beast Mode: Night of the Werewolf together was 2 months and one week however, I have been a game designer since 1999. That said, given a year of learning and dedication anyone with zero experience with game design should be able to do the same.

January 31st, 2017 – My friend came over to hang out and see the latest mission for Silhouette my adventure game project. A few weeks earlier an update for UE4 was released and it wasn’t until I had put together most of the new mission that I realized the update broke a major component of my game. Rather than lose the progress I had made with the level design, I decided to wait a month till the next update in hopes that it would fix the issue it introduced. While playing the new level, my friend commented that it felt like you should be playing as a werewolf running around in the forest and he was really impressed with the way it looked. “You should make a werewolf game while you’re waiting for the next update.” He said. “You’re crazy! I can’t make a game in a month!” was my response. “It depends on the game. You should make a game where you play as a werewolf and run around killing hippies in a forest! Just a goofy Beat ‘em up game for fun. You could probably put together the basic framework for a game like that in a week. Come on man, what’ve you got to lose?!”

And that was basically how Beast Mode came about. 12 days later I had a functioning prototype for a game I was sure wasn’t going to be any fun. There wasn’t much to it aside from running around and swatting hippies, watching them ragdoll all over the level. I thought it was a fun learning experience but I figured I wasn’t going to spend any more time on it but two of my friends wanted to see what it was like so I brought them over and sat them down to test it out. To my surprise, they were having so much fun with that barebones gameplay that my roommate came down from his bedroom to see what we were up to and he ended up playing it as well. “Dude, this is pretty good. But you should add in a combo system and an online leaderboard.” Said my roommate (who also happens to be a huge Smash Bros fan and tournament contender).

“Cripes, I have no idea how to do either of those things.” Was my response. “They can’t be that hard man. I think you could figure it out. This game could be really cool if you add in those components, make 3 or 4 levels and sell it for like $2 on Steam”. So feeling invigorated by the positive response from my friends, I decided why not. At the worst it’ll be a great learning experience and I might actually get a fun game out of it. It’ll be a good break from Silhouette and I already have to wait for Epic to fix the problems introduced in the latest engine update so why not.

Fast forward to April 8th and the game was complete. It included a combo system that I built from scratch myself, I found an awesome free online leaderboard plugin through epicleaderboard.com and I put together 4 levels of varying difficulty for smashing hippies; 5 if you include the playable end credits level. Yesterday I compiled a demo of the game and created a Steam Greenlight page and thought it would be nice to write a Post Mortem of sorts on the whole experience to encourage other indie developers to test their skills and put together their own little titles with Unreal Engine 4.

The following are some takeaways from my 2 month development period of Beast Mode: Night of the Werewolf:

#1 – Unreal Engine 4 beats the competition hands down for one reason alone; blueprint!

Unreal Blueprint is the new visual scripting language that Epic games developed exclusively for Unreal Engine 4 and to put it simply, without it I wouldn’t be able to make games. I’m an artist by experience. A level designer and environment artist to be specific. As of March, 2015 I couldn’t code my way out of a cardboard box, so to speak. Not only that but programming was incredibly intimidating to me. The idea of having to drudge my way through writing line after line of text with an almost non-existent margin for error where accidentally hitting the period key instead of a semicolon would break your code entirely. No thank you! Then I discovered Blueprint. The idea behind it is simple; blueprint is a scripting language that allows you to create custom game logic by connecting nodes in what is essentially a flow chart inside the Unreal 4 editor. My god let me tell you that this makes learning to code so much easier for someone who is artistically inclined and without it as I said already, I would not be making the games that I am. So, if you’re like me and you come from an art background but would like to be able to make your own games, I highly recommend you download Unreal Engine 4 and start learning blueprint. Within a year you’ll be able to make some pretty amazing stuff!

#2 – The marketplace is an indie developer’s godsend!

With most of us having grown up playing games made by AAA developers, we’re accustomed to every game looking 100% unique (for the most part) from each other. Studios employ hundreds of people who churn out unique art assets for every project and as such each game looks completely unique. This is great when you’ve got a budget of millions of dollars but for most indie studios working on next to nothing, creating completely unique assets for every aspect of your game is not only incredibly time consuming, it’s a complete waste of your time and resources. Why does your game need completely unique tree models? Why does it need a completely unique city block? Why does it need unique sounds or textures or even a dialogue system or menu that’s built from scratch? The answer is that it doesn’t and this was something that took me a long while to come to terms with.

Two and a half years ago I was of the misguided mindset that every asset that was going to make up my game had to be completely unique to my project. I can’t use the same weapon models as another game! I can’t use the same enemy creatures! That’s sacrilege! If every piece of art isn’t created from scratch for this title, then fans will know and they won’t want to play my game! Well I can tell you absolutely that this is a terrible mindset to have. I’ve spent literally more than $30,000 of my own money over the past 5 years, contracting artists to make content that was completely unique to the project(s) I was creating and what did that get me? Absolutely nothing because none of those projects made it past the prototype phase. I could make some cool 3D Printed statues I suppose.

Sure, some original content is great but really it’s not necessary. You can customize anything you purchase from the marketplace to be unique to your game a heck of a lot faster than you can make it from scratch and really, if people are having fun playing your game then that’s all that matters. It’s hard when you’re a hardcore gamer to realize that the average person who plays your game isn’t going to notice the things that you notice like a model that’s been used in several other games. My advice on this matter is to let go of the thought that everything has to be a unique masterpiece that isn’t seen anywhere else and embrace the wonderful community of developers creating content that can easily integrate into your project. Whether you’re using Unity or Unreal, the marketplace will truly enable you the freedom to make any sort of game you like in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost.

#3 – No, is the easy answer that leads to nothing.

There were several times during the development of the game where I thought “No, I can’t do this.” Or even “I have no idea how to do this”. Thanks to the encouragement of my friends however, I pushed past the initial doubt and fear and decided to figure it out anyway. Thank god for the internets! YouTube and Google were absolutely pivotal in the creation of my game as was the Unreal Answer hub. There are so many other designers trying to figure out how to do “this and that” so you’ll often find the solution to your problem without having to create your own post and contrary to popular belief that the internet is only full of trolls and pessimists who want to bring you down, there are so many people online who go out of their way to help everyone who asks for it.

Don’t let a negative thought or your fear of not knowing the answer stop you. It’s really easy to let negative thoughts, depression or myriad other factors stop you from making progress but I promise you, if you stick to your guns and persevere you’ll be able to overcome any obstacle that comes your way. Mind over matter is 100% true and one of the best sayings I’ve heard, “The difference between someone who is successful and someone who fails is simply that the successful people don’t give up. They fail just as often, but they keep going till they get it right.”

#4 – Take everything one step at a time.

This is something that my uncle taught me. Any task can seem insurmountable if you look at it as one giant step. If you break any goal into a series of smaller goals though, you not only make the task seem much more achievable, you can also track your progress so much better to the point where you have concrete evidence that you’re moving forward. This applies to anything you want to achieve in life, and it holds completely true for a game development project. You need to have an end goal of what you want your game to become and then break that into smaller milestones. Completing every milestone not only brings you that much closer to your final goal, it also gives you the motivation to keep going because you can clearly see the progress that you’ve made. You can even apply this methodology to every milestone. If any task seems too big to overcome, break it into smaller pieces. Still too big? Break it into several more pieces. I can attest first hand that this also really helps to combat depression. Usually depression related to game design comes from a feeling of not being able to make the game that you want to or not being able to see real progress. This methodology will really help.

#5 – realize that you can’t make everyone happy and don’t try to.

This last part is incredibly important for game design. When you work on a project for months or years at a time, it’s impossible not to invest your soul and passion into the project and feel a huge amount of ownership over it. For me, my games are sort of like my children as they’re an extension of who I am. Something that I’ve created. When you’re this invested, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that some people just aren’t going to like your game no matter what you do. When you do realize this though, it’s a lot easier to let go. It’s not personal, each of us has a different idea of what makes a game good or fun. Eventually you’ll run into people who think your game is shit or it looks bad, or whatever. This is completely fine. There are million upon millions of gamers out there and I’d say a good portion of them probably won’t like your game. Don’t let that fact stop you from chasing your dream because eventually you’ll find a group of people however large, who do like your game and when you do, it’s one of the most rewarding feelings imaginable.  It’s also really important to not try to change your project to accommodate everyone’s tastes as this will more than likely simply dilute the end product into something that’s less enjoyable for everyone. Not everyone likes Bacon and this is fine. It just means there’s more for those who do!

Beast Mode: Night of the Werewolf is currently on Steam Greenlight


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