Hello Philipp before we move to the Q&A please tell us about yourself, please;
My Name Is Phil and I am 30 and from Germany. I grew up In South and live now In North Germany.
As long as I can remember I use Computers, since DOS. Of course, the main reason was Video Games. I don’t remember when I tried to change something In a game first time, but I was young. But I failed mostly modding something. One of my earliest memories about trying to mod was X-Wing Alliance. It was the first time I downloaded assets and Implemented them Into a game as well. (Thx darksaber.xwaupgrade.com still online) There was a 3D Modeling Software as well, but I do not remember the name and I failed of course.
Same Story to Operation Flashpoint and Armed Assault, Half-Life Hammer Editor, Companies of Heroes Level Editor. At least I earned some Photoshop skills after all this. First Game I succeeded with at least finish something was Red Orchestra 2 on UE3. There I get In Touch with the whole Unreal Engine. After 2 Years I finished my first map and created 2 more. Meanwhile, I got In touch with 3D Modeling again. From this point, I decided to study this in a private school for 1.5 years. There I learned Maya and Substance Designer. Huge Luck, as UE4, came out and I did my final School Project with It.
After school, I had several tries working with another person together, but It did not work out. I was never able to work on my own game, I had to less knowledge. At a certain point, I looked Into Unreal 4 Marketplace, cause I was searching for Aircraft Controls on YouTube. There I meet IraklI.
We started working together and our second Project we started Is now PD. This is now 2 Years ago. I don’t remember, but we thought how cool It could be, that our Character wakes up In a Hospital. But a Hospital only feels alive when you have enough Characters walking around. I was not happy with final Character result of Fuse cause the faces weren’t Unique enough. At a Night that was longer then Darkness a friend (who joined meanwhile our Team) and I talked about Character creation again. We checked YouTube videos (It was something about 5am) and we saw Character Creator Video. As tired as we were, we bought the lowest version of Iclone7. To figure out, It was not enough ;). We decided to risk It and bought more of IClone + Character Creators Add-ons, CrazyTalk3. It took us a while to get the result we wished.
We knew we were a newbies. In Clone and mostly In Taking Pictures of our Friends. In Luck Daniel (who joined our Team) has a good Camera. After a time we got better. Finally the Hospital theme was filled up some iClone Characters. I want to add more, but my time Is rare and our Manpower In Case of Characters Is just me.
Q1: Hello Philipp, Please tell us about your studio Grip420 and your recent projects.
Hello, My name is Philipp Reichling from Hamburg Germany and together with my partner Irakli Gagnidze from Tbilisi, Georgia, we founded Grip420. We met each other on Unreal 4 Marketplace. I bought an Aerodynamics simulation framework from him and we started to chat. After a short amount of time, we figured out we both work together really well. So we decided to start our own small project. After a week we started our first project together, Irakli came up with a game idea. This game idea turned out to be Photonic Distress.
We worked together on this project for 2 years. Meanwhile, we enlisted the help of our friends, who supported us out a lot. Daniel Rettig, made awesome models and textures after learning those skills form me, and Jannik „Toteki“ Meyer who created the awesome soundtrack and some of the in-game sounds.
Of course, there where more people around us, who helped us directly and indirectly. Friends who tested for us, parents, partners, and friends who supported.
Q2: You mentioned that during your game development you discovered Character Creator. What convinced you to use this tool in your Photonic Distress game?
We needed to create a modern hospital setting for our game ending. We wanted to have a variation of characters in this scene, but the team was too small to custom-make all for them. Plus we always wanted to have ourself and friends ingame, which would make it even harder. Character Creator + CrazyTalk was the perfect solution to get great results in less than 2-3 hours for each person.
The worklow, unique features and the time saving is not available from any other toolset right now.
Q3: Can you talk a little about the process that your studio uses for creating characters, how you animate them, and then incorporating into the game?
Sure. The fact that I alone was available to work on characters forced us to use as much help as possible with external tools. Depending on a desired character and features, the starting point may be different.
After we create the character, we use Mixamo Animation Databank and maybe also the Skinweights Tool. Then we copy the Skinweights onto Unreal Standard Rig inside Maya, if needed.
If we need to adjust animations, we use animations layers in Maya.
We have just 2 skeletons for characters inside UE4. The Standard UE4 Skeleton and the Reallusion Complex Rig for Facial Animations. That allows us to keep the performance high, in case a Character does not need to talk.
Q4: Beside Character Creator, what other software tools do you use?
- Unreal Engine 4
- Maya Full
- Maya LT
- Fuse Character Creator
- Make Human
- Photoshop CC
- Substance Designer
- Magix Video Deluxe
- Abelton Live
Q5: As a successful developer with games on Steam, what would be your advice to other upcoming game developers out there?
This is a tough one, mostly because it depends on the person’s current situation. The parameters are different for a person with a favorable technical background and abundant spare time when compared against another one – who has to balance a limited proficiency, free time, financial resources and a fulltime job.
If I had to boil down it to a series of small advices, it would be these:
- Wishes and dreams get shattered, there will be a time when you stare down the reality and it’s ugly. Persevere, shrug off the despair and keep pushing.
- Don’t expect to know everything, it‘s 6-7 years after I initially started learning and I still learn something new every day. Keep looking for more knowledge.
- No game will be successful only because of its graphics, or only because of its gameplay. You need it to hit the right marks in all departments: graphics, logic/gameplay, fun factor.
- Start small: there are people attempting open-world survival games as their first ones. It is hard to make your dream game with all of its amazing features and quality. Bigger studios and teams have tried and failed. Make your first game small but polished and fun. Grow from there.
- It is hard to look at all the stuff you still have to do for your game. At times it is overwhelming. Set smaller goals and work to complete them. Once you complete them, celebrate them! Eventually, you’ll realize there is not much left. Then switch to polishing what you have.
- Test, test, test! Enlist your friends. Bounce ideas off them. Get feedback. Photonic Distress changed a lot thanks to our friends and their feedback.
- As early as possible define partnership rules and bind them legally. It helps to have a clear understanding of responsibilities and decreases chances of internal conflicts.
- Social life is important: don’t overcommit to working on the game. Give yourself a chance to miss and crave an ability to sit down and work on the game. Meeting friends and family and socializing with them sometimes helps get spontaneous ideas or feedback or even inspire a technical solution you’ve been needing.
- Language and communication skills: you’ll find yourself communicating a lot, whether it is with other developers, wider community, testers or (hopefully) your customers. English is usually the default language, and communication skills are essential.