Project: Realms

Prototype by Daniel Brond.

Interested in something specific? Use the buttons below.

Project: Realms

What if?

You would combine third-person action-based combat with RTS elements and sprinkle a little bit of World of Warcraft and Rust on top of it? Well, you would have something pretty close to what Realms is all about.

Intro

Realms & UE4

Realms is a project which I have created with the purpose of learning the UE4 workflow, getting a better understanding of its features, and further improving my skillets.

To achieve the said goals I simply decided on creating a prototype in less than 6 months which would hopefully give me a detailed run down of what UE4 is all about.

By using the Unreal Asset store for 3D models and for the general systems I was hoping to cut down the production time while keeping the quality at an acceptable level.

The premade systems also served as an excellent study case in terms of how UE4 handles combat, animations, UI, AI, and level design.

Coming from Unity, I have already mastered the basic knowledge of how to operate a game engine prior to this experience.

I officially began the project in March 2020, with no prior expertise in UE4.

  • SHARE:
Genre

TP, medieval, fantasy, RTS.

Combining Third Person view, action-oriented combat, survival, semi-open world, settlement building, and RTS elements.

Concept

Realms Explained

Realms is a concept created by mix and matching
several different genres into one coherent experience.

I’ve taken the action-oriented combat from Fornite, the dungeon experience from World of Wacraft,
unit command system from Mount & Blade & survival aspects from games such as Rust.

Together, with a base building system that draws heavy inspiration from RTS games,
I’ve tried to create something truly unique.

Combat

Responsive

For the combat, I wanted to focus on a fast-paced experience, combining melee, archery, and magic to battle against agile enemies with unique abilities.

Survial

Death & Loot

When it came to the survival aspect, I wanted to force the player to settle down and build up a base.
Upon death the player would respawn in their camp, regear, consume food and then head back out into the world.

Base building

Less grind

By having the NPCs do the tedious resource grind I wanted the player to focus on more enjoyable aspects, such as exploration and base design.

Exploration

Gate travel

The dungeon system was inspired by World of Warcraft in terms of progress.
In terms of access, I took inspiration from the Stargate TV series forcing the player to figure out certain combinations to unlock portal travel.

Planning

Setting up a budget

To achieve my goal in under 6 months I knew that I had to cut corners in terms of production time.
That meant that I had to heavily rely on the Unreal Marketplace for models, systems, and UI art.
That also meant that I had to carefully plan out my limited budget.

Budget:

750 USD

Artstyle

Stylized

I decided on a stylized approach as it offered better performance on lower-end devices.

With playful colors to attract the eye, the concept could stay relevant many years from now.

Cost: 400 USD

Systems

Responsive

With an action-oriented combat system, the concept holds up to the current trend.

Combined with the ability to command units it also lays down the foundation for a competitive multiplayer scene.

Cost: 250 USD

UI

Minimalism

A minimalistic approach to the UI offers more focus on immersion.

The player should receive just enough information at first glance without being bombarded by a massive amount of icons.

Cost: 100 USD

Cost: 450 USD

3D Assets:

Environment:

Stylized Forest v2

Stylized Castle

Stylized Landscape

Pirate Island

Characters:

Stylized Human

Stylized Elf

Cost: 450 USD

Systems:

Combat:

Dynamic Combat System (Full)

AI:

Dynamic Combat System

Smart AI

Inventory & RPG Elements:

Inventory & Interactive System

Crafting:

Inventory & Interactive System

Base Building:

Simple building system

Cost: 450 USD

UI Art:

General UI:

Something

Icon Art:

Something

Execution

Putting it all together.

The real challenge laid in combining all of the assets
and then editing them so that they may perform accordingly, in terms of functionally and art.
Being completely new to UE, Visual Scripting, Shader Graphs, and the general workflow,
it was an amazing opportunity to learn, improve and polish my skillsets.

Combat & AI

Visual Scripting & Animations.

Thanks to my prior knowledge in C#, I was able to quickly grasp how VS works in UE.
Combined with tutorials, trial, and error, I managed to set up my character and customize the enemy AI in slightly over 2 weeks’ time.

This experience gave a great insight into how UE handles the exchange of information between blueprints and AI behavior systems.

Inventory & Interaction

Combining Assets

The next step was to integrate the Inventory Asset with the character controller and AI.

I spent a good amount of time figuring out how UE handles its UI components and how to send the correct information through data variables.

As I wanted the crafting system to be accessible only through certain NPCs,  I had to rewrite a decently sized portion of the premade asset.

Base & Units

Building System, Reworking AI.

The process of implementing the building system was quite a challenge, as none of the assets which I’ve purchased offered the needed features.

Due to limited functions, I was forced to create several systems from scratch.
These systems are listed below in the same order as I implemented them:

Resource Management System

A custom resource management system was needed to lay down the foundation for my resource gathering system.

I spent a few days researching game titles that offered a similar experience to what I was trying to achieve with Realms. I then designed a simple system with up to 4 resources: Wood, Stone, Food, and Metal.

Having only 4 resources allowed for easier balancing & straightforward gameplay in terms of base construction.

Using wood and stone for basic buildings while keeping metal as a higher tier resource, I felt that I had a decent setup without overwhelming the potential player.

AI Unit Commands

With two different units in mind, Gatherers & Combat Units, I decided to simply split the player-given commands into two, one menu for gatherers and one for combat units.

 

  1. Gatherer commands: Follow, Stay, Mine, Cut Wood, Build,  Return home.
  2. Combat Unit Commands: Follow, Stay, Aggressive, Defensive, Return Home.

 

For this system, I relied on my previous UI knowledge as well as a lot of trial and error, figuring out the best way of switching between the two command menus.

AI Resource Gathering System

The AI resource gathering system was a major undertaking as I needed to rewrite and modify a good portion of the AI premade asset.

I needed the AI to do the following:

 

  1. The AI needed to understand where the resource objects were.
  2. Travel to said object & play animation accordingly
  3. Store the resource value & reduce the value on the resource object
  4. Change to carry animation & reduce speed
  5. Find  the closest resource drop off point
  6. Leave resource IF resource point has enough space
  7. Change back to regular animation & speed
  8. Repeat process

 

On top of that, I also wanted the AI to have a stamina system which forced the AI to break from resource gathering and instead find a spot to sit down or interact with other NPCs until said stamina is enough to continue the previous work.

Building Placement & AI building system

The Easy Building System asset came with certain solid features, such as placement on terrain, checks for correct placement, resource data tables, and data tables for different structure blueprints.

I managed to rather quickly implement it with my character controller but I also needed to further expand upon it and allow my AI gatherers to build.

Using my previous code for the AI gathering system, I was able to modify the AI behavior to do the following:

 

  1. Find a foundation placed by the player
  2. Inspect the foundation and determine which resources are needed
  3. Find a storage point that contains resources
  4.  Pick up the needed resource, change animation & speed
  5. Drop off resource and begin the construction process
  6. Repeat process until building is complete or resources are depleted

Level Design

The Ruins of Erefin

”The grandmaster has found a new gateway to our salvation.
He calls them the Ancient, beings from another dimension unlike ours.
They offer us eternal life in exchange for passage.
I say let them come, what is the worst that could happen?”

– Grand Enchanter Riyak

Level Design

Designing a dungeon

For this project, I ended up designing a dungeon which I named Erefin.
My goal with the dungeon was for the player to unlock
magic abilities by completing a challenging dungeon.

I combined several elements to try and create a fun and challenging player experience.

Breakdown:

Layout

Visualizing the dungeon

Before I even began to think about the general layout, I wanted to have some lore that could help me visualize what I wanted the player to experience.

Knowing that the main goal with the dungeon was for the player to obtain the very first magic spell, it made sense for the dungeon to be some type of magical academy.

Layout

General Layout

The backstory ended up being that of a powerful mage academy that became overrun with demons from another world.

Using that as inspiration I sat down and drew a few concepts of how the mage academy might have been built and used by its former inhabitants.
This process paved the way for the general layout.

Level Design

Layout Design

Before I began the in-engine level design of Erefin I tried envisioning how I wanted the player to progress and what the player could expect/experience along the way.

I put a great deal of effort into designing the experience from the entrance to the very end of the dungeon.

Detailed Process

Entering Erefin

 

I designed Erefin with only one entry point, the Portal.

With that choice, I wanted to introduce the Portal system to the player, a system used to travel to different locations.
Imagine it as a dialing device, much like a phone but instead of a number connecting to another phone, the dialing device opens up a portal to another location.

 

 

Surrounding the portal I placed out high-level stone elementals which served as an extra challenge.
They also served as a warning in terms of the upcoming difficulty.

 

 

The main challenge with the entrance is not the elementals themselves, but the puzzle combination needed to open up the portal.

By placing out specific runes around the portal itself I wanted to promote players’ ability to use environmental indicators to solve the combination.

 

First Level Overview

 

Upon entering the dungeon I wanted the player to face directly towards the point of interest.
The reasoning behind it was that I wanted to reduce confusion and instantly orient the player towards the goal.

Additionally, I decided to add a small welcoming party to grab the player’s attention.

 

 

Going from right to left:

With the initial welcoming party (Red circle) I introduced three new enemy types:

1. Imps – Low-tier support units

2. Demon Lords – Higher tier tanks

3. Magic Imps – Ranged damage dealers

The ground-level enemies serve as cannon fodder while the real threat comes from the ranged enemies stationed in the tower (Green Circle).

Together, these two elements create the core experience of Erefin.

 

 

Upon defeating the initial enemies I wanted to introduce the player to the barrier system.

Using the dialing device, which is housed in a massive structure (First red circle), the player is able to turn off the barrier (Second red circle) to progress to the next section of the dungeon.

However, in order to figure out the right combination, the player needs to explore the house ruins for clues (Green Arrow)

Puzzle

Promoting exploration

I wanted the dungeon to be more than just a combat experience, I wanted to promote exploration & storytelling.

With that goal in mind, I decided to create a small puzzle game tied directly into how the player progresses from one section of the dungeon to the next.

By putting up a barrier that could only be turned off with the right combination, I tried to encourage the player to explore and search for clues amongst the ruins.

Detailed Process

Puzzle concept - Why and How

 

While designing the layout for Eferin I tried to keep in mind two main aspects:

  1. How I want the player to progress/experience each level
  2. How the city might have been built and used by its inhabitants

I ended up dividing the dungeon into 3 sections: Residental Area, Library & Arcane Hall.

Each section would include a combination of towers, used as platforms for powerful ranged units, and ground units used as cannon fodder.

 

 

I decided to cut off each section by a magical barrier which the player had to turn off in order to progress further.

This choice was made based on two reasons:

  1. I did not want the player to simply run through the dungeon and ignore enemies.
  2. I wanted to introduce some lore through lootable books and pages.

 

By using the barrier control device the player is able to turn off the barrier and progress to the next section of the dungeon.
There are 9 different symbols on the device making it almost impossible for the player to solve without finding the necessary clues.

By forcing the player to search for clues I tried to teach the player to explore the surroundings and not just focus on combat.

 

 

I decided upon using house ruins as the perfect place to scatter loot and clues for the barrier combination.

Each house ruin has a set of randomized loot chests and one dusty scroll.

The dusty scroll had two main functions:

1. Combination clue

2.A short story explaining the lore of the dungeon

Boss encounter

Surprising the player

The dungeon experience prior to the first boss encounter was designed to be rather straight forward with no surprises on the way.

The reasoning behind it was that I wanted to lure the player into a false sense of security.
I then tried to slightly shock the player by creating a sudden boss encounter.

Detailed Process

First Boss Room Explained

The first boss is located at the end of the second section called The Library.

I used this section to introduce the player to boss fights and to further explain the lore.

The library was designed to throw the player off guard.

I placed the barrier control device in the opposite direction of the entrance, to be used as bait. On the sides, I added former mages now turned undead. They are low-tier enemies and do not pose much of a challenge, but rather serve as another building stone for the lore.

The central part of the library was designed to be used as space for the upcoming boss battle.

My goal was to have the boss drop down from the roof and land in front of the unsuspected player.

Upon entering the central chambers, the boss dropdowns to the central platform and raises a shield, trapping the player within the red circle boundaries.

Level Design

Visual Design

To complete the gameplay experience I spent a good amount of time
trying to get the visual aspect as close to my initial vision as possible.

The dungeon was to be a ruin of its former self, with a strong emphasis on corruption and destruction.

Breakdown:

Inspiration

Mood & Color pallets

I wanted to create a dungeon that instantly enveloped the player into a fantasy/mystery & magical environment.

For inspiration, in terms of colors and design, I decided to turn to World of Warcraft.
I used multiple areas and dungeons as reference points for the color pallets.

Modular kits

Setting up the buildings

Using the modular ruins kit I design two main structures of the city: The house & the Tower.

By combining certain parts while also keeping in mind performance I managed to create ruins that suited my needs.

I adjusted the material nodes to match my color scheme and with some quick editing in Photoshop, I added some runes for that extra magical spice.

Landscape tools

Creating the level

WIth the buildings made, I began working on the layout using the landscape tool.
I placed out the buildings as references in terms of needed space and slowly made my way from the bottom to the top of the dungeon.

Once the layout was done I started populating the level with additional props.

Details

Last touches

To enhance the general scenery I decided to add ground fog to indicate some type of corruption in the land.
I then set out some colorful fireflies to further add some interesting visuals.

Level Design

Final look

The final look and feel of the dungeon came somewhat close to my initial vision.
Since I was limited in terms of available 3d assets, I worked with what I had
which was a very fun and challenging exercise in itself.

None the less I am proud of creating a drastically different experience both visually and gameplay-wise.

Until next time

Last words

Working on this project has been an amazing journey with many obstacles on the way, obstacles which I am proud to have overcome.

I’ve gotten a detailed understanding of how UE4 works, its features, its downsides, and its upsides.

The lessons I learned during the project have been invaluable and I look forward to applying them to my professional career.

UE4

80%

Level Design

90%

Gameplay Design

90%

Visual Scripting

75%

Contact

Don't hesitate to leave me a message and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.