So...you want to get into game development, but you're not sure where to begin. While we can go back and forth over which game engine is technically better, faster, or more popular, there are two clear engines that shine through:
Unity and Unreal.
Either choice is great, but which is better for you?
Unity vs. Unreal for Beginners
Let's start with the basics. What type of games do you wish to develop?
Is it super casual mobile games, pixel masterpieces, or 3D worlds with texture so good you can almost touch it? For a full breakdown, Gameplay Developer has a great breakdown. If you want the highlights, keep on readin'.
If you're looking for versatility, Unity wins by a longshot. Unity is the "all-purpose" game engine. Be it mobile games, 3D FPS games, or 2D pixel sims, Unity does it all.
Here's what you can build with Unity:
- Mobile Games 2D & 3D
- 2D Games
- 3D Games
While Unreal doesn't have the versatility that Unity has, it specializes in stunning 3D graphics and multiplayer games.
- 3D Games
- Mobile Games (3D)
Programming + Visual Scripting
Unreal Engine uses the widely popular C++ language, whereas, if you're using Unity, you'll be using C#. If you have experience with C++ and are looking to make a 3D game, Unreal might be the way to go.
While C# may be considered more "beginner-friendly", neither of these languages are easy. Both are difficult, and require steep learning curves if you're new to programming. To me, the language shouldn't be a deciding factor if you're just starting out, since you'll be spending a solid amount of effort either way. That being said, there's a massive community for beginners around C# that can help you get started.
Now in terms of visual scripting, Unreal wins here simply because they have built-in visual scripting. I have a whole article on why visual scripting sucks anyways, but that's a whole different discussion. Unity has 3rd party visual scripting add-ons like Bolt and a few notable others, but it's really tomato-tomahto here since both are usually free.
Who has the best assets and asset store?
To put this in perspective, Unity currently has around 30,000 assets, while Unreal has about 10,000. Since Unreal is only 3D and most of the assets are professional-grade, more doesn't always mean better in this circumstance. In this case, it just depends on what you're looking for. The Unreal Asset store has mostly models, environments, and textures for sale. This makes sense since they're claim to fame are their amazing graphics.
If your game needs some finishing touches to get going, Unreal has everything you need. Just look at MetaHuman and you'll see what I mean. If you're just starting out your game, prototyping, or brainstorming, Unity offers more "inclusive" assets to help you on your way.
Both offer game templates and have a fair amount of free content. The free templates on Unity seem to be a bit more full-fledged, and the paid templates are out of this world. Both routinely offer great deals and free content around each holiday, so be sure to invest in assets when they go on sale.
If we're painting with a broad brush, Unreal is favored by AAA Game Studios and 3D artists because of the killer graphics. Indie studios and devs prefer Unity because of its ease of use, community support, and versatility. While Unity is technically more popular in numbers, Unreal is more widely accepted in the professional game development space.
Here's the deal. If you know how to code, are mainly interested in developing realistic, awesome 3D games or multiplayer games, Unreal is the clear winner. It may not be as versatile as Unity, but you're getting AAA quality graphics. And that's why people love Unreal.
If you're interested in learning other disciplines, are interested in 2D, and want "start-to-finish" assets, Unity is the way to go. The jury is still out on which engine will be better for VR, but Unreal has a very unique opportunity to shine through before Unity beats them to the punch, but they'll have to improve their user interface to get indie devs on the Unreal train.
Hope this clears a few things up, happy gaming folks!