We have made quite a bit of progress in the past few weeks with the remake of The Endless Forest in the Unreal Engine. Thanks to the generous support of many of you, we can make this work our highest priority. We are continuing to raise funds to support this project. You have almost collected the entire amount!
Since The Endless Forest was an early project in our career as game developers, and because it has been developed over several iterations, we haven’t been very orderly in storing the many assets that make up the game. So we’re going through our archives and fishing out every model and texture, sometimes even finding things that never made it into the game (but that might now!).
Because of the engine we used back then, Quest3D, many of the files are in obsolete formats. So part of the work involves converting everything to a format that we can use in Unreal.
Unreal Engine uses a very different paradigm to game creation. It lacks certain features we took advantage of in Quest3D. But it also does a lot of things much better. As a result, however, we cannot simply translate the logic from one program to the other. We have to find new ways of expressing the same ideas, ways that suit the engine well.
I’m delighted to say that we have solved two of the more problematic bits of logic now. Both are related to the endlessness of forest.
First we needed to find a way for the forest to wrap around endlessly so that when the deer arrives at the end of the forest, it finds the beginning again. After some initial despair about not being able to figure out how to implement the same logic as in the old game, we got a brand new very simple idea that actually works fine.
But wrapping one avatar around from end to start isn’t enough. We also need to be able to see other players’ avatars even when they are at the beginning of the forest while we are at the end. We found a solution for this too. And one that has the additional benefit of only rendering the deer that are actually visible, which is good for performance. The system involved separating the “pawns”, as Unreal calls the player avatars, from the actually rendered deer. That caused quite a few headaches dealing with the rather arcane server-client structure of Unreal networking, which seems to be entirely built around preventing cheating, something we don’t care much about in the Endless Forest (in fact, we consider many ways of “cheating” as part of the fun).
Anyway, as you can see below, we can now run a simply networked game with deer who see each other in Unreal now.
We were very eager to share this mini-triumph with you and tried hard to set up a server that you could log into. But this is an area where Unreal is a lot less streamlined than in most others. Creating a dedicated server actually requires downloading and compiling the source code of the engine, and packaging the game through an external tool. In the end we succeeded in running the game on our local network. But only for a minute or so, before clients were mysteriously disconnected.
We haven’t been able to try this on the internet because our current game server is an old 32 bit Windows XP computer and this is not really supported by Unreal. So we’re asking our host to move to a new server machine.
We are eager to continue the work on this project. It’s very exciting to see the deer run around in their new home. We will keep you posted on our progress.
Thank you for your support!
—Michaël & Auriea