Our clients often come with an idea for a video game but when it comes to technical details and especially choosing an engine, they’re faced with quite a challenge. They either have to dive deeply into the game development specifics and do a lot of their own research or rely entirely on their game development specialists. We’ve decided to give an extensive answer to one of the most asked questions by our clients – which engine to choose for your video game: Unity or Unreal.
In fact, these are 2 most popular game engines with wide functionality and great features. There’s a variety of world-famous games built with Unity like Pokemon Go, Angry Birds Epic, Assassin’s Creed: Identity, Battlestar Galactica Online, Kerbal Space Program, Wasteland 2 etc. The popular games powered by Unreal include Mortal Kombat X, Batman: Arkham City, BioShock Infinite, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Gears of War 3, Mass Effect 2 etc.
So you can see that it’s possible to create virtually anything either with Unity or Unreal and you can’t say for sure that one engine is better than the other. The thing is each of them has its pros and cons and the choice should be made only after you have clear answers to the following questions:
What kind of game do you want to create: mobile, web or console; multiplayer, 2D or 3D etc.?
Which platforms do you want to launch it on?
How much time can you spend on game development?
How are you going to make money on your game?
How important are graphical capabilities of an engine for you?
We work both with Unity and Unreal and can’t really single out one engine as our favourite, so we’ll try to be as objective in this analysis as possible. Now let’s consider the benefits and drawbacks of each of them to make your choice easier.
Unity Game Engine
Games built with Unity
It has much better cross-platform integration. It enables you to deploy your game across all major mobile, VR, desktop, console, and TV platforms plus the Web. The supported platforms include Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Tizen, PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, PlayStation Mobile, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, tvOS, Android Tv, and Samsung Smart TV. Native support is available for major VR platforms including Oculus Rift, Gear VR, Playstation VR, Microsoft HoloLens and Steam VR/Vive.
Unity is the best fit for creating mobile games as, overall, it’s easier to build them with this engine. In general, it’s more logical and convenient to develop simple games with Unity.
It is better and faster for developing mobile VR, e.g. for Cardboard.
It has a huge asset store and many plugins, which gives you more access to diverse game monetization infrastructure like mobile ad networks, ad videos, etc.
Unity is written in C# which is not so difficult as C++ used in Unreal, so the development process is easier and faster with this engine.
The engine architecture is simpler to understand and work with, the launch process is less complicated.
It’s more popular. Most of our clients request Unity, as it’s a more widely-used engine.
Unity has a bigger community which is really active in forums, so if developers have some questions, there are many specialists out there to help them.
It’s easier to find qualified Unity developers due to the size of the community. It is especially important in force majeure situations such as when a key specialist quits in the middle of a project.
Although as a client you don’t need to worry about licences because your developers are bound to have them, it’s worth mentioning that Unity has a completely free version. What’s even more important, you don’t have to pay any royalties when your game starts making money.
In terms of graphics, Unity can’t offer the possibilities and the quality of Unreal.
Unity gives away the source code only under specific conditions and, anyway, you have to pay for it.
Rendering is slower. For instance, it takes much more time to render lighting. On one of our projects, we had to wait for 2 weeks to have all lighting processed by Unity engine. And imagine that you need to make some changes – you’ll have to do it all over again.
Games built with Unreal
Unreal is great for high-tech triple-A games with big budgets where you need to achieve the ultimate quality. So in terms of graphics it really takes the lead. For example, we’ve picked Unreal for one our recent VR projects because the client’s main request was to make this demo presentation as realistic as possible.
It has great blueprints which work like building blocks so even artists without any programming knowledge can use the engine to assemble and adjust basic things. Also, this feature is really great for prototyping. Yet for completing serious tasks, you can’t do without at least some programming in C++.
Unreal is open-source which is a great advantage because it makes development easier and more efficient.
Rendering technology is one of the biggest benefits of this game engine. Post processing is really fast and there is support for many features.
Concerning virtual reality, both engines have good VR integration. However, we mostly use Unreal for VR projects to achieve the best quality picture. So we’d advise to go for this engine when working with Gear VR, Oculus, and HTC VIVE.
Another selling point for Unreal is its performance as it uses less memory and resources.
It has available instruments for many cases and needs, which Unity lacks. For instance, Unity is limited to a set of standard shaders and Unreal has visual editors for them. With Unity, you’ll have to write the same things in code.
It has great instruments set for game optimisation.
The engine has better access to visual debugging, you can easily test what, when and how is being drawn, you can control the whole process and monitor how much time is spent on a certain element.
Concerning the licensing model, once you’ve begun making money on your product, you’ll need to track gross revenue and pay a 5% royalty on that amount after the first $3000 per game per calendar quarter.
Unreal has a simpler and smaller asset store because they choose the submitted assets more carefully. The asset you’ll upload to the Unity store might not be accepted to the Unreal store.
It’s not the best tool for small games. There’s no point in making small games with this game engine. Usually, if our clients go for Unreal, we’re talking about some big project with big budget. Typically, such projects have longer estimates and, as a result, cost more.
There aren’t so many Unreal experts because the engine is usually chosen by very specialized teams.
We hope this list will be helpful in weighing up the pros and cons of each game engine and choosing the right tool for your project. Both Unity and Unreal offer great possibilities, and you can build great things with them. You might of course follow the advice of your developers, but if you keep in mind the needs of your business and have a clear picture of what you want to achieve in your particular game, this choice will be much easier.