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Would love some advice/opinions

Although I’ve made some progress with UE4, I’d like to throw a few thoughts/questions out and get feedback to help me decide how to advance. The structure here is a paragraph on a topic + numbered questions to make it easy to reply.

Dynamic Lighting/Shadows/Global Illumination:
I think the information we get from accurate lighting at a glance is a must have, and I can’t see myself making static “levels” that can have prebaked lightmaps. Everything I’m interested in making is more like Minecraft than Halo, entirely composed of dynamic pieces that could change at any time. Thankfully there’s that lovely tutorial on turning off static lighting and enabling Global Illumination on the wiki, and Unreal Engine is making me really happy with the results it gives me. But I’m concerned about the long term viability. Bad news is, high quality lighting is expensive. The good news though is that my preferred style uses relatively few polygons and simple/few textures. So I think this will scale up well enough on “modern gaming hardware”, but I’m not sure.

  1. Do you think this can scale, performance wise?
  2. Are there any other options I’ve missed that I should consider before investing heavily into
    UE4? Unity3d is supposedly getting real time GI this year, and I guess Crytek Engine will be
    available on potentially acceptable terms, but so far as I can tell UE4 is the only option
    available now and probably the best of the three anyways.

Architecture/Where to Begin:
UE4 looks simultaneously like a wonderful engine full of usefulness, and a myopic one purpose mess
full of hard to manage components. Presumably after more study this will start to make sense, but
all of the parts seem to be heavily focused towards games based on premade, heavily controlled levels. When I try to imagine how to setup a game similar to Kerbal Space Program, with creation/saving/loading of designs and split simulation zones, I start going mad. This whole system of gamemodes, gamestates, and etc. seems very inflexible. And when I try to dig down and figure out how to track everything that’s happening so I can make film files of games like the Halo games (I believe they just store all input, thus resulting in a small file that can be simulated to play it back) I’ve got no idea how to make sure I’ve got hooks into everything. Likewise for synchronizing netgames. I guess they have their own system of replication, but it’s not clear how it deals with discrepancies and… alright, I understand I’m not going to get all of this working in one day but:
3) Is UE4 something I just need to learn to use, or is it genuinely not going to be worth the trouble to bend to my whims?
4) If it is worth it for me to stick to it, where should I start? I’ve been rummaging through the documentation and sample games but… I feel like it never really explains how things are meant to fit together. Is there a diagram somewhere I missed?

Well, hopefully that was all understandable, and thanks in advance for any help.

What areas do you have issues with? Coding? Art/Assets? Level Design?

You need to limit your focus to accomplishing one manageable task at a time.

Of the choices you listed, I’d say I’m having issues with coding. (Although I would probably call it “architecting”.)

Art/Assets - don’t care, I’ve made my own barebone models for until I have an interactive simulation, then if I need better possibly contract ($) out.
Level Design - Again, don’t really care, trying to build dynamic simulations. Think more Minecraft/Dwarf Fortress. At some point I’ll need to get proper procedural world generation going on, but a few hand crafted test areas will carry me until later.
Coding - I listed a few concerns - recording of input, organization of gamestates for a simulation, etc. Some of these are specific challenges I’m working on right now, but I think focusing on them leads to “missing the forest for the trees”. The real questions I have here are how (what method) and how much (what extent) I should be structuring my attempt to make use of UE4’s built in functionality.

I get the feeling you didn’t actually read my post… perhaps it was too long.