Project Overview & Introduction
How and why I am re-creating a 2007 game demo almost entirely from scratch in Unreal Engine 5.
8 min. read
First of all, let's briefly go over who I am for those of you who do not know me already:
Hi, I'm Kevin! 👋 I used to work as a 3D artist in the video games industry before changing career into software development. I also used to make mods for various video games, primarily Counter-Strike but also Left 4 Dead 2, Garry's Mod, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Battlefield 2 and more.
I've been a long term fan of Interstellar Marines for many years now, being an early "Spearhead" supporter and having met the team working on the game on several occassions. I think what really sold me on the project, was the passion I could feel when talking to the team about the game and their plans for the future of it.
Anyway, this blog is dedicated to my progress on converting the old Unreal Engine 3 demo to Unreal Engine 5. I do also have source code for their verticle slice, Bullseye, built in Unity, which I might also try to convert to Unreal Engine 5 at some point but that's a challenge for another day.
I am working on this all alone on my own time, progress will be slow. Please do not expect new updates very frequently.
Here's a preview of the game I will be converting. Note that this is from 2007 so it's obviously not up to todays standards.
What is this project?
Essentially it's a restoration project. I'll be covering my journey of converting a project made in UE3 to UE5, which is a massive change. On top of simply migrating everything, or at least as much as I possibly can on my own, I'll also make some quality of life improvements as well as updating textures, materials and meshes, as the originals are definitely showing their age or general lack of polish.
Example of steps that need to be covered:
- Convert Kismet → Blueprints 👨🔧
- Convert Cascade → Niagara ✨
- Use Nanite for static meshes 🧱
- Create LODs for skeletal meshes 🦴
- Setup audio systems 🔈
- And so on...
Why are you doing this?
Back in the day, Zero Point Software built this demo as a way of showcasing their game idea and vision to potential investors. However they turned down several investors as they either wanted too many changes to the game or to own the IP outright.
In the end, they decided to self-publish, however there was a catch - The cost for a license to Unreal Engine 3 were in the millions of dollars, a sum which the team could not afford, hence the demo was never released to the public and the team instead transitioned to Unity going forward.
You can watch their GDC presentation from 2008 here.
I've been following the IM project for many years now and it saddens me that development had to be put on halt, although I also understand why and I think the project was mismanaged to a certain degree but I digress.
Overall I think it's a cool concept and it would be an amazing experience if done right. Yes, a lot of what we've seen so far of the game looks very generic, I am not denying that but I believe there is something more to the project than what most people have seen.
Also this is just a good excuse to get back into doing gamedev and learning some new skills. I've never had much of a reason to touch Blueprints outside of making some simple systems in the past - This time I will have a focused goal. Best part is, I already know exactly what needs to be built so I don't have to spend too much time on research and experimenting outside of some additional things I'd like to add for my own sake.
Everyone always say to start small for your first project, which I do agree with. However in this case the demo I am rebuilding, is fairly small all things considered and it's made up of systems I can build on their own and in the end combine to have a game, so hopefully it will work out alright. 🤞
Is Zero Point Software involved in this?
No, not really. They are aware that I am working on this, they were even kind enough to provide me access to the Unreal Engine 3 demo files to help me with my project but other than that they are not directly involved with what I am doing here.
I felt it was important to get that covered early.
When is the MVP considered done?
This is a list of features I'd like to have before calling the MVP “done”.
Do keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list but it gives an indication of upcoming work to be done.
- Menu system
- Main menu
- Settings menu
- Lobby system
- Team deathmatch (maybe)
- Artificial intelligence
- Enemy shark
- Bot teamplayers if lobby isn't full (maybe)
- Character controller
- Movement system
- Inventory system
- Weapon system
- Multiplayer replication
- Basic quest system
- Miscellaneous blueprints for level design (doors, sprinklers etc.)
That should be enough to verify that everything works as intended and from there I can figure out if there is anything else I want to add before moving on to polishing everything. (Art, animations, sounds etc.)
I will make use of marketplace assets in some cases to use as a foundation for features I have little to no experience with already (AI being a good example). This doesn't mean the project will be an asset flip, I will try to limit how many 3rd party items I bring in, but I fear otherwise the project will take far longer than already anticipated.
And once it's done?
Hard to say at this point really. It all depends. Maybe nothing, maybe I'll continue building or maybe I'll work out something with ZPS to have them take over. Only time will tell.
Just to be completely clear however, I will not be releasing anything I do or make with this project without explicit consent from the team at Zero Point Software, as I do not own the assets I am using nor do I have the rights for the IP.
Questions and Answers
Will the game be published online?
For the time being, the answer is no. I do not own the rights to the IP or most of the content I will be using.
Do you have experience in gamedev already?
As covered briefly earlier on in this post; Yes I do. I used to be a 3D artist both as a hobbyist and professionally before I transitioned into software development permanently.
I want to help, can I?
It depends... I do not own the assets I will be using so I cannot share these with others outright, however if you wish to help build custom VFX, small systems in Blueprints, environment textures etc. then I am happy to accept the help.
Is there a Discord server for the project?
No there isn't. If there is enough interest then maybe I'll create a server to keep all communication easily accessible.
Thanks to Zero Point Software for handing me a build of the demo to aid me on this project. ❤️
Thanks to Epic Games for making such a beautiful engine to work with, I can't wait to dig in and get started. 💪
In the next post I will be going into more detail on the technical aspects of decompiling the existing game to get something to start off with rather than starting with a blank canvas.