Okay instead of flooding the general section with thread after thread of comments made about my favorite game engine, I've decided it may be best to just have an ongoing of the UDK and post separate Post to the one thread also rating what I feel about them.
First off I'll be starting from the current release (August 2010) of the UDK Beta and it can be assumed that all other release have gotten pretty much the same review up to this point.
For anyone not already in the know (I can't imagine anyone here not knowing what the UDK is or what it is meant for) about the UDK, It is a Free to create and fully use and abuse Game engine Package meant to allow free mods of the unreal Game Engine with out needing to require players to already have an existing unreal engine based game. It can also be used to make a commercial game project with a very Indie Game studio royalty system that is very much more accessible to amateur game creators and low budget studios.
I will not only be reviewing each release but also the built in support community services here as well as this is not a finished project but rather the start of all new ones.
So lets kick this off right...UDK August 2010 BETA:
Epic games has done it again, With their monthly updates and offerings come a whole new list of added features, improved existing features, and streamlining work flow issues added to the mix. As always The Base UDK installation comes with an ever evolving demo Version of the Engines and Studios Flagship title Unreal Tournament 3 which has a few key levels that show off the added and existing features well as well as what else is new and spiffy.
This month UT3-Demo has now got the Scaleform Menu System fully integrated where as before it was only shown in the Head Up Display and in game inventory menu added for the demonstration. Scaleform is a way of using adobe Action scripting and Flash Animations to make interesting and visually awesome 3rd party developed menu and GUI elements easy and quickly for those who know how to use programs like Adobe Flash Professional or the like. It can be use to supplement the already internal Unreal GUI system, or totally releace it as the project team sees.
As of the Augest 2010 beta Scaleform was not only fully integrated, it's been improved and made much more stable it seems from the July 2010 Beta what it was first implemented. Scaleform is now easier to import into game and even supports a wider range of commands and scripting options available in the ActionScripting language.
Next on the offering is Improved Point light Shadowing. Now i really don't see much of a difference here. The engines already powerful LightMass Lighting system is pretty insanely cool, where it calculates not just one light source but also the bounced lighting effects and the like for a much more realistic feel using less resources to build a realistic lighting system. I honestly do see much of a difference. However, At least for me Gone is the Noisy and/or Blotchy dynamically shadowed corners and creases in the game. This was a glitch that showed up in June, got worse in July and seems to be fixed in August. I am very happy to see that nonsense go away.
Motion Blur is such a minor this in the grand scheme of things, however if done right it can really add some stylized realism to your project should you decides to use it rather then deactivate it. I personally don't use it a whole lot, and thus tend to turn it off per level (Which can be done zonally via effects volumes and the like in a level or even in very isolated spots of a level if you choose to.) It does seem to be working a bit better then it was last month however i still don't like it much but who knows others may like it more.
Next we have a new and vastly improved Editor viewing mode. Normally there is a viewing mode that allows the designer to see shading of the level by applying a flat white color on everything. The problem with this is that In older version of the editor, this view mode didn't take into account material effect such opacity mask, two side materials, or normal maps to add more detail to the flat surface.
We can now see these effect clearly with the flat white applied and shadowing information baked on for a better idea of what out shadows are doing in the scene with out all the complex diffuse textures interfering with our views.
There are a few other features down this list that really are just improvements to already existing evolving features the game already has. However one that stands out is normal Map now receive indirect lighting like almost everything else in the game via lightmass. it was a pain in the butt before because Lightmass would just outright ignore Normal maps of a material when it bounced a light meaning the normals on the section not inside of directly light blur out and get a bit ugly blotchy. this has been fixed and now a Material Normal Maps are take into account and have shadowing details baked to them as well...
Over all the UDK just keeps getting better and better, however it still called beta, and for good reason. the fact of the matter is there will likely never be anything other then a beta release of UDK ever released. It's not the point to get out of beta for that matter. but as such you will likely slam head first into some major issues while working with UDK that if you are not ready for them or some what Unreal Engine Savvy, can lead you into hating the system.
Now lets talk about the user community for a moment.
The Website http://www.udk.com
is the engines official documentation client and portal to all this UDK. It's an offshoot of the UDN Which stands for Unreal Developer Network. where almost anything you could want to know about how to use the Engine to make your own game is house there.
This is far from complete however. Many of the subject you would like to know about are either locked away from you because they really only relate to professional studios that have a full License of the source code accessible version of the unreal engine, or because that not all the subjects are fleshed out or complete or fully current as the unreal engine is rapidly evolving. the UDN is not really a tutorial website with lessons for the casual user to learn from. It is more a technical Manual of the most used features and systems of the engine.
This however is not to say the information here is stagnate. in fact it actually not the case at all. With every new feature added to UDK and unreal engine 3 New Documentation is added (maybe at first with the basics as place holders) and changes to the documentation is released with each release of UDK so far. This can really be a life saver if you can take that information and experiment with what it's talking about. However this takes a little extra effort if this is your sole learning device.
Good thing Unreal has such a long tradition of a strong Modding community that come stock with any Unreal engine based game ever made. One major source for help is in the form of a few third party website dedicated to such matter. The top of the list being 3D Buzz and a few key others.
When Epic released a special "BLACK BOX" edition of Unreal Tournament 3 on release day, They turned to 3D Buzz to design and produce a series of video Tutorials all about modding the unreal engine. To do this the boys at 3D Buzz had full access to the Unreal Engine for months, at least a year even, before the release of the game to write the Ultimate book series to make mods and games with the unreal engine. So why not have them make the Official Video Tutorials.
This wasn't the first time Epic has release a bonus disk with 3D Buzz video Tutorials as well. and will likely not be the last time either.
Along with the 3D Buzz website and video tutorials, there is a large Forum Community on a whole long list of subject from Modeling to programming and beyond. Almost a one stop source of information if you ask the right questions.
There is however another forum community to support the fledgling game developer, and that via epic official forums community as well. which is all found at the UDK.com address under the Community tab if you want to get in there and ask your question.
with that said, Now is the time to review.
this release I found that while cool and helpful, this release was rather weak compared to the other before it. Voxel Terrain was supposed to be implemented by now and there is no word yet as to status of the feature.
At some point Epic is going to have to offer us something other then BINK Video formats for our games and project yet they still seem die hard on pushing that as our only video option.
Another issue I have at this moment in tile is that while in the past music was handles with the open source OGG audio encoding standards, this is no longer supported. everything is now all WAVE. they really should go back to the OGG+WAVE format as it had been, and do this soon.
over all I give UDK August 2010 Beta a 7 out of 10.