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How Unreal Editor for Fortnite can make your game development dreams come true

It’s hard to believe it now, but Dylan “TheBoyDilly” Johnson – CEO and founder of the wildly successful Good Gamers – didn’t ever plan to be a game developer.

Back in early 2020, Johnson was one of millions of health workers at the forefront of the fight against COVID. After an exhausting year caring for unwell patients day after day, Johnson turned to his wife and said he had to take a break from nursing.

He had no idea that he would never be going back.

For a few years now, Johnson had been tinkering with Fortnite Creative, essentially making his own fun when his teammates weren’t online to play the genre-defining Battle Royale, recreating some of Fortnite’s most iconic concerts. Within six days of kicking off his sabbatical, however, Johnson not only saw his Fortnite game, ‘Go Goated! Zone Wars’, go viral, but Epic also approached him directly to work on their Mohamed Hamaki and Tones And I concerts. Then, just days later, content creator Ali A approached him to join Team Atomic, a creative team that builds maps for Fortnite.

Fortnite – which had once just been the place where Johnson went to get a little R&R from the realities of nursing – was about to change his life.

“As with anything, when you get into something new, there’s definitely a learning curve,” Johnson says now, looking back at his journey. “But what I found was Epic had done a good job in making the ‘development’ part of it simple enough that you could start to learn and make games easier than any other development platform.”

Perhaps, what might be most startling for some to discover about Johnson’s story is that he has no prior experience or education in game development or any kind of artistic discipline. Everything he knows about gaming comes from being a player himself, and those late-night Fortnite sessions when he was in the final year of his nursing degree.

“I’m a very visual learner. And so it was easy to connect the dots and get a functioning game produced in just several days. Once I picked up Fortnite Creative I was committed to that.”

And now he’s been able to take a significant step-up due to the new Unreal Editor for Fortnite [UEFN]. Whereas Fortnite Creative offers a lot of flexibility, users can’t add their own assets or change visuals effects. It was a creative mode aimed at Fortnite players.

UEFN is more complex and utilizes the power of Epic’s Unreal Engine 5. It’s a PC app for designing, developing and publishing games – or experiences – into Fortnite. In contrast to Fortnite Creative, users can import custom assets, and use tools and workflows including modeling, materials, VFX, Sequencer and Control Rig. It even works alongside the existing Creative toolset, and teams can work together on PC and console to create and test islands in real-time.

“Most of the assets we can use are already available in Fortnite Creative” Johnson says by way of a reminder. “You’re not necessarily required to develop any of your own assets. And then, on top of that, they have created devices that we can use to make our games run and turn into playable games. And so there’s a catalog of different devices that you can use to make your game play like a game. And what comes along with that is a lot of documentation and YouTube tutorials – such as Unreal Sensei– that the community has put together over the years to help players understand it.”

Interestingly, the visual shorthand that gamers the world over already recognise helps make the UEFN all that more accessible. Most people who’ve spent time in or around video games should be able to get to grips with the software with a little trial and error.

And as Epic continues to introduce its own learning and assets to the free-to-use system – Johnson says there used to be around eight devices (the building blocks used for authoring game mechanics in the Fortnite Creative toolset) available to make your game run; now there are more than 40 – untrained developers can make their gameplay mechanics increasingly more sophisticated.

Perhaps most surprisingly of all, however, Johnson says that you can get started with UEFN with almost no prior experience. Johnson himself didn’t even think of game development when he was graduating high school – “I went with nursing because it was a very secure job that I knew I would always be able to go back to” – but UEFN is closing the gap between those who can afford a degree and those who can’t, making a career in game dev all the more possible, and increasingly more accessible.

“You don’t have to be a game developer. You don’t have to have a degree, You don’t have to have the skill set already. You just have to be passionate and willing to learn, I think, and that’s where Fortnite Creative and UEFN are taking things to the next level,” Johnson says now.

“Epic is giving this accessibility to everyone, and letting those people define how the future of gaming develops. And that’s coming from the biggest game in the world. I think that’s pretty exciting.”

That’s not to say UEFN is only suitable for up-and-coming devs, though. As Johnson points out, Epic is essentially harnessing the power of Unreal Engine in UEFN, and that knowledge is “very transferable”. He believes many Unreal Engine developers are “getting into Fortnite now” because Fortnite is a whole “ecosystem, a platform for all kinds of game developers, newbies, and experienced developers, all submitting content on the platform”.

“I think Epic’s vision is to have both of those – [new and experienced devs alike] – and have both finding success. It’s an opportunity for any game developer to get in.”

And for those of you sitting at home, dreaming of becoming a developer? Johnson says that UEFN “is the place to do it”.

“If that’s your dream? It’s a great opportunity to explore your creative side. You might love gaming, but what you might love more is being on the other side, developing the games that people will enjoy playing.

“When I was eight and me and my friends sat on our Super Nintendo – I have those memories from my childhood. And now, in the same way that I have these memories with my friends, I’m creating the games young people are going to be thinking about and making fun memories together. “

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