Friday, November 6, 2009

A Tale of Two Engines, Preface

This morning I said to Jen that I wished I could cram the timespan of a month or two into a single day; that I didn't need sleep, and could just plow through all of the scripting I'm learning and be at the end of it, ready to kick some butt, in a game engine I was confident in.

As of yesterday, there are two engines that've captured my attention most. The usual suspects, both posted about on this site, are Unity and Unreal. My inexperienced impressions are that Unity is a powerful and user-friendly low-end tool that covers all the basics but could probably produce something impressive in finality by twisting its arm a bit, while Unreal is built to be impressive, but necessarily more complex, with more arm-twisting and managing throughout for greater reward. For creating something like Batman or Gears, it clearly pays, but with smaller aspirations, I wonder what high-end Unity development is like.

Unity is a compelling tool for rapid prototyping. Within a week and no previous scripting experience, I've been able to script up from scratch -- with no pre-existing assets of any kind whatsoever -- a decent Gears of War control scheme prototype. It has holes, but for a complete n00b, it's easy to see the potential. I plan to dive into Unreal to compare the process, but my gut tells me scripting will be less accessible (though possibly more powerful) and in general, a lot more time will be needed to generate an expertise for their particular way of creating a game, and learning how to deconstruct its "shooter" guts to get "the game I want" from scratch.

Also, at a glance, the Unity community is more inclusive, and boiling over with activity. Unreal community has that bizarre, inaccessible cockiness that somehow comes with being shooter fans (or something?). Though I still many friendly people in total, it may take a bit of time to find the resources I want.

Costs, of the long-term sort, behind each free engine is a vague consideration. Unity's (inexpensive) flat-rate license is obviously the better choice for earning potential, but only if its high-end development isn't a big pain in the ass, and that strikes me as a big "but." Game concepts I pursue vary from bite-sized to stupid-huge, but because feedback (i.e., visuals, story, effects, etc.) and polish are so important to me, having high-end knobs to turn is good.

But just having the choice right now is amazing. I'm excited for the future and plan to dig into both, to challenge my assumptions and see what fits.


  1. Thought... Since Unreal has been around longer, it may make it easier to find talent.

  2. Another good consideration. Thanks Gav.