Unity user explores Unreal Engine 4: Part 1

Feb 13, 2020 at 02:00 pm by nemirc

Unity user explores Unreal Engine 4

In the past I've covered different game development engines, but this time I'm doing something different, as I will go through the experiment of moving from Unity to Unreal.

I should mention that I don't adhere to the idea of constantly switching engines. However, sometimes switching to a new engine makes sense if that engine has specific features that will make your work easier/faster/better, and you consider learning the new engine compensates that (for example, you want multiplayer and engine B makes it a lot easier than your current engine A).

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I began my game development journey with UDK (Unreal Development Kit, a free version of Unreal Engine 3), the engine my tiny studio used to develop its first two games. Then, when we were working on a third game, UDK was discontinued and UE4 was released. UE4 was vastly different to UDK and, as I've reported in the past, one of the problems it had back then was the need to have a powerful computer to run it. That, and having to learn it from scratch, made me switch to Unity.

I have not been keeping an eye on Unreal Engine for a while, but, with the release of UE 4.24, I decided to take a look. There are basically 3 reasons that made me do it: the foliage tools, the new hair rendering, and artificial intelligence tools (this last one presents a “it may or may not work” scenario since I don't know if these tools are meant for combat-oriented games like first person shooters, or if they are more open and versatile tools that can be used for any kind of AI).

The first thing I need to mention is that, if you are worried about hard disk space, you are going to be even more worried when you learn that UE4 takes around 14 Gb of space.  That made me install the engine on the mechanical drive (I like to keep at least 30 gigs free on my SSD, as an old habit), and the engine can take a little bit to load. I blame this on the mechanical drive, but only partially, since I also tried it on my MacBook Pro (that one has an SSD) and it still took a little bit to load. I am curious to know how loading times will be affected as the project gets bigger.

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The UE4 interface offers tool-tips to make using the engine easier. Using the basic functionality is pretty much the same (selecting, moving, dragging from a content browser, etc.), so when I said “UE4 worked vastly different to UDK” I meant the more technical side (programming, lighting setup, level management, visual scripting, compiling games…). At least, the first impression that I get, is that moving from Unity to UE4 is going to be far easier than moving from UDK to UE4/Unity.

Using drag-and-drop to import assets into UE4 was also the same as importing them into Unity. However, while in Unity the project hierarchy is the same in the engine and the Windows Explorer (or Mac Finder if you are on a Mac), the project hierarchy in UE4 is a hybrid where all objects are packaged in a UE4 native format (in UDK all was stored into a huge library file). Another thing that is similar to Unity, but very different to UDK, is how you add components to the objects.

Next, I will start taking a closer look at how to do some of the things I want from Unreal Engine (hair, folliage, etc.). This is going to be interesting, so wish me luck!

Get Unreal Engine: https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/get-now

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