At Sager Notebooks, we love gaming. We’re surrounded by some of the world’s greatest gaming laptops, so it’s sort of imperative that we appreciate good games. If we’re to be aficionados, however, we also have to respect the process behind the game by looking at the development behind the finished products. Recently, we were lucky enough to be able to sit down with Luis Cataldi from Epic Games and discuss his role at Epic Games, the Unreal engine, and how Sager has impacted workflow for the Epic Games team.
I’m doing well! I just got back from Italy so I’m still getting caught up after being gone for 10 days.
Completely understand. Are you ready for some questions?
Absolutely. Let’s do it.
Can you tell me a bit about how you got interested in game development?
I originally began in TV, working at a studio that specialized in episodic long format 3D for television. This is where I fell in love with 3D. That lead me to a number of years of contractor/freelancer work in the New York and LA areas for other TV shows, music videos, and film projects. As my reputation grew, I ended up with an awesome position at Blue Sky Studios working on feature films such as “Ice Age II” and “Robots.” Meanwhile, a friend of mine had begun work on a popular mod for “Battlefield 1942” called “Desert Combat.” The developers, DICE, asked the team to form a studio to increase development of “Desert Combat” and start working on a full featured games. I was asked by my friend to come work for the new studio, but I originally was uncertain about the move to games. However, the game engines they were using piqued my interest as I was very intrigued about how they could render 30+ frames per second. Meanwhile, each of the frames in the movies I worked on took upwards of 20 hours per frame. I figured either we were doing something wrong, or they were doing something very right. I decided to take the plunge in 2004. By 2005, much of the “Desert Combat” team had became THQ’s Kaos Studios and I lead the team as the art director on titles like “Frontlines: Fuel of War” and “Homefront.”
How did you get involved in Epic Games? Did they come to you or did you come to them?
By the time Kaos Studios was finishing work on the original “Homefront” game, I had decided to step away from production for a while and take a full-time teaching position. I became the Chair of the Interactive Design and Game Development program at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia in 2010. I was very proud of the fact that during my time at SCAD, where I was able to help redesign and update the curriculum as well as help the department and student teams win the E3 College Game competition two years in a row. During my time at SCAD, Unreal Engine 4 was released, and we were able to integrate it into our curriculum very quickly and extensively. Through communication with the folks at Epic and some helpful feedback about Unreal Engine 4, and Epic’s realization that it needed help in working with Educational Institutions, I was propositioned by Epic to come work for them, and in 2014 became the Education Evangelist for Unreal Engine at Epic Games.
So what does being an Education Evangelist entail?
I mostly travel North America, but also around the world running workshops and participating in conferences for Epic Games. Much of what I do is help people to understand Unreal Engine by sharing learning resources, building games that teach the engine, demonstrating UE4 best practices, and developing curriculum for the engine to share with various schools. I also publish educational newsletters, help promote other people who are teaching Unreal Engine in the community, help get books written, online courses made, and so on.
How many workshops do you run per year? Who are they for?
We run anywhere from 40-50+ different events a year in countries all across the globe. The crowd is quite diverse. Not only do you see a lot of people within game development attending these events, but especially now, you see a lot of people in all areas of business, from the automotive industry to the film and television industry, artists to architects, even educators and teachers from schools around the world. The Unreal Engine has proven to be a very multi-faceted marketplace for creatives in all fields. Plus, with it being a free-to-use, open-source development platform, it’s easy for developers and designers to get to work, even with limited starting capital.
Do you see game development shaping technology or the other way around?
It’s sort of a mixture of both. Generally speaking, we’re developers and we like to anticipate changes in the world of development, but also, thanks to many of our partners like Nvidia or Oculus, we’re able to help build development for what’s coming next. That’s not to say we get everything covered before it all comes out, but we try to be as far ahead of the curve as possible on each iteration. For example: Photo-realistic realtime is awesome! There is nothing better that Unreal Engine to bring that to people right now.
You own a Sager yourself, an NP9873, and you actually owned a previous generation of the same model, the NP9870. Have you noticed a large difference during production due to the upgraded hardware? How does it hold up to your everyday use?
Honestly, even with all of the projects that I present at a conference or school on a daily basis, I have yet to open anything that really makes my Sager work hard. Be it a massive game demo project, VR and stereoscopic scenes, a Sequencer film project, you name it. It’s handled everything I throw at it and more and still gives me fantastic framerates and stays cool and quiet. I love that!!
What has been your favorite part of owning a Sager?
Number one: The dependability. I come off of a train or a ride from the airport and I have a 5 minute walk to my destination. Then I have to get set up for the presentation, mostly with a projector, sometimes I have to set up an Oculus or HTC Vive with lighthouses, the whole nine yards. What a relief it is to be able to have my Sager with me and to be able to just plug it in and not worry about if it’s going to work this time or not. It just does. I’ve had problems with others, but not these. Many of the guys on the road for Epic are now using Sager because they’re solid, they work, and they show off Unreal Engine quite nicely.
Number two: The other thing that’s great is the amount of power I have at my disposal. Most people see the framerates during presentations and come up to the desk expecting to see some sort of desktop pc running the presentation and are very surprised to see a laptop running the show.
So, what do you need to get started in Unreal?
On principle, if you can run a game well, you’ll probably be able to run Unreal Engine pretty well. We’ve been using a lot of Sagers that use the Nvidia GTX 1060 or 1070 in them. I am personally using a 1080. For 3D development, GPU>CPU. Both, of course, are very important, but if you want to upgrade one or the other, that’s the order.
And the last question we’ll leave you with: What game, either from another game engine or Unreal, would you like to see be made or remade in the Unreal engine?
Oh man… that’s tough. I’ve been really into Fallout 4 lately, love what they’ve done over at Bethesda. It’d be cool to see what they could do within the Unreal engine.
Thanks so much to Luis for chatting with us! We hope to inspire more and more creatives for years to come by giving them the tools they need to achieve their goals.
If you would like to learn more about Unreal Engine 4, check out www.unrealengine.com.
If you’d like to see the Sager models that are available, check out www.sagernotebook.com/Sager-Gaming-Notebooks/
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