Whether you are an indie developer, a hobbyist, or a professional game studio, the selection of the right game engine upfront is crucial for your long-term games development strategy. The debate around Unity vs Unreal is going on for a while since these two are leading the market of game engines for many years now.
Looking at the release history of Unreal and Unity, every new release seems to be bridging the gap between the two engines, and both appear to be getting closer in terms of features, capabilities, graphics, speed of development, pricing options, assets, and other aspects. However, there are many subtle differences between the two, and an in-depth understanding and analysis is required to make the right decision upfront.
Unity vs Unreal Engine – Overview
Before we get further into the depths of what these two engines offer, let us see what these engines can produce, at a very high level. You can build 2D, 3D, VR, and AR games with both Unity and Unreal Engine, both offer drag & drop visual tools (though capabilities and ease of use vary), both engines let you target almost all major platforms including Android, iOS, Xbox, Play Station, PC, and others.
Both Unity and UE have been used to create games that would be remembered forever, Unity for example has been used for creating games like Assassin’s Creed, Satellite Reign, Temple Run Trilogy, and Unreal Engine for creating games like Bioshock Infinite, Mass Effect Series, Batman Arkham Asylum.
Unity Vs Unreal Engine: Which One to Select?
This is the question that depends on many factors including your style and liking, programming experience, learning curve, 2D or 3D or VR, scripting/programming language preference, visual scripting, and drag-drop functionality preference, requirements of the game etc. and much more.
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Extent of Programming
Few crucial aspects that do not have any impact on the game produced but greatly influences your productivity and speed of development are the programming language, extent of programming required to develop games of various complexity levels, visual scripting and availability of drag and drop tools.
If you do not want to get too much into programming, then visual scripting with Blueprint in Unreal engine is unmatched. But it works only for games of a certain complexity level, for AAA high-end games, you need to get your hands dirty with C++ programming. Furthermore, if you want to get to the depths of Unreal engine or want to make tweaks at the core then also you need to delve into hardcore programming and need to know C++.
Unity on the other hand is an absolute breeze if you are an expert C# programmer, it is quick and easy to learn and the way whole of Unity engine is organized, you write the code in bits and pieces, and it never becomes unmanageable or complex. Having said that, working with C++ in Unreal gives you much more powers than a C# developer can get out of Unity.
Talking a bit on the graphics, Unreal Engine leads the pack here and the other engines are still catching up, Unity, however, is close enough and gives tough competition to UE in graphics. The point here to be noted is that when we say other engines are catching up, please do note that engines like Unity have excellent graphics, it is only about very high-end games where you would see benefits of Unreal Engine. For more than 90% of the games, it doesn’t really make much of a difference.
Ease of Use: Unreal Engine vs Unity
If it is going to be your first game, then Unity is a great option to start off with, it is beginner-friendly, a lot easier and there are tons of free as well as paid tutorials and courses to learn Unity and C# scripting. You stand much better chances to roll out your first game (a simple game) in a matter of weeks with Unity while Unreal Engine can take much longer.
Unity specifically wins when you are into making games of simple and intermediate complexity and graphics. For AAA games with intense and high-end graphics, Unreal has a bit of the upper hand though.
Furthermore, for an indie developer, building a game with ease greatly depends on the availability of ready-to-use assets, both game engines have asset stores. Since the ecosystem of Unity is huge, it has much more assets including textures, environments, animations, sounds, particle systems as well as extensions for AI controls, etc., and much more.
Unreal engine’s asset store has some good animations, characters, environments, and other assets and the collection is fast growing in numbers. You should check out the assets on both sides and keep it as one of the key factor for game engine selection.
Pricing – Covered Later
I am not going to give too much emphasis on pricing for now, for two reasons – 1. you can start off free with both the engines and do not really need to pay till you already start to make big money for yourself 2. The pricing models typically keep on changing and your overall development price includes many other factors than just paying either of these two companies.
It is important to understand that the market is pretty much skewed with Unity alone holding more than 30% of the market share and another 20% jointly held by Cocos2d, Unreal, and Corona, as of writing this article (source Unity – stats might vary now).
Let us dig a bit further on to Unity vs Unreal engine comparison-
Unity is huge, it alone holds more than 30% of the market share (stats may vary a bit) at the time of writing whereas Unreal, Cocos2d, and Corona hold another 20% of the market share. So, Unity is for the masses, but that of course, doesn’t mean that Unity is better in everything. Unreal does the best what it is meant to do. Keep reading!
You can gauge popularity and magic of Unity from the fact that its customers and partners includes big names like Disney, Oculus, Microsoft, Nickelodeon, NASA, LEGO, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Nintendo, Warner Bros and many more.
When it comes to platform coverage, you think of any platform and chances are that it is supported by Unity, if the platform is new (very new) then it would just be a matter of few months. You talk about mobile devices, head-mounted displays, embedded systems, web, PC, MAC, Linux, mobile, any console, VR, AR games and anything else, Unity can be used to create compatible games.
Popular Games made with Unity – Temple Run Trilogy, Fat Cry, Lara Croft, Relic Run, Wasterland 2, satellite Reign, Assasin’s Creed, and many more.
The power of unity lies in the sheer count of developers including hobbyists, indie studios, students and large publishers from around the globe. Unity also comes with Unity Web Player that lets you view Unity 3D content directly in the browser with live updates.
To start with, Unity is free to download and use, you get the core assets, documentation, tutorials, a bundled script editor and much more. The way Unity subscription works is that you pay nothing till the time your revenue/fund raised is below $100K/annum, after that there are paid subscription options for professionals and enterprises.
Check out more about Unity here at – Unity 3D.
Unreal Engine – 3D, VR++
Unreal Engine is the undisputed king of high end AAA games that require immersive graphics. Its market share is much less than Unity but that is now way an indicator that it is anything less. Let us talk a bit more about UE.
Unreal Engine is developed and marketed by the company named Epic Games, a creative powerhouse. The first generation Unreal Engine (I) was release back in 1998 as a scalable engine with modular architecture and support for scripting language called UnrealScript. Ever since its release, Unreal Engine kept growing in features and popularity and currently boasts to be the most feature rich game engine available in the market.
Like Unity, Unreal Engine also supports almost every major platform that can run games, with more focus now on the VR and AR devices. With powerful graphics and recent upgrades for Virtual Reality development gives much more powers in the hands of developers and arguably make UE the best in the market for VR and AR games development.
You can use UE to develop games for HTC Vive, SteamVR, PlayStation VR, Samsung Gear VR, Android, iOS, Linux, Xbox One, Windows PC, Mac OS and the recent addition is from Nintendo that announced Nintendo switch support for Unreal engine games.
Popular Unreal Engine Games – Bioshock Infinite, Mass Effect Series, Batman Arkham Asylum.
The latest version UE 4 can be downloaded and used free of cost with access to all the features, C++ source code as well as development tools. Talking about pricing, here again, till the time you do not grow big, you do not need to worry about paying anything. You pay a royalty of only 5% and that too only when your revenue reaches more than $3000 in a calendar quarter. You should check out their website for the latest on pricing and royalty etc.
If you have a great game idea or 3d project, you can pitch in your idea to Epic games, if your idea is approved then you can get grant ranging anything between $5K USD to $50K USD, and there is no obligation. The IP of the game remains with you, they will only be interested in the royalty once you grow bigger.
Check out more about Unreal Engine here at – Unreal Engine
Conclusion – Unreal Engine Vs Unity
Unity vs Unreal thing will continue, but one thing for sure is that both are great products since both are in great demand and used by game developers across the globe.
Unity and Unreal both have their own advantages and disadvantages and shine in one or the other areas. One engine cannot outshine the other engine in all areas and for that reason you must list down your requirements, try your hands on with these engines and then take the final decision.
Hope you liked the article. Do let us know your experience with game engines, via comments! Happy gaming till then. Keep rocking!!
Further reading – Best Animation Software