Described as “Wild West meets Mad Max,” as detailed in this Slide to Play interview, Warm Gun is a steampunk, Western-themed first-person shooter featuring half a dozen character classes and numerous multiplayer modes. The game’s campaign, Carnival of Bullets, is a free download that entices players to purchase the full pistol-slinging experience for $4.99.
Epic recently spoke with Emotional Robots Founder Joe Cleary and Executive Producer Zach Lehman and about their team’s game engine foundation.
“Since our company's inception, we knew one thing - our engine of choice was Unreal,” Cleary said. “We have been dedicated to Unreal technology from the start. We do occasionally test out other engines, and it always serves as a reminder that we made the right choice.”
Emotional Robots transitioned from the UT3 toolset to UDK upon launch of Unreal Engine 3’s free edition.
“We had two initial expectations when first migrating to UDK,” Lehman said. “We anticipated a high-quality user experience with a robust interface, and we expected great community support. Our expectations were surpassed with both the interface and support; the entire user experience was upgraded with the release of UDK.
“UDK’s release enabled us to take the next step and evolve from a mod team to an independent company. We were able to utilize UDK to build a tech demo that really blew people away, and from that we were able to license the full Unreal Engine. Epic Games has all but eliminated the typical barriers of entry for small companies and enthusiast game designers. For Emotional Robots, it was the only natural decision to make!”
The Emotional Robots team was quick to extend Warm Gun’s commercial potential upon Epic’s announcement of its game engine support for iOS hardware.
“As a company, we were already concerned about releasing a PC-only multiplayer game. Independent studios aren't known for their big bankrolls and PR departments, so getting players to find our game was a major concern. We had been searching for ways to push ourselves into the spotlight to gain exposure, so when we heard about the engine’s iOS support we identified a golden opportunity to make waves with Warm Gun while demonstrating the power of Unreal Engine technology.”
Tools That Pack Serious Heat
When Lehman polled his team regarding UE3 features they like best, “it turned into a book,” he said. “There are too many great toolsets to list them all, but we can highlight a few that made our lives much easier.
“The FBX pipeline is amazing,” he said. “Our artists used to import models and textures separately, then build a material and hook up all the nodes. We thought that was smooth because we never had any errors or hiccups importing assets. The FBX pipeline, however, will import our mesh and textures (with their correct compression settings), build a material node with all the textures hooked up and assign those materials to the mesh, all while maintaining proper file structure within the engine. Our artists are now even more willing to import everything they create into the engine because it's such a seamless process.
“The procedural building tools were also a big surprise for us. They’re very easy to use and provide a highly customizable solution for fast and unique asset generation. One of the most useful aspects is automatic level-of-detail (LOD) generation. We didn't have to run the program more than once, yet we were able to create several different versions of our assets to optimize performance. This saved us a lot of time when migrating PC assets to mobile platforms.
“The performance profiling tools were instrumental in increasing our FPS on mobile devices. With Stats Viewer we were able to track exactly what was happening to literally everything in the game at any given time. We gained a ton of FPS with minimal developer effort using this tool as a guide.
“These three solutions,” said Lehman, “combined with numerous others we haven't mentioned, enable Emotional Robots to focus on creating quality products without worrying whether our engine is going to compile or having to search for dozens of tools and glue them together.”
“The Unreal community is one of the best things about working with the engine,” Cleary remarked. “It's a place where some of your most difficult questions can be answered by thousands of people, all with different experiences and backgrounds in the technology.”
Cleary elaborated on his team’s path from a UDK developer to a full source UE3 licensee as well.
“Working with Epic through the licensing process and the development process has also been quite smooth. Epic has been able to support our needs in unique ways at each step in our growth as a company. Being able to use the UDN has allowed us to solve many of our problems on our own, and we were able to troubleshoot directly with Epic's staff when we had any issues not covered by the community or the UDN.”
Full Steam Ahead
Lehman summed up the potential for Warm Gun and his team future with Epic’s game engine technology. “It's a great testament to the quality of the Unreal Engine when a small independent studio like Emotional Robots can be one of the first companies to bring an Unreal-powered game to the mobile market that has the depth and feel of a traditional FPS.”