Unreal Engine 4 is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best, current videogame engines. Its graphical power and usability make it a great choice to develop a videogame, both for large Triple A studios and small indie studios.
Since I dedicate myself to videogames development I have used different graphics engines, always looking for engines that was simple to use, in which programming was low or non-existent.
We live in the best time to make videogames and it has much to do with the wide variety of engines that exist, each offering unique options and advantages. Each developer can choose from a multitude of tools to find the one that best suits their tastes, abilities and games that he want to develop. It’s not the same to make a 2D game as 3D, simple or complex, for powerful computers and consoles or mobile platforms.
In my case, I chose to search some engine that has, as I said, a simple use and the need to program was low. I have tried Game Maker, Construct 2, Unity 3D and Unreal Engine 4. Of these four, those with I have worked more with and I have come to prototype and even create finished projects are with Unity 3D and Unreal Engine 4, therefore I will focus in these two engines.
Undoubtedly Unity has had a fundamental role to bring the videogame industry to many more developers, being able to develop games with a much more adjusted budget. Thus the expansion of the indie phenomenon would not have been the same without the existence of Unity 3D.
Unity 3D is a relatively simple to use engine, with a simple and modern graphic interface. Many of the game tools creation are represented with visual elements, with a simple to use and to modify menu, without typing code. Although it is necessary to touch the code editor necessarily to create the videogame.
Unity was a change in the game rules. It’s true that there were already other engines with a graphic interface and with a low level of programmig, such as Game Maker, but Unity was an obvious quality jump, clearly focussed in 3D and bringing modern development to the indie scene.
Part of Unity’s success formula also had to do with its economic model, giving a free version that offers all the engine tools to make a videogame without having to pay expensive licenses or royalties. It is also true that payment versions continues offering a lot of numerous advantages at a relatively high price.
Other element that characterize Unity is the multitude of plugins that can be added to the program itself, many of them free. It’s also a good feature the ease to export to a multitude of platforms, including mobile phones, where undoubtedly remains the best option due to the optimization and graphic quality of the games at a rather low technical cost.
All of the above has made Unity the preferred engine of independent development. Around Unity has been created a immense community that have filled youtube and forums of tons of tutorials and very useful tools. What really makes Unity great is its immense community.
UNREAL ENGINE 4
But in 2015, just two years ago, a new engine arrived, the only one that has truly been able to eclipse Unity, Unreal Engine 4. Unreal Engine, the engine developed by the Epic company since 1998, is already a classic of graphics engines. Its previous version, Unreal Engine 3 and its free version, UDK, already had attracted numerous developers by its relative simplicity of use and its incredible graphic capabilities.
But with Unreal Engine 4 Epic learned from what Unity did well and applied it to its own engine, creating a user-friendly, engaging, modern and incredibly powerful program. In fact, due to the continuous implementations of each version of Unreal Engine (version 4.18 has just come out), it has become the most powerful engine of today, with improvements in lighting, effects and textures that approach the videogames developed in UE4 to photorealism more than any other engine on the market.
Unity, despite its continuous improvements and new versions, has never reached the graphic level of the Triple A videogame engines. It is getting closer, but achieving good graphic quality in Unity requires a lot of effort from the developer.
Meanwhile, Unreal Engine 4 offers tools implemented within the visual environment that allows any videogame to look completely professional and customizable in minutes or hours without programming. This graphic aspect is improving with each new version of Unreal Engine, making the graphic difference between Unity and Unreal itself is increasing in favor of the second.
Unreal Engine 4 does not have paid versions, all the options are accessible to all developers, from the powerful Triple A company to the most solitary and resourceless developer. Epic gets profits through a small percentage of the game’s benefits, up 5% from the first 3000 quarterly dollars.
THE ADVANTAGES OF UNITY
Actually Unreal Engine 4 does almost the same thing as Unity but being better than Unity in almost everything. Then, why does Unity still have so much support? Mainly for two reasons, the first is because of the ignorance of the gamedev community. Unreal Engine makes people scare yet, it is still seen as a difficult to use engine compared to Unity, as if it were still UDK and not UE4, a modern engine with a usability unsurpassed by any other current engine. Unity continues to be linked with indie development and small teams and Unreal Engine with triple A development and large teams. The vast majority of developers are comfortable in Unity and have not even given the opportunity to Unreal Engine, they make the mistake of criticizing and fearing what they don’t know.
Secondly the Unreal Engine community is smaller than Unity’s. This is not a problem when solving doubts or finding tutorials on the internet about Unreal Engine, almost every problem in Unreal has a response in forums and videos, every bug has a solution and every development problem has a tutorial. In this sense Unreal wins again to Unity since if the Unity’s community is bigger, so it’s the confusion. While for Unity there are usually many different solutions, many of which don’t work, work poorly or cause bugs, for Unreal Engine there are fewer answers but they are almost always the right ones. So far no one problem in Unreal Engine has given to me a big waste of time or a dead end, something that yes, has happened to any developer who has used Unity. In Unity you solve a problem and you get two others, in Unreal you get a problem, you search a solution and the problem is over.
But the lower number of developers using Unreal Engine affects in other way, it’s much harder to find people to work with locally, and the number of academic studies dedicated to Unreal Engine is lower than those dedicated to Unity. But the truth is that the distance is reduced day by day between Unity and Unreal.As these and in the other advantages of Unity which marks the real difference is the difference of time that makes that both engines were released.
An obvious advantage of Unity, and in which we can slap on the wrist to Epic and its Unreal engine 4, is the avaible number of plugins. Although the great quality of many of the plugins in the Unreal market is undoubtedly, its quantity is much lower than in Unity. In addition, Unreal Engine has a clear focus towards the payment plugins and not even exists in the search engine an easy way to search only the free plugins. The plugins make easy the work of the developer and that imbalance between both platforms generates a fairly strong difference in favor of Unity.
One last element in which Unity have some advantage is in its versatility. While Unreal Engine can export to multiple platforms, including mobile and web browser, the truth is that the graphics power of the engine entails a certain disadvantage of optimization against Unity. In addition, Unreal Engine 4 has 2D tools, but is an eminently focused 3D engine, while Unity3D has been adding tools that also make 2D development native.
THE ADVANTAGES OF UNREAL ENGINE 4
Graphic quality is not the only advantage of Unreal Engine 4, as I said earlier Unreal Engine improves almost everything Unity was already doing well.
One of the strengths of Unreal Engine 4, and ironically of the most overlooked is, the usability of the program. While the usability of Unity was already quite good, the truth is that the Unreal is better, the years do not go unpaid and Unreal Engine 4 has known to implement a clearer and user friendly interface than Unity. Unity is limited making changes to its interface, since too deep changes can betray its current audience.
In addition, this usability is also reflected in the programming, as against Unity’s traditional code-based programming, Unreal also incorporates a visual and simple programming through nodes called Blueprints, which it’s possible to create almost any videogame without the need to write code. Blueprints means a revolution in the creation of videogames that makes life much easier for those who, like myself, don’t know how to program. Some developers say that Unity is the engine of programmers, while Unreal is that of the artists.
And speaking of programming, the choice of C ++ as programming language of Unreal Engine 4 seems to me a whole success. C ++ is one of the most used programming languages and not only in the creation of videogames.
In short, Unreal Engine 4 is a still fairly young engine, which still needs time for content and community growns. But it is an engine that has burst with force thanks to its quality not at odds with its simplicity of use. Epic and the developer community of Unreal are giving tremendous support to Unreal Engine 4, so there is no doubt that a great future awaits, having already a great present. If you want to be able to create a videogame at a level of quality similar to a large triple A study without leaving the simplicity of Unity (but even improving it), do not hesitate, go to Unreal Engine 4.