Game development is one of the fastest-growing industries in today’s world. It is a far cry from how things were in the past. Earlier, developers had to spend days trying to create an in-house game engine to create their game. Now though, there are plenty of powerful game development engines.
These engines greatly help indie game developers and big studios to create immersive worlds for players to enjoy.
Presently, there are two game engines that almost everyone chooses. They are Unity and Unreal. Most of your favorite games were developed using these engines. For anyone planning or developing a game/application, picking the right engine is a difficult task.
We’ve already seen the Unity and Unreal engine used beyond game development. Many tech demos showcase the power these engines have when used to their fullest. Hence, it is difficult to make a proper choice.
But that’s why this article exists. Here, we’re going to test different aspects of each engine. That way, you can make an informed decision.
Overview of a game engine
Unreal and Unity are game engines. A game engine is an essential tool for game development. This tool combines multiple game elements such as graphics, AI, sound, animation, etc. into the game’s framework.
The platform provides a digital sandbox where designers can build video games or almost anything else. Most often, the only limit here is the developer’s imagination. Unreal and Unity support multiple platforms like PC, console, and mobile games. Hence, developing on either engine means you can sell the product to a vast audience.
The core functions of a game engine include:
· A rendering engine for 2D and 3D graphics
· A physics engine to control movement
· VR tools
· Memory management
· Support for 2D and 3D games
Game engines like Unreal and Unity give a developer complete freedom to build a working game for any device. At a glance, they both look like they provide the same thing. However, it is the details that matter. Remembering that helps you decide the tool to use when you start developing.
What is Unreal?
Unreal is one of the most popular 3D computer graphics game engines and creation tools. UE or Unreal Engine is a video game development tool made by Epic Games. The tool helps developers create virtual simulations, edit sound or videos, and render animations for their projects.
Today, this software is the foundation for some of the biggest games in the world like Fortnite, Gears 5, Quantum Error, and many more.
What is Unity?
Unity is a game engine where developers create 2D and 3D content. It is especially popular among indie developers thanks to its high-quality content, flexibility, and functionality. That and community support for this game engine is why many developers like using Unity.
Unity’s user-friendliness makes development more accessible and reduces training time. Also, the asset store has a vast catalog of tools that make creation easier.
The company that developed Unity has come under fire for its recent actions with pricing that should not deter would-be developers. At its core, Unity is a powerful game engine that developers can use and benefit from.
Unity vs Unreal: the core differences
At a glance, the first big difference between the two is their native programming language. Unity uses C# in both the Unity Editor and the additional plugins. Unreal instead uses C++. However, developers are required to use a combination of C++ and Blueprint when building the game code. Blueprint is another proprietary language unique to Epic and its products.
Beyond this, there are several key differences in their interfaces.
Unreal vs Unity: feature comparison
Pipeline integration– Unreal’s game engine makes it easy to connect with media production pipelines. It does this through Alembic, USD, and FBX. This process ensures a streamlined, uninterrupted collaboration anytime a development team needs to complete tasks.
Unreal can read files without waiting for imports. It can display load almost immediately. Beyond that, developers can even automate Python scripting, procedurally lay out content, prepare data workflows, and create custom UIs. The last one is possible through the Unreal Editor.
With Datasmith, developers can convert animation and metadata from 3D, Max, SketchUp Pro, Revit, and other BIM, DCC, and CAD formats in high fidelity. Developers can also use ShotGrid Integration, LiDAR paint cloud support, and VisualDataprep.
Worldbuilding– The game engine gives developers access to the Unreal Editor. This tool is great for game-level development and content authoring. The integrated environment also enables multi-user editing. That means development teams can work together in real time with a reliable editing tool.
Additionally, developers can access terrain tools, scalable foliage, landscape editing, world partition, and asset optimization. These benefits help developers create photo-realistic landscapes like mountains, forests, skies, and buildings. Developers can even create multiple layers within the same space. Think forests with caves underneath or buildings with basements.
Characters and animation– Developers can create character blueprints, animations, retargeting, and more. This advanced tool can recycle existing animations or characters that have different proportions and skeletons.
The opportunity for creativity is limitless here. Developers can modify environment lighting, characters, camera blocking, and edit details in the set dressing. They can do all this work without getting in each other’s way.
Lighting, materials, and rendering– Unreal helps developers create video games with film-quality assets that do not hinder real-time frames. Through virtual texturing, developers can improve rendering performance for layered and procedural materials by adjusting tiles.
The Lumen Dynamic global illumination shows reflections and helps create Hollywood-level visuals. The physics-based ray tracer and sophisticated lighting to mimic accurate indoor and outdoor illumination, further help developers. They can also use many advanced shading tools to create near-realistic coloring for a wide range of surfaces and objects.
Effects and simulations– Unreal’s VFX integration helps developers create film-quality special effects for dust, smoke, fire, water, etc. Beyond the visual effects in the background, the tool also helps simulate clothes, fabrics, hair strands, fur, and more.
Interactivity authoring and gameplay– Unreal has robust multiplayer support and a powerful AI suite. Developers can also get a blueprint for gameplay frameworks.
The Graphics Motion Designer helps developers create interfaces from editable Blueprint Widgets. These widgets are useful for functions like sliders, checkboxes, buttons, and progress bars.
Media support– Blackmagic cards and AJA video systems provide professional video and audio support to developers. Unreal’s audio engine also provides a wide range of dynamic and rich audio features that create an immersive experience. Through MetaSounds, developers can even generate audio sources.
Virtual production– The VFX editor helps developers create, edit, and move light cards and save templates. They can then color-correct as needed. The tools also come with the option to render real-time content at any resolution and display it on multiple screens.
Virtual production cinematographers drive cameras in Unreal through an iPad Pro. Developers can use the virtual scouting tool and explore the world through VR.
Content– Unreal gives developers access to industry-specific templates to achieve the desired results. This approach is far better than building everything from scratch. Here, developers can browse through sample projects to adapt and learn various ranges, speeds, and styles.
Also, the Unreal Engine Marketplace has many high-quality assets and plugins to help developers. These tools increase workflow functionality and streamline the production process.
Developer tools– Developers have complete and total access to the C++ source codes and C++ APIs. The game engine also works with Perforce, meaning developers can directly create new control commands.
Intuitive tools– Unity has a powerful scripting API that is accessible and quick. With it, developers can adjust UI elements within the engine itself. The API here exposes elements or features enabling the developers to work on them through coding. The Unity Inspector then makes everything accessible, including materials, rotation, position, and audio playback.
The game engine also has many analytical tools for developers to track performance issues. They can also observe how players interact with the game. This approach is helpful for developers looking to remove problematic code and understand various aspects of the game.
Capabilities in AR and VR– VR and AR are now key features in the Unity engine. Now, developers can decide between multiple packages that support nearly every VR headset. Also, Unity regularly updates these two packages as the technology evolves. These constant updates mean developers have more options as time passes.
Developers can also utilize numerous packages for ARkit and ARCore to create games for iOS and Android.
Rendering pipelines– Despite what many gamers may say, graphics can make or break a game. How they are made dictates the overall performance. With that in mind, Unity has many options for rendering pipelines available to developers. This approach helps them stream development.
The engine also has a Scriptable Render Pipeline API which helps developers create unique pipelines not found in the engine.
Animation tools– Unity also has special tools for 2D and 3D graphics. These tools help developers animate projects within the engine or import elements. Developers can even adjust positions, manipulate elements, and rotate objects when creating animations.
Versatility– Unity’s primary purpose is for game development. However, the robust animation and pipeline tools make it versatile enough to handle other projects like CGI films. Indie filmmakers can use Unity to develop top-notch visuals for their projects and connect them with other editing software.
These benefits make it clear why many startups or independent developers prefer using Unity over others.
Comprehensible architecture– Unity ensures a simplified method of creating game architecture. Every Unity project is divided into scenes. Each scene has objects like the background, player, enemies, and other essential elements.
Developers can create multiple objects and set a specific hierarchy for each of them. It makes it easy for developers to create things like outfits, accessories, etc. Developers can also access an object’s properties so they can be adjusted based on their needs. All this without needing to go back to the coding language.
Multi-platform support– Developers are required to work on multiple platforms. Unity knows that and makes it easy to do that. The game engine supports Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, PS4, Xbox One, Linux and more.
With the right kit, developers can export games regardless of the platform. Unity even helps developers export HTML5 games with certain tweaks.
Content– Developers can save time by using existing elements found in the Asset Store. Here, they can access audio, particle effects, game genre templates, graphics, and more. There are paid and free assets, allowing developers to choose based on their budget.
Unreal vs Unity- other notable differences
Hardcore coders often find Unity as a practical option over Unreal. The game engine provides many free assets for developers to choose from. Here, developers can find templates and assets others have created.
The downside is that Unity’s tools are not as polished as Unreal.
Artists often choose Unreal over others. Unreal achieves better visuals and provides plenty of graphics not found in most other game engines. Unreal has an impressive suite of tools like editors for material, terrain, and landscape. These tools make it easy for artists to create cutting-edge 3D projects.
It is safe to say that Unreal is the preferred choice for anyone focusing on professional film-quality graphics. Though Unity doesn’t offer the same functionality in graphics, it also achieves similar results. Such results require more time and effort though.
Both engines render high-end visual effects. However, Unreal’s quality is a step above what Unity provides. Unreal gives developers photo-realistic visuals compared to Unity. These visuals are incredibly detailed and highly immersive.
Unity’s 2D and 3D renderings are nothing to scoff at but are not as detailed.
Here too we see that Unreal and Unity and Unreal provide impressive animations. The biggest difference here is that Unity’s tools are efficient. This efficiency greatly benefits experienced game developers in a professional workspace.
Unreal’s tools are geared towards beginners who are unfamiliar with coding languages and tools.
Unity using C#, a programming language that is easier to compile and iterate. The game engine also has an in-built code checker that highlights mistakes. This tool helps developers immediately recognize their mistakes and correct them.
Unreal uses C++, a much harder and complex coding language. New coders see this as a steep learning curve and move to Unity as a result.
Any developer wants an asset store with a wide range of assets to download from. Unity and Unreal provide that in spades. The difference here is that Unity simply has more assets for developers to choose from.
Unreal is free to download. It takes a 5% cut on royalties for revenues if the project earns more than one million USD in profit.
The base version of Unity is also free to download. Unity Pro charges 2040 USD per year and has many advanced features. Unity Industry costs nearly 5000 USD per year. There’s also a custom enterprise option that fetches different prices based on the features chosen.
This article covered all the essential aspects of the two biggest game engines in the industry. We’ve looked at their features, resources, language, pipelines, and more. The question is which one is better?
Suffice it to say that there is no definitive answer. While Unity is indeed in trouble for their recent price-gouging tactics, they may change ship by 2023 end.
Beginners might enjoy using Unreal. The engine is easy-to-use, simple, and has many automated options. Professionals in game development prefer Unity thanks to the extensive time input and the sophisticated results it provides.
In the end, you should choose the engine that suits your project needs. Hopefully, this article gives you the information to do exactly that.