Project Voidborn Description
My project was based around the emerging popularity of tabletop games systems and how they may be adapted into videogames. The concept for the project’s artefact was the development of a fundamental mechanic of a grid-based combat system. This could then be developed on further with the unique rules and mechanics of different game systems so that tabletop play can be accurately turned into video gameplay saving players the hassle of hard on the spot mathematics and allowing for a more efficient gaming experience. In the projects initial development, I made a generic rpg system set in space. This has since been redeveloped in my Master’s year taking inspiration from the Dark Heresy 2nd Edition system.
Voidborn was developed in Unreal Engine 4.19 for my Final Year Project. I was able to complete the game even with the curveball that was a Global Pandemic, though it did suffer because of it. The original plan was for 4 playable character each with unique abilities that could be played as part of a 3-man squad to kill some aliens in a demo of the Grid system. These unique abilities and multiple players had to be cut due to time restrictions though the original abilities are still visible in the game.
The setting for the game was corporate military Sci-Fi, influences being The Outer Worlds and Warhammer 40k. All visual assets were created by myself using Piskel and Adobe Photoshop. Though I am not a degreed Artist I did want to add some custom visuals to help stand out and feel like a proper game. In the following video I will show you how my game plays from launch with a step by step start of the game. I do apologize for its quality; I may have several talents, but video editor is not one.
My main focus was getting the mechanics to work properly and consistently. The Grid System went through multiple iterations before reaching its current stage. I learnt a lot during this process, Enemy AI was something I had to develop to properly work with the systems framework. No two characters could take up the same space and had to move around occupied spaces. For this to work I learnt about A*Pathfinding and implemented a simplified version in the project. I also had to develop two enemy types with unique combat actions, one focused on range and another focused-on melee, these being the Greyman and Insectoid respectively.
At the time of the project’s development, I had not properly learnt about Child Actors, something I am embarrassed to admit, which I have since been using in other projects including Project Acolyte, the Dark Heresy game I mentioned earlier. This and the fact I had not been properly informed on proper game optimization does mean that the script is a little messy here and there. Thankfully with my extended stay doing the Master’s Course I have since improved drastically on these areas. Project Acolyte is a more compact version of Voidborn but lacks as many man hours given how the module, I built it in was only a 20-credit module compared to Voidborn’s 60 credit.
Here you can find the final Report that was submitted as part of the Hand in. In it you will find a breakdown on each of the Key Blueprints that were developed detailing how they were originally designed and then adapted. It has a nice set of graphics to help explain how the systems work as well as a detailed explanation of my development process.
I do wish to add that this project was planned before Larian Studios announcement of Baldur’s Gate 3, a game which has since blown me away with the adaptation of 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons. I take the success of the game thus far as a sign of confirmation in my assumption that there is a larger market for tabletop adapted games. Though they have a far higher budget then myself I hope to emulate some of their success in future projects I find myself working on.
Project Acolyte is something of a spiritual successor to Voidborn. Developed for the poorly titled Games Design Roles Project acolyte takes the original idea of adapting a tabletop system and does so properly. The actual module was about Atomics, values that can change and effect gameplay. Looking at this I thought of character stats as part of roleplay game, so decided to properly adapt a preexisting system for the module, that being Dark Heresy 2nd Edition. This was going to be a challenge given the scale of content in the game, so a more reasonable target was set. Each character in a Dark Heresy game had a set of statistics that were universal, the goal of this project was to develop a character blueprint that could then have child blueprints for both enemy and player characters. Developed in Unreal version 4.25, this root character would be adaptable with all the core values/atomics included and then customized in accordance with each new character. With this goal I was able to make 4 characters, 1 player and 3 enemy which can be fought in the demo levels.
Though lacking in much upfront complexity, the design of character blueprint means that many custom enemies or characters could be developed and expanding upon. the weapon system itself is part of the character, each being a set of variables with five different equip able weapons each with type and modifiers. With further expansions into combat complexity with abilities, there is so much more that can be made.
Adaptation of systems can work and can help with the challenges of on-the-fly mathematics. Again, this is an experiment into the further development of this idea. It is a market that has found profit. The issue however does come to the legal use of a system developed by others and thus doubtful to find itself to market without issue. But as a personal project it is still something I would like to develop. A custom system could work, with its own IP it could be successful.
Ultimately Voidborn and Acolyte were both expansions of a personal liking to turn based rpg systems and would be enjoyable to work on. Both came with their challenges; a global pandemic can have that effect. But they still are successful in my eyes, having been quite the technical challenge having never done AI before. They are simple, with a couple bugs but hey, that’s fine.
Games Design MA.
I am a former Teesside graduate having studied Computer Games Design BA from 2017 to 2020. I have had near on 5 years of experience working with the Unreal engine doing visual scripting. My personal expertise comes from iterative prototyping and mechanic development. During group projects I have acted as a problem fixer looking at other designers script and figuring out why things arent working as they should. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than making that one last change to the script that makes the game work perfectly.
Software and Hardware Proficiencies
As of current I have 5 years experience in the Unreal engine as well as 7 years experience with Adobe Photoshop and Piskel. Other programs I have used include GitHub, Microsoft Project, Word and Excel.
Employment, Work Experience & Volunteering
Though I have not had any employment work experience I have had 6 years of games related projects that I have worked on since college. One of the games I helped develop is Fort Knight, a 20-man student project developing a Fortnite DLC of our own design. The team consisted of a mixed discipline of artists and designers who worked together using GitHub as the source control for the project. I helped the project by assisting others with blueprinting issues and maintaining the team’s morale acting as a Junior Lead.
Another project I worked on was a different group project with a few of the students from the Fort Knight dev team. This was Halfunction a wave-based FPS inspired by Call of Duty Zombies. I worked on the games UI and again assisted others with technical issues and bug fixing. Further examples of my work can be found at: https://martintonesportfolio.weebly.com/portfolio.html
I am a big fan of turnbased rpgs and narrative design. I am very interested in the Warhammer 40k IP having collected and painted miniatures since 6th edition.