What Is Unreal Engine?

Unreal Engine powers some of the most popular video games on the market today. What exactly is it, though? How does it help teams turn their visions into a reality?
August 25, 2022
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Any video game lover obsessed with the newest games of today, especially Fortnite, already knows what Unreal Engine is. For those new to gaming or looking to learn more about the behind-the-scenes aspects of their platforms, Unreal Engine requires a bit of explanation. 

In the simplest terms, Unreal Engine is a 3D computer graphics game engine and creation tool with which video game developers have the ability to create universes and games beyond their wildest imagination. Those looking to understand how their games work or become a video game developer themselves must understand what Unreal Engine does, the coding language that the tool uses, and a variety of other important information.

What Is Unreal Engine?

Unreal Engine, also known as UE, is a video game development tool from the video game and software development company Epic Games. With this tool, developers have the ability to build a simulation, edit videos or sound, and render animations. Devs have used it to build some of the most popular games on today’s market as well.

One major benefit is that it’s free and user-friendly for beginners. Epic Games seeks to popularize its software worldwide with the right strategic allies to ensure that more people can venture into video game development. As a company with more than 25 years of experience, Epic Games has developed software considered the AAA standard for video game development as part of the fastest-growing market in the world.

Written in C++, Unreal Engine features a high degree of portability, and users have the ability to use it across different platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows, PlayStation, and Xbox.

While there are earlier iterations of Unreal Engine, this game engine’s latest release has been an important development, as it allows developers to create and include custom maps in their games. Unreal Engine was also one of the earliest engines that allowed modders to easily put together their own content for others to see and play.

Which Programming Languages Does Unreal Engine Use in Game Development?

Unreal Engine uses C++ as the programming language for developing games within the tool. C++ offers overall stability and excellent memory allocation, which is why Unreal Engine developers use it.

However, C++ is also considered a rather difficult language to learn even though it’s the most widely used programming language in the world of game development.

C++ has various challenges, like encoding .h and .cpp for each class, and is very demanding. This language is definitely for professional developers due to its high learning curve, although it gives developers quite a lot of options to get their work done.

While Unreal Engine is free to use, it offers various subscriptions that help the company and Epic Games generate income from game developers. 

Unreal Engine vs. Unity: Which Is the Right Choice?

One of the biggest decisions developers must make when starting their new game is choosing the game engine that they intend to use. Luckily, there are several good engines that are totally free for hobby programmers. The two favorites in the community are Unreal Engine and Unity. From Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Sea of Thieves to Rainbow Six Siege, Fortnite, and The Stanley Parable, Unreal and Unity Engine power many AAA titles.

After decades of development, comparatively, it seems that both engines have their own benefits but also come with limitations. For example, Unity Engine is ideal for beginners in the development of 3D applications, as it uses the easy-to-understand C#, or C-Sharp, programming language.

Unreal Engine, on the other hand, is a powerful professional tool that puts experienced 3D developers to the test due to its use of complex C++ programming language. However, it’s truly capable of displaying highly optimized 3D environments with ease. The pros and cons of each engine are as follows: 

  • Unreal Engine – Unreal is totally free for beginners. Users need only download the engine from the website, launch it, and they’re good to go. Thanks to the enormous numbers of developers also using the tool, devs have many tutorials and online assistance available to them via the online community. Additionally, Unreal Engine is incredibly diverse and allows users to create a highly complex game almost from nothing. However, this strength is more of a problem for many beginners due to complex languages.

    For new video game devs or inexperienced ones, the many functions in Unreal sometimes quickly become confusing and overwhelming. As a beginner, several features are nice to have but ultimately not necessary for programming the first game. Another con is the fact that Epic, the company behind Unreal Engine, requires a payment of 5% royalty of sales every quarter if the game makes $3,000 or more.

  • Unity Engine – Unity Engine is also one of the most important and most used engines. What makes Unity so unique is its large online community, like Unreal’s, but the platform makes it easier for beginners and novice developers to access its primary functionalities. It’s an attractive game engine for beginners.

    However, users need to purchase extra features, though there are numerous online courses that users can take for free. It doesn’t matter whether the user is just getting started or they actually want to create an intense and heavy project: Unity is easy to understand and still has all the fundamental functions users will need.

    Private individuals have access to the engine totally free of charge, while students get a few extra features such as dark mode and real-time cloud diagnostics. All users receive access to Learn Premium, Unity’s learning platform. Here, the user can get all the information they require, participate in live sessions, and enroll in various courses.

    It’s worth noting that as soon as the user turns over more than $200,000 within 12 months, they must sign up for Unity Plus, which costs $37 per person in a team as a subscription.

Unreal Engine Marketplace

Unreal Engine users can sell their creations through the official Unreal Engine Marketplace or purchase the work of other developers. The game engine also is free for schools and universities.

The Unreal Engine Marketplace aims at development studios and developers who have licensed the company’s development base device as a central point of sale for ready-to-use game assets based on the in-house game engine.

The assets cover a whole range of materials, including full game environments, characters, sounds, and even prebuilt C++ code snippets. Users have access to all these things in their current state or, if necessary, to adapt to current projects. In addition, there are also various demos, tutorials, and already completed games from Epic Games on the Unreal Engine Marketplace, which aims to offer developers a starting point for developing their own titles.

Incidentally, those who create content for the marketplace receive an 88% share of the revenue generated. This corresponds to the same profit-sharing as in the Unity asset store. All purchased assets include a lifetime right to use an unlimited number of products and permission to modify them.

 

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