Mastering the Basics of Unreal Engine 4: User Interface

Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) is a powerful program with a lot of features. A great thing about it is that it's only $19/month, so now is an excellent time to get your feet wet in one of the most popular game engines on the market today. This article will walk you through the basics of Unreal Engine 4's UI so you can get up and running and comfortable with UE4 and its menus.

Creating a Project

When firing up Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) you should see a window pop up, this is called the Project Browser. There are three tabs to this browser, the Projects tab, New Projects tab and the Marketplace. The Projects tab displays any previous projects you've saved. So if you've already created a project in Unreal Engine and saved it, this is where it would be displayed so you can open it again. The New Projects tab is where you name and create a brand new project. It's important to keep in mind that "Projects" in Unreal Engine 4 are essentially games. A project holds all the information like code, assets, animations, etc., that make up your game. new projects When creating a new project you should see several different "templates" that you can choose from. You have the "Blank" template which is just that, a completely blank game with no code. As you scroll down you should see things like "Basic Code" which is an empty project with some very basic code as the framework. Beyond that you have things like "Code First Person" which is a project that already has a first person camera coded for you and a moveable character and a weapon. different projects For this tutorial we've chosen just the "Blank" project to get started. Now, you may notice a checkbox that says, "Include starter kit" and this means that there'll be a few very simple assets in your project, like a floor, two chairs and a table. By default, this option is checked, and we've kept this option checked just to give you something other than a blank grid to stare at, which isn't the most exciting thing.

The Interface

viewport_small Isn't the scariest thing when opening a new application for the first time is that first glimpse at the program's UI? Realizing you've eventually got to figure out what all these menus, options and buttons do. While it's scary at first, the Unreal Engine 4 UI is really intuitive and takes just a short amount of time to get comfortable with. If you've used UDK, UE4 can also be a bit of a shocker, because the UI has really been completely overhauled. In a good way, though! The Tab bar sits at the very top of the Unreal Engine 4 UI. This behaves very similar to how a web browser's tab bar works. You can snap new menus directly to the tab bar and gain quick access to them by simply selecting that tab. This is really helpful if you have minimal space and you're working with several different UE4 tools, for example the Class Viewer or Blueprint. To add a new tab to the tab bar simply left click and drag the tab that you want to snap onto the bar and there you go! Tab Bar   Just below the Tab Bar sits the Menu Bar and this is very similar to most menu bars in other 3D applications. You have the File Menu which allows you to open levels, save your project, and create new projects or open old ones. What you would expect with a File Menu. Menu Bar full Next is the Edit Menu, and this allows you to Undo and Redo which is always handy! And cut, copy, paste and duplicate different elements in your project. The Window menu allows you to open new windows that by default aren't visible in the UI. Like the layers and levels window. It also let's you turn off any tabs you don't want open. Finally there's the Help menu, with things like the Unreal Engine 4 documentation and forums. This is a great area to dive into if you want to learn more about UE4 or get answers to questions you may have. Menu Bar The Modes panel is located directly below the Menu bar and basically changes how the editor is going to work. First is the "Place" mode, which by default is what UE4 is set to. The Place mode allows you to place different objects directly into your level, such as lights, cameras, player start points and more. Next is the "Paint" mode and this allows you to paint on top of landscapes and other objects. Then there's the "Landscape" mode and this does exactly what it sounds like it does, it allows you to quickly sculpt in landscapes by pushing and pulling elements within your scene. The "Foliage" mode allows you to quickly drop in different types of foliage like grass, trees, bushes, etc.     There's one more mode that may be hidden on your interface, and you can expand that by pressing the little arrows next to the modes panel. This is the "Geometry" mode and allows you to edit and manipulate any of the geometry you've placed in your project.   content_browser   Just below the Modes panel is the "Content Browser" and this panel is extremely vital and is really the hub for everything you'll ever need for your game. This is the area where you important things into your project, like assets, textures, animations, audio, etc. You'll also find a lot of pre-made game elements already there for you. For example, different particle effects like smoke and fire or some basic sound clips like flame's crackling or birds chirping. Basically any file that makes up your game will be found in the Content Browser.                 scene_outliner     Across the other side of the UI is the "Scene Outliner" and if you've used Maya before, this behaves in much the same way. Here you'll see the different assets in your project, cameras, lights, effects, etc. You can also search by name to quickly find what you're looking for. As your game starts to get much more complex, this Scene Outliner is vital for quickly finding and selecting the element that you want.                   Details     Under the Scene Outliner is the "Details" menu. This area displays the attributes for a selected object. So if you select one of the chairs within the project you'll see things like the transform values, the type of mesh it is, as well as a preview image along with some other vital attributes for the object like physics, collisions, etc.                     Finally just above the viewport is the Tool Bar. This where you can find some of the most used menus and actions you'll need to take during your game creation process. You can do things like save, open the marketplace, play your game directly in the viewport and more. tool bar

Viewport Navigation

Unreal Engine 4 has a few different methods for navigating around the viewport. The first method is the Standard navigation.

You can move the camera forward and backward and look left and right simply by holding down the Left Mouse Button (LMB) and dragging in or out, as well as left and right.

If you hold down the Right Mouse Button (RMB) and drag around, the camera will rotate in place as if you're in a first-person view looking around the scene.

To pan the camera you can hold down both the RMB and the LMB and drag around to pan the camera in a parallel fashion to where the camera is looking.

The second method of navigation works really the same way as navigation works in Maya. If you're a Maya user, this method will be much easier to get up to speed with.

By holding down Alt and LMB, dragging it will tumble the viewport around a single pivot or point of interest. So if you have an object selected, it will tumble around that selected object.

Holding down Alt+RMB and dragging zooms the camera toward and away from a selected object or pivot point.

Alt+MMB dragging tracks the camera in the direction of mouse movement. If you're familiar with Maya this is a method you may find yourself using more often.

Selection and Movement

movement After you're comfortable with the navigation controls inside of Unreal Engine 4, the last step is to get familiar with some of the selection and transformation methods like scaling, rotating and moving an object. You can select an object by simply selecting it with the LMB. You'll find the transformation controls at the top of the viewport. You also use the hotkey "W" to into the movement gizmo, "E" for the rotate gizmo and "R" for the scale gizmo. Next to the transformation types there are also the snapping options for scaling, moving and rotating. By default these are on but you can turn snapping off by selecting the orange icon next to the snapping values. You should now have a basic understanding of Unreal Engine 4 and its UI. After a little practice you'll be up and running in no time! The next is to make a game right? Well, that can be a little further down the road! Be sure to push your game design skills even further with our many Unreal Engine 4 tutorials over at the Digital-Tutors library.

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