UE5 gameplay ability system

Links and sources

Source code example of using the GAS: GASShooter GitHub project

Unofficial but detailed GAS Documentation

Epic livestream in depth look at GAS

Setting up GAS youtube tutorial

Brief

In the sections below, my game is named unrealgame5, and any appearances of this string should be replaced by your own project name. This page outlines the process of setting up the Gameplay Ability System for use in an Unreal Engine 5 game using C++. Blueprints can still be used for prototyping new abilities, which can later be translated to C++.

Project Plugins and Modules

To setup our UE5 project to use the required modules, we need to edit our <PROJECT_NAME>.build.cs file. This file should have been generated by Unreal Engine when your project was created, and for me my file is named unrealgame5.build.cs

Initial contents of unrealgame5.build.cs, before I made any changes.

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# unrealgame5.build.cs
using UnrealBuildTool;

public class unrealgame5 : ModuleRules
{
public unrealgame5(ReadOnlyTargetRules Target) : base(Target)
{
PCHUsage = PCHUsageMode.UseExplicitOrSharedPCHs;

PublicDependencyModuleNames.AddRange(new string[] {"Core", "CoreUObject", "Engine", "InputCore", "HeadMountedDisplay"});
}
}

Add "GameplayAbilities", "GameplayTags", "GameplayTasks" modules to unrealgame5.build.cs so your file looks like the following.

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# unrealgame5.build.cs
using UnrealBuildTool;

public class unrealgame5 : ModuleRules
{
public unrealgame5(ReadOnlyTargetRules Target) : base(Target)
{
PCHUsage = PCHUsageMode.UseExplicitOrSharedPCHs;

PublicDependencyModuleNames.AddRange(new string[] { "Core", "CoreUObject", "Engine", "InputCore", "HeadMountedDisplay" });
PublicDependencyModuleNames.AddRange(new string[] { "GameplayAbilities", "GameplayTags", "GameplayTasks" });
}
}

Then within the editor go to Edit->Plugins... and enable the Gameplay Abilities plugin. You will need to restart the editor for the changes to apply.

C++ Initial Setup

To set up the scaffolding for the GAS, we need a few things -

  • Enumeration of abilities to correlate with input actions
  • Core GameplayAbilitySystem
  • Set of attributes for our player and / or enemies
  • Player character inheriting from IAbilitySystemInterface class
  • GameplayEffect to apply default attributes for our player / enemies
  • AnimGraphs with Montage slots for handling abilitiy animations

So, to complete this setup you will at least need to define a few new classes for your project.

For my project I follow the same naming convention used with GASDocumentation. I’ll paste it below, but for the first few files required to set up the Gameplay Ability System (GAS), we are defining the backend of the system so none of these conventions apply. For these files, I added the GAS_ convention.

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Prefix  Asset Type
GA_ GameplayAbility
GC_ GameplayCue
GE_ GameplayEffect
GAS_ GameplayAbilitySystem (Core Configurations)

Ability Enumeration

First, we need to modify the contents of the header file for our unreal project. My project is named unrealgame5 so the file is unrealgame5.h, and the contents are below. If you already have information here, just make sure the EGASAbilityInputID enumeration is added to the header file and save your changes. This enumeration is used to correlate input actions to activate certain abilities in our game.

Note: Attack below must either be changed to match or made to match some keybind within your Edit->Project Settings->Input options menu.

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// unrealgame5.h
#pragma once

#include "CoreMinimal.h"

UENUM(BlueprintType)
enum class EGASAbilityInputID : uint8
{
None,
Confirm,
Cancel,
Attack
};

Ability System Component

Next, we need to create an AbilitySystemComponent. This will be the component that we attach to actors that we want to take use with the GAS. To create this component, open your project in unreal and create a new C++ source file, inheiriting from the AbilitySystemComponent base class.

I named this class GAS_AbilitySystemComponent, and the generated files are below. You don’t need to put anything else in here for now, buy you may later. This is just a simple example of the parts and pieces of GAS.

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// GAS_AbilitySystemComponent.h
// All content (c) Shaun Reed 2021, all rights reserved

#pragma once

#include "CoreMinimal.h"
#include "AbilitySystemComponent.h"
#include "GAS_AbilitySystemComponent.generated.h"

/**
*
*/
UCLASS()
class UNREALGAME5_API UGAS_AbilitySystemComponent : public UAbilitySystemComponent
{
GENERATED_BODY()

};
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// GAS_AbilitySystemComponent.cpp
// All content (c) Shaun Reed 2021, all rights reserved

#include "GAS_AbilitySystemComponent.h"

Attribute Sets

Next, we need to create an AttributeSet for our game. Repeat the process of creating a new C++ sourcce file for your ue5 project, but this time inherit from AttributeSet

I named this class GAS_AttributeSet and the files genereated are below

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// GAS_AttributeSet.h
// All content (c) Shaun Reed 2021, all rights reserved

#pragma once

#include "AbilitySystemComponent.h"

#include "CoreMinimal.h"
#include "AttributeSet.h"
#include "GAS_AttributeSet.generated.h"

// Macros to define getters and setters for attributes (AttributeSet.h)
#define ATTRIBUTE_ACCESSORS(ClassName, PropertyName) \
GAMEPLAYATTRIBUTE_PROPERTY_GETTER(ClassName, PropertyName) \
GAMEPLAYATTRIBUTE_VALUE_GETTER(PropertyName) \
GAMEPLAYATTRIBUTE_VALUE_SETTER(PropertyName) \
GAMEPLAYATTRIBUTE_VALUE_INITTER(PropertyName)

/**
*
*/
UCLASS()
class UNREALGAME5_API UGAS_AttributeSet : public UAttributeSet
{
GENERATED_BODY()

UGAS_AttributeSet();

public:
virtual void GetLifetimeReplicatedProps(TArray<FLifetimeProperty>& OutLifetimeProps) const override;

/*
* Attribute Definitions
*/

// Health

UPROPERTY(BlueprintReadOnly, Category = "Attributes", ReplicatedUsing = OnRep_Health)
FGameplayAttributeData Health;
// Use macros we defined from AttributeSet.h to generate getters and setters
ATTRIBUTE_ACCESSORS(UGAS_AttributeSet, Health);

UFUNCTION()
virtual void OnRep_Health(const FGameplayAttributeData& OldHealth);

// Stamina

UPROPERTY(BlueprintReadOnly, Category = "Attributes", ReplicatedUsing = OnRep_Stamina)
FGameplayAttributeData Stamina;
ATTRIBUTE_ACCESSORS(UGAS_AttributeSet, Stamina);

UFUNCTION()
virtual void OnRep_Stamina(const FGameplayAttributeData& OldStamina);

// Attack Power

UPROPERTY(BlueprintReadOnly, Category = "Attributes", ReplicatedUsing = OnRep_AttackPower)
FGameplayAttributeData AttackPower;
ATTRIBUTE_ACCESSORS(UGAS_AttributeSet, AttackPower);

UFUNCTION()
virtual void OnRep_AttackPower(const FGameplayAttributeData& OldAttackPower);
};
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// GAS_AttributeSet.cpp
// All content (c) Shaun Reed 2021, all rights reserved

#include "Net/UnrealNetwork.h" // DOREPLIFETIME
#include "GAS_AttributeSet.h"

UGAS_AttributeSet::UGAS_AttributeSet()
{
}

void UGAS_AttributeSet::GetLifetimeReplicatedProps(TArray<FLifetimeProperty>& OutLifetimeProps) const
{
Super::GetLifetimeReplicatedProps(OutLifetimeProps);

DOREPLIFETIME_CONDITION_NOTIFY(UGAS_AttributeSet, Health, COND_None, REPNOTIFY_Always);
DOREPLIFETIME_CONDITION_NOTIFY(UGAS_AttributeSet, Stamina, COND_None, REPNOTIFY_Always);
DOREPLIFETIME_CONDITION_NOTIFY(UGAS_AttributeSet, AttackPower, COND_None, REPNOTIFY_Always);

}

void UGAS_AttributeSet::OnRep_Health(const FGameplayAttributeData& OldHealth)
{
GAMEPLAYATTRIBUTE_REPNOTIFY(UGAS_AttributeSet, Health, OldHealth);
}

void UGAS_AttributeSet::OnRep_Stamina(const FGameplayAttributeData& OldStamina)
{
GAMEPLAYATTRIBUTE_REPNOTIFY(UGAS_AttributeSet, Stamina, OldStamina);
}

void UGAS_AttributeSet::OnRep_AttackPower(const FGameplayAttributeData& OldAttackPower)
{
GAMEPLAYATTRIBUTE_REPNOTIFY(UGAS_AttributeSet, AttackPower, OldAttackPower);
}

Character Setup

In the files below, my character is named ThirdPersonCharacter, so any appearances of this string may need to be replaced with your character’s name instead. To setup your character that inherits from ACharacter base class, make the following changes to your files.

In the ThirdPersonCharacter.h file, make sure you’re inheriting from public IABilitySystemInterface. The start of your class should look like this. Pay attention to the includes.

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// ThirdPersonCharacter.h
#pragma once

// GAS includes
#include "AbilitySystemInterface.h"
#include <GameplatEffectTypes.h>

#include "CoreMinimal.h"
#include "GameFramework/Character.h"
#include "ThirdPersonCharacter.generated.h"

UCLASS()
class UNREALGAME5_API AThirdPersonCharacter : public ACharacter, public IAbilitySystemInterface
{
GENERATED_BODY()

public:

// more code....

Character Components

Next, we add an instance of our GAS_AbilitySystem class to our character using the UGAS_AbilitySystemComponent typename, and we also add an instance of our GAS_AttributeSet class using the UGAS_AttributeSet type.

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// ThirdPersonCharacter.h
UCLASS()
class UNREALGAME5_API AThirdPersonCharacter : public ACharacter, public IAbilitySystemInterface
{
GENERATED_BODY()

public:
// GAS declarations
UPROPERTY(VisibleAnywhere, BlueprintReadOnly, Category = "GAS")
class UGAS_AbilitySystemComponent* AbilitySystemComponent;

UPROPERTY(VisibleAnywhere, BlueprintReadOnly, Category = "GAS")
class UGAS_AttributeSet* Attributes;
// more code....

Now we need to modify the character’s constructor to add the new components we’ve declared. I removed the code from my constructor that wasn’t related to the GAS. The additions are below.

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// ThirdPersonCharacter.cpp

AThirdPersonCharacter::AThirdPersonCharacter()
{
// Initializing any components unrelated to GAS...
// ...

// Initialize GAS related components
AbilitySystemComponent = CreateDefaultSubobject<UGAS_AbilitySystemComponent>(TEXT("AbilitySystemComponent"));
AbilitySystemComponent->SetIsReplicated(true);
AbilitySystemComponent->SetReplicationMode(EGameplayEffectReplicationMode::Minimal);
Attributes = CreateDefaultSubobject<UGAS_AttributeSet>(TEXT("Attributes"));
}

So we have the components we need, and the next step is to provide the required definitions for virtual functions we’ve inheirted from IAbilitySystemInterface

Virtual Functions

To start, we declare the required virtual functions that we will need to define to use the GAS.

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UCLASS()
class UNREALGAME5_API AThirdPersonCharacter : public ACharacter, public IAbilitySystemInterface
{
GENERATED_BODY()

public:
// GAS declarations
UPROPERTY(VisibleAnywhere, BlueprintReadOnly, Category = "GAS")
class UGAS_AbilitySystemComponent* AbilitySystemComponent;

UPROPERTY(VisibleAnywhere, BlueprintReadOnly, Category = "GAS")
class UGAS_AttributeSet* Attributes;

virtual class UAbilitySystemComponent* GetAbilitySystemComponent() const override;

// more code....

We implement GetAbilitySystemComponent, which is just a simple getter that returns our UGAS_AbilitySystemComponent component.

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// ThirdPersonCharacter.cpp
UAbilitySystemComponent* AThirdPersonCharacter::GetAbilitySystemComponent() const
{
return AbilitySystemComponent;
}

Next we need to overload a virtual function InitializeAttributes() to handle initializing the attributes for our game at the start. We also declare the DefaultAttributeEffect member variable to help define and apply the default attributes for our character.

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// ThirdPersonCharacter.h
UCLASS()
class UNREALGAME5_API AThirdPersonCharacter : public ACharacter, public IAbilitySystemInterface
{
GENERATED_BODY()

public:
// GAS declarations
UPROPERTY(VisibleAnywhere, BlueprintReadOnly, Category = "GAS")
class UGAS_AbilitySystemComponent* AbilitySystemComponent;

UPROPERTY(VisibleAnywhere, BlueprintReadOnly, Category = "GAS")
class UGAS_AttributeSet* Attributes;

virtual class UAbilitySystemComponent* GetAbilitySystemComponent() const override;

// Add these lines
virtual void InitializeAttributes();
UPROPERTY(BlueprintReadOnly, EditDefaultOnly, Category = "GAS")
TSubclassOf<class UGameplayEffect> DefaultAttributeEffect;
// more code....

Define InitializeAttributes()

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// ThirdPersonCharacter.cpp
void AThirdPersonCharacter::InitializeAttributes()
{
// If the ASC and DefaultAttributeEffect objects are valid
if (AbilitySystemComponent && DefaultAttributeEffect)
{
// Create context object for this gameplay effecct
FGameplayEffectContextHandle EffectContext = AbilitySystemComponent->MakeEffectContext();
EffectContext.AddSourceObject(this);

// Create an outgoing effect spec using the effect to apply and the context
FGameplayEffectSpecHandle SpecHandle = AbilitySystemComponent->MakeOutgoingSpec(DefaultAttributeEffect, 1, EffectContext);

if (SpecHandle.IsValid())
{
// Apply the effect using the derived spec
// + Could be ApplyGameplayEffectToTarget() instead if we were shooting a target
FActiveGameplayEffectHandle GEHandle = AbilitySystemComponent->ApplyGameplayEffectSpecToSelf(*SpecHandle.Data.Get());
}
}
}

Similar to how we defined default attributes, we define default abilities for our character by overloading the GiveAbilities() function. We also add the DefaultAbilities array to store the default abilities for the character.

Notice that we use the UPROPERTY macro to apply EditDefaultOnly to our components. This will later allow us to modify these components in the UE5 editor for our character’s blueprint, so we can dynamically add and remove attributes and abilities for our player without modifying the code each time.

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// ThirdPersonCharacter.h
UCLASS()
class UNREALGAME5_API AThirdPersonCharacter : public ACharacter, public IAbilitySystemInterface
{
GENERATED_BODY()

public:
// GAS declarations

// Define components to store ASC and attributes
UPROPERTY(VisibleAnywhere, BlueprintReadOnly, Category = "GAS")
class UGAS_AbilitySystemComponent* AbilitySystemComponent;
UPROPERTY(VisibleAnywhere, BlueprintReadOnly, Category = "GAS")
class UGAS_AttributeSet* Attributes;

virtual class UAbilitySystemComponent* GetAbilitySystemComponent() const override;
// Overload to initialize attributes for GAS, and component to store default attributes
virtual void InitializeAttributes();
UPROPERTY(BlueprintReadOnly, EditDefaultOnly, Category = "GAS")
TSubclassOf<class UGameplayEffect> DefaultAttributeEffect;

// Overload to initialize abilities for GAS, and component to store default abilities
virtual void GiveAbilities();
UPROPERTY(BlueprintReadOnly, EditDefaultOnly, Category = "GAS")
TArray<TSubclassOf<class UGAS_GameplayAbility>> DefaultAbilities;
public:public
// more code....

And we define GiveAbilities below to handle the allocation of default abilities to our character.

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// ThirdPersonCharacter.cpp
void AThirdPersonCharacter::GiveAbilities()
{
// If the server has the authority to grant abilities and there is a valid ASC
if (HasAuthority() && AbilitySystemComponent)
{
// Foreach ability in DefaultAbilities, grant the ability
for (TSubclassOf<UGAS_GameplayAbility>& StartupAbility : DefaultAbilities)
{
// `1` below is the level of the ability, which could later be used to allow abilities to scale with player level
AbilitySystemComponent->GiveAbility(
FGameplayAbilitySpec(StartupAbility, 1, static_cast<int32>(StartupAbility.GetDefaultObject()->AbilityInputID), this));
}
}
}

For the next step, we need to override PossessedBy and OnRep_PlayerState() to define how to update the server and client of the player state respectively.

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// ThirdPersonCharacter.h
UCLASS()
class UNREALGAME5_API AThirdPersonCharacter : public ACharacter, public IAbilitySystemInterface
{
GENERATED_BODY()

public:
// GAS declarations

// Define components to store ASC and attributes
UPROPERTY(VisibleAnywhere, BlueprintReadOnly, Category = "GAS")
class UGAS_AbilitySystemComponent* AbilitySystemComponent;
UPROPERTY(VisibleAnywhere, BlueprintReadOnly, Category = "GAS")
class UGAS_AttributeSet* Attributes;

virtual class UAbilitySystemComponent* GetAbilitySystemComponent() const override;
// Overload to initialize attributes for GAS, and component to store default attributes
virtual void InitializeAttributes();
UPROPERTY(BlueprintReadOnly, EditDefaultOnly, Category = "GAS")
TSubclassOf<class UGameplayEffect> DefaultAttributeEffect;

// Overload to initialize abilities for GAS, and component to store default abilities
virtual void GiveAbilities();
UPROPERTY(BlueprintReadOnly, EditDefaultOnly, Category = "GAS")
TArray<TSubclassOf<class UGAS_GameplayAbility>> DefaultAbilities;
public:
// more code....

And see the definitions for these functions below

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// ThirdPersonCharacter.cpp
void AThirdPersonCharacter::PossessedBy(AController* NewController)
{
Super::PossessedBy(NewController);

// Owner and Avatar are bother this character
AbilitySystemComponent->InitAbilityActorInfo(this, this);

InitializeAttributes();
GiveAbilities();
}

void AThirdPersonCharacter::OnRep_PlayerState()
{
Super::OnRep_PlayerState();

AbilitySystemComponent->InitAbilityActorInfo(this, this);
InitializeAttributes();

if (AbilitySystemComponent && InputComponent)
{
// Where the 3rd parameter is a string equal to enum typename defined in unrealgame5.h
const FGameplayAbilityInputBinds Binds("Confirm", "Cancel", "EGASAbilityInputID", static_cast<int32>(EGASAbilityInputID::Confirm), static_cast<int32>(EGASAbilityInputID::Cancel));
AbilitySystemComponent->BindAbilityActivationToInputComponent(InputComponent, Binds);
}
}

As a final modification, add the following code to the function equivalent to ThirdPersonCharacter::SetupPlayerInputComponent() in your project. This is the same code as the last portion of OnRep_PlayerState

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void AThirdPersonCharacter::SetupPlayerInputComponent(UInputComponent* PlayerInputComponent)
{
// Code unrelated to GAS...
// ...

// Make sure GAS is valid along with player input component
if (AbilitySystemComponent && InputComponent)
{
// Where the 3rd parameter is a string equal to enum typename defined in unrealgame5.h
const FGameplayAbilityInputBinds Binds("Confirm", "Cancel", "EGASAbilityInputID", static_cast<int32>(EGASAbilityInputID::Confirm), static_cast<int32>(EGASAbilityInputID::Cancel));
AbilitySystemComponent->BindAbilityActivationToInputComponent(InputComponent, Binds);
}
}

And just to be sure we have all the headers we need, here are the final includes for my character

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// ThirdPersonCharacter.h
// GAS includes
#include "AbilitySystemInterface.h"
#include <GameplayEffectTypes.h>
#include "GAS_AbilitySystemComponent.h"
#include "GAS_GameplayAbility.h"
#include "GAS_AttributeSet.h"

#include "CoreMinimal.h"
#include "GameFramework/Character.h"
#include "ThirdPersonCharacter.generated.h"
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// ThirdPersonCharacter.cpp
// All content (c) Shaun Reed 2021, all rights reserved

#include "ThirdPersonCharacter.h"

// Custom includes (Not related to GAS)
#include "ActorSpawner.h" // Fireball spawner object
#include "BallActor.h" // Fireball object

// Includes for GAS
#include "../unrealgame5.h"

// Engine includes
#include "Kismet/GameplayStatics.h" // For spawning fireball static mesh
#include "Camera/CameraComponent.h"
#include "GameFramework/SpringArmComponent.h"
#include "GameFramework/CharacterMovementComponent.h"

Defining Abilities

At this point we have configured GAS for our project and our character, so we’re ready to start defining our abilities!

In my assets folder, I just created an Abilities subdirectory and continued with the steps below, creating the assets within this directory.

Default Abilities

First I created a new Blueprint Class using the editor and derived from the GameplayEffect class. Applying this effect will result in the player or character being granted a set of default abilities.

I named this GE_CharacterDefaults, and opened it for editing. The screenshot below contains all settings I modified under the Class Defaults panel. If it isn’t in this screenshot, I didn’t change it.

Then I opened my BP_ThirdPersonCharacter blueprint for editing and applied the following settings within the details panel. You should notice at this point that the DefaultAttributeEffect and DefaultAttributes in this screenshot are actually the components we exposed to the editor in our ThirdPersonCharacter.h file earlier with UPROPERTY and EditDefaultsOnly.

Damage Effect

To prove the system is working, create a new blueprint that derives from GameplayEffect and apply the settings below

Then, in the event chart for your BP_ThirdPersonCharacter add a BeginPlay node and apply the damage when the game starts.

Hit play and then open a console and type showdebug abilitysystem to see that your HP should now be 80 on the lefthand side. Remove the damage to your player when youre done testing, but you can keep the GE_Damage asset around to use it later.

Attack Ability

First, open the animation blueprint for your character and add a montage Slot 'DefaultSlot' to your anim graph. For me, the screen looks like the below after the changes have been made. Make sure to save and apply these changes.

Make a new blueprint deriving from the GAS_GameplayAbilitiy class that we defined earlier.

I named this GA_Attack and opened it for editing.

Make sure the Ability Input ID matches the input action we want the ability to be mapped to. This is found under the details panel.

Next, open GA_Attack for editing and add the following blueprint nodes. Add the GetActorInfo node in the context menu in the screenshot, be sure to uncheck ‘Context Sensitive’ if it isn’t appearing at first.

Now right click the GetActorInfo node and select Split Struct Pin to split the actor into its components

And connect the skeletal mesh pins to finish the blueprint for GA_Attack

Under the Montage To Play pin on the Play Montage node, you may not have a montage available for your skeleton.

If you also don’t have an animation, check out Mixamo for a free anmation and see the page on Retargeting Skeleton Animations

Then create a montage by watching this quick youtube video. If you’re doing a simple punch animation, you probably just need to create a montage and click and drag the animation into the center of the screen and save. It’s pretty simple, but you can use Motages to do some pretty neat things. Maybe for the first montage try making a one-off animation that doesn’t loop like punching or a grab motion for interactions.

Once you have the montage made, select it here in this node, and then play the game. You’ll now be able to see your character performing the attack!

Additional Abilities

At a higher level, the steps for adding a new ability are below

  1. Add the input action to the enum defined in unrealgame5.h (AKA <YOUR_PROJECT_NAME>.h)
  2. Recompile in the editor or within the IDE of your choice
  3. Restart the editor
  4. Create a blueprint deriving from GAS_GameplayAbility
  5. Define the ActivateAbilitiy event for this new blueprint, and assign an Ability Input ID within the Details panel
  6. Create a new Animation Montage for the ability, if needed (and assign to play on ActivateAbility event)
  7. Grant the abilitiy under the Details tab in the Default Abilities section while editing the BP_ThirdPersonCharacter blueprint
  8. Add the input action to your project under Edit->Input if it doesn’t already exist

Debugging

To see useful information on the GAS, enter play mode and hit the tilde (~) key to open a console. Then, type showdebug abilitysystem, and youll notice you can see your character stats even if there’s no UI elements to represent them yet.