Choosing Between Unity and Unreal: Two Leading Game Development Engines
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    Choosing Between Unity and Unreal: Two Leading Game Development Engines

    Choosing an engine for a game is a critical decision. It defines the game’s performance, user interactions, and the look and feel of the game. Lately, the choice of game engine often boils down to two options: Unity, known for its realistic feel and adoption to VR, and Unreal, the engine behind legendary BioShock, Deux Ex, and other famous game productions. Obviously, looking at projects that were completed with an engine is important,t but ultimately, it’s your game that matters. In this article, we’ll discuss how to choose between Unity or Unreal specifically for your functionality and concept.

    What games are you building?

    The choice of an engine primarily depends on its use. Will it be a 2D or a 3D game? A shooter, arcade, or a puzzle? Will the game be available on mobile devices or via a browser? What’s the monetization strategy - do you plan enabling internal purchases or ads? All these aspects are managed by an engine. You need to know which functionality, business model, and game genre you will be working with. Just to be clear, both engines are doing well with all kinds of projects - there’s no obvious choice. We analyzed the differences and drew conclusions that will help you make a choice between Unity or Unreal.

    2D and 3D mobile games

    Generally, Unity is a go-to engine for mobile games. The engine is the most popular among mobile developers, which resulted in a rich ecosystem. You’ll have access to many free and paid development plugins, ready-to-use templates for enabling analytics, in-game purchases, registration, ads. What’s more, graphics is not Unity’s strongest suit. However, for 2D games, you’ll hardly feel any difference between Unity and UnrealEngine. For 3D game development, Unreal Engine 4 offers better graphics quality, but Unity is catching up with updates in the latest releases.


    This is an important one because it will be much easier for a development team to work with a well-known tech stack. Unreal Engine uses C++, whereas Unity technologies are based on JavaScript and C#. There’s no single opinion on which language is best for game development - your choice should depend on the skills of your developers and available resources. If you worked with other languages before (Java, for instance), consider the similarities between languages in both tech stack. Overall, switching to C# from Java is easier than for, C++, so for Java-proficient teams, Unity would likely be a better choice.

    Codeless interfaces

    If you are a beginner in game development, you might want to find shortcuts, rather than learning pretty complicated C++ and C#. Unreal Engine offers an easy way out. The engine offers Blueprint - a visual scripting editor. You don’t need to write code - all functionality is developed with an intuitive interface. Unity has a similar solution, but it’s not as elaborate. To lower the entry barrier to Unity, users can buy Playmaker - a visual interface for building 2D and 3D games.

    Engine for developers vs visual artists

    The choice of a game engine also depends on what team will be mostly working on the project. Some games are heavy on development tasks, whereas graphically-oriented projects prioritize the preferences of visual artists. If you are a developer, you’ll likely enjoy working with Unity more - it’s simple, logical, offers a rich ecosystem, and the interface isn’t overly cluttered. For visual artists, the Unreal engine for mobile development is an obvious winner - the graphics, offered by the engine, are simply of another league. However, now both engines are focused on becoming more universal. Unity, the engine initially created for simple mobile development projects, is now focused on increasing the quality of interfaces and adding pro visualizing features. Unreal, on the other hand, head towards simplicity. For now, the difference between the two engines in visual quality versus development efficiency is still too obvious, though.

    Asset Store

    Game development is a long ride. You never know what additional functionality can come in handy so it’s best to choose an engine with a rich ecosystem. Whenever you want to expand your game’s features and interface, you should be able to install plugins and add-ons. This is where an Asset Store comes in. Both engines have asset stores where you can download free and paid 3D character designs, textures, landscapes, sounds, and functionality templates. If we compare the size and variety of add-ons, Unity3D definitely takes the lead. All you might ever need for game development is there - from animation to GUI elements. Sure, most of the elements are paid, but you have a great choice of options.


    Technically, both Unreal and Unity3D are free. However, if you are serious about monetizing your product, you will have to acquire a full version. In Unreal Engine, developers are obligated to share 5% of their game profit when your gains cross the threshold of $3000. Unity 3D has a more complicated system of price calculation. If Unreal orients on game profits, Unity requires information about your company’s profit. If you make less than $100 000 per year, you can use a free version. Overall, it’s pretty functional, but teams that build ambitious gaming projects will definitely notice the absence of crucial features. You can’t substitute a splash screen or create an Asset Bundle. At some point, you’ll feel highly limited by the free version. You can buy a professional subscription in a one-time payment for $1 500 or subscribe to Unity on a monthly basis and pay $75/m. Another important aspect - you’ll need to have two subscriptions: one for Unity Android, another for iOS.

    Future of both engines

    Choosing a game engine is a long-term decision. It’s great to evaluate current functionality and characteristics, but you need to expand your perspective. It’s important to take a look at the direction of both Unity and Unreal Engine’s releases to know where the companies are heading. After all, you are choosing the core element of your game that will be with your project for years. Taking time to research it properly is definitely a worthy investment.

    Unity’s focus for future updates

    Unity’s team has been really focused on integrating VR and AR platforms, supporting high-level visual platforms, and providing realistic gaming experhjc.e That’s actually what made the platform so popular lately - the number of available integration and add-ons for VR and AR development, provided by Unity, is simply unrivaled. As for now, Unity supports PlayStation VR, Magic Leap, ARCore, Nintendo Switch, Anki, and 25+ platforms. So, the main goal of Unity is to be a leading cross-platform development engine that can switch between desktop, mobile device, tables, consoles, VR, and AR hardware. Additionally, the team is focused on improving the ease of mobile development and boosting graphics for smartphone gaming.

    Unreal Engine’s focus for future updates

    Unreal Engine, as always, focuses on graphics. Interface-wise, this engine is definitely the go-to choice. The best part is, the graphics quality of engine-produced content is constantly increasing. In one of the latest updates, the team used the Houdini plugin for realistic animation, simulation, procedural modeling, and smooth effects. The number of Unreal Engine’s integrations aren’t as impressive as Unity’s. As for now, the platform supports Google Daydream, HoloLens 2, and others - overall 15 VR/AR platforms. So, the main goal of the Unreal Engine is to keep its position as the most realistic game development engine while enabling integrations with VR and AR. The company is less focused on the simplicity of development, and oriented towards creating an immersive experience.

    So, how to make a choice between Unreal Engine and Unity?

    We went through the key aspects of Unity and Unreal Engine - it’s time to go through the main points. Take a look at the comparison table that highlights the key features of two engines for one more time.
    Criteria Unity Unreal Engine
    Purpose Mobile development, simple 2D and 3D projects Graphically-heavy games, mostly for desktop and tablets
    Development languages JavaScript and C# C++
    Simplicity Simple and fast development A higher level of development complexity
    Interfaces Blueprint for codeless development Playmaker for codeless development
    Preferences Preferred by developers Preferred by visual artists
    Price 75 dollars per month for a one-OS subscription 5% of the game’s profits
    Asset Store The richest asset store on the market A rich ecosystem but not as developed as Unity’s
    Future of two engines Focused on VR and AR integrations Focused on a realistic interface

    Final thoughts

    In this article, we analyzed the fundamental differences between the two engines. Unity is a go-to tool for simple game development, whereas Unreal Engine is focused on the high-level interface. The functionality of the two engines is similar, although there are differences in certain processes. For instance, UE4 offers professional animation editing features whereas Unity offers a very limited range of settings - especially for human and humanoid characters. There’s a way out though - you can import animations from professional software, like Lender. Both engines have state machines that allow switching between assets and handling multiple projects. However, both engines compensate for lacking features with add-ons and integrations. So, when making a choice, don’t focus too much on individual focus, instead, pay attention to the direction of the engine’s development.  



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