Back when I worked in the games industry, I was a tools guy by trade. It was a bit of a mix between developing APIs and toolkits for other developers, designing database frontends and automated scripts to visualise memory usage in a game's world, or reverse engineering obscure file formats to create time-saving gadgets for art creation.
I still tend to do a lot of that now in my spare time to relax and unwind, whether it's figuring out the binary data and protocols that makes up the art and assets from my favourite games, or recreating systems and solutions for the satisfaction of figuring it all out.
A while back I spent a week or so writing importer tools, logic systems and some basic functionality to recreate System Shock 2 in Unreal Engine 5. It got to the stage where importing the data from the game was a one-click process - I clicked import and could literally run around the game in UE5 within seconds, story-missions and ship systems all working.
Most of Dark engine's logic is supported but I haven't had the time to implement AI or enemies yet. Quite a bit of 3D art is still a bit sketchy, too. The craziest thing to me is that there are no light entities or baked lightmaps placed in the levels. All the illumination you can feast your eyes on is Lumen's indirect lighting from the emissive textures I'd dropped into the game. It has been a fun little exercise in getting me back into Unreal Engine development and I've learnt a lot of stuff as usual.
Here is a video of me playing all the way up to the ops deck (and then getting lost before I decided to cut the video short - it's actually possible to all the way through the game now). Lots of spoilers in this video, obviously, for those that haven't played the game.
At it's core, it's just a recreation of the various logic-subsystems in System Shock 2 and an assortment of art that has been crudely bashed into Unreal Engine 5. Pretty much all the textures, materials, meshes and maps are converted over and most of the work remaining is just tying them together with bits of C++ string. I hope you also appreciate that I sprinkled on some motion-blur and depth of field to enhance the gameplay a little. Just kidding - I just didn't get around to turning that off in the prefab Unreal Engine template I regularly use.
Tool-wise, it's a mishmash of different things working together:
As I mentioned, the levels themselves are a one-click import process. Most of Dark engine's logic, quirks and all, is implemented now (level persistence and transitions, links, traps, triggers, questvars, stats and levelling, inventory, signals/responses, PDA, hacking, etc.) but I still haven't got around to any kid of AI yet. I haven't bought much in the way of animation in from the original game yet, either, as I need to work out the best way to do it. I need to pull together the separate systems and fix little bugs here and there and iron it out with a little testing at some point.
Lighting-wise, this is all just Lumen and emissive textures. I don't think it'll ever not impress me how big of a step forward this is in terms of realistic lighting. No baking of lightmaps, no manually placing lighting. It's all just emissive materials, global/indirect illumination and bounce lighting. It gets a little overly dark here and there (a mixture of emissive textures not quite capturing the original baked lighting, and a limitation in Lumen right now for cached surfaces on complex meshes, aka the level) so could probably benefit with a manual pass at some point, but 'ain't nobody got time for that for a spare-time project.
I kind of need to figure out exactly what I'm doing with this project and where to stop. My initial goal was just to have an explorable version of the Von Braun in Unreal Engine 5 to sharpen my game dev skills and stop them from going rusty, but it's gotten a bit further than that now. I'm also thinking of doing something much more in-depth video/blog-wise in some way - let me know in the comments if that's something you'd be interested in and what kind of stuff you'd want to see/hear about.
Anyway - I began to expand out with the project and recreate assets and art to integrate into Unreal Engine 5. Feel free to check out some of the articles below for some more snazzy things. I'll add more as I get more written up.
I'm Blake and I like to tinker with things and make stuff. When I'm not programming or developing random systems, I'm playing with electronics, doodling bits of art, 3D modelling or sculpting and painting things or nerding out watching sci-fi or horror TV.
From 2001 I worked in the games industry, eventually specialising in tools to aid in the development of video games and their engines. In 2011 I left the industry and teamed up with a few other talented composers to utilise my knowledge to help build the company 'Spitfire Audio'.
I also periodically compose soundtracks for video-games and have worked on titles such as The Stanley Parable and Portal Knights. You've probably also heard my music in random TV commercials at some point.
Nowadays I tend to utilise Unreal Engine 5. I use a mixture of (mostly) C++ (Visual Studio 2019, Rider) and Blueprints.
I work with Autodesk's 3D Studio Max to generate the art required, and Adobe Photoshop or Paintshop Pro 6 for texturing. I also dabble with Allegorithmic's Substance Designer/Painter for more realistic texturing work.
I tend to generate tools in Python, C++ or NodeJS depending on what's needed.
Audio-wise, I still use Cool Edit Pro and FL Studio to generate sounds and music respectively.