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Extremely Worried And Need Some Feedback From Epic

Hey Epic,

Let me start off by saying how much I love you guys and everything not only that you do but equally what you stand for and how devoted you are to the community. I’ve been in the community for quite a while and I also try to attend each Twitch and look forward to each release of the engine but I have encountered issues within the engine as of recently that have extremely worried me and touches upon some things Hourences talked about in the last Twitch Stream.

To briefly sum up the issue(s), these have been ones that have corrupted levels and have completely either locked me out of them and now in the most recent case, has completely locked me out of my project. The issue is explained in detail on the Unreal AnswerHub at the following link (https://answers.unrealengine.com/questions/99944/urgent-bug-now-locked-out-of-project.html)

I know a lot of you in the community and some of you know my story and/or are good friends. To those that don’t and to the developers at Epic, let me explain a little about my story a little further so you can understand how much this could potentially impact me now or soon in the future.

My name is Matthew Castellana. Video Games are my passion in life and ever since I was very young, I’ve wanted to start a successful video game company. I’m nearly 32 now but I started programming at age 5 with BASIC on an Apple-II GS and then started doing 3D Modeling at age 7 when my close friends’ father used to work for NASA and had the first 3D program I ever laid eyes on. I got a great taste of it and really enjoyed it when the Doom Shareware released and I quickly became a part of that original modding community. I’ve dedicated my life and as of now, I’ve worked with roughly 15 programming/scripting languages and have worked as a hybrid doing Art, 3D Modeling, UV Mapping, Texture Art, Materials, UI/UX, Video/Audio/Music Composition/Production, HLSL Shaders, etc. Growing up, I used to save all my bday and xmas money for graphics cards or books/software to learn as much as I could and that never really stopped. I am self taught and I dearly love the advancements in technology (hardware/software), methodologies and practices regarding game/software development that continue to open up new doors for us to raise the bar and to push our creativity in new and exciting ways. Unreal Engine from where it started into what it has grown and evolved into today, has become a huge part of that and a true driver for unleashing that creativity not too mention lowering the learning curve for say new kids today wanting to take a shot at learning game dev or creating their first game. In many ways, I kind of wish I could grow up with the same aspirations all over again today with what kids have these days accessable to them today. Then again, I take a lot of pride in coming from where things got started and that day I went with my family back in the mid 80s to pick up what was called a “Nintendo”, little did I know how that would change my life and how profound that impact would be come.

Moving a couple of years ahead to about 2008, I was working on a game concept back then with Vivendi. I developed it including the underlying engine and it was meant to be an XBLA title. At that time, Ross Erickson, who was 1 of 5 people who worked at Microsoft and launched that platform as well as picking the launch titles. He later went on to work for Sierra Online who was a sub-entity of Vivendi Universal. I also worked every day on that project from early till late and did that for about 2.5 years straight to have gotten to the point of actually getting a publishing contract. Ross was the person who led my interaction with them and supported me and my title. However at this time, he said we cannot support you financially and enter into contract until the merger (with Activision/Blizzard) had completed. I didn’t care, I was so excited to have gotten to that point and realized everything was going to come true and I’d finally be able to launch a company. What was supposed to be a 15 minute meeting lasted 55 minutes and with Ross walking me out telling me he believed in me and was excited for the next build.

Unfortunately, after the merger completed, Sierra Online was shut down and I started getting scared and freaking out inside. I finally got in contact with a certain individual who is in charge of product acquisition at Activision and he was excited to pick up where Ross and I left off. I was relieved… until he asked if it was an XBLA title. I paused and said yes. He had a long sigh and told me after the merger, they didn’t see XBLA titles as lucrative enough and only were going to focus on the AAA big-budget titles. I lost everything I worked for and all my dreams were completely shattered. I was depressed for a while and took some time to get back on my feet and recoup.

Fast forward to present day, while working at 20th Century Fox, I had continued doing prototyping at home on my off-time and started considering giving game development my full dedication. After leaving Fox, I still needed to save up around 50K+ to really get this going correctly. During that time, I worked as the Senior Developer for a company that did high profile work for companies like Microsoft, Disney and the NFL to name a few. It was a great job but I eventually couldn’t stop thinking about video games and starting my company every day I was in there. It was a very good job but after coming back inspired from the ID@Seattle event at Microsoft last Oct, I had to plan my escape and get this going.

Since quitting my last job, I’ve given up and lost everything since March trying to develop a prototype that I’m going to try and hopefully get a publishing contract so I can easily raise investment capital. The day I quit my job to take this risk, I made a huge gamble on using UE4 exclusively for this new studio and work from very early till roughly 5am every night. I’ve lost friends and in some cases, people I thought were good friends, I’ve lost because they consider me the guy who never wants to come out and party. As much as they couldn’t understand it was the sacrifice I’ve had to make, it does completely suck not having a girlfriend, seeing or spending quality time with my friends and/or even going out to the beach. You think I want to wake up early and go to sleep at 5am every day working roughly 80-90+ hours a week, hell no. I wish I could enjoy life to some degree and I’ve sacrificed so much of that enjoyment to follow these dreams. I know once the studio gets started, 80 hours will be the norm for me for a while and that’s fine as long as I know I can provide for myself on top of doing what I’ve always dreamt of. Especially after coming so close to it back in 2008, there was no way I would give up after that. I am finally in the early stages of talking to Microsoft Game Studios and just got senior council from Perkins Coie and the guys over at ID@Xbox love the game and want to see it on the platform. So far, it’s going amazing and I hope it keeps moving forward and I’m not going to stop.

However, if everything I’ve sacrificed ends up being compromised at the end due to a couple of bugs in the engine, I don’t want to imagine how I would feel or what I would do since I am now in the stages of being required to demo my concept. The issue I posted today to Answer Hub is a blocking issue and I have a couple of solid ideas to workaround it. But this is not the first time these things happen or that create a near level or in this case project-block. That’s extremely scary especially when my prototype as it stands resides in roughly 99% Blueprints. I get a lot of crashing and I do my best to post consistently to AnswerHub. Members like TJ Ballard, Sean Gribbins, Tim Hobson, Adam Davis, Doug Wilson and others are amazing over there and have been great in helping me resolve the issues. But when I’m still seeing serious issues like this that affect the end-developer pretty bad and or could corrupt their project, it is a really scary thing, especially when the well beings of others are potentially affected by it.

I always try to stay positive and I’m confident I can get past this and in the worst case, will have to restore old files but I can easily see a situation where maybe if you have multiple dependencies on a corrupt file, that it could make matters pretty bad, pretty quick quite possibly. I don’t plan to end my subscription or start a crazy upset rant about you guys because all of you guys, including all the amazing people that are also a part of this community, makes it worth it. But I will update my AnswerHub post if things get really bad and I cannot restore things but I wanted to express my feelings since so much depends on it.

As a suggestion, I agree with Hourences and maybe all the amazing progress should be slowed down to sacrifice time to make what is already there more solid and better in some cases. Besides, at the pace you are going, lol, I’m not sure much of us are going to get our games out on version 4 of the engine :wink:

To my friendly buddies out there and the kickass community as well as the awesome developers over there at Epic, Thanks again for being awesome guys and I’m keeping my fingers crossed and staying positive :wink:

Take Care!

Hey MC Stryker, thanks for reaching out and letting us know how you feel, and for the extensive background info! It seems you’ve been at it for a while (I started developing in BASIC when i was really young, too, but not as young as 5! :slight_smile: )

As TJ recently mentioned in the AnswerHub post, we’re taking a look at what’s going on and seeing what can be done to remedy this showstopping issue. I know it’s frustrating when you lose a lot of work, especially when the event breaks other things dependent on the items lost, so we’ll keep an eye on it and see where we can help out. Thanks for keeping the AnswerHub post up to date as well, that can *really *help in narrowing down the problem.

Thanks again for your feedback and for being an awesome member of our community. Feel free to hit me up if I can help in any way.

Chance

Hi, just want to wish you all the best at your project and that it will get completed.

Best wishes
smallB

Thanks Chance and I definitely will! I appreciate it and thanks for also answering a lot of my questions during the live stream! Also, right back at you and thanks for being such a kickass community manager. That’s awesome you also got started on BASIC a while ago. I mean, at age 5, lol, you can only do so much damage so I wasn’t doing anything too advanced. A lot of it back then was involved with tinkering around with things, pulling them apart then trying to put them back together in new ways. Kind of similar to Ray Davis’s story, I was very creative and looking for ways to express that, and I would take physical things apart like our TV and put them back together to understand them more with eventually that flowing down to programming. Growing up I was pretty big into math and science and being very intrigued by programming, I remember my dad dropping a really thick BASIC book on my lap to design a game on my bday. I don’t even think the book explained anything, it was just pages of code and diagrams. I think I spent a lot of the following Summer trying to put it together and actually remember getting pretty far.

I saw a couple emails come through from TJ so I’m going to check those out for now. After looking over what it is I actually would’ve lost, it was just an opening cinematic for my prototype. It’s not the end of the world thankfully and yes its a bummer to lose work but it happens. Being a developer for so long, I understand it and that’s why I try my best to not only report issues, but give valid STRs backed up with images and a video if needed.

But to be honest, I’ve used Unreal Engine 3 in the past quite a bit and am a huge fan of everything that Epic is doing with UE4. As far as I remember, UE3 actually won awards for Most Optimized Engine back during last-gen and I’m looking forward to the day UE4 achieves the same status. And on top of it being a completely redesigned engine from the ground up, it’s very possible for a couple issues to slip through the cracks. But you guys do your best to help myself and others out and you guys genuinely want to support the developers that invest in it. That says a lot and other companies that license their 3rd party tech don’t necessarily have the same view or stance, let alone put in that same level of effort and that really helps you guys shine above the rest as well.

But I’ll keep you posted and get back to TJ on that. Also, I’m still looking forward to that coding competition between you and Ray lol :wink: I have a feeling you may be greatly underestimated and could end up giving Ray a run for his money. Ray is awesome though, first time I saw him was in an older behind the scenes video of Gears of Wars where he was geeking out on how awesome UE3 was at that time. But thanks again Chance for the support and I’ll stay in touch.

Take care buddy!

Thanks smallB! I really appreciate it :wink:

Full disclosure - In all honestly, Ray would likely destroy me. I’d probably burst into coins, like a Scott Pilgim book. :cool:

I have run into a couple issues where I completely lock down a project, but I can generally work my way from backup files. I store all my key files on google drive so that I can restore any individual file one at a time until I narrow it down to the file. That may mean hours of lost work, and more hours restoring the project, but thankfully everything has worked out. So I wonder, are you running into show stopping issues while also keeping copious amounts of backup files?

I will say that the scariest thing I had happen to me involved somehow breaking the project file and my backups weren’t properly referenced when I created a new project file. I couldn’t just drop files into the new project, I had to recreate every single blueprint from scratch by copy/pasting graphs, remaking hundreds of variables and functions from scratch, etc. It was a huge train wreck that took 10 hours to fix and that wasn’t even counting the work I had lost. At the beginning of something like that, you are in a very bad place, but being able to recover is a wonderful feeling.

Anyway, it seems from my experience and also yours, that you need to be very careful with assets, asset names, etc. There are cases where you change or delete something that seems simple and inconsequential, and it blows the entire project up. I am not sure what the problem is there, but sometimes it seems like the engine takes these things too seriously. “I deleted a material asset and now I can’t open the project… wtf…”

But all in all, I am like you, love the engine, love the community, and love the Dev team. Couldn’t be doing what I am doing without this engine.

Great story, I read everything of it.

First off, are you using source control? Perforce, SVN? It does not sound like it. I wouldn’t work on a project my life depends on without a proper source control. I had corrupt Blueprints in the beginning and I just have to click one button to get it back working again.
Just check files in after you are happy with a change and tested it a bit. It is still not ideal if stuff breaks a lot, but that is luckily not the case for my stuff.

Anyways, a question on your story: what happend to your 2008’s game? Did you dump it? I mean Braid was a major success in that year, why didn’t you just contact Microsoft directly to publish the game on your own on another launch day?
I mean commiting 2.5 years to a project to just let it die with this deal seems kinda weird to me.

Hi,

Your post is a very good reading.
I can absolutely relate to your story and thoughts about the state of the engine.

Let me just give you a short introduction of myself as well:
I am now 37 years old. I had my first expierience with computers and game design when I was 6 years old and my dad introduced me to his HP85 desktop computer. I was totally amazed by a simple ski slalom game that I wanted to know how this works.
The idea that a machine would do what I tell it to do fascinated me ever since.
So my dad thought me basic and to my 10th birthday I got a Commodore 128D which expanded my knowledge beyond basic and introduced me to CP/M. I really started programming with passion.
The simplicity of the C64 really helped me to grasp the concepts of assembler.
When I later shifted over to MS-DOS, I started with Pascal and Clipper. I coded mostly strategy games as it was the style of the time.
As “just going online” was not the norm in the mid 90s (at least not in Germany), I coded my own Doom-map editor. That was the fist time I was coding a tool for a third-party application.
In the Windows era, I started with Delphi, since its inception back in 1994.
Today Im an accomplished Delphi programmer with some decent assembler skills (and flirting with some script languages like VBA, PHP, Ruby, Python, LUA, etc.).
And I have collected my fair share of almost-done-then-scrapped projects as well.

Unfortunately, I have never familiarized myself with C++.
Sometimes I wake up from dreaming UE4 would also support Delphi, (which would actually be possible. The Delphi RAD studio supports Delphi/C++ cross coding).

I know of difficult and elusively intricate the coding of a game engine is.
My own engine, the “mood engine”, programmed in Delphi, using OpenGL, is far from completion :slight_smile:
It is a massive task. I wonder how many programmers at Epic are acrtually working on the engine… However few or many they are… RESPECT :smiley:

One expierience might be the same though: The struggle/balance between expansion and maintenance.
Sometimes I add a lot of new code while serious bugs still remain untouched and will bite me in the backside later on. I then force myself to just fix the bugs.
Doing that, I came to realize that a lot of time can be saved by doing that in an orderly and planned fashion.
For my projects, I kind of adopted the Intel Tick-Tock style.
If Epic would use that it would mean:

Tick : New features added

  • New code is introduced to the project
  • If the new functionality is already working flawless its rated as native, otherwise as experimental, etc, just as Epic is doing it now.

Tock: Refactoring / bug fixes

  • No new code is inrtoduced. No embellishments, no extension of existing features.
  • The bugs are worked on according to to a"bug score" (scalar between 0 and 1), with the highest value first.

The intial bug score value is determined by the severity of the bug. each score increases by an amount of X per day. This way even low score bugs will eventually be addressed.

Of course this would have a few consequences in the way progress is perceived.
The marketing department for example, might frown upon the fact that now only every second release could get the “new features” buzzword and the other releases are “mere bugfixes”.

In the end I think a slower paced development is the right way.
Who cares what other engines pump out on new features. :cool:
Just as a hint: Its not the sheer list of features that drew me to UE4.

But I thin k it is more important to really separate the new-features and the bug-fix phases

Although the lock-out problem you havem might be cured by backups…:rolleyes:

Cheers,
Klaus

Yep, have to agree with you and Tick-Tack style approach. Nowadays, everybody seems to be adding new features with every new release but the bugs or very fragile structure of existing code isn’t improved.
Would love if that trend changed to Tick-Tack. As a user of software I’d rather get next release which is more stable than packed with new unstable features costing my time and frustration when something goes pear-shape…

Hey Zuestiak, good to hear from you. Couldn’t agree more, I’ve spent time with various engines/communities throughout the past couple years and Epic is the best hands down. BTW, hows the Map Generator coming? You getting close to v3 soon? Keep up the great work Zuestiak and being a great member of the community :wink:

Hey Denny, for source control, I am in the process of deciding where to go on that. I’ve used SVN in the past but I am starting to look into Perforce. At the moment, I make daily backups that I store on a couple of HDDs. So about that 2008 game, it ended up on the backburner and I actually did contact Microsoft about it at the time. The gentleman I had spoke wanted to initially see a video so I sent him an older one but explained that I had a much more recent demo that was farther along that I wanted to go over with them. He didn’t respond for roughly 2 weeks then got back to me with a long email saying they reviewed my game and thought it wasn’t high quality enough. At first, I felt pretty bad until I realized after the panic he reviewed my older prototype video and took that for the final product. I immediately got back in touch with him and explained this and how I clearly stated it and wasn’t too happy about how they had handled it. He reached out and said sorry and that Microsoft would be willing to see a later build.

At that time, my mom back home in Boston got very sick and between that and dealing with other personal issues, I had to take a step back and figure things out. Also, I had hit the end of my funding and had to get a job so I decided to step away from that for some time. Believe me, after 2.5 years, I didn’t want to give up on it but I basically ran out of time where I could be fully dedicated any longer due to money and the times back then got really rough. If any of you here are old XNA developers, you may remember the game Cube X, that was that title. I still have a build of it on my Xbox 360 and have all the code but I designed it completely for XNA with the game engine so it would need a complete rehaul to get it up and running on hardware today. I may consider it but it was a 3D puzzle game and I did it at that time because I thought as a one-man team then, a puzzle game would be an easy one to start with to get out in a quick enough time. I was wrong and once I had to create the validation systems for it, a 3D puzzle game gets complex in that realm. I may come back to it and if I can find an old video, I’ll post it so you can see it.

Thanks Klaus and great read and that’s an awesome backstory! I did do some programming with Pascal too but I want to say that only lasted or a series of weeks. I also agree on the backup, I try as best as I can to do it daily and in this case, I had a backup from earlier in the morning, except for the fact I lost the cinematic I created that day for the title screen :frowning:

But it happens and making sure proper backups and/or source-control will really help keep things in-line. One thing I am starting to do now in my Blueprints is use Interfaces so I don’t actually have to cast to any of my other Blueprints. That helps and I am trying to only allow myself to cast something if it’s a native type. But like I said, great story and if you have any progress to share on your project(s), let us know, I’d love to see it.

Also, +1 to the Tick-Tock method

And to everyone, thank you for all the kind words, you guys are amazing!

Thanks! :slight_smile:

The generator is chugging along, though things have been busy with work and family the past month or so. I think I will start a 3.0 thread when I implement the first working tectonic & weather systems. May be be a few months away since I still have some work to do on the rivers and lakes which I will probably also try to explain more in depth when I make the thread. Was actually thinking about making a thread just for the river/lake generation since it is complex enough for it’s own discussion.

Anyway, good luck with your project and hopefully some of these nastier project corruption bugs get hammered out with each new release. :slight_smile:

Haha, yea, me too buddy! :slight_smile:

But keep up the work, you are really on something special that’s going to hold a lot of value for a lot of game devs on Unreal. Between how intricate you are making it and how tightly you are basing it off of real world rules, it’s going to be a pretty amazing plugin. Eventually who knows, maybe it’s going to evolve into a planet generator then before we know it determine the cause of the Big Bang theory, lol :wink: But I think it’s awesome and really looking forward to see the progress down the line. Hope you are enjoying your Friday!

Hey MC Stryker,

Just went throught the whole thread and man, we could start a club. Walking the same path as you are, I totally can relate and understand you.

When you say :

I did the same and boy what a bet. Hope you are getting back a few of your investment.

My words exactly. People just see me and say : “Why don’t you sleep ?” Response : “Because I can’t”. Then they shake their heads in disbelief and walk away.

I won’t say much, I think you got the point. Good luck to you man, I hope your dreams will come true and I wish a happy ending for you.

Cheers !