My New Job at RocketWerkz

In my previous post I announced my sad decision to leave my life in China, but it turned out it wasn’t so sad after all. Al thought it seemed there were no good jobs out there I somehow caught one that seems too good to be true. 

My desk at RocketWerkz, with beautiful ocean view

4k 27″ monitor, 6 core @ 3.60 GHz CPU, 1070 GTX graphics… I think I’m in love with my new work machine!

During my job hunt I had two primary wishes; I wanted to use my favorite development tool Unreal Engine 4 and to live someplace nice. These requirements initially seemed reasonable until my job searching gave me a grim view of the market.

My favorite development tool has started gradually fading from the job portals, although Unreal is the vanguard of cutting edge of technology, many game companies are switching to Unity to save cost. Although the choice of tool doesn’t affect conventional rewards such as salary, using the best technology is what makes the every day process of making games interesting.

Similarly my living requirements wasn’t easily met. Although I’ve matured past my adventurous phase of living in places like China, I also didn’t love the idea of returning to Sweden or UK. A few years ago I’d decided New Zealand would be my ideal place to live, but after discovering how tiny its game industry is I realized it wasn’t likely to happen.

It seemed impossible to find a job that meets my needs, but then right out of the blue the perfect offer popped up!  Click to find out where!

Amazing UE4 VFX from China (with Tutorial!)

During a recent binge-watching of Youtube I found a VFX reel that absolutely blew my mind. Far from anything I’ve ever seen in realtime VFX’s I was worried my brain might have short-circuited a fuse in amazement. With the unnamed Chinese artist shrouded in mystery I decided I must look deeper, to my surprise found an amazingly detailed 3 hour video-tutorial, available only for those with a little Chinese know-how.

Since my days of working with Unreal Engine 3, I was blown away when I discovered what an amazing improvement Unreal Engine 4 is. Everything from blueprints, constructor scripts, deferred lighting to PBR workflow made me feel like it was a brand new engine, until I opened up Unreal’s particle editor, Cascade…

Unlike my previous amazement, Cascade was the exact same mess I remembered doing my first Unreal VFX 10 years ago! The new black color-scheme did little to hide the fact that it’s the exact same tool with the same bugs still present. I was considering buying stocks in Apple, until I realized I’ve not traveled back in time, I’m still actually in 2016. Epic just hasn’t made much improvement to their particle editor.

What HAS happened however in the last 10 years is the vast improvement from the artists using the tool. I could show no better example of this than this VFX reel I found on Youtube, demonstrating some of the best realtime VFX’s I’ve ever seen.

Although I can pause this video at any time and reverse-engineer how a particular element was most likely made, if I attempt to do so at full-speed my mind just explodes of over-stimulation. I realized I MUST know more about these effects and its genius artist. With the uploader silent and anonymous I didn’t have my hopes high, but to my surprise my Chinese friend managed to dig up a 3 hour video-tutorial! It’s ridiculously difficult to find and requires a bit of knowledge how to log into Chinese services, hence I decided to share this knowledge for all to enjoy. Click to check it out!

3ds Max vs Maya: Which 3d Package Should I Learn

Since the dawn of human times the topic of 3ds Max vs Maya has repetitively shown up around the web. Althought a great question, I the answers are less great and often misleading. Today I want to share a very simple answer to which 3d software is the best.

The answers found around the web (that I myself once believed in) usually falls into the following categories. Discarding the question as a duplicate, referring to an ancient 6 year old thread. Claiming that the question is as pointless as “My religion is holier than yours!”. And finally, attempting to answer the question with an incredibly specific comparison about a tiny portion of the software, completely overlooking any bigger picture.

I strongly believe all these answers are wrong and would like to share the rule which I go by. 3ds Max vs Maya, which one is best?

Is UE4 Distributed Rendering Worth It?

There are countless tutorials how to set up UE4 (Unreal Engine 4) to distrubute lightmaps tasks across a network, but I wasn’t interested in the ‘how’. I wanted to know if it’s even worth all the hassles associated with DR (Distributed Rendering). My curiosity got the best of me so I dove in to find out!

After a life of experiments with buggy DR’s my question was “should I even bother?”. The time I’ve previously spent troubleshooting mysteriously idle render machines has by a hundred-fold exceeded the time I’ve gained from its marginally faster renders.

My results have been disappointing regardless of software (primarily I’ve used Mental Ray and V-Ray) yet one little fact made me wish to give UE4’s DR a try. Despite having frequently complained about poor documentation for the Unreal Engine, I must admit I’ve never once been disappointing with the software. Despite DR probably being a low priority feature, I had a feeling Epic might leave me jaw-dropped impressed as usual. I was not wrong.  Click to see the results of my Swarm/Lightmass Distributed Rendering.

High-Res UE4 Screenshots without Crash

One of the great things about GPU rendering is how insanely fast you can render high resolution. While rendering things like lightmaps with GI is still time-consuming and resource-hungry, the actual 3d rendering is near resolution-independent. Do you want to render at 4 times your usual resolution for a print? As long as you have an extra spare couple of seconds, you’re in luck!

Unlike most engines, in UE4 (Unreal Engine 4) taking a high-res screenshots needs neither custom code, plug-ins or even memorizing command-line syntax. Simply use Epic’s provided ‘High Resolution Screenshots Tool’.

There is only one little problem…

Althought the tool is programmed flawlessly (as is the case with all of Epic’s tools), you may run into a problem from another source. With hardware accelerated 3d being primarily developed for realtime graphics, your graphics card assumes you desire to run a smooth frame-rate. When your ridiculously detailed screenshot is taking forever to render, your graphics card assumes a bug and terminate the process.

Although 2 seconds may be an eternity in a world of 60 fps gaming, it’s nothing for rendering still images. Coming from CPU offline rendering where a single image render can be an overnight process, 2 or even 100 seconds is less than it takes me to go fill my cup of water.

Luckily I found there is a way to tell your well-meaning computer to take a chill-pill. To bump up its default panic mode threshold of 2 seconds into whatever value you desire. After setting mine to a glorious 40 seconds, I can now save screenshots at an arousing 15360 by 8640 pixels (including buffer visualization targets). I find this to be the ultimate resolution as it down-samples perfectly into 8k (my ideal editing resolution). So what’s the secret to taking high resolution screenshot without crashing? Click to find out!

My Last Day Making Games in China

Leaving a workplace is always a tough decision, but when your visa is directly tied to your job, it’s even tougher! Apart from the frightening choices regarding a next career move, I would also have to say a rushed goodbye to my friends before my visa gets revoked. It was tough decision to make, but one that needed to be made.

Niber holding his farewell speech to Dr. panda team

Knowing my Chinese skills would turn useless the moment I leave China, I used my last day as an opportunity to tell one last story in Chinese.

Living in China has been an unforgettable experience beyond tourism. Even after two years I still find myself surrounded by unexplored adventures. Still I had to ask myself a difficult question. Am I an adventurer (perhaps even a “travel blogger”, god forbid!) or am I in fact a game developer?

Despite still enjoying the life, I came to realize Chengdu was not my place to mature as a developer. With the simplicity of children’s games not requiring complex tech art, and with an unavoidable language barrier keeping me from dwelling into team pipelines, there wasn’t enough room for my skills to grow. Luckily I’ve found just the right place for me, stay tuned to find out where!

Unity Quick Tip: Aero’s Reign of Terror is Over!

When I first got my hands on a juicy build of Unity 5 I was excited to try out its new cutting edge real-time GI feature. After being severely disappointed with its limitations (something which I’m hoping will be improved in later versions) I found I was still happy with the new version, but for a significantly less glamorous reason! What reason? Read on to find out! Or alternatively stop reading since it appears I’m the only one who cares.

For the last couple of years I’ve been stuck with Window’s silly Aero theme on my desktop. It’s not because I want my desktop to look like a plastic spaceship, but out of mere extortion. Unity has always had severe flickering bugs when viewed with a ‘Windows Classic’ theme, but for whatever reason they’ve finally decided to fix this for Unity 5.

Finally we can all go back to the glorious days of a solid grey toolbar. Now as your life turns around from chronic depression into a golden era of bliss, don’t forget, you heard it first on Niberspace.com!

My First Children’s Game Released!

We just released the first children’s game I worked on for my new job in China. I was especially excited about this game because I took some risks pushing the boundaries. What risks, you ask? Read to find out!

Our new character Toto introducing himself

The moment I heard that our new game will be played in a treehouse, I knew it will be a big success. What child doesn’t wish he had a treehouse?

All too often in the games industry we’ll receive an uninspired design document with the explanation that some other aspect (like graphics or marketing) will make it great. Most of the games industry has yet to learn the wonderful motto of Hollywood; “If a movie requires perfect execution to be interesting, then it’s just not a good screenplay”.

So I was excited to see a design document that could catch my interest with only few words.

“Take care of a baby turtle living in a giant treehouse”

Since I saw such potential in this game, there was one experimental aspect outside of my usual duties that I wanted to push for. Click to read about my experimental contribution!