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Creating an Arcade Shooter: Input Systems and Pawns

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When making a new video game, you almost always have the player take control of something in the game world. In UE4, you use Player Controllers to interpret those physical actions and Pawns to act them out. This excerpt explores these concepts and helps you create your first game—a simple arcade shooter. Learn how to determine requirements from a design brief, how to create and set up a new project, how to spawn and use a Pawn, and how to set up a game camera.

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When making a new video game, you almost always have the player take control of something in the game world. This can mean a full character or a simple object. What is important is that the player does something, like press a key or pull a trigger, and something in the game responds. In UE4, you use Player Controllers to interpret those physical actions and Pawns to act them out. This hour explores these concepts and helps you create your first game—a simple arcade shooter. You will learn how to determine requirements from a design brief, how to create and set up a new project, how to spawn and use a Pawn, and how to set up a game camera.

Identifying Requirements with a Design Summary

No two games are exactly alike. It is important to focus on the fundamental elements you want to include in a game. In this hour, you will make a simple arcade shooter, similar to Space Invaders or Asteroids. Before you can create the game, you need to determine the requirements and features.

Your design in this case is simple: The player controls a spaceship that can move left or right and has to either dodge or destroy asteroids that are in the way.

Identifying Requirements

It is crucially important to take some time when starting a project to determine what types of interactions are necessary to make the design a reality. Understanding the requirements for a game helps you focus production. For the game you create in this hour, you can break down the design summary into the following component parts:

  • The player controls a spaceship.

  • The spaceship can move left or right.

  • Asteroids are in the player’s way, moving downward.

  • The spaceship can shoot the asteroids to destroy them.

Breaking down the summary brings up some things you need to keep in mind. The design tells you that you will need an Actor in the game that the player can control; in UE4, these are called Pawns. The design also tells you that the movement of the spaceship is limited to one axis. This requirement means you need to set up input bindings for that one axis. Because you know the player is constrained, you can also assume that the camera is fixed and that the player does not control it. You also see what obstacles the player will face and that another type of input is needed to fire a projectile.

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