Here we are at the end.
Updated Resume
Up first, we have the regular updates.

The new working logo for the game. It seemed almost dirty, in such a tongue-in-cheek game, to not make reference to Jurassic Park.

Before arriving at any solid designs, concepts are always necessary. Here are a handful of ideas for potential logo layouts and designs. You can see how some ideas influence the creation of others.

More work on the game graphics, the planet now has a Pangaea texture, edited material, and rotates. I think it takes about 15 minutes for a full rotation.
Plus, I fixed some Gun Meteor issues, added the new logo and messed around a bit with CameraAnims.

The keyboard/mouse controls are now working, thanks to Marty.

The Road to Epic is officially over, and, man, this was one hell of a long personal project. I wanted to write up a postmortem of sorts to summarize the events of the last “year” and give some insight into what I learned. Here we go.

As a quick recap, what was the Road to Epic?
On May 1st, 2010, I started the Road to Epic as a year-long project to help me focus more on refining my art and developing the discipline to see larger projects to completion. I sought to better myself in Zbrush sculpting, 2d lighting and coloring, and general anatomy by working every night. Plans changed a bit as mental and physical exhaustion set in, but I was determined to see it to the end.The Road to Epic ran a little longer than scheduled but more on that below.

The titular “Epic” in “Road to Epic” refers to the game development company, Epic Games. I used them as a milestone for quality. They produce very high quality games and art, and I have been inspired in recent years with their continually high standards and support for new intellectual property.

Did you meet your goals?
Yes and no. I finished this entire endeavor and accomplished a lot along the way. Many pieces of art were produced outside of my realm of comfort. I learned ZBrush, the Unreal Tournament 3 custom character process, and enough about UDK to create a small prototype and level demo.Because the Dinosaurs with Guns project showed up at the halfway point of the Road to Epic, plans changed from the original outline.

Learning the UDK and creating a game from just about every aspect is extremely beneficial, but this means I didn’t spend as much time fine-tuning my craft as originally intended. Lighting and anatomy are a couple areas I would like to focus on in the coming months.

How did plans change over the course of the Road to Epic?
As previously mentioned, the original plan was to focus on a few areas of expertise and polish those to a shine. I was doing well with this for the first 6 months, when, for the latter half, I made a drastic adjustment to the scope of the Road to Epic. I started work on the Dinosaurs with Guns prototype to put all my efforts into learning the UDK inside and out.
What things went wrong?
All of the work I put into the Road to Epic took place after my day job (where I also make games) and on weekends. There were stretches of time, especially during Crunch Weeks where I wouldn’t leave my computer all day. This can drastically effect a person psychologically and physically.

The Road to Epic was scheduled to run for one year, ending May 1st, 2011. Now, you’ll notice that was a few months ago. I had to make a number of delays for life-related events such as family vacations and holidays. Even with the intermittent breaks, though, I got burned out after about 11 months from the almost nonstop work. In retrospect, devoting a solid year to this was inefficient. I didn’t expect fatigue to set in so dramatically. Smaller chunks of work dispersed over a longer stretch of time would have proven more beneficial to keeping motivation and output high.

What things went right?
I accomplished a hell of a lot of work. Before this massive undertaking, I was severely intimidated by large personal projects. If something in my free time took longer than a month, I couldn’t justify the time needed to complete it. Now, looking at what I want to accomplish from here on out, I am eager to dive in and make some really good work, always continuing to learn more and better my skillset.

Epic Games has noticed my work on a couple different occasions, and that’s a great start. I want to make myself a desirable artist to complement an already skilled group of people.

Things that happened over the last 15 months, outside of the Road to Epic:
Bought a houseGot married

Went to GDC

Gained 50 pounds

Got promoted to Senior Artist at work

Visited New York City

What’s next?
The immediate goals from here on out involve joining the nearby gym so I can lose the weight put on by working almost nonstop for about 15 months. I will be taking a few days away from my computer before beginning some contract work that recently fell into my lap and finishing a couple commissions. Additionally, I’m going to start preparations for applying at a few commercial game studios a bit down the line when I can get together a demo reel. The process is going to be quite selective as I have a nice job now supplying art for and making grant-funded training games with a great team. I’m not interested in becoming an expendable, no-name employee elsewhere.It’s just time for me to consider my options in the commercial market.

I’m still hoping for Epic Games to show interest in me, but there is still a lot more I know I can do.

Once things settle down a bit, if you’ve been paying attention to the progress over this last year or you take a quick look at the Weekly Updates section on this site, you’ll notice a few pieces that got started but didn’t get finished. Even though the Road to Epic is over, I still want to finish these. Not all of them are relevant anymore, but the ones that still have some good educational merit, I would like to see through to completion.

And some follower questions:

How did you handle the programming/scripting in the UDK and what kind of work environment did you have set up?
I used Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 and nfringe. The UDK is a fairly closed version of the Unreal Engine in that you don’t need to do any programming to get things done. It’s all handled in UnrealScript. When you become a full licensee, you can then get access to the source code and just go nuts.Now, I’m an artist first, and it quickly donned on me that I was biting off more than I could chew for a prototype with some fairly significant changes to the core UT base. It would have taken too long to get familiar with proper syntax and even longer to script something efficiently. I employed the help of two people I’ve worked with on past projects to get Dinosaurs with Guns in the playable state that it’s in today. The prototype fell short of my original (and fairly lofty) goal due to different work schedules, but Marty and Keith still accomplished far more than I could have alone.A lot can be done in UDK’s visual script-editor, Kismet, and I relied on that for many level design needs. However, when a task required more control than Kismet offers natively, such as adding weapons, I just cannibalized the UT scripts that came with UDK. I learned enough to know what to look for and how to extend classes.
What’s your favorite Simpsons episode? And how many times did you watch it during the course of the Road to Epic?
Obviously the episode with Hank Scorpio, who is, to date, the best character on the Simpsons. His lack of recurrence keeps him highly ranked.But, sadly, I haven’t watched any Simpsons in the last 15 months…
What would you do differently next time you decide to do a project like this? More naps?
As mentioned briefly above, I would split the project up into smaller chunks. Allowing myself to burst, recover, and repeat. I’ll experiment for a while in the coming months.
When this is over, are you going to be finished with DwG? I mean… After Road to Epic is over are you going to continue to work on Dinosaurs with Guns?
Definitely. I am unlikely to complete this game to its entirety in my free time, but I will continue to work on it when I can. I want to get a playable version out to people once the combat system is implemented so they can have some fun finding creative ways to juggle enemies and stack their combos. This is a ways off though. If there is continued support from fans, I would love to explore options in getting it funded and eventually to a full release.

So, what have I accomplished on the Road to Epic over the last 15 months?
Every Sunday I have added my images to this gallery:
http://www.garydraws.com/wordpress/?page_id=186
This doesn’t include video updates. So, I have shown at least 133 updates.
And here is a gallery of some choice completed pieces
http://www.garydraws.com/wordpress/?page_id=188
I have learned learned ZBrush in depth from only rudimentary knowledge beforehand.
I have learned the UDK and developed a prototype from no knowledge beforehand.
I have logged in approximately 1350 hours to this project, averaging about 4 hours a day.

I want to thank my wife, Alicia, for putting up with my long nights and continuous work over this long stretch of time. She supports my efforts and kept me going when fatigue set in heavily. I love you, baby.

Do you have any questions about what happened over the Road to Epic? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email. Especially you, Epic. I know you’re reading this.
Be sure to check out my updated Resume

I’ll see you all on Sunday!

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