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Mastering Unreal Technology: The Art of Level Design Paperback – December 12, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0672326929 ISBN-10: 0672326922

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 984 pages
  • Publisher: Sams (December 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0672326922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0672326929
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,671,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jason "Buzz" Busby is the president/CEO of 3D Buzz, Inc., a company dedicated to teaching the world the arts and skills behind today's hottest 3D industries, including gaming, film, and visualization. Through his website,, Buzz distributes his signature Video Training Modules (VTMs), which contain hours of training content that is professional, informative, and entertaining. Buzz is also the Director of Animation at The Renaissance Center in Dickson, Tennessee, where he offers his students a unique insight into the world of Alias Maya and Discreet 3ds max.

Zak Parrish is currently an animation instructor at The Renaissance Center, where he teaches both Alias Maya and Discreet 3ds max. For the past two years, he has worked with Jason Busby and 3D Buzz, Inc. to help provide top-quality education to students across the world. His work can be seen on many of the 3D Buzz VTMs as well as in the UT2004 Special Edition training video series. In what little spare time he manages, he is also seeking his bachelor of fine arts degree at Austin Peay State University.

Joel Van Eenwyk grew up in China, where his parents both work as teachers. He attendedpublic school in China for four years and was then homeschooled by his mother. Joel developed an interest in computer programming and was soon writing programs to help with his homework. At 17, Joel traveled to the United States to further his education at a community college in Kansas. During that time, he attended an intensive four-week training program on Alias Maya, instructed by Jason Busby. After completing a one-year internship with 3D Buzz, Joel is currently seeking his computer science degree at the University of Kansas.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.



Welcome to Mastering Unreal Technology: The Art of Level Design. You're going to take an exciting journey through the rich world of game design, using the Unreal Engine. This book is dedicated to the aesthetic aspects of game design, such as level design creation, character development, and static mesh design. On the other hand, this book does not cover many game design topics from the programmer's perspective, meaning there isn't much emphasis on programming the Unreal Engine through its native programming language, UnrealScript.

Who Is This Book For?

This book has been designed for a wide range of people, actually. The first group is aspiring mod makers or fledgling game designers. This book is also aimed at anyone who has ever wondered exactly what kind of work goes into making his or her favorite game.

Beyond gamers, however, this book can be a great resource for those in the fields of architecture or construction visualization. With the Unreal Engine, you can offer your clients real-time flythroughs and simulations that they can view and explore. How to apply the Unreal Technology that drives today's cutting-edge games is limited only by your imagination.

How to Use This Book

This book is designed to be read from start to finish, although this isn't necessarily the best way for everyone to complete this book. You'll find that each chapter has a robust selection of information about each relative topic; however, the book has been designed to be flexible enough so that you can start with the areas of game design that interest you the most.

Whatever your motive, this book is your resource, so use it as you will. However, keep in mind that game design is an interconnected field, in that many of its aspects are directly connected to each other. You might not want to be a level designer or static mesh constructor, but you'll make yourself far more valuable to a prospective employer (or mod team) by knowing about each field of game design.

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: The Unreal Universe

This first part of the book focuses on a general introduction to level design for the Unreal Engine with its native editing system, UnrealEd. It begins with a brief history of Unreal and quickly moves on to a thorough introduction to how the Unreal Engine functions.

From there, Part I walks you through creating your first Unreal Level. You see how to carve your own environments into the Unreal world, how to texture and light them, and how to add the elements that make them aesthetically pleasing and still fun to play. The topics covered include creating indoor and vast outdoor environments, creating and controlling your level's physics through the use of volumes, and generating a variety of lighting effects. Part I wraps up with an in-depth look at material and texture creation and how to create interactive level elements, such as moving doors and controllable elevators.

Part II: Advanced Design Techniques

Part II opens the doors to more high-end features of the Unreal Engine. Beginning with an introduction to working with real-time particle systems and effects, Part II also brings you face to face with the Karma physics engine, explaining how it can be used to create realistic simulations based on the laws of physics. Next, the chapter covers the techniques for controlling the behavior of Unreal's artificially intelligent players, known as "bots."

Part II then moves on to cover Matinee, UnrealEd's integrated system for creating in-game cinematics—animated clips and films—with the game engine. Next, Part II discusses how to create scripted in-game sequences to create exciting events that pull players deeper into the action. This part closes with a look at optimizing your levels to keep gameplay as fast as possible, while pulling as much power as you can from the engine.

Part III: External Design

Part III introduces you to creating3D game elements with Alias's Maya. This part begins with an introduction to Maya from the beginner's perspective. You're quickly brought up to speed on navigating the software, learning techniques for polygon modeling, creating static meshes for use as decorative elements in your levels, and preparing your models for the application of texture.

Next, Part III explains techniques for creating full character models. This part then covers how you can turn that model into a digital puppet so that it can be animated and eventually used as a playable character in your Unreal game.

Special Features

This book contains a series of in-depth tutorials, outlining each major concept introduced. To assist you in following these tutorials, the book includes a CD packed with all the necessary assets, the Unreal Runtime Engine demo, and Maya Personal Learning Edition 5.0. The book also includes an appendix that serves as a user's guide for UnrealEd and another that lists the pertinent properties for Unreal's most important in-game assets.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

I don't think there is a better book to learn the unreal engine!
M. De Forge
The tutorial files for UT2 mostly won't open in the more current versions of the software, UT3 and most recently UDK.
M. Clark
I would highly recommend this book for beginners and intermediate game/level designers.
T. Watts

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Jackson on January 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
I was a little skeptical before purchasing this book because I already own and watched the Unreal Tournament 2004 Special Edition training videos produced by the same authors as this book. I was afraid that the 60+ hours of content in those videos would cover all the same material as the book. Boy was I wrong.

Not only does the Mastering Unreal Technology: The Art of Level Design go into detail far surpassing the training videos, including a surprisingly enlightening (and helpful) section on the theory behind how the Unreal Technology works, but Mr. Busby, Parrish, and Van Eenwyk guide you step-by-step through designing a level. As they begin introducing new, more advanced, features they'll explain - option by option - how the feature works and provide numerous examples of where it would be useful. For a level designer, having a single clear guide of what each of thousands of settings do is an invaluable resource.

This book serves as an excellent introduction to Maya reference as well. As I said earlier, having watched through the video tutorials, I was already somewhat familiar with the Maya package. But even for complete novices, the book will quickly bring you upto speed with the basics of the package, and help you learn how to use it to import your own creations (such as static meshes) into your Unreal levels. The Maya content in the book alone, is worth the price of admission.

The previous reviewer mentioned that he uses 3DS Max instead of Maya. While I have no doubt that Max is an awesome package, it should not be overlooked that Maya has a free personal learning edition - that ships with Unreal Tournament 2003/4.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J. Bauer on October 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read this book cover to cover; it is the best way to start creating levels. UnrealEd is a level editor aimed towards artists, the info within this book is the best coverage of a level editor that I have seen. You don't need to know scripting or any programming to create your own levels. The book starts by giving you some generals about game development, goes on to basic UnrealEd, then into more complicated UnrealEd. The last third of the book is basic Maya 5 PLE tutorials, which I found helpful because I hadn't used Maya before.

** !!! You need to own a copy of Unreal Tournament 2004 in order to follow along with the tutorials in this book !!! **

UT2004 Level Editors - This book is aimed at you. If you are already playing UT2004, you have everything you need and this book will help you find out how they made all those cool things you see in the game.

Architecture Visualizing - This book will definitely help you find out how you can take your ideas into a real-time render engine to show your clients. You could get by with the Unreal Runtime engine that comes on the CD with the book. However, in order to fully understand the tutorials, I believe you would need to pick up a copy of UT2004 with this book.

3D Artists & Game Developers - If you are already working with other game engines or a 3D animation package and want to look into Unreal, this is the ticket. Like I said before, you do need a copy of UT2004.

There were a couple of errors in the book, however they have all been addressed at [...].
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By L. Amarakoon on February 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is the definitive bible for creating 3d content using Unreal 2.5 Engine. I have been using it a lot for the level, I'm working on. Instead of scouring the web looking for a tutorial on how to do "that", you can check the index and learn what "that" does and how to use it in your level.

The book covers everything from learning Maya PLE, learning 3dsmax, unwrapping, vehicle modeling, everything that 3D Buzz's team has on their website for download as a video tutorial is in this book, except the information's is right at your finger tips.

I was recommended to this book from a friend who works in the gaming industry and even his company uses the book for a quick reference. Jason Busby, Zak Parrish & Joel Van Eenwyk thank you for making one of the best references a level artist could possibly have!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By LatinMessiah on March 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Wow! This book does a great job at explaining the Unreal Editor in a simple, easy to understand way. When I first opened the editor, I was intimidated by the all the menus and commands, but this book really takes the mystery out of it. It also gives you the confidence you need to succeed in making your own levels in Unreal! The wording is coherent, the text is easy on the eyes, and the images are well organized and inspiring to look at. It even covers character modeling, rigging, and animating in Maya. What a deal! Level editing should be fun and this book does just that.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By L33tm4st3r on April 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
I was brand new to all aspects of game design, and I had no idea where to start. So I opened up the book preview in the Unreal Tournament folder and saw this book. I went up to borders and bought it a week later. I've had this book for almost 3 weeks now, and Holy Crap! From the start, it explains the history of the Unreal engine and gives you a close up look of all the tools used. It has in-depth tutorials that make designing your first map a breeze. The CD contained in the book also has the May 5 Personal Learning Edition on it. In fact, the CD is my only complaint. This book expects you to use the CD for every texture and static mesh used. Overall, the book is a must buy for any begginner.
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