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, http://www.3DBuzz.com, 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.
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 cinematicsanimated clips and filmswith 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.
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.
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