Getting Started with Unreal Engine for Unity Developers

When starting a new project, developers need to decide which engine to use to develop their games. Unity is one of the favorites right now, but the company’s policies are known to give reasons to game developers to reconsider if that’s still the case.

One of the most popular alternatives is Unreal Engine, which is both reliable and stable. It powers next-generation games on PC and consoles. In this tutorial, you will see the basic functionality of the engine and how to get started, bringing as much of your Unity skills as possible.

Unity vs. Unreal Engine — Round 1; Fight (But Not Too Much)

From a technical perspective, Unity and Unreal Engine have both been viable options for several years now. Despite many similarities, the main purposes of these two game engines are different. Unity aims to accelerate game development through simple-to-use tools and resources, while Unreal Engine focuses on creating next-generation experiences.

It is important to step back at this point and get into more detail. Does this mean Unreal is more complicated or takes longer to get a game prototype working? It’s not necessary. From a quick glance, Unreal Engine may seem more complicated because it uses C++ as the programming language, offers a wide range of resources and forces a strict game architecture. , which the developer must follow.

In fact, it is possible to get interesting results with little effort; see an example of this in the How to Create a Simple FPS in Unreal Engine 5 tutorial.

Unreal Engine allows developers to choose which tools to use at each stage of game development. In other words, Unreal Engine supports the development from prototyping to the final release of the game.

This tutorial can act as a source of information. For a practical approach, see Unreal Engine 5 Tutorial for Beginners: Getting Started for instructions on how to install and configure Unreal Engine on your computer.

User Interface and Files

To ease your introduction to Unreal, check out its editor versus Unity’s:

Unity's and Unreal Engine's editors displayed side by side

As you can see, the interface layout is the same. Generally, screen sections offer the same functions in Unity and Unreal Engine. For example, you can use the same Unreal process as Unity to import assets. The same applies to creating new elements, visualizing the object hierarchy, navigating your scene, and more.

The fun part about Unreal is that all elements have advanced features that more experienced users can use to their advantage. However, that is a topic for another tutorial. But you can – and should – explore the tools and see what works best for you in different situations.

An example of these advanced functionalities is in the viewport. In its initial state, you only see a 3D representation of the scene. This can introduce problems such as things that hide others from view. By clicking the button shown in the following figure, that changes the way it works completely.

Button to change from 3D view to lateral view

Now, the window shows the top, bottom and side views of the scene in wireframe mode. It allows you to see and place elements in the game world easily. It’s like having X-ray vision for your sight objects!

Launch the Editor

Unity and Unreal Engine provide project templates to get started quickly. When you launch the Unreal Engine Editor, it displays the first screen:

Unreal Engine initial screen

Note that you still have the option to start with a blank project, but the editor offers many helpful templates to start your work. Later, you can create a project in each template to explore the resources provided by Unreal. For now, though, click on the Third Person button and then the make button. This shows the Unreal Engine loading screen. After a few moments, the Unreal Engine Editor will appear.

NOTES: If you are creating the project with this tutorial, be sure to check the Home Content checkbox to the right of Project Details section.

The False Editor

When this screen appears, you have a working game. Try it by clicking on play button and see how your level plays in the Editor window, the same as you would in Unity.

Play-in-editor button

The result is shown in the following picture. To control the food, as this type of character is called, click inside the window. To return the mouse cursor to the Editor window, press Shift-F1 on the keyboard. To exit this play mode, press Escape.

Game playing editor screen

You can see more options to run the game by clicking on Platforms button. The first one, highlighted in the figure below, compiles and launches the game in a dedicated window on your computer. Other options allow you to package and distribute the game if you have installed the appropriate SDK on your computer platform.

Launch the game in the dedicated window

The result can be seen in the following figure.

NOTES: Since no game exit function is implemented, the easiest way to exit the game in this state is to press the keyboard Alt-F4 (or Command-Q on Mac).

Game playing in a dedicated window

You can check the level in several ways. The easiest is to use the mode called Unity flythrough mode. Just like you would in Unity, hold down the right mouse button and use the w, A, S and d key to float around the level. In this mode, you use the mouse to change the direction. As an additional function, the Q and E The keys control the height of the camera.

Levels

Levels are the maps your player will explore with their characters, called by the Unreal Engine foods; you will learn more about those in the next section. You can click and move level objects to create different challenges for your player and create new level configurations. Most of the level elements are called by the Unreal Engine actorswhich are defined as game elements that can be generated in a level, but cannot receive player controls.

In Unity, to add a GameObject to a level, you use the Hierarchy and select one of the dropdown options. In Unreal, the process is less straightforward.

Click on the Add to project immediately button to add geometry and other level elements. These elements help to prototype your levels and add game options. If you are interested in level modeling, this level prototyping tutorial might interest you.

Item to easily add to the project

the food a rare case for level elements; it is not in the beginning level, but when you play, the pawn suddenly appears. It’s confusing, isn’t it?

Unreal has modularity in mind here. If the pawn is statically referenced to the level, this can be a potential source of error. Do all levels have the latest version of Pawn? Has anyone changed the pawn in one level and not in others?

To avoid such mistakes, the level should be contained Start Player thing. This element specifies where the machine should spawn at food, as configured in the level properties. So, the level and the food relatively independent of each other. This means that the level does not need a static reference to food thing. Its code or geometry can be changed and does not influence the level at which the food appear.

The player starts thing

Another cool feature for the modularity of levels is the concept of sub-levels. But this idea is too complicated to discuss here. Think of it as a way to divide the production level between designers and coders. In the end, all the elements will be combined automatically (or almost automatically – some assembly effort may be necessary).

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