After spending years developing a skill, you take for granted the ease with which tasks using that skill are accomplished. Even the very toughest tasks cease to be a question of “if?” or “how?”. After you have become really good at something, the only significant question left is, “how much time will it take me to complete it?”.

I have spent many years programming, and I would like to think I have gotten pretty good at it. I have practically forgotten what it is like to look at a compiler or linker error and have no idea what it means, or how to fix it. Breaking complicated problems down in to smaller, solvable chunks is now routine.

Let me contrast that with the immense amount of effort and pain involved when I am trying to move a single point in 3D space to an aesthetically pleasing position. Or, if I am being honest, to move that 3D point at all! “Why is it moving that way?” “I didn’t select that!” “Woah, now where did it go??”

I don’t think it is much of an exaggeration to say that it might take me less time to build some of these models for real than it takes for me to model them. However, I am seeing slow and steady improvement. And, with that improvement, I now present to you this anatomically-correct milk jug.

Originally, my focus was going to be on video game development. Things have changed! The vision has broadened to include a wider array of digital media: animation, music, and storytelling. The format(s) of the project(s) are currently being explored, as are the different possible combinations.

All of this does sound a bit scattered and unfocused, but sometimes you just don’t know where you want to be until you find yourself there. Hopefully, J.R.R. Tolkien’s old adage “not all who wander are lost” will hold true.

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Over two weeks ago, Epic announced that UE4 was available for $19/month. This completely derailed things here for me. I was in the middle of working on a minimalist 2D side-scroller using the Unity engine, but could not resist taking time-out to evaluate the industry’s premier game engine — and I’m still completely distracted with it.

UE4 is not Unity. It has a much steeper learning curve and for the novice UE4 developer things rarely “just work”. UE4 has a component-based workflow similar to Unity with a gorgeous user interface, but the systems are complex and understanding how everything fits together is non-obvious. Even after experimenting with UE4 since it’s first day of availability, it can still take several hours to build a simple controllable, animated character from scratch compared with the 15-30 minutes it would take in Unity. I suspect many, at this point, have returned to Unity where simply writing a script and attaching it to a game object can make that object do nearly anything and in almost no time.

Yet, after many nights of frustration, I cannot seem to put UE4 down. It’s powerful, it’s beautiful, it’s prestigious and most importantly it’s available in it’s entirety for only $19/mo — which, by contrast, makes Unity look expensive, if not downright unaffordable for a small Indie developer hoping to ship on more than a single platform.

Would I like to make a game with UE4? Definitely. Would that game be a 2D side-scrolling brawler? Probably not. Will UE4 become a permanent distraction? I will just have to wait and see.

I have a confession.  I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing.  Yet, I’m having a blast trying to figure it all out.  I typically spend my time thinking about how many milliseconds a frame takes or whether the character’s animation states blend properly.  I’m not accustomed to all this new-fangled web technology!