First off, thanks for having me as a guest on your blog to talk about learning to make games! My name is Leo Gonzalez, and I'm an environment, VFX, and technical artist at Certain Affinity in Austin, Texas. Our studio works on lots of games, but we are probably best known for our work on franchises like Halo and Call of Duty. Here is a link to my portfolio: http://www.adventstudios.net/
I don't want to ramble on for too long about my background, so I'll try to keep it short! I started off modding PC games like Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, Far Cry, and Unreal Tournament. I taught myself Unreal Engine over a decade ago and got addicted to creating maps and mods. Eventually, I realized I could turn my hobby into a paid career. I was in Miami for a long time, mainly working on CGI for advertising and photo-realistic visualizations. I also co-founded a CG training company with a couple of my best friends called http://www.i3dtutorials.com/ a long time ago. Eventually I got bored and decided it was time for a change. I moved out to California and switched to working exclusively on games. I've been addicted to playing games since I was a kid, so it made sense for me to go back to my roots and work only on games.
I've worked a lot with Unreal Technology over the years. It's the most widely used game engine in the AAA games industry, and today it's even used on mobile games! I worked extensively with Unreal Engine 3 in Los Angeles when I worked on Lost Planet 3. When that project came to a close, my journey into Unreal Engine 4 began. I was brought onto a project working on a next-gen console game, and it would be running on Unreal Engine 4. Unreal Engine 4 gave me a first taste of the future of game development. I've used a lot of game engines and tech over the years, but when I got hold of Unreal Engine 4, I was just blown away. As a professional game developer, I don't say that lightly. I continued with Unreal Engine 4 when I was invited to join the private beta for testing. Now that I had the engine at home, I could work with it from my home office and check out every single feature the engine has to offer. I couldn't believe how Unreal Engine 4 made game development so much easier. I know you read it in headlines and hear it from forums, but you don't realize the difference Unreal Engine 4 makes until you use it. Personally, I think it’s a game changer and is trail blazing the future of game development.
I moved to Austin earlier this year, and one of my colleagues pointed me to the Captivate Conference: http://captivateconference.com/. One of my biggest passions besides making games is teaching people how to make them. I always think back to when I was learning to mod games and how much it sucked that it was so difficult with no one to help me. There wasn't even YouTube or any useful video tutorials! It was very frustrating because I was so hungry to know this stuff, yet there were no resources for learning it. Being self-taught is hard, really hard. I always said to myself that one day I would go back and help other people learn to make games. When I see someone, either a student or a colleague at my studio, get frustrated because they got stuck on something, it reminds me of those old days. Then you help them out and explain it so it makes sense, and they have that sort of "aha! Ok now I get it!" moment where suddenly they're not frustrated anymore. I love the feeling when you know you helped someone move forward. I want to let as many people who share my passion for making games as possible know how easy and feasible it is to make their dream project a reality. For my first lecture at Captivate, I chose to center it on Unreal Engine 4. The reason is simple; times have changed, and now Unreal Engine 4 has made professional game development the easiest and most user-friendly it has ever been, period.
My lecture is called "Unreal Engine 4: Workflow Primer": http://captivateconference.com/eventid/NQnjCbiiNYBdPLpc6. It will be at Captivate, Sunday Oct. 26th, at 1PM CT. I'll be showing examples that cover materials, FX, lighting, characters, and artificial intelligence. I'm also going to be giving a live Blueprint example where we will program some cool stuff right there on the spot. My goal is to show people if they use Unreal Engine 4, making a game is a lot easier than they think. It's going to be a lot of fun!
Going forward, I’ll be holding Unreal Engine 4 game development workshops right here in Austin. These will be live workshops where I'll be teaching people how to program games with Unreal Engine 4. I'll also be teaching people how to use Maya, ZBrush, Substance, and After Effects with UE4 to create FX and environment art for your own games. For those who can't join us in Austin, I'm partnering up with http://www.cgcircuit.com/ where I'll be teaching live online courses specifically for Unreal Engine 4 development. The goal is to take anyone with the hunger to make games and mentor them so everyone can learn to make their own games with Unreal Engine 4. I'll be posting the details about all of these courses soon.