In the first episode of ForgeCast, we had the pleasure of talking to Zahid Ali, the talented solo developer behind the hack-and-slash game ENENRA. Set in a futuristic Japanese world and developed on Unreal Engine 5, ENENRA is an exciting gaming experience that has been generating buzz in the industry. Zahid generously shared his personal journey into game development with us, along with some of the unique challenges he's encountered while creating this ambitious project from scratch. In this blog post, we will explore the world of ENENRA and get to know the creative mind behind this innovative game on ForgeCast.
After finishing university, Zahid started looking into a career in game development, while also building a portfolio. It was during this time that he began working on his own project, which eventually became ENENRA. Zahid studied at the University of Wolverhampton for three years, where he received a broad education in game development, including level design, modeling, and animation. Although combat was not initially part of his studies, Zahid has discovered that it is his favorite aspect of game development.
ENENRA was born out of a setback and a casual conversation with his friends over coffee. After finishing university and facing some challenges in finding a job, Zahid decided to create a first-person cyberpunk shooting game as part of a level designer application. While the application was not successful, he received valuable feedback on enemy variety and AI, which ignited his interest in game development. It was during a Starbucks meeting with his friends that the idea for ENENRA emerged. They suggested a game similar to Assassin's Creed and Zahid decided to set it in Japan. The result is a game that offers players an immersive gameplay experience.
Zahid Ali's choice to use Unreal Engine for his game ENENRA was influenced by his university experience. While learning to make a 2D jumping game with Adobe Flash and Game Maker, he found that those tools were not a good fit for him. However, when he was introduced to Unreal Engine, he was drawn to its full suite of tools and found the experience enjoyable. Despite being taught how to use Unreal Engine in school, Zahid had to do a lot of self-learning to truly master the software. While his classes provided a foundation for basic tasks like opening a door in a game, he had to build on that knowledge and experiment on his own to create more complex levels and game mechanics.
Zahid now believes that self-learning is an essential part of mastering any software or tool, and his experience with Unreal Engine has taught him to be persistent and never stop learning. It's this drive to constantly improve and expand the skillset that has allowed him to develop ENENRA, all from scratch (from the narrative and cinematics to scripts and game mechanics).
Zahid Ali's approach to scope as a solo developer is interesting, as he chooses to focus more on completing the game rather than the scope of it. He admits that this can be a problem for some people, but his mindset has allowed him to keep working on ENENRA and find ways to automate certain tasks. Automation has been a huge help for Zahid, as it has allowed him to drop the scope right down and make his life much easier. What used to take him two months to do before, now takes only an hour. This has allowed him to focus on the more important aspects of the game, like combat mechanics, and ensure that they work flawlessly.
Zahid gives a specific example of automation in ENENRA, which is a script that always has you look at the enemy. This may seem like a simple task, but he has made it into a function that works for different situations. This is just one example of how function libraries can make tasks much easier for solo developers. Zahid recommends that anyone who is struggling with technical tasks should look into Blueprint function libraries because they can solve many problems and make your workflow much smoother.
Zahid Ali's insight into solo-developing a game highlights the challenges and difficulties that come with it. He mentions that it's a very intimidating experience and not easy at all, which is something many people can relate to. Working a full-time job and then coming home to work on the game until late at night can be exhausting, but Zahid finds motivation in the enjoyment he gets from making the game and the problem-solving aspect of it. Despite the difficulties, he perseveres and continues to work on the game.
Zahid also shares a moment of almost giving up when the game kept crashing every time he packaged it for a week straight. He tried getting help from programmers at work and even his housemates, but there was no solution to the problem. It was a very difficult time, and he thought it might be the end. However, he didn't give up and kept trying until he finally solved the problem on the last day. This experience highlights the importance of persistence and not giving up when faced with challenges, which is crucial for success in any field.
Zahid has a clear plan for his game, ENENRA. He has a plant layout plan of what he wants to achieve in terms of story, chapters, and levels. He has a certain number of levels and chapters that he wants to complete, as well as practice modes, such as wave mode. Zahid is following a specific set that he needs to get done. He is aiming to complete at least one chapter every three months, with each chapter having a month for level design, mechanics, and polish. Zahid's approach is organized and methodical, and he is keeping himself on track by setting achievable goals.
As a solo developer, Zahid has written the entire story himself, and he acknowledges that the temptation to add more to the story is very real. However, he realizes that most of what he might add wouldn't make sense to the story he currently has. Zahid believes that adding more to his story would just be more work unless it's a huge change that changes the game entirely. He advises that making a story that makes sense to the person who's making it is the key to success in solo game development. By not adding unnecessary elements to the story, Zahid can focus on creating a polished and cohesive game that he can be proud of.
Zahid Ali's advice to aspiring game developers is to follow their passion. He believes that making smaller games to learn mechanics is great, but making something you are passionate about will drive you forward. He emphasizes the importance of passion in game development and believes that it can be the driving force behind a successful project.
Regarding the use of Blueprint and C++ in game development, Zahid Ali reveals that his game is mostly Blueprints, with only 10% C++. He states that the majority of the C++ usage is for error correction and finding out what's crashing the game. He believes that whatever language you are more comfortable with should be used, and that you can get a lot done with Blueprints. However, when it comes to optimization and specific tasks that can only be done in C++, he advises making the jump and making it work.
Zahid Ali is an example of how someone can enter the game development field with no prior experience and still be successful. He believes that with effort, anyone can achieve their goals in this industry. He encourages people to not let their lack of knowledge or experience discourage them from pursuing their dreams. Instead, they should be passionate, learn as much as they can, and make something they love.
During the interview, Zahid shared his experience of protecting his game from being copied and sold on unauthorized platforms. He emphasized the importance of learning how to protect one's game, which he believes should be taught in universities. He shared how he learned about it the hard way after someone copied a giant chunk of his game and started selling it on a website. Zahid pointed out that there are ways to unencrypt games, and that could ruin everything. He advised future game developers to learn to encrypt their projects as soon as possible, as that can ensure their hard work is safe and secure.
Zahid's experience highlights the importance of protecting one's game from piracy and unauthorized use. As more people develop and release games independently, it becomes crucial to learn how to safeguard intellectual property. Encrypted projects are difficult to reverse-engineer, which can deter would-be pirates from stealing or copying a game.
Overall, Zahid's advice on protecting games is timely and crucial. It is essential to learn about encryption, protecting intellectual property, and preventing piracy. These measures can help protect a game developer's hard work, ensuring they receive proper credit and compensation for their efforts.
Our conversation with Zahid was enlightening and inspiring, and we can't wait to see where his journey takes him next. We are excited to continue bringing you more conversations with fascinating individuals in the game development, CG, filmmaking, and VFX world through ForgeCast.