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DEV BLOG 1: Floaty Hippo

Making a chill "endless floater" in Unreal Engine

· Dev Blog,Floaty Hippo,Game Development

You're probably wondering how I got here...

Easy. Take an unemployed game developer currently between non-competes, make "skimmed your resume" assumptions about her ability to use Blueprints and Unreal in one too many interviews, and behold: she'll start making her own game just to prove she knows how.

Also, the world has enough endless runners — your temples run, your surfers subway, what have you — and not enough chill endless games à la Alto's Adventure and Alto's Odyssey. (And how great of a game studio name is Noodlecake? Incredible.)

Also also, I'd already made a 3D model of a hippo on a pool floaty. Little guy is the emblem of chill, and deserves to star in an endless river adventure.

Maybe I'm being just a wee bit facetious — in reality, Floaty Hippo is an idea I'd been tossing around in the back of my brain for a while, but never had the time nor compatible non-compete agreement to bring into existence. Though I wasn't being facetious about Alto being a big inspiration. In an overstimulating world of 60-plus-hour game experiences, I deeply appreciate a contemplative, chill, no-presh sesh.

I know, I know — my wheelhouse is game writing and narrative design, and this sort of game purports to have very little of that. But making an entire story-driven game from scratch on your own is hard, as my friend Cyrus over at Little Bat Games would surely confirm. I wanted to give myself an approachable project that I could finish roughly before the next non-compete falls into place. A no-presh float-sesh fit the bill perfectly.

Enough out of me for the next 22 seconds. Check out this video.

Naturally, you have questions:

"What am I looking at here, exactly?"

This is the outcome of laying down a few foundational bits of the Floaty Hippo experience:

  • A performant and aesthetically pleasing water shader
  • Endless lane generation and the destruction of tiles behind the camera
  • Quick-switching between lanes, with sun-angle indicator sparkles
  • Contact ripples using distance fields
  • A general ~vibe check~ of the forward speed and water flow

"Why Unreal Engine, Amanda? Wouldn't a very-clearly-mobile game be much more practical to develop in Unity?"

To that I ask a counter-question: "What's the fun in making a game in an engine I've already used exhaustively for the last eight years?" My forays into Unreal and Blueprints have been less consistent, scattered among contract gigs and unpublished personal projects — collectively, probably closer to four years of use as compared to Unity's eight.

As aforementioned in my facetious thesis* statement, I know how to use Blueprints, but since too many dude-bro gatekeepers of AAA like to ignore my resume and play "Amanda! What does she know about Blueprints, does she know things?"...let's find out!

Plus, Unreal sure do be purdy, don't it? Did you see the sparkles on the water? Look again. LOOK AT THEM.

*Facetious Thesis would be a great indie band name. I'm stealing that. Yes, from myself. Carry on.

"Okay, I'll bite. What comes next?"

A whole laundry list of things, including, but not limited to, and in no particular order:

  • Making the hippo bob up and down (this is actually already done, just not captured in video yet!)
  • Adding scoring in... meters? nautical miles? some sort of scoring system, in any event...
  • Procedurally-generated collectibles and obstacles
  • Fleshing out the first environment (and future environments, and theming obstacles and collectibles accordingly)
  • A hippo and floaty customization screen, so you can spend more time lookin' at his cute li'l face :3
  • Composing lo-fi chill music! You give Amanda Lynn (haha, get it, my name sounds like "a mandolin", and I make music, that's why it's funny) a project that needs a soundtrack, and she will get roundly sidetracked making music long before any of the above is implemented... or so the last week has indicated

Stay tuned! Or don't! You have free will and I don't have any skin in your interest in this!

Float on,