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Creating a Weekly Episodic Show With UEFN & RADiCAL's Motion Capture Tools

ASTUDIOCALLDYO's Don Tyler told us about the World of Montezuma, Fortnite's first playable animated sitcom, getting started with Unreal Engine's UEFN, and working with RADiCAL's mocap solution.


I'm Don Tyler, and up until a few months ago, I would have described myself as an ex-music video director, working with the likes of Maroon 5, Dolly Parton, and Backstreet Boys. I’d say my career has been this wild adventure at the crossroads of visual effects, digital storytelling, and interactive media.

In 2007 I got to direct this groundbreaking short film for 'Obscure II The Aftermath'. It was the first of its kind short film to market a video game, merging cinematic storytelling with video game marketing. Tough gig, but oh so rewarding.

Now, let's fast forward a bit. I have now found my way back into the gaming world with my latest project 'World of Montezuma', Fornite's first playable, animated comedy sitcom. This is my first deep dive into interactive storytelling. 'World of Montezuma' is where I get to play around, push the limits, and create a space that's not just about watching, but about participating. Looking ahead, I'm excited to keep pushing the envelope, crafting experiences, and engaging with audiences on a whole new level. Oh yeah, and we push out a new episode every week, with brand-new gameplay and a brand-new narrative; you miss it, you miss out!

Getting Started With UEFN

Initially, we planned to self-publish our project on Steam, but after discovering UEFN, we saw Fortnite, with its daily user base of over 65 million players, as the ideal platform.

So over the past year, I've really immersed myself in the Fortnite ecosystem and its community of creators. The announcement of Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) by Epic Games was a pivotal moment for me. Seeing the expanded capabilities and the potential for creators to innovate within the platform helped me realize that my crazy vision could be made a reality. The possibilities feel limitless – from crafting detailed, interactive environments to developing unique gameplay experiences that can engage players in new ways and redefine how the viewer interacts within such a well-established game. Diving into UEFN has allowed me to explore new dimensions of content creation, blending traditional storytelling with interactive elements to create something truly unique and quite honestly, something fun to make.

Inspiration for the World of Montezuma 

I reside near Montezuma, Colorado, nestled in the mountains. The town's distinctive character has always fascinated me, so for a long time I've wanted to create an animated series based there. It was only after listening to a podcast where the simulation hypothesis was discussed, that I found my inspiration, "What if we are in a simulation and everyone knows it, but just carries on with their lives?". This led to the idea of a glitch in the simulation, turning the entire town of Montezuma into a hub for tech tycoons, investors, celebrities, pro athletes, and the world's most powerful supercomputers. This isn’t too far-fetched, given Montezuma is near the famous Colorado ski resorts.

I shared this concept with my friend, stand-up comedian Ryan Dalton, and invited him to join me. We started to spitball the idea of blending dark comedy with metaphysical themes in a live, simulation-like setting. What better way to depict life in a simulation than to develop an interactive simulation of that environment? 

We found the concept amusing – a show set in a fictional reality that questions reality itself. Every week, we release an episode that serves as an interactive environment within Fortnite. Players can explore, make decisions, play mini-games, and even influence the storyline. The gameplay changes weekly with the story, alternating between a first-person shooter and a classic side-scroller, allowing us to weave dark humor into engaging gameplay and make players a part of the narrative in this fictional version of Montezuma, CO.

In 'World of Montezuma', we utilize UEFN's unique capabilities to make each episode a living part of Fortnite's world, turning the strange and enchanting scenarios into a playground for both fun and existential exploration.

Find a Mocap Solution with RADiCAL

I have to mention my conversation with Cory Williams here – I can't say enough great things about him. We were discussing motion capture solutions when the subject of single-camera, real-time, markerless mocap came up. Cory recommended RADiCAL, insisting, 'You have to check this out; I think it's exactly what you need.' I followed his advice, visited their website, watched the demo, and was so impressed that I immediately bought the licenses. I haven't looked back since.

Working with RADiCAL has been incredibly straightforward and freeing. You just set up a camera – no suits, no markers – and you're good to go. It’s impressive how it captures nuanced movement accurately. What I love most is RADiCAL's versatility; it plays nicely with all kinds of animation styles and character rigs, adapting to whatever creative ideas we throw at it.

This flexibility is a game-changer for us. It means we can experiment and iterate rapidly across a spectrum of animation scenarios, keeping our content fresh and engaging for the Fortnite community. Every week, we can bring new dynamics and movement qualities to our characters, making each episode feel alive and kicking. It’s not just about making animations easier – it’s about making them more dynamic and expressive without getting bogged down in technical details.

Animations For Fortnite

Transferring the captured movements into our Fortnite experiences involves a few more steps but remains a straightforward process thanks to the flexibility of UEFN and RADiCAL's system. After capturing the motion, we process and retarget the animations to ensure they align with our character models, then export these animations into FBX format. This format is key because it's compatible with UEFN, which we use extensively.

Once we import these FBX animation files into UEFN, they're ready to be applied to the body animations of our metahumans. This integration allows us to animate characters in a deeply realistic way, making the episodes of 'World of Montezuma' not only engaging but also incredibly lifelike. The ability to apply complex animations seamlessly to metahumans within UEFN helps us push the envelope in terms of visual storytelling and character development in our series.

Working with UEFN and Unreal Engine

Jumping into UEFN and using Unreal Engine 5.4 was initially a bit daunting, given that my expertise lies more in the realms of VFX and post-production rather than in-depth game development. However, I found the user interfaces quite intuitive, which played to my strengths and previous experience. Within just 30 days, I became quite comfortable navigating UEFN, which is a testament to the user-friendly design of Epic Games' tools.

An unexpected benefit of spending significant time in UEFN has been how it enhanced my familiarity with Unreal Engine 5.4 overall. I've started using UE 5.4 as a kind of scratchpad for fleshing out broader ideas. Once I've got the concepts roughly shaped, I adapt and refine these ideas to fit within the specific confines of the UEFN environment and levels.

A crucial part of this journey has been the support from RADiCAL. Their team has been exceptional – not just in providing a tool that fits seamlessly into my workflow but also in offering hands-on support whenever I hit a snag or when I managed to break something. Honestly, RADiCAL has proven to be one of the most impactful tools in my arsenal as an independent creator, empowering me to bring my visions to life with a level of dynamism and realism that was previously out of reach.

Future Plans

Moving forward, 'World of Montezuma' is set to continuously evolve, both in terms of its storyline and gameplay mechanics. Our approach keeps the content fresh and exciting – one week, players might find themselves navigating a first-person shooter scenario, and the next, they could be jumping through a classic side-scroller. You really never know what to expect, which adds an element of surprise and keeps our audience coming back for more.

We're also thrilled to be working on some special episodes featuring surprise celebrity guests, bringing their hilarious real-life stories into the game as playable content. These episodes are in production and we can’t wait to share them; they’re shaping up to be some of the most engaging yet.

In addition to our game, we’ve launched a podcast that dives deeper into the world and making of WOM, available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. It’s a perfect companion to our weekly episodes, which drop every Saturday morning. Just remember, each episode is only available for a week – miss it, and it’s gone forever.

Come be a part of the 'World of Montezuma'. You can connect with us through a variety of channels: join our community on Discord, follow the action in Fortnite, visit our website for the latest news, and follow us on Instagram and TikTok for daily updates and fun content. Additionally, you can catch live streams and exclusive content on our YouTube and Twitch channels. We're excited to welcome new fans and residents to join and contribute to the vibrant 'World of Montezuma' community.

Don Tyler, Founder of ASTUDIOCALLDYO

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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