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New to Unreal Engine and have a few questions.

Hi guys. I work as a software engineer and have been wanting to get into game development for a while now. Firstly, I know that game development is not a quick process by any means, but I do have a few questions that I hope you all can help me with.

Say someone has all of the required assets (environments, character models, etc) and a programming background:

  1. How long would it take a single person to create a basic solo game prototype with twitch combat using spells, melee, archery? How about a team of 3?
  2. How about a multiplayer version of the same design? Solo and team of 3 here as well.

I am talking bare bones here. No equipment, no inventory, no loot; nothing but basic combat.

Obviously, a full game design takes a long time but I am looking for a quick win here to keep morale up as we expand. My friends and I really fell in love with Darkfall Online (the original, not this DFUW ****), and we have been discussing what it would take to create something that resembles that game. With the options available to the public nowadays (Unreal Engine, Unity, etc), it seems actually feasible for a small group. The above mentioned combat would be the first piece, and over time we would try our hand at adding in additional mechanics and content.

I can’t really answer your question, I would however say you know your team’s capability better than I do. It’s best to assess what you have against what you want to achieve, you don’t even really need the assets to start out. If the programmer (which seems to be you) has never touched UE4 and the others haven’t learnt blueprints, then there’s a starting point, both are central to achieving anything in the engine behind the art that makes it look good. Only when you’re somewhat proficient with the engine and the supporting documentation, can you assess the likely timeline and this goes for all the engines available.

You may even need a shake out project to test the team on, it’s not THE game you want, it’s a project that achieves stated objectives in a short period and serves as a learning platform for when you do start on your first product. Think of it as your team’s “Hello, World!” project.

Of course if I was to attempt to answer your question the bracket could be 6 hours to 6 years. Only advice mate, but me and two other guys have come up with great ideas and not shipped anything because we didn’t plan.

UE4 is still evolving, and with the newness factor there are unknowns and unexpected bugs. This means any recommended timelines people offer could be total rubbish. So I would instead ask this of Unity or UDK devs who have shipped or are several years into the process. UDK has some work-in-progress threads by solo devs that contain similar genres to what was described above. Each has a rich work in progress thread that you could follow and PM the author about. Unity also has a rich asset store that you could leverage to shorten the prototype time too.

Meantime, a guesstimate from UDK… It often takes a solo dev 2-5 years to create a fully immersive finished 3D game. But a basic prototype could be done is as little as 6 months to a year, depending on how good you are at creating characters / rigging and also programming game mechanics. This is especially so if you specialize in character, and salvage sample environments from community assets & marketplace packs.

With good progress you could start showing off work in about 3 months. On the flip side, a team of three with one person on character, another on environment, and the third on gameplay mechanics etc, might actually require the same amount of time, but the results would be far superior.

Cant really answer the MP side as there’s too many moving parts. What’s the launching platform, Steam? If you buy RPG / MMO MP related starter kits, get your servers organized & Steam API work done, then a couple of years for an early prototype for a team of 3. Solo effort? Tricky to say…

I disagree with franktech, there’s game jams on this forum that have solid prototypes within 3 days to a week. There’s some featured from the weekly streams here https://youtu.be/XGnx0LrCvZg?t=981

Obviously they are super rushed, but they are playable, and some of them manage to have multiplayer, a nice art aesthetic, or interesting game-play, even within that strict time crunch. You could probably modify the shooter template and have spells/melee/archery within a day or two. It’s not going to be a polished or pretty vertical slice of the final product, but in my opinion, you should have a really rough prototype, then do a more polished vertical slice type prototype.

On the game jam stuff, remember those guys didn’t just download the engine a few days prior and go “right, I’m going to build this super awesome game and there’s gonna be sharks with frikkin laser beams”, chances are they have some experience and they’re able to churn out that stuff pretty quick because of it. If you’re at that stage, your very basic prototype (depending on your criteria, i.e. when do we check the box and say we’re done?) could be in a few days/weeks. On the other hand I’ve seen people measure success against products of game jams and drop out.

I came from another engine, there was still a learning curve despite core concepts being the same. To clarify I haven’t shipped any entertainment product, with UE or otherwise as I was in the “serious games” sector working for a very large organisation where we weren’t the core business for almost 10 years. I am working on a solo project in UE4 after a few throw away projects to learn the engine and was until recently still using the original blue default character, but any timeline I could give wouldn’t help as I have a full time job and two kids.

You’d probably be able to do it well inside of a month (avg a few hrs a day), depending on how quickly you learn. I’d put this on either situation for #1. The first week or so should be spent making little things and working to expand your knowledge in the areas you need to know the most. Lots of tuts, lots of documentation. If your other 2 are going to be programmers as well, then you’ll have to learn all this for each, in addition to how to work as a team. If the other 2 are artists, they will need to learn their respective areas (obviously). In any configuration, you should be up and running with a prototype inside of a month. Not necessarily a presentation prototype (investor meeting) and very likely extremely rough around the edges. As far as multiplayer goes: know that there is a very particular way of doing things which will allow them to work in multiplayer and you won’t be able to just get any structure working.

That’s all assuming you want something you can play in editor and it doesn’t have to be anywhere near perfect. Some of the other replies are geared towards a serious undertaking, but I think you’re just wanting to dive in and get something working (even if it’s not best practices and will never see release). If you’re wanting to go after a publisher or other funding options, 3 months is a good target- just note that it’s better to delay your initial contact until it’s polished. Either way, I’d say a team of beginners won’t see much benefit project-time wise from working together. At least not within the first month or so.

Interesting replies… It might be confusing which to believe. I still stand by 3 months for single-player early prototype, with 2 years for a FFAMMORPG demo. However, as MMORPG is such a holy grail, someone is bound to package up a custom solution and sell a killer marketplace pack at some point. That will offer a massive shortcut and a ready-made solution for small teams. How close that kit is ready to go today, in a fast evolving game engine is an open question… But keep an eye on the Marketplace and its related threads…

Assumptions like supposedly having all the assets you’ll need upfront ready-to-go are easy to make. But in practice because of iteration, you often go back and rework stuff or make new choices, and that can mean you lose weeks / months. But the fresh outlook is often a key step in development. Assets like the free IB stuff might save you heaps of time, but you’ll still need to cut a deal to buy working models for characters, horses, weapons etc, to hit a shorter timeframe… And the added risk here, is that your MMORPG starts to look like other teams, while not playing as well. That’s often when you choose to go back and rework stuff to get a more unique look and feel.

Agree, the game jam stuff is a little deceptive. Like TV cooking programs ‘Here’s one we prepared earlier’! Some of the finalists are vastly experienced teams with heaps of unused assets and a big eye on the prize money. With luck the ‘ingredients’ they have suit the theme, and they cobble something together that’s very impressive in zero time. But to think that will apply for a Darkfall-Online clone starting from point zero is a bit wishful imho. Although, if you tell us that you have a budget then that could be a definite game changer…

In terms of time scales, if you’re already familiar with the engine then you could throw together a collection of basic systems for a prototype very quickly, in days depending on how much time you can spare per day. Clever use of blueprints means you can tweak settings and configure your game with a few clicks of the mouse and playtest your game in the editor without having to recompile a thing.

Of course, turning a basic prototype into a full game is where the time is spent. You’ll no doubt be aware of the old adage that the final 5% of the project is the most time consuming as you turn a game that’s fun to play behind closed doors with your friends into a game that is ready to present to the wider world.

The art side is definitely the most time consuming, so try to be as efficient as possible and reuse assets where you can. When I worked with UDK I was able to get a basic first person tower defence game with multiplayer up and running in a couple of weeks, maybe 20 hours total effort, but the artist I had helping me took a month just to get the pistol model finished with animations, though to be fair he didn’t spend as much time on it as me.

Good luck!

Thanks for all of your input guys. I am going to do as suggested and play around with the engine for a bit and get a better understanding of how to use it. Maybe then I can get a better idea of the time requirements needed to do what I want.

Melee and archery are fairly simple BUT, spell system depends on how far you’re gonna go.

Let’s say you have a spell system where spell may or may not have area of effect, may or may not be status effects, said status effect may or may not dispell other status effects, be blocked by other spells and effects, and spells may affect target, projectile, might or might not be a ray, which might hit direclty or might bounce, it can summon creatures, objects, scales with player stats, and all of that should be configurable in editor without artist writing a single line of code or touching a blueprint.

If you do something like that, you can easily waste a month or more on the spell system alone.

Well same could be said really with melee and/or bow. How deep is your combat system? Melee doing contact damage, bow launching an arrow which does damage, and spells being homing projectiles is pretty simple. Having to manage bow tension and each bow having nuance, full swordplay, and such a spell system… well not so much.

Keep it simple and learn by making one or more small scope projects. That way, you won’t have to restart the main project every so often because you don’t like how you did things 3 weeks ago.

No, the same couldn’t be said about other combat systems. Those systems are inherently simpler than magic. Magic has potential for infinite complexity, while in case of melee/ranged combat… worst case scenario you’ll overload your animation team with large number of special attacks, and that’s about it.

Just take a look at some advanced tabletop magic system, like D&D, really.

No, you could just as easily have a very deep player interface. Worst case with spells is that the game will have 1 TB of VFX. :stuck_out_tongue:

But sure, I’ll concede that magic will be more complex, but you can take other forms of combat over the top as well.