Up til now: A learning experience

It was just over a year ago, when Nelg and I discussed creating a “stealth mod” for Half-Life 2. We were between MMORPGs and our crafting itch had set in, so we decided to make something other than new leather jerkins.

(Note: The screenshot above was taken during our first week on the 4thWall Awareon project, when it was still a Half-Life 2 mod.)

Nin joined the project, after life gave him a strange turn (a topic unto itself). Later on, Jim came on board for a short while (now too busy) after he and I worked together for several months at Hellbent Games.

Our mod plans grew into a full conversion project and then we shrunk that back to a more reasonable indie game design which we will develop with UDK.

Two of us are experienced in the games industry, two of us are not. It’s been a challenge to get Nin and Nelg up to speed, especially since their time for the project is often limited. Life has been consuming for all of us. Each of us went through some sort of upheaval in the past year.

Nin has made the most progress, learning 3D with Blender and now via Maya. He has a long way to go, but his determination keeps moving him forward. In the long run, his aim is to become a full fledged 3D artist and animator.

Nelg has set up a DIY motion capture studio, using an array of mounted cameras and iPi Soft’s Desktop Motion Capture. He’s got his work cut out for him with a steep learning curve. Nelg is also going to try his hand at level editing.

I initially followed along with Nin learning 3D with Blender, but about a month ago I realized it was consuming all of my energy and I needed to shift my efforts into UnrealScript and Kismet. We needed to get a prototype going with some gameplay.

As lead developer, I’m trying to dip my fingers into every aspect with UDK and that can be overwhelming at times. I also realized I needed to free myself up from other responsibilities and dedicate myself to 4thWall Awareon full-time. I’d talked about it previously, but I hadn’t actually put in the hours yet.

A few weeks past that and we’re making tangible progress in ways that we haven’t seen since we first started. Our plans are more concrete and the things we’ve learned are starting to accumulate into useful skills.

I realized from the beginning that if I was aiming for a financially successful project: I should have written up a business plan, gotten a loan and hired experienced people. Make a prototype and then pitch it to publishers. Instead, I’m having a great time with my small crew of friends, while we stumble about, sorting out what goes where. We’re now about to make that prototype and we’re doing it for ourselves. Maybe it will end up financially successful anyway, but that’s besides the point.

We’re determined to make a great game. It’s an incredibly fulfilling feeling so far.