First Workshop Postmortem

I held my first workshop today, and I think it went pretty well. A big thanks to all those that attended, and for those that missed, the video tutorial will be up on Saturday afternoon! Check back here for the post with the documentation and video, which will be titled “Learn UDK in a Day Workshop.” Since the workshop went rather well, I think I will be doing a few more over this semester, but, just like with any game project, I figured it would be helpful to write up a short postmortem on the workshop to help understand what went right and wrong. Since this was my first time hosting a workshop, there were, of course, a few things I feel I could have done better, and if you attended and had any feedback, please let me know! I’m taking the feedback from this workshop and applying it to the video, as well as future workshops.

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Have You Registered for Upcoming Game Conferences?

It’s summer, which could only mean one thing: time to get ready for upcoming game conferences! There are a lot of cool events coming up in the fall, and now’s the perfect time to register for them before there isn’t any space left. But with so many events, you might not be able to go to all of them, so today I’d like to take some time to go over some big ones.


Keep reading to learn more about upcoming game conferences and events!

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My First Workshop for UDK

I just got the final details confirmed for the first workshop I will be hosting, and I have to say, I’m pretty excited. Wednesday, June 1st, I will be hosting a beginner’s workshop called “Learn UDK in a Day.” It will be held at the University of Advancing Technology, so if you’re a student here, come check it out! Otherwise, for the rest of you who are unable to attend, I will be creating a video version of the workshop, which will be posted here the following weekend.

Some Topics We Will Cover:

  • Basics of the Interface, Viewport, and Content Browser
  • Overview of Brushes
  • Terrain Basics
  • Simple Lighting
  • Swimmable Water
  • Basics of Materials and Textures
  • Overview of Static Meshes
  • Overview of Kismet
  • Overview of Matinee
  • Basic Sounds
  • Polishing

By the end of the workshop, the attendee should have a simple, working level that has varying terrain, swimmable water, a basic door that opens and closes, and more. The workshop also has accompanying documentation, which will be posted along with the completed video tutorial soon.

I’m really looking forward to this workshop, and it certainly shouldn’t be the last! If you have any suggestions for future workshops, please let me know and I can see what I can do! Future workshops will cover more details in UDK, as well as level design specific workshops. Summer is a great time to learn something new, so why not try your hand at UDK?

Update and an E-book

Between doing some contract design work, schoolwork, student projects, and my own projects, I’ve been too busy to finish up some new posts. Just wanted to give a quick update to inform everybody that I will be back on track with a new post tomorrow, and I hope to get into the habit of posting at least weekly, if not every other day. If you have any suggestions for new posts you’d like to see, feel free to leave me a comment, send me an e-mail, or even message me on Twitter (@kaocleyra)! I’ve already received several good suggestions from other students and friends, so those will be going up shortly.

While you’re waiting on me to post, why not check out this awesome resource from the World of Level Design. Now you can download the e-book of the “Ultimate Level Design Guide” for free! This fantastic deal comes with the free e-book, along with the e-book of “How to Create a Map in 11 Days,” which details the process author Alex Galuzin follows while working in UDK. Both of these are great reads, and since they’re free, there’s really no excuse not to download them. All you have to do to receive your free e-books is sign up for the World of Level Design’s newsletter and in no time, you too can be learning great tips for level design and environment art. Check out their post below for more details:

5 Tips to Narrow Your Game’s Scope

Lately I’ve been focusing my posts largely on level design, so today I thought I’d discuss something that plagues most game projects and typically resonates from their designs: scope creep. Scope creep is a serious problem, namely among students, but there are ways of combating it. This post will discuss five tips I’ve come across for narrowing scope, although it will not address scope issues regarding story.

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Tips & Tricks: Building Atmosphere

Building an effective atmosphere in your levels is critical in immersing the player in your world. The atmosphere should fit the given context of the world, while still maintaining believability, which can be a little tricky to pull off. In my own approach to level design, I put a huge amount of effort into building the atmosphere of the level I’m creating, and have had a few fellow students approach me recently about how I go about doing this. It certainly isn’t always an easy task to get right, but when atmosphere is done correctly, it can add depth, reality, and engagement for the player, further drawing them into your game or level.

Keep reading to learn more on how to build an appropriate atmosphere!

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Tips & Tricks: Making UDK Textures

The Unreal Development Kit is a fantastic editor that comes preloaded with static meshes, textures, materials, sounds, and more, making it that much easier to build levels. But sometimes, all of that preloaded stuff just doesn’t work for the level you want to make, which leaves you with two options: make your own stuff or download free-to-use assets. Even with the slew of awesome free assets available to you online, you still might not be able to find exactly what you want, and making your own from scratch might be a bit out of your league. When it comes to making textures and materials for UDK, however, you can use a combination of these two methods to get just the look you’re going for, saving time that can be spent further polishing the actual level.

Keep reading to learn more about making your own textures, and materials, in UDK!

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A Presentation on Portfolios from Jonathon Banks

Today at the University of Advancing Technology we had a special presentation from Jonathon Banks of Telltale Games, where he discussed portfolios and how to make it in the competitive game industry. This was a fantastic talk, and I was able to write down quite a few notes to share with those who missed the presentation or would just like some more help with their portfolio. Jonathon’s talk focused on artists, specifically environmental artists, but the information presented would be helpful for anyone pursuing a career in the game industry.

Jonathon Banks at UAT (Sorry for the blurriness!)

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Tips & Tricks: Blocking In Levels

I’m currently working on a level in UDK, which should be of no surprise, but this time around I decided to do things a little different. All too often I find myself writing pre-production, then jumping straight into building the level, often focusing more on the aesthetic design and implementing gameplay at the end. What’s bad is that I even know that I’m going about this process all wrong, and yet, time and time again, I find myself doing the same thing. So this time, I decided to stick to a rigid process of writing the pre-production, blocking in, implementing gameplay elements, adding aesthetics and meshes, and polishing, while tweaking every step of the way. This is the typical process most level designers follow, so it’s good to get in the habit early. I’ve already discussed parts of this process in previous posts, but today I’d like to focus on the one that always seems to elude me: blocking in.

Keep reading to learn a few tips and tricks on how to block in levels!

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What I Learned at GDC: Minimizing Exposition in Games

One of my favorite talks this GDC was from Jeremy Bernstein, the writer on Dead Space 2. I had been to another of his talks during GDC Online this past October, but this talk in particular was very informative for me. Jeremy’s session was titled “No Explanation Necessary: Minimizing Exposition in Games,” which discussed ways for developers to eliminate bad exposition while maintaining and improving what is necessary.

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