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Unreal Engine 4 vs. Unity: Which Game Engine Is Best for You?

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Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) and Unity are arguably two of the most popular game engines available to the public today. While many game development studios use their own proprietary game engines, there’s still a huge market for indie developers. 

If you want to get into game design, your next step is choosing which game engine to learn for launching your game. While both Unreal Engine 4 and Unity are excellent game engines, one may be a better option over the other depending on the interface and programming language you prefer.

Let’s break down each game engine and look at their strong areas so you can decide which one will work best for you. Plus, we’ll also list some of the great new features included on the newly released versions of Unreal Engine 4.24 and Unity 2019.2.17.

Unreal Engine 4 vs Unity: Uses

Answering the following questions can help determine whether you should use Unreal Engine 4 or Unity.

  • What kind of games do you want to create? Do you want to create a 2D platform or a 3D action-adventure game? Or maybe a hybrid of 2D and 3D? 

  • Do you want to launch the game on a web browser or mobile platform, or are you aspiring to get it onto console platforms? 

Both engines can certainly get the job done, but depending on what you’re creating, one engine might reign supreme in your work. 

If you want to make a 2D game, Unity can be a great option because it has some great 2D features and can be very easy to get started on. That being said, Unreal Engine 4 features some powerful 2D features as well.

If you want to create a 3D game, Unity is also a very powerful 3D game engine. While it’s graphically not on the same level as Unreal Engine 4, if you don’t need to create next-gen level graphics then Unreal Engine 4 may not be required. 

Many artists are now using both Unity and Unreal Engine 4 as a way to create pre-visualization and architectural visualization to create a more interactive experience for their clients. 

When it comes to mobile games, that is where Unity really shows its dominance. With many popular mobile games created with Unity, it’s really become a mobile developer’s go-to game engine.

Unreal Engine 4 vs Unity: Prices

While choosing a game engine can rely heavily on what type of game you want to create and what platform you want to launch on, there is also another very important factor to consider: price. If you’re an aspiring game developer just wanting to learn how to make games and get your feet wet, you probably don’t want to spend a lot of money on a game engine. 

Unity offers a completely free version ready for download if your revenue or funding is below $100,000 in the past year. This can be a great option if you are just wanting to get started. It has all the features that Unity Pro has and is capable of making excellent games, without having to spend a dime. Unity has three upgraded plans to choose from (Plus, Pro, and Enterprise) ranging from $40+ per month beginning January 1, 2020. If you publish your game, you don’t have to pay any royalties to Unity, but you will have to pay for each mobile platform on which you publish. 

One important thing to keep in mind with the free version of Unity is that there is no profiler, which is only included in Unity Pro. This alone can be a huge deterrent to some developers and can be a big deciding factor. The profiler basically allows you to optimize your game. You can play your game with the profiler on and it will record the performance of your game and show you the percentage of time spent doing tasks like rendering and animation. Not having this available in the free version does make it extremely difficult to figure out what areas in your game are causing slow downs, and what needs to be fixed to get optimum performance.

Unreal 4 is completely free. Everything is under one roof and you have access to all the game engine has to offer, without any cost to you. However, Unreal Engine 4 has royalty fees of 5% after the first $3,000 of gross revenue made per product, per calendar quarter. This includes any money you make off of in-app purchases, in-game ads, and the price of the game itself. 

How do you plan on making money off the game? Through in-app purchases, in-game ads, or just through the purchase price alone? Your answers may determine which game engine pricing model works best for you.

Unreal Engine 4 vs Unity: Programming Languages

Though the pricing of the game engine can certainly sway your decision, the guts of the game engine is obviously a huge factor when making a choice and deciding which one is better for you. 

It’s no secret that to create a game, you’ll need to do quite a bit of programming. Which programming language you’re comfortable with will determine whether to go with UE4 or Unity. 

Unreal Engine 4 vs Unity: Other Considerations

Uses, prices, and programming languages are perhaps the most important considerations when comparing Unreal Engine 4 vs Unity. However, there are a few other considerations as well. 

Unreal Engine 4

Here are a few great features in Unreal Engine 4:

  • Blueprint: This is a node-based visual scripting method right inside UE4. It means you technically don’t ever need to write a single line of code. This is great for quickly prototyping levels, and even creating entire games. It is also a great tool for visualizations and architectural walk-throughs.

  • Graphical Capabilities: When it comes to graphics, Unreal Engine 4 is really a next-gen game engine. It’s capable of creating graphics on par with games you see being released on next-gen game consoles with complex particle simulations systems and advanced dynamic lighting. It has the capability to create both 2D and 3D, giving you the option to push graphics further.

Unity

Here are a few great features in Unity:

  • Asset Store: Unity really comes out on top in terms of the size of their asset store and the characters, props, sounds, and particle effects offered. They have everything from intuitive animation and rigging tools, to GUI generators and motion capture software. You’ll have everything you need to create your game. 

  • Ease of Use: Even though Unreal Engine 4 has had a complete UI overhaul which makes it easier to get up and running, Unity is generally still seen as the more intuitive and easier-to-grasp game engine.

Unreal Engine 4.24 vs Unity 2020.1 Alpha 

With the new year comes newly released versions of both Unreal Engine and Unity. 

Unreal Engine 4.24 features include:

  • Seamless data conversion

  • Python scripting   

  • Visual dataprep

  • Scalable foliage

  • Asset optimization

  • Mesh editing tools

  • Live Link data streaming

  • Photoreal rasterizing and ray tracing in real time

  • Strand-based hair and fur

  • And much more!

Unity 2019.2.17 features include:

  • PhysX cloth library

  • Incremental garbage collection

  • New 2D in the Lightweight Render Pipeline (LWRP)

  • Major speed improvements in the GPU Lightmapper

  • Optimized frame pacing for Android

  • And much more!

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, choosing which game engine wins in the competition of Unreal Engine 4 vs Unity is better made by testing them both yourself. Put them through the ringer and try to figure out what works best for you. Both game engines are powerful pieces of software capable of helping push your game ideas to the next level. 

If you want more help deciding, it can be helpful to review some in-depth resources covering both Unity and Unreal Engine 4, brought to you by Pluralsight!