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Unity Or Unreal Engine – Which Is The Best For You?

If you’re looking to get into game development, you’re likely staring at these two options. I’m going to discuss both pros and cons of each and hopefully, you’ll be able to decide if Unity or Unreal Engine is what’s best for you.

Before deciding, it’s important that you ask yourself and consider some key points.

Is Coding Knowledge Necessary?

Truthfully, if you’re just starting your career, you don’t need to know how to program. The best thing when making a choice of Unity or Unreal is that both have systems in place to make games without coding. Although it’d be for the best if you understood programming at least at a basic level, you can still get by.

Unity’s solution is called Visual Scripting and it’s a pretty simple method. You simply assign values and actions to boxes and connect them. However, you would be able to fully utilize this tool if you knew even a little bit about programming. Stuff like data types, functions, objects, or just boolean algebra could be a game-changer.

Unity's Visual Scripting example
To get the most out of Visual Scripting, it’d be best if you were familiar Unity documentation

The biggest downside to Visual Scripting is that it’s still in development. Yes, we are getting an update every six weeks or so, but we still don’t have a stable version.

On the other side, we have Blueprints. The premise is pretty much identical – simplified visual representation for coding. Broadly speaking, there’s almost no difference in concept or execution between the two.

Unreal's Blueprint example
Despite the crudeness, this looks much easier to navigate than code

Blueprints, however, is a slightly better choice at the moment, mainly due to its longevity and better support. For the moment, Blueprints is an easier option as it comes with Unreal out of the box.

The key separating point is that these engines use different programming languages. but if you’re coming from a non-coding background, you likely won’t care.

Unity Or Unreal == C# or C++

Here lies the crux of the issue. If you’re not proficient with these two languages, you’re probably going to choose C# and Unity.

C++ comes from C and C# is claimed to be the successor of C++. Fun fact: upon release of C#, people dubbed it Java-clone. There are reasons for both of these claims and it’s good to know why the language is key when choosing Unity or Unreal.

Unreal Engine And C++

So, C is an ancient language (well, from a technology point of view as it dates all the way back to the 1970s), but it is very good in carefully managing computer resources. Back then, programming languages needed to be capable of that as there were no fancy garbage collectors or anything similar.

C++ retains C’s memory management capabilities, but also adds another dimension.

It introduced a revolution – object-oriented programming or OOP. Without getting too technical, OOP groups data and specific functions into objects which can be duplicated. The OOP approach allows for much smoother and streamlined programming experience.

C++ is not alike most languages out there

If you’re looking to really be in charge of the memory and processes of the machine, then C++ is a perfect choice for you. Another reason why you may choose it is because you already know C. As far as syntax goes, the two languages are pretty similar. In fact, C++ is much easier to understand than C.

The key reason why you might choose C++ and Unreal Engine is that you’re familiar with the language and know how to manually optimize performance.

Unity’s C#

And then there’s C#. Despite diverging a lot from its origin point where it was compared to Java, it’s still pretty similar. So, if you’re coming from Java, you won’t have any problems with C#. Data types differ a bit, but the core OOP system is pretty similar.

unity vs unreal
C# looks readable even to a non-programmer

Out of the two, C# is miles better than C++ for beginners, and if you’re coming from Java, you’re going to feel right at home. Declarations and data types are pretty literal and the conventional wisdom is to use descriptive function names which makes the code super easy to read.

Unity Or Unreal – Which One Looks Better?

Getting into game development, you were likely inspired by a mainstream title you played when you were younger. If you think you can outright make a new GTA, those dreams need to be shelved. For now, at least.

Making a triple-A game requires a triple-A budget and a team of dozens or even hundreds and thousands.

Still, there’s no reason to give up on having good looking graphics for your game, but maybe on a smaller scale. Both Unity and Unreal have some really impressive graphics capabilities, but the latter always stood out a bit more.

Example of Unreal Engine 5 running on a PS5. The latest update to the software.

Nowadays, they are comparable, but that hasn’t been the case in a long while. C++ enables Unreal to have much more heavy-duty and optimized 3D performance. Smoother, too.

That’s not to say that Unity will give a sub-par look, it’s just that it isn’t as good. Admittedly, Unity made some incredible strides in the last few years and a layman would be hard-pressed to find the difference.

Those with a keener eye will definitely notice the difference, but with how fast Unity is closing the gap, that difference will only get more and more negligible.

Siren Head: Retribution, an indie game created using Unity. Seen here played by a member of the TechLater team.

Overall, without a capable artist (or a few) on your team, there’s almost no difference between the two as far as visuals are concerned. And with ray tracing possible with both engines, you can get a great look for your game with a lot less effort than previously needed.

Unity Or Unreal – The Best Value

This is the most exciting side note about these two technologies. Both are free. Although paid versions exist, if you’re a beginner, you can use both engines, free of charge.

Both Unity and Unreal offer free versions, although with some caveats.

Unity’s offer extends to students and developers with less than $100,000 in yearly revenue. There are business packages as well, but those are more directed at those who produce games professionally and those who use Unity for stuff other than game-making, like AI simulations and such.

Unreal Engine has a simpler approach. Their free package is free up until you reach $1 million of revenue and then it reverses to the old model – 5% up top. Their paid package is a little bit more expensive, but it also depends on the number of developers on your team.

It Depends On Your Goals

Getting started with game development, even with the previous knowledge, can be disorienting. There are so many tools, assets, tutorials… And seemingly none of them tell you how to choose what’s right for you.

If you already have a vision and people that are willing to work with you on your project, you should give Unreal a chance. It’s used more in triple-A and mid-size studios because of how comprehensive it is. Due to its supreme resource management abilities, there have been numerous mainstream games made with it.

Series like Mass Effect and Borderlands and hit games like Rocket League and Fortnite were all made with Unreal Engine. After playing at least one of these games, it’s obvious why you would want to replicate them for your game.

unity vs unreal
Image Credit:rocketleague.com

Unity is great for beginners because of its simple UI and having a relatively easier programming language. It’s been mostly used by indie developers and its a preferred option for one-person studios. It’s also a better option for mobile games.

However, it’s important to impartially and objectively assess your abilities. That is the hardest part, but also the most important.

If you overestimate your skill (as it often happens), you’ll find yourself hitting a wall pretty quickly and that can be pretty frustrating and discouraging. On the flip side, if you sell yourself short, you might get the feeling that you’re not being challenged and get bored quickly.

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