Unreal Apps Sketch

Indie video game development on Unreal.

Two years ago I started making a match three game in unreal Minimal Match Three. Here is exactly how that went.

Final design recording on device
Final design recording on device

I don’t have any development skills

I’m not an app developer or a video game developer, so making a game all by myself with Unreal was intimidating. I previously used the original unreal editor years ago to edit some maps, but this was a whole new ball game.

I can’t code, I can’t read C++ or understand Unreal’s visual scripting system called ‘blueprints’. I imagine many other indie developer are like this too — not developers but designers and entrepreneurs.

Luckily I do have one skill, design. So I started there.

Original designs
Original designs looked like posters

Starting with design mockups

I started with Sketch to do some design mockups, I usually use it for website design, but figured it would be ok for asset exports – which it was.

I designed the entire app before I made anything in Unreal. In fact I designed it twice over.

The first designs had were just menus and nice posters, I wanted to look like a 60’s minimalist movie poster you could move.

Original design that got cut, inspired the final design layouts
Designs for iPad and desktop layouts

Unreal or Unity

I installed the latest version of Unreal for Mac. I also installed Unity and tested both. I actually preferred Unity as you can add any script to any object a concept that makes a lot of sense.

I picked Unreal for my app because I wanted to make a more complex first person game later down the track, so I thought this will be easy and get me into the software…two years later I don’t regret choosing Unreal.

Getting it working

I used version 4.17.2 of Unreal and version 9.0.1 of Xcode. I would find out versions matter:

  • Not all versions can open or build all assets on the Marketplace. In fact it’s so bad your lucky if assets work at all-even if they say they do and you have already paid for them. The same is true is of Unity. So try building as soon download any assets.
  • You might have to use an earlier version of Unreal as assets you have won’t work on the latest version. But then your version might not work with the latest version of Xcode.
  • Xcode might not work with your version of Unreal. In fact, Xcode never seems to work with your version of Unreal 🤷‍♂️.
  • Xcode might not build for the latest version of iOS, you will need to update Xcode or build for an outdated iOS.
  • Apple store may not accept your app for a bunch of reasons you won’t understand.

Recognise a pattern? Nothing seems to work first time, so build everything all the way to the device and upload to the App Store and test on your device through TestFlight Apples testing app.

Build as soon as you can, and never ever update you software, otherwise everything will break.

Here is an example: As of today, Apple will not accept my builds in Xcode 9.0.1 as it don’t build for the latest iOS, so I need to update Xcode, when I do Unreal breaks, so I need to update that. When Unreal updates it does not build the app as the integration with Xcode and the engine code breaks. So I can leave the app as it is, or spends months fixing errors hoping it will build again…this is not great.

It will save you months of endless error codes and googling old forums for help by building often. And you guessed it, the help you do find will be for another version or Unreal and won’t work for you 👨‍💻.

Get your app on a device, fast

Build early and test often, not for user testing just for compatibility! And never change the setting or update anything.

I got a prototype built fast. This was great and I totally recommend it.

It looked almost like the finial game.

Responsive app development, design on left, screenshots on right

I thought I was done. That was a year ago. Between fixing compatibility issues and exporting assets another year disappeared.

Creating assets

I started with working late nights, then on the train, then after work. Exporting screen after screen. It was exhausting and…fantastic fun.

Automate what you can:

  • Making assets is fun.
  • Exporting, naming and importing is not fun, try to automate this step.
Asset for level Modulator, this would later be recoloured to yellow
All the assets for each level
Re-colouring levels into stages with shared colour palette

Fixing errors

I’ve covered compatibility issues so I’ll just talk about Unreal errors.

Unreal errors make no sense. They have little to tell you what’s going wrong and mostly occur when exporting or building for iOS, so they are engine related errors. This is not great. So build very early on all the way to the device.

The errors that you can fix are the Blueprint errors. They tell you what’s wrong and it’s usually your own fault and so you can be sure you can fix them. The best part is, it’s almost fun, as it’s a visual coding interface. I didn’t hand code anything on the project so this was a very positive experience.

Example or my latest error (if you know why this is happening please reach out 😂 ):

UATHelper: Packaging (iOS): UnrealBuildTool: /Users/Shared/Epic Games/UE_4.17/Engine/Source/Runtime/CoreUObject/Public/UObject/UnrealType.h:3786:47: error: lambda capture ‘LocalSetLayoutForCapture’ is not used [-Werror,-Wunused-lambda-capture]
So many errors, so little time to fix them all
Blueprint for score and colour, this looks more complex then it is, I just had a lot of levels
Recolouring in Unreal, using sRGB

The Apple App Store

To get there you just build you app, upload it to the store and add a lot of information.

As I don’t live in the America it’s a little harder as you have to agree to things that don’t make sense or apply to you or your country. But the real time commitment comes with producing assets.

Here is what you need:

  • A description, this is the hardest part. After the 100 form fields it takes to get to this point it feels very difficult. So write it beforehand.
  • A set of screenshots for each size of iPhone and iPad.
  • A video for each size of iPhone and iPad

Everything else you will be able to do as you go, it’s the description and assets that take a long time. So take the time to get them right.

The verdict

Compatibility is a major issue, and not upgrading your software for months or years at a time can be frustrating.

I’ve decided not to use Unreal again. Mostly because of Xcode and Unreal compatibility don’t seem to update at the same rate or time.

I’ve uninstalled all my versions Unreal, and Xcode. Each version takes up serious hard drive space and the given stress of making the software work, it was a pleasure to uninstall them.

My game Minimal Match Three is on the App Store, however I can’t update it, as Xcode 9 can not be used anymore and updating breaking everything. So for now it’s stuck in its current version.

In retrospect I loved using Unreal. I like the interface and using visual coding with Blueprints is fantastic. I think I’ll go back to Unreal when I do start my first person game, but for now I’m moving on to other tools for my next game, let’s hope it takes less then two years!


A relaxed guide to digital minimalism

Instantly free up more time

VR, a new type of digital experience
VR, a new type of digital experience

If you find yourself in a hole. Stop digging.

Smart phones can now tell you if you’re over indulging in digital media. The issue is not how much time we are spending where we are spending it.

Spend digital time where it matters

I’m a technology person. Always have been. I love using technology to make things, to learn and better my understanding in new topics, and often to indulge for many hours at a time until my eyes go bright red.

In fact my right eye right now is itchy. I’m sure it’s red. I’m using a 15" Macbook with the brightness all the way down, the ‘night shift’ is on and I’m using a Google Chrome plugin to change Medium from a white background to black with white text.

But I love it.

And if I love it, it’s worth it. Because I believe you should spend your time where it matters to you.

Be productive

Is using digital devices with screens worse than using the software running on them? No, because the software is a tool, not a digital device.

Is writing this story on a digital device worse than by hand? No, because it’s more efficient.

Ultimately we are trying to achieve tasks, and in many ways digital interfaces improve our efficiency in doing so.

So use digital devices, but be sure to not let them use you.

Turning off notifications

Using digital devices to achieve tasks sound simple, but many task orientated apps use powerful loops to keep us engaged — even if we don’t want to be.

Consider this. Each productivity app you use has a team of people working on building loops within the app to keep you engaged. Why? Because if you stop using the app, you’re no longer engaged, therefore you no longer a customer.

You will notice them, they are called notifications.

I can hear you saying, yes but my notification are coming from real people, so it’s ok…is it? The notifications loop was made up, the like 👍 and heart 💓 are there to get you to pull the other user back into the app. So it that productive?

Turn your notifications off. Turn all your notifications off. You won’t miss them. If you really need them you will go back in and turn the ones on you need.

Minimal in essence

A relaxed approach to digital minimalism:

  • Email. Just use it for communication. Not shopping, updates, policy statements. When was the last time someone called you to tell you something was on sale?
  • Notifications. Just turn them off, simple.
  • Desktop. Turn your ‘do not disturb on’. Why desktop computer allow notifications I don’t know.
  • TV. Get a smart TV. Watch what you want to watch when you want too. Continue the program in bed on your phone, but don’t just watch what’s on, or recommended.
  • Social Media. Use it. Surprise…I think this one is simple, social media is a good thing. Why? Because social media platforms are full experiences in their own right. They are entertainment, they are conversations, they are life in another medium. If it’s worth it. Do it.
  • Videogames. That includes Candy Crush. Like social media I think videogames are a form of entertainment that should be enjoyed. They are games and are meant to enjoyed, like TV take it with you and enjoy it as it best suits you.
  • VR. Is virtual reality entertainment or virtual experiences? It’s still too soon to tell, but VR has a place as the ultimate digital device, and I would argue is something to experience as a medium. No notifications here, just visual and sensory experiences. Go for it, if you can avoid getting motion sickness.

Doing more with less

Minimalism is not about doing less, it should be about focusing you time and effort on what you love. If that’s a coffee and caching up with friends (who happen to be on social media) then go for it.

Just remember, it’s not the medium you use, it’s the message you create.

My story

The appreciative minimalist

Imagine a life where you only do what makes you happy. A life where the things you dislike don't exist.

Zakary Kinnaird 2019
Zakary Kinnaird 2019

Hi I’m Zakary Kinnaird. I believe we can all live more intentional, deliberate, focused lives doing more of the things we love, and less of the things we don’t. Welcome to the appreciative minimalist.

I’ve always believed that I am in control of my life. I work a nine-to-five job. I relax in the weekends. I make time to do the things I love to do in life. But I still feel like much of my time is wasted, I feel a lack of control and therefore life just happens, without my direct input.

Being intentional, deliberate and focused fixed my issues with not been in control of my life. In some ways these three things sound similar, but I assure you they are not.

Living intentionally

When I was thirteen years old I realised that things in my life where not going well. I was falling behind in school, life wasn’t going anywhere I was stuck. I blamed my teachers, I blamed the school I was in, I blamed my classmates. I would go home to bed at night and pretend I had a therapist. I would role play my issues, repeat them in my head beat for beat. I soon realised that others were not to blame for my lack of performance — in-fact I was to blame. I was responsible for my own success. So I got up the next day and I learned. I studied hard. But here is the important part, I didn’t ask anything more of my teachers, I didn’t concentrate more in class. I just started intentionally learning. Taking control of my own situation.

I learned a great life lesson:

Only you have the power to affect change in your life.

I use the affect because there has to be an action, an effect is the result, but results come so far in the future that you have no real impact on them. You can only make change on your life right now with an action, a physical movement towards something new.

Living intentionally is taking control of your life, it sounds simple but really it just means taking action on something you dislike. Which brings me to my next point.

Being deliberate

Taking control of your life is something we all aspire too. But following through is harder than it sounds. We all know we should eat healthier and exercise more–but despite the obvious benefits we continually decide not to. You soon realise that a negative drivers don’t always work when it come to changing your routine–for that matter neither does a positive one.

To generate change it helps to take action. Once you know you are the only one that can to that, it makes it a lot easier. The question is: How can I change a routine? You might try a different path–a new route to work, school or the gym. You might even like it. You might even keep the new route. You might just like it better than the old route.

The problem is, how do you know this new path was your decision and not just blind luck?

I was staying in an Airbnb recently, I had just sold my house, packed all my things up and moved to a busy bustling city, much of my existing life was over. My life was immediately replaced with hundreds so new routes for me to take. I was sitting in the master bedroom and I looked up, on the wall I saw a large frame with a quote titled simply LIFE, it read as follows:

For what it’s worth … it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.

–F. Scott Fitzgerald

If you want, you can hear Brad Pitt read the lines, and even though it’s not really a Fitzgerald quote it didn’t stop it having a profound impact on me as I read it, slowly, intentionally, deliberately modifying my life.

The truth is change is easier to make happen when you yourself are changing. When you’re in the middle of change. So being deliberate is picking a path, even if you’re not sure about it and sticking to it. It’s always easier to alter the route once you get going.


I haven’t used the words minimalism yet. I’m about to. I don’t believe minimalism is about less. I believe minimalism is about doing more of the things you enjoy. Minimalism is about less of the things you don’t enjoy.

If you don’t enjoy stuff, throw it out. It’s that simple. However I tend to enjoy stuff. I appreciate the stories they hold, the craft in creating them, the joy of using them. Removing things from my life that I love won’t help me. It will cause un-necessary stress and loss in my life.

Only change the things in your life you don’t like, because less of what you love will only make you further from yourself.

Which means minimalism is not about erasing or narrowing, minimalism is about focus.

Focusing will allow you to choose. Choice is what makes us human. It’s a universal truth, without it we are helpless. Choice separates us, it’s our ability to make decisions that allows us to not only change our environments, but also ourselves.

For example I don’t like reading the news. Many people love it, for whatever reason I don’t. I don’t like it so I don’t focus on it. I don’t remove it form my life, or stop a conversation about current events, I simply focus on other things. Focusing on other things means I choose how to spend my time and effort on other activities.

I don’t need it, so I don’t focus on it.

I choose to be intentional and deliberate about my actions, in doing so I affect positive change in my life—simply by focusing on it.

Many articles.

Live, learn, focus.

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