The Solus Project: “There’s no way we could have done it without UE4”

The Solus Project: “There’s no way we could have done it without UE4”

Unreal Engine evangelist Sjoerd De Jong talked about his upcoming game The Solus Project and the advantages of Unreal Engine 4 tools.

Sjoerd De Jong (wiki page) is a real legend in the Unreal Engine community. This guy starter his work with UE over 15 years ago and is regarded one of the best specialists in this field. Apart from his own small studio Teotl Studios (The Ball) he contributed to various AAA-games from Epic Games, Starbreeze Studios, Digital Extremes. He worked on Unreal Tournament 2004, Killzone, The Chronicles of Spellborn, Huxley, Syndicate. The designer is most known for his big impact on UE education. He’s recorded countless tutorials, written a couple of books and helps countless developers to find their way around Unreal Engine 4.

Specially for Sjoerd De Jong talked about Unreal Engine 4, the art of creating levels and his new game Solus. This is the first part of our interview. where we talk about the The Solus Project.

About Sjoerd De Jong

I am part Dutch, part Belgian, living in Sweden. I have been working with games and the Unreal Engine for over 15 years. I began in the Unreal Tournament mod community, and I’ve worked together a very long list of mods, games, levels, and so forth over the years. I have worked, and am working, for plenty of game studios over the years including some really big ones, and I also run my own small studio Teotl Studios (The Ball/Unmechanical). On top of that I am also involved with game development education.

What I believe gives me a unique perspective is how many different angles I have covered throughout my career. From taking a modders perspective to working on AAA games at large studios, to having successfully launched large indie titles on my own, to freelancing, to marketing related work, to being deeply involved in game development education.

The Solus Project

The Solus Project, Sjoerd De Jong, UE4, The Ball, gamedev, unreal engine, indiedev, Epic Games, Syndicate,

The Solus Project (TSP) is a Unreal Engine 4 first person exploration and puzzle game in which the player crashes on an alien planet seemingly devote of life. It is a single player experience, and we are aiming for about 6 to 12 hours worth of content, dependent on your play style. I began working on The Solus Project in July 2013 using an early version of Unreal Engine 4, and have been working on it ever since with a team of about 5 to 6 people large.

My first big production was The Ball. It is an Unreal Engine 3 first person singleplayer puzzle game, set in an ancient megalithic complex deep inside a volcano in Mexico. It was basically Indiana Jones meets Portal. Since I am so in love with underground and ancient environments, I took what I had in The Ball and went a step further with it in The Solus Project.

The Solus Project, Sjoerd De Jong, UE4, The Ball, gamedev, unreal engine, indiedev, Epic Games, Syndicate,

My goal was to create an alien planet that has a distinct look through its red vegetation and plenty of basalt columns, but at the same time also still very much like Earth. The debris of your exploded spaceship is blue and shiny, and was meant to stand out from the world, to symbolize that the human ship debris is alien to the planet. Mixed up with that world we’ve got gigantic stone megalithic structures, similar to ancient monuments on Earth. Structures and symbols that are similar to The Ball, and that tie into the overall overspanning story about Ancient Astronauts. Why are there similar structures on this alien planet? Who really built all the big ancient monuments on Earth? What happened after the events of The Ball?

TSP is very much so the spiritual successor to The Ball, and both games are strongly inspired by the first Unreal (atmosphere, environments), ancient astronauts theories (backstory, theme), Indiana Jones (theme and feel), and also series like Lost (lots of references to it within the game).

Survival Mechanics

We are approaching the survival mechanic in several different ways. The most important thing is that we are not sandbox mutliplayer survival experience. Nor do we have animals or zombies, or any other kind of enemies of flesh and blood that will try to eat you.

The Solus Project, Sjoerd De Jong, UE4, The Ball, gamedev, unreal engine, indiedev, Epic Games, Syndicate,

The focus is entirely on the world, and on what has happened there. We have crafted a singleplayer and linear experience that portrays a different kind of survival. One you can enjoy on your own, after a hard time at work or school, and one that has a clear set of goals. The game has a beginning and it has an end, and in between those two we will offer the player a great experience exploring and unraveling the secrets of the planet.

We are also very much so going for quality. We are not on Early Access or such for example, nor have we shown much of the game yet, because quality is important for us. We want to do survival done right.

Using Unreal Egine 4

There’s absolutely no way that we could have ever done all of this without Unreal Engine 4. I am not saying that because of my involvement with Unreal over the years, we are simply using so many of the features of Unreal, so much of its tools, that I see no way at all that we could have done this in any other engine with a team this small, and this little development time.

The Solus Project, Sjoerd De Jong, UE4, The Ball, gamedev, unreal engine, indiedev, Epic Games, Syndicate,

One very good example of that is how Unreal Engine 4’s Blueprint system really opened up a ton of possibilities for me. I am not a programmer, and until Unreal Engine 4 I have never been able to take care of the functionality of a game myself, but with UE4 I am suddenly able to do very large parts of the game all on my own. So in TSP I have done massive amounts of the core functionality of the game all on my own, and with just Blueprint. The way the tools empower you are totally crazy.

It is really the tools that does it for me. Of all the engines I have worked with, of all the different approaches I have seen companies take I have never come across a better and more pleasant way of working than the Unreal Engine. I started with the Unreal Engine in 1999 and even back then the engine already had more emphasis on tools and ease of use than any of the other engines. I’ve grown so accustomed to having all of the sub-editors, tools, features available over the years that I have grown to expect this of game engine, and every time I worked for someone using who wasn’t using the Unreal Engine I got so plain frustrated by the lack of possibilities and empowerment that I just had to go back to the Unreal Engine.

The Review of UE4 from Sjoerd De Jong is coming soon! We also strongly encourage you to look through some of the videos here.

Sjoerd De JongTeotl Studios

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