Getting Started with UDK by John P. Doran (http://www.johnpdoran.com) is a development book focused on creating a tower defense game using the Unreal Development Kit (UDK) first published in July 2013 by Packt Publishing (http://www.packtpub.com). A short time ago I reviewed Mastering UDK Game Development, also from John P. Doran and Packt Publishing which I found to be a solid tutorial-style reference with a few flaws in its presentation. With a more narrow focus on tower defense games does this book hit the same highs and lows found in the author’s previous work?
Upon receiving Getting Started with UDK I was immediately struck by how thin this book actually is. The entire volume is only four chapters spanning 140 pages (actually excluding the intro and index the chapters make up about 120 pages in total). However, presenting a specific focus like a tower defense game with basic functionality this isn’t totally surprising. Below is a short overview of the chapters included in this book:
- Chapter 1: Augmenting the UDK
- Creating simple level geometry and enabling the third-person through use of Kismet
- Chapter 2: Tower Defense
- Spawning enemies, basic game over functionality, and spawning prefab objects with more advanced Kismet
- Chapter 3: Detailing Environments
- Applying materials, placing static meshes, and spawning weapons
- Chapter 4: Finishing Touches
- Utilizing Flash to implement a main menu, heads-up display (HUD), and packaging the final game
Within the chapters presented the most immediately useful when it comes to tower defense development is chapter 2. ‘Chapter 2: Tower Defense’ is really the majority of the tower defense functionality you’ll find in this book. After finishing this chapter you’ll have a prototype that features timed spawning enemies attacking a specific map point from randomly generating bases. When you really look at that statement it comprises a large portion of what a tower defense game contains. Luckily the book succeeds in quickly presenting the tower defense mechanics and producing functional results in one solid chapter. Readers shouldn’t get bored with this quick chapter and get to see the fruits of their labors relatively soon after starting.
Unfortunately, with one chapter presenting nearly all the tower defense mechanics there are to find in Getting Started with UDK, this means the rest of the book is relatively basic UDK introduction information. Now, presenting basic introductory information inside a volume with a title like ‘Getting Started’ isn’t a bad thing… unless the volume is overly short. Chapters on creating geometry, using materials, and placing static meshes are all very beginner topics covered in many other books. In this case a short book easily pales in comparison to any other longer reference containing more information and in many cases carries a lower price tag (Getting Started with UDK retails at $34.99!). With many other longer books providing more detail to beginners of UDK the only draw here is the tower defense mechanics, but as mentioned previously that only comprises one quarter of the entire book.
Even though Getting Started with UDK is so short, John Doran’s writing is much better in this book than in his previous Mastering UDK Game Development. There are plenty of explanations as to why each step is being development, giving ample reason to the why of the reader. Sections will begin with explanations of the goal and if necessary, a follow-up to the information presented. For example, Chapter 1 introduces a simple Kismet sequence by explaining its use and step by step instructions for implementation. But instead of ending the chapter, there are several pages devoted to explaining Kismet, even going so far as to describe the benefits and drawbacks of the system.
In the end, Getting Started with UDK feels like a small appetizer for a much larger course. Beginners will find the information presented within easy to pick up and a quick read producing fast results. But anyone looking for anything deeper would probably want to look for something more substantial as their base to the excellent UDK. Pick this up only if you want a small introductory preview of UDK, otherwise look elsewhere for a larger introductory book.