Unreal Day or immersion in very real virtual worlds

Tatjana Ristić,
Author, SGA
SGA, 3Lateral and Epic Games organized the Unreal Day in Belgrade on October 26 at mts Dvorana. The event was quite OP compared to last year, both in terms of content and the number of visitors, as there were over 600 entries! The large hall was not even big enough to fit us, so streaming of the event was organized in the smaller ones.

Unreal Engine has advanced so much that its name has become an oxymoron. More and more often, “muggles” ask if something is an actual video or virtually produced. The Serbian Unreal Engine community gathered for the second time to examine the seemingly magical abilities of this machinery in more detail.

Unreal Day, like the Unreal Engine itself, was free because Epic Games and the SGA want to give everyone access to the latest technologies and knowledge of them. But, if you missed experiencing the atmosphere of the Unreal Day firsthand, we will try to convey at least a little bit of it to you. Even if you were with us, we doubt that you managed to clone yourself and be on all the programs at the same time, so, without hesitation – let the reading endeavor commence!

This event was an opportunity to gather Unreal Engine users in one place, regardless of whether they are new to this field or already seasoned professionals. In addition to the exchange of knowledge, which is the most obvious outcome of the Unreal Day, this was primarily an opportunity for networking of UE users from the entire region and beyond, and an invitation to informally exchange experiences. We are not sure what it was like at the cinema screenings at the time since mts Dvoaran was buzzing like a beehive from conversation.

This unreal day started, actually, outside the mts Dvorana. Five workshops were held at SAE Institute, Metropolitan University and Crater Studio. While some were suitable for beginners, others were intended for the more experienced. The workshops weren’t only interesting to game developers, just like the Unreal Engine itself isn’t. This is why one was dedicated to architectural projects. Ema Galić, participant of the current cycle of the Playing Narratives project, shared her impressions:

“The workshop was divided into two parts: first we went through the practitioners’ work, where we saw the application of Houdini assets within an environment, and then there was a practical part, where we saw the basics of Unreal Engine. At the very end, the mentor showed us how procedurally created assets in Houdini can be used in Unreal. Demonstrating the application of Houdini in Unreal was of great importance to me because I learned how to improve my next projects and use procedural tools within the game engine.”

Something completely new this year was the Asset Portfolio Review – an opportunity for all 3D artists to showcase their work to the experts at PackDev Interactive, the leading local 3D asset studio. If something like this is interesting to you, and you missed the opportunity to show your work because you are from Niš, be sure to come to the Gaming Career Fair on November 14!

The largest sharing of knowledge happened at two-and-a-half-hour masterclasses, which were supported by Ebb Software. Four masterclasses were presented by experts from Spain, France and Serbia. Attendees had the opportunity to watch the short film Blue Dot, the first to present the possibilities of MetaHuman Animator, through the poetic world of Mika Antić, but they were also able to learn about lighting techniques and pipeline examples for art direction in detail.

Miloš Petrović, an illustrator and cartoonist, who participated in the SGA’s Playing Narratives program, Master 4.0 and completed several 3D courses, says that the masterclass of Lazar Mesaroš from Ebb Software was, above all, very inspiring. He learned how light behaves at different angles and at different times of day, and he especially found it useful to get a peek into the creation of Scorn‘s environment.

The main part of the program was represented by the Keynote and Showcase lectures, which were supported by Mad Head Games. During the three Keynote presentations, we could hear and see how the sky is no longer the limit for the Unreal Engine. Axel Barrois, Chief Technology Officer at Albyon Studio, which is active in the VR domain, showed how Unreal is no longer just for video games and how stories that manage to captivate us become reality.

Vojislav Pavkov, Senior Character TD from 3Lateral / Epic Games, talked about the use of the MetaHuman Framework and pointed out how today it gives freedom to animators to be creative, instead of doing boring things that they had to do thousands of times before.

Rocco Scandizzo, Head of UE Games BD EMEA & UE Games Strategy at Epic Games reminded us all to read the EULA, which states that Epic’s 5% can be negotiated with them, and he also talked about the Unreal Engine Fortnite, which he claims is taking us back to the golden age of video game production, because it’s possible to make games fast and see them on the market even faster. His presence especially testifies to the notability of this Unreal Day, which has become part of a globally relevant community.

This event was an opportunity to gather Unreal Engine users in one place, regardless of whether they are new to this field or already seasoned professionals.

The most difficult to retell are the 12 Showcase lectures because they touched on various topics. From conjuring impressions and achievements from the Unreal Fellowship (where Nikola Silić, as expected, made the audience laugh with his “game dev standup”), to showcasing the work of those who earned Epic MegaGrants and even Emmy awards. We saw that the Unreal Engine has its place in humanitarian efforts (which we already had the pleasure of writing about), as well as in opera (which Olga Janković hinted at in an interview earlier).

Those who missed the masterclasses were given a speedrun, so phones were blinking non-stop to make sure every slide was recorded. Damir Halilović, Technical Director from the Bosnian branch of Mad Head Games, brought with him a four-legged monster to animate, which turned out to be a real mess, but a much easier job when we stick to Damir’s tutorial.

This part of the program was closed by Miroslav Mićević, COO of the Ebb Software studio, with his simultaneously motivational and demotivational speech. In order to show the panorama of the future of gaming, he emphasized the artistic potential of video games and thereby wanted to demotivate all those developers who tread the already well-trodden paths, because new technologies allow us to be truly creative again, as well as to seriously consider the needs of the players.

The event closed with the award ceremony for the first regional Unreal Game Jam. The jam lasted 10 days and during that time 16 teams developed their games in Unreal Engine and Unreal Engine Fortnite, which you will soon be able to see and try out. The mentors selected the three best games, and the teams from Belgrade, Novi Sad and Banja Luka presented them to the audience and the jury at Unreal Day. Prizes in the form of UE asset packs were awarded by PacDev Interactive, and the first prize, a UE asset pack worth 4,000 euros, was taken to Banja Luka by team Kot’o with their game Far To Home, which reminded us that we miss our home the most when our stomachs are upset and the fartmeter is about to explode.

That’s a lot of information to take in, which is, again, just a fraction of what it was like on October 26. We are planning to organize the event in a bigger space next year, as Unreal Day, just like the Unreal Engine itself, continues to exceed all expectations!