I am a professional gamer at heart (not necessarily in skill, LOL). I've been playing video games for 30+ years (I'm only 37). I'm not necessarily proud or ashamed of this fact. It just is. I...am a gamer. So, it just seemed natural that I would always dream of being someone who makes video games. At heart, I suppose I am. I've created hundreds of games in my mind. I've even dabbled in modding to a degree. But in ability, I'm lacking. Extremely lacking.



The process of creating a video game (especially a quality video game) is quite the endeavor. Gone are the days of a core group of gamers hammering out some code, modeling up some characters, drafting a story, slapping it altogether and releasing the finished product, all from the confines of their apartment. Game production has morphed into a full fledged business enterprise with a large staff of professionals that include the programmers, level designers, artists, musicians, accountants, lawyers and a whole team of others that helped along the way. If you don't think so, just watch the credits roll at the end of any big title.

Chances are you're a gamer and you already know all of this...so what's the point?

(And yes, I realize there are a number of smaller independent companies in the industry still around, I recognize that.)

Thanks to a handful of readily available products, I can pursue (and you can too!) learning about the tools of the trade used in video game production. While it's doubtful that I'll be cranking out anything remotely as stunning as Gears of War or Far Cry, there are a number of success stories where your average Joe modder (or Joe mod team) created something so spectacular, they went on to profit from their hard work and dedication. Counterstrike comes to mind.



Interested wannabe game developers (like me) can choose from any number of products like Blender, Sketchup or Adventure Game Studio. Or they can use the proprietary tools that come bundled with their game. Game companies like Valve and Id are well known for supporting the mod community with tools. The "sand box" editor used by Crytek has one of the easiest yet most powerful set of tools I’ve seen. Even Microsoft has joined the game development fray with XNA.



I should know...I've tried them all, or at the very least, a large amount of them. I'm here to tell you...by far one of the best, most widely supported, most powerful tool sets, complete with instructional videos and tutorials is the UDK.

The Unreal Developer Kit.

For the record, I am in no way associated with anyone from Epic Games or any other organization remotely associated with the UDK. Trust me, I wish I were...but I'm not. I'm just an average gamer trying to learn this stuff, hoping one day I might be employed by one of these fine companies.

The Unreal Engine has quite the reputation in the gaming industry. Not just the gaming industry but also in construction simulation and design, driving simulation, virtual reality shopping malls and film storyboards. There are even colleges that teach classes on it.

Within the gaming world, you might have seen the various versions of the Unreal Engine in play. Obviously if you have played any of the Unreal Tournaments you’ve seen it in action, but have you ever heard of games like America's Army, Batman: Arkham Asylum, BioShock, Borderlands, Gears of War, Rainbow Six Vegas, or Mass Effect? I think it’s safe to say that you have.

If you’re thinking this only applies to PC gamers and their connection to modding, it’s interesting to note that the Unreal Engine is currently used in some Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC and Mac titles. So, yeah, the UDK might be PC based (sounds like there is even a Linux version), but it still gives you insight into how some of your favorite console games were created.

If you have any desire to learn the mechanics behind video game construction, whether it’s just for personal tinkering or the dream that one day you’ll be on the list of credits for the next Game of the Year, the UDK is the tool for you. The program is freely available, as are the several dozen videos totaling nearly 4GB. They are high caliber training aides that assume you have zero exposure or experience with modding. All for the low price of free. I haven’t found a better product.

Next time you consider bashing a game for bad graphics, poorly designed levels or just being downright boring, your perspective might just change once you start modding and you realize it’s not nearly as simple as it might look when you’re zipping along on the finished product.


…and stay tuned…keep checking the credits or the back of the box. One day, you’re going to see my name on there. It might be for janitorial services, but if that’ll get me in the door at any of the big game companies, I’m okay with that.