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  • Writer's pictureVictor Weidar

Project "Plague Brigade" - Dev log

Back in October 2022 I once again had the urge to start developing games. The motivation for creating games fluctuates heavy for me, and usually fades after some time for various reasons. I then continue to not make any games for perhaps a year or so, only to make another game and then leave game development for another year.

This game, with the working name “Plague Brigade”, is one of those “once a year” games. Though I say this at the end of every project, I am learning a lot about myself for each game I develop, and the same goes for this project.

This devlog covers the start of development, in October 2022, to the current week of January 2023. I’ll reflect back on progress and what I thought back when I wrote the notes for what was supposed to be a post mortem, but I now realize will be a series of devlogs (more on this at the end)

The Plan

The most recent, successfully developed and released, projects that I’ve developed has had a plan. Or more importantly, they’ve had a spreadsheet with every day of the week written up and a task that goes with it, for as long as I wanted to work on the project.

This proved extremely fruitful in Pumpkin Popper, as it helped me stay on track, see what tasks I had left, allowed me to add or move tasks around, and just see progress in general. It gives me a great view of the bigger picture so that I can see how much I have left, in a way that my scrum tool doesn't.

I started out with a plan that lasted 4 weeks, and planned to have the game released by Halloween, however, that quickly changed. A busy schedule turned 49 working days into 13, and I began pushing up the deadline, week by week until I settled on it being done when it's done. I still keep a good eye on my progress however, and so far I have a good sense of what "done" means.

Game Summary

The base idea of the game is that it is a thematic twist on the classic zombie survival game. Instead of surviving as far as you can against an onslaught of mindless zombies, you play as a plague doctor stepping into a town lost to a plague. Your weapons are custom crafted fire arms that shoot needles or other projectiles containing a cure for the plague. You won't be killing the "enemies", but curing them from a horrible fate.


First of all I started with mapping out the level. I wanted four areas that the player clears from the plague as they move through. Each area is blocked off by miasma, until the player clears a certain amount of enemies or completes an objective, upon which the Miasma clears and the next area is unlocked.

So I began by sketching up the areas in my notebook, and quickly decided that I wanted a farm-area and a city-environment. The other two were harder to come up with, but eventually I settled on the city being split up in a market area and a residential area. The third area became a graveyard.

As I started designing the levels I quickly got worried about the size, at least for the farm and that it would feel to empty. I was hoping that once the crops and vegetation came in, and once I increased the movement speed to feel more “doom-like” I'd change my mind

I found a really good asset pack on the Unity AND UE5 marketplaces that I got, and after some building (that I'll eventually make a time-lapse of) I ended up with the following result:

I hand-placed the fences for the smaller area, and realized I needed some kind of tool to place them faster, so I built a blueprint that lets me drag a spline point out and it places meshes along it. Currently it is very primitive, selecting ONE random mesh for the entire row. In the future I intend to have it be more random, but I wanted to get the fences done and polish them later.

I decided to leave the farm here for now, being happy with this as a starter test level. It was time to move onto the base mechanics of the game.

The Weapons

The weapons are a big part of this game, So I wanted them to look cool and be an interesting twist on normal weapons. This is what I came up with (Obviously these are all working names):

The Hand-Crossbow:

A light one handed crossbow held like a handgun.

The Needle Rifle:

A rifle that fires syringes at at the infected.

The Potion Lobber:

A hand held catapult that fires "exploding" potion bottles.

The Anti-Miasma Thrower:

A flame thrower, the "projectile" appearance is undecided.

The Needle Rifle

I started off with the needle rifle, even though it's not the first one the player will have in their hands. I wanted to start with what in my head would be the most interesting ones to work with, so it was the Needle Rifle and the Potion Lobber that became the first weapons. For all of the weapons I wanted a very rugged and scrappy look as if the doctor/player had just learned enough to build a barely functioning weapon.

While figuring out what the weapons would look like, I also spent some time in UE5 setting up the mechanics for them. I started with a base weapon class, and from there created three weapon types. Hitscan, Projectile, and Area. Hitscan would serve as your typical gun, firing a beam to see what it hits. Projectile well, fires projectiles, and Area would deal damage in a shape. Mainly, the area weapon uses a cone since it will primarily be used for the anti-miasma thrower. I set up a simple AI, and began implementing damage.

Once the mechanics were done I decided to make the needle rifle model, rig it, and animate it. It turned out fairly well, but I tell myself I will go back and maybe make it better or fix details of it in the future but we'll see about that, considering it is already rigged and animated. Below is an image of the finished model. You'll see the finished textured models later.

The Potion Lobber

The next weapon to be worked on was the potion lobber. I was dead set on the design being a hand-held catapult. So much so that even after my first design (pictured below) didn't work, I went back after trying several other ideas JUST to fix it.

I had to go so far as to make an X-ray and a "perspective" sketch to figure out how it would work. In the end, I settled for the bottom right design.

While modeling I used a lot of booleans to cut out the shapes I needed. For example it needed a circular hole in the side where the potions fed into, but it also needed a “slot” and a cutout for where the throwing arm would pass through the rifle and rest while “armed”. This all went well, until it was time for Unwrapping the model, and trying to get a good unwrap from these shapes was anything but easy, so when I couldn’t even get an arch to unwrap properly, I decided that I had to remake the body in the same shape, but using different pieces to slowly build it up properly. The particular piece is highlighted below.

And It's done! Below are the two weapons in action in game! I'm pretty happy with how they came out. I am going to go back and change the texture/shader on the potion bottle to make it look better, but for now this suits me just fine.

Needle Rifle equipped and Potion-Lobber hovering:

Potion-Lobber equipped and Needle Rifle hovering:


I’ve been looking a lot at videos from Thomas Brush (Unity Developer) and two star games (Unreal Developer, I HIGHLY recommend both of them) and something I’ve noticed is that they both seem to have created the atmosphere of the game extremely early, making testing a bit more engaging since it’s being tested in an immersive world and not a greybox level.

Not sure if this is a youtuber thing to make it more fun for the viewers, but I also feel like implementing new features (guns etc.) would be a lot more fun if I move around in the city with dark miasma flowing around me and sick civilians in the distance come for me while testing.

I decided to try it out, and it already feels a lot better hitting the play button. I went from a sunny default-sky day, to a night covered in fog and only small light sources in the distance. It is amazing.

As I'm sure you can see on the weapon on the ground, there is volumetric fog everywhere, giving every light the attention it deserves. It's not the final effect I want for the fog, but it's definitely on the way.


I have done animations before, so I wouldn't call myself a beginner. I understand rigging, keyframing, and all that stuff. What I lack is the experience to make good animations.

I decided early on for this project that I didn't want to take the fast route and just have floating weapons, and that meant first person animations. Something I've only done once before and that was extremely basic. What I wanted here was full reload animations that showed a little how these weapons worked on a technical level.

Example: In order to reload the needle rifle you pull a crank on the side that disconnects the syringe magazine and a jettisons a potion bottle at the side. Then you attach a new magazine and finally the bottle, before the crank snaps back into position and you're ready to fire again.

What I'm hoping to tell by this example is that the syringes are refilled inside the rifle before they are fired out. Eventually I'm hoping to have the liquid in the bottle visually decrease until it's empty.

Struggle 1 - Weapon Animations

The first roadblock I encountered was learning how animating FPS (first person shooter) games actually work. I'm not sure ALL game studios do this, but what I learned was that the arms and weapons are animated separately and then put together inside the game engine. When I animated I keyframed both the weapon and the arms, but quickly realized in the engine that only the arm animation was imported. So the solution was to look at the arm animation, see what frames I needed the rifle to move, and then make it move as if affected by hands. I knew that the ammunition would be insanely difficult if I wanted to track it after the hands, so over 1 frame I shrunk them to a miniscule size, only to resize them when the players hands would put the magazine inside.

After this I also had to figure out how to make the character hold the magazines, and time that with the "rescaling" of the magazine/bottle. Thankfully the idea I had worked fine, so it only took me around 20 minutes to finish. Using animation notifies (events that occur when you want them to on a frame in the animation) I spawn the ammunition in a specific bone on the player arms, and then remove them on another animation notify.

Finally for extra juice I made it so that when the player has pulled the crank it fires out the magazines with a bit of force and makes it so that they fall to the floor.

The Future of Devlogs

I don't tend to write a lot of devlogs. I usually write up a post-mortem once the game is finished, but because the final goal for this game actually is to sell it at some point, the marketing must begin now.

Therefore, my intention is to eventually start devlogging on a new YouTube channel. With that I will also create a new email, twitter, and maaaaybe Instagram and TikTok. The main media is YouTube and video dev logs.

I think in todays world it's easier for people to consume videos than text, and it's easier to show progress and how things actually look like than if I were to do as I've done in this devlog. I'll post a link when the YouTube channel is up.

But until then, thanks for reading!

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