DarkSwarm Dev Log: 6 Month of Game Development in Unreal Engine 5.1
This is a devlog of DarkSwarm – our current project
A half year ago I started a new game company with one of my old friends
This post is about the result of the first six months of hard work.
We started our company in 2023, and currently, we are only working on Darkswarm, a top-down alien shooter. The game supports 1-4 players and can be played both online and as local co-op. But more on that later.
As some of you may know, I’ve been working with all aspects of game development for over 20 years. Back in the days, I primarily worked with Macromedia Flash, then later switched over to Unity. For DarkSwarm, we are exclusively using Unreal Engine 5, so it’s been quite a learning experience for me as I had to learn Blueprint and brush up on my C++.
So to get a demo up and running quickly, we started by using some pre-built templates from the Unreal Marketplace. Among them were the Top Down Kit: Shooter and Advanced Locomotion System – ALS. With these two systems, we were able to quickly create something visually that we could present.
On the business side, we were fortunate enough to be signed by Ghost Ship Publishing, the developers b ehind Deep Rock Galactic. Woohoo! Ghost Ship wanted to make a major announcement, so we were supposed to have a demo video ready by March 1st. The problem was, at that point, we didn’t really have any gameplay we could showcase.
“Necessity teaches the naked woman to spin,” as they say. We quickly put together some elements for a small mission, at least to make it look like we had a demo game. It was pure ‘Fake it till you make it!’
At that time, hardly anything in the game was functional and we were having major issues maintaining a decent frame rate, having added too many unoptimized assets and effects to the game too quickly. Coding bugs were all over the place, but that was relatively easily fixed as we simply cut them out of the video. Finally, we managed to put together a decent video and were ready for the announcement day.
To our big surprise, it was a relatively big hit. The video has been viewed over 400,000 times and, as of speaking, over 28,000 people have wishlisted Darkswarm on Steam. In April, we hired our first employees for our company, and we’ve gone from being a 2-man team to a solid 7-man development squad. We anticipate growing to 9 employees over the summer.
DarkSwarm takes place in a dystopian sci-fi universe where strange creatures mysteriously appear. You and your friends will be a badass team sent into a space to “clean up.”
You can choose to play as either Assault, Hacker, Engineer, or Medic. Each class has customized weapons and abilities.
In the mission we’re currently working on, the goal is to power an atomic reactor on an abandoned space station.To start the reactor, the team needs to bring a reactor core to the power plant. It sounds like a simple mission, but who knows what lurks in the dark corridors. I can hint that if you find a minigun during the mission, just pick it up. It might come in handy later.
All of our missions are procedurally generated, meaning if you choose to play the same mission again, the level will look completely different the next time. We’re developing the entire game based on the “co-op first” concept, meaning it should be fun and entertaining to work together on a common task.
In the first half-year, we have focused on local co-op, and in the next half, we will prioritize getting the network code to work. We are also trying to upgrade the project from Unreal 5.1 to 5.2, which hasn’t been as smooth as we had anticipated. At least twice a week, we run 4-player tests with the entire team, constantly fine-tuning the balance between the different classes, weapons, abilities, and adjusting the difficulty level.
Many of our followers compare us to classics like Alien Swarm & GTFO and while our gameplay in many ways is different and more modern, there’s no doubt that if you like classic alien shooters, you’ll definitely enjoy smashing monsters with your friends in DarkSwarm. All things considered, I think we’ve come a long way. Especially considering our team has only had 10 weeks to deliver. I can’t wait to show you our progress in the next dev log.
We’re very happy with the results so far and we’re really looking forward to releasing the first demos to our community. Our plan is to release the game as Steam Early Access in December 2024, and we’ll definitely let you know when we’re about ready. Depending on how that goes, we may consider porting it to consoles afterward. But that’s a bit down the line. First thing is to fix all the bugs in the game
If you want to see more screenshots and videos, make sure to wishlist us on our Steam page, where we also post regular updates:
I might also post a dev log here from time to time, but I can’t promise how often that’ll be.
Remember, we’re very open to input, ideas, and feedback from our community, so don’t hesitate to leave comments below.
You’re also very welcome to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. but we’ll break the news first on our Steam page.
See you soon – and may your ammo feed never jam.