Beyond Unreal

The Case Study of an Epic Co-Development Project

We live in a time when it’s never been easier to start developing your own game. A small team of 3 or 4 passionate people can accomplish amazing things. They can design their own game and build it from the ground up in a matter of months, depending on the complexity of their vision. To achieve success one of the key decisions a developer must make is to choose the appropriate game engine to work with. The good news is that most of the engines out there are free or have small costs for indie developers. And the best part is they offer all the necessary tools to start developing your game from day one.

There are many game engines available on the market right now, ranging from free-to-use open source ones to proprietary engines available to license. They serve different purposes, some are better for mobile development, others are suited for PC or console development. Choosing the best depends on developer needs, product objectives and platforms targeted.

At the top of the list there are two engines that battle for supremacy: Unity3D and Unreal Engine. Both are extremely powerful and have their pros and cons. While Unity3D is used mainly by the mobile-oriented developers, Unreal is used by AAA pc/console-oriented developers.

The Unreal Engine is a game engine developed by Epic Games, based on the code used for the first-person shooter game Unreal in 1998. Since then it has been successfully used in a variety of genres, including stealth, fighting games, MMORPGs, and other RPGs. The engine’s code is written primarily in C++, which has made it easy to port across different platforms. Today Unreal Engine is the preferred engine for creating AAA games.

Epic Games has always had a strong emphasis on optimizing the engine’s code and to extend it further to other platforms. The current release is Unreal Engine 4 (UE4), targeting, among others, mobile devices like Android and iOS.

Epic’s effort to improve the Unreal Engine for mobile games development has led them to look for programmers with proven development experience on mobile platforms. This is where Amber comes into play. Due to Amber’s extensive development experience on mobile platforms, a beautiful collaboration was born in July 2017.

The initial team was made up of 3 programmers working on iOS and Android specific issues, plus 1 programmer working on the UE4 Editor.

After a short ramp-up, and a major hardware upgrade — mandatory if you want to work efficiently on a project of this size, our team adapted quickly to the alert, yet very well-organized rhythm of the guys who take care of the Unreal Engine.

We started off with bug solving for the upcoming intermediate release, then we rapidly moved to implementing features on the modules we were working on, features having a constantly increasing level of complexity.

Epic has a long and successful history with external contractors and has managed to implement simple and very effective methodologies. Rigorous source control, feature integration and versioning using tools like JIRA and Perforce, permanent mentoring from dedicated team leaders, communication using internal channels, mail groups and developers’ forums, task follow-up in daily status reports and weekly Skype meetings, all these are meant to quickly integrate external developers into any internal team dedicated to one of Unreal Engine’s module. The objective is to become just as good as an internal Epic team.

For a programmer, working on a project like Epic’s Unreal engine is more than simply understanding and complying with specific working procedures, it means hard working, full time dedication, capacity to respond under pressure to new and more urgent requirements, in other words to constantly prove your programming skills and your ability to adapt to new challenges. The greatest reward is to see that the feature you were working on has been successfully integrated in the latest UE4 release, and to know that many other developers will use a module that also has your signature on it.

We are more excited than ever to continue this collaboration and to grow our knowledge and experience alongside Epic. Without a doubt, Epic’s developer-friendly processes and policies make them one of the best partners a agency could ever hope for.