Game development is at an all-time high. Companies big and small are pushing the creative envelope to give players immersive experiences like never before. Developers in these studios craft incredible narratives with the help of tools called game engines. Presently, the three biggest game engines we have are Unreal, Unity, and Godot. Between Unreal vs Unity vs Godot, many developers wonder which one is the better game engine.
Big companies like Electronic Arts, Capcom, Ubisoft, etc. use internally developed game engines. Medium-sized companies and indie developers don’t have the money to fund such work. Instead, they turn to the engines readily available on the market.
The first thing any developer looks for is the right game engine. Depending on the final product, picking the right game engine can make or break the whole project.
Our team understands the importance of making the right first choice. Hence, we’ve taken a hard look at each engine and what they have to offer. We’ve compared their features, the pros and cons, into a single article. That way, you can make an informed decision and take the right step forward.
Overview of a game engine
A game engine is a software framework that provides the foundation for creating video games. It has the essential tools needed to create 2D or 3D games. A game engine handles many technical tasks involved in game development. These tasks include physics simulation, video rendering, audio playback, and more. This near-complete solution helps game developers focus on the creative aspects of game design. The many solutions a game engine provides help developers focus on things like gameplay mechanics, narrative, character development, and more.
Typically, game engines are written with a high-level programming language like C# or C++. They are available on multiple platforms like Windows, Linux, MacOS, and mobile devices. Listed below are some of the essential features found in a game engine.
The game engine renders the game’s graphics on the screen. These graphics here include creating and managing 3D models, lighting effects, and loading textures.
The engine simulates the physics of the game world. This physics could be anything from objects to gravity and collisions. Some developers even create their own set of physics unique to the game.
The game engine plays back the game’s music and sound effects.
Scripting is the process revolving around the game developer controlling the game’s logic and behavior.
The engine also supports networking. This feature enables multiple players from different locations to connect and play the game together through the internet.
The game engine has the necessary tools to create the game’s user interface. This interface includes things like menus, buttons, text, a hit point display, etc.
Here, the game engine helps in creating non-player characters and other AI-controlled entities. The developer can customize how these characters act under specific circumstances and add greater depth to the overall product.
Beyond game development
Unity, Unreal, and Godot are primarily meant for developing games. However, that doesn’t mean they’re limited to creating games alone. They also serve a variety of other purposes like
Creating interactive applications
Game engines can create interactive applications like architectural visualizations, training simulations, museum exhibits, and educational simulations.
VR and AR experiences
Developers can use existing game engines to create immersive VR and AR experiences. Unity in particular has created numerous interactive applications for National Geographic, Volkswagen, etc.
Game engines can turn complex scientific ideas into a visual format. This approach helps the recipient better understand the concepts being conveyed.
Game engines are great for creating visual effects for films and television.
Game engines are also useful in controlling robots.
Now that we understand the uses of a game engine, time to see which one is the better choice.
The versatility of Unity
The Unity engine has established itself as a very popular game engine. It is famous for its versatility and friendly user interface. The engine caters to a wide range of projects, starting from mobile games going right to AAA titles. Hence, Unity is a suitable choice for novice and experienced developers.
Unity’s strength is in its component-based architecture. This approach allows for scalable and modular development. The extensive asset store it has provides a vast library of readily available resources. All this only enhances the development process.
· Component-based architecture– Unity’s component-based architecture promotes scalability and modularity. This approach makes it easy for developers to create vast or complex game systems.
· Asset store– The asset store Unity has comes with a vast catalog of pre-made 3D models, scripts, textures, and other resources. This library makes it easy for developers to find the thing they want, instead of creating it from the start.
· Cross-platform support– Unity supports multiple platforms like MacOS, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, and the web. The engine makes it easy for developers to release their products to a broad audience.
· User-friendliness– Unity’s intuitive graphical interface alongside the drag-and-drop functionality makes it easy for anyone to pick up and start using.
· Casual mobile games
· 2D and 3D games
· Indie game developers
High-quality graphics with Unreal
Unreal is one of the most recognized game engines in the industry. It is famous for its exceptional graphical capabilities and rendering stunning visuals that rival what we see in real life. Unreal’s real-time rendering technology, PBR, creates photo-realistic environments and characters. The technology makes it ideal for creating visually captivating and immersive games. The engine is the preferred choice for seasoned developers looking to push the limits of graphical fidelity.
· PBR– PBR or Physically Based Rendering is how Unreal produces lifelike and realistic graphics. We’ve seen enough YT videos of real settings created using Unreal. Unreal’s PBR is ideal for creating visually stunning games or incredibly immersive tech demos.
· Blueprints visual scripting system– the Blueprint visual scripting system enables developers to create complex game logic. They do this without relying on writing code. This system makes it accessible to a wide range of users with minimal coding knowledge.
· Cinematic tools– Unreal has a suite of cinematic tools available to the user. These tools include particle effects, camera systems, post-processing effects, and more. All these tools help developers create breath-taking and cinematic experiences.
· Large community support– There is a large and active community of developers that help each other. They provide extensive support, and resources, and share their knowledge with other users.
· Big-budget games
· Games with a focus on visuals
· Experienced developers
· Tech demos
Godot: the open-source rising star
Godot is a relatively new name in the game engine world. However, it has quickly gained traction thanks to its open-source nature and cross-platform support. The game engine uses a node-based scene tree structure to provide a clean and intuitive approach to game development. This approach makes it great for 2D game development and small-scale projects.
Godot’s open-source nature fosters a vibrant community. The developer community created around Godot contributes to the engine’s growth and development.
· Open-source– Godot’s open-source nature makes it freely available to anyone to modify. This approach promotes collaboration and community-driven development.
· Node-based scene tree– Godot’s node-based scene tree structure provides an intuitive and clean way to manage game elements. This method makes it easy for aspiring developers to pick up and use.
· Cross-platform support– Godot supports multiple platforms like Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and the web. This engine helps developers market their products to a broad audience.
· 2D games
· Small and medium-sized games
· Open-source games
· Educational games
· Mobile games
Head-to-head feature comparison
We’ve pitted the game engine’s features against one another to see which one comes out on top. Take a look at the table below.
|Scripting and language
|GDScript, C#, C++
|PBR (Physically Based Rendering)
|PBR (Physically Based Rendering)
|PBR (Physically Based Rendering)
|Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and Web
|Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, and iOS
|Windows, MacOS, Linux, and Web
|Freemium with paid tiers for additional features
|Freemium with a 5% royalty fee for games earning over one million USD
|Completely free and open-source
Ultimately, the choice between Godot, Unity, and Unreal depends on the specific requirements and needs of your project. Unity gives you versatility with a friendly UI. Unreal’s graphic capabilities are unmatched for anyone looking for high-fidelity visuals. Godot’s open-source nature and cross-platform compatibility make it a viable option for smaller projects and 2D game development.
The ideal game engine lies in aligning its strengths with the project’s vision and technical requirements.