I’ve been sitting on an idea for a side project to noodle around with, one that would be an actual playable thing and not just, a, tech, proof, of, concept, and with UE5′s release & insane new feature sets, the possibility space & new frontiers have me feeling really excited and motivated to actually dig into it. Lumen and Nanite are bonkers, but I’m really super stoked on stuff like geometry scripting, material editor workflow improvements, new physics system, modeling & animation tools, the list goes on.
As a bit of background, I’ve been having a hard time sticking with one particular project for a while, so I spent some time really playing games, seeing what I found myself spending a lot of time with versus things that couldn’t keep me engaged. I got inspired by games like Moonlighter, Valheim, Rust, and Elite Dangerous (the last three I played with friends) and found that I really enjoy the game flow of exploring spaces, fighting for loot, and weighing the risks of continuing further versus turning back and keeping my haul. I started jotting down some concepts and chatting with friends about, “wouldn’t it be cool if,” and, “I wish that I could do X thing here,” but I continued to sit on it while I worked on other tech doodles & primary job stuff.
Anyway, while I know that UE5 is still in its infancy, this project idea hasn’t even left the incubator, and with the pace that I’ll be able to work on this thing at (see: slow) and my track-record for not finishing bigger personal projects, the risk in using UE5 as the kick-off engine version for this project seems very comfortably low. So here’s the pitch:
A co-op, class-based, first-person dungeon crawler, with some light survival elements. Players need to navigate dungeons, fight monsters, solve puzzles, find keys & unlock doors to progress through tranches with the difficulty ramping up at each new level. Players get loot from enemies and chests in the dungeon, and the deeper they go, the better the loot gets. Similarly to Moonlighter, if the team decides to turn back and keep what they have, there’ll be opportunities to do so, but dungeons have a final stage, with some boss monster awaiting them. Loot brought back to town can be sold or traded or used, and character progression is driven by this explore-fight-loot-sell-trade loop, where new skills, weapons, equipment etc are acquired through trading their spoils.
Dungeon layouts will be procedural, allowing for wildly varying playthroughs. At the start, players will meet up in a hub area, like a tavern, and pick a dungeon to plunder from a job board or some similar interface. At the first stage of development I’ll have the loop exist between the hub and procedural dungeons with a loading screen as a partition, but I’ve been doing a ton of research and noodling with procedural world generation, and once the dungeon generation & core gameplay loops are in a solid spot, my long-term goal is to have sessions be contained in procedurally generated landscapes representing regions of a fictional world, where players can opt to actually travel to their destinations on foot or on mounts, stop to make camp, and explore the area. Dungeons could then be stumbled upon rather than being exclusively available through a job board and a loading screen, and light survival mechanics like hunger, thirst, exposure, camps and base-building will be introduced. The end goal is to have players start small; tackling dungeons through the tavern interface & either walking or paying for a wagon ride to their destination, eventually moving up a progression ladder; buying horses, better gear, acquiring new skills, tackling bigger dungeons, travelling to them via a mount, and building bases around the map to allow for fast-travel, supply storage, and personal expression/decoration etc.
All of this feels lofty as I type it out and read it back, but I can also see clearly segmented sections of development from start to finish. I also had a really incredible experience making a multiplayer game with my brother for a game jam in the winter of 2020, where I found out how amazing it is to have something playable, with friends, and to see and hear their reactions to something we made, as horrendously buggy and unpolished as it was. That, combined with excitement about UE5, the overall possibility space of this idea & the alignment to my interests in tech & style, these things all have me feeling really motivated.
I’m going to try to keep up regular blog posts about it, but I’m not going to make them super rigid, structured dev-blogs like you would see for an official, proper game. Instead, I’m just going to try and post about the stuff in development that I thought was interesting, share my approaches to problems, and overall be more open about struggles and successes and fun stuff in development. I’ll also try to stream development when it makes sense to do so.
That’s all for now, stay safe out there!