No longer is the development of online games limited to huge companies out to make even bigger profits. Now anyone with a computer and interest in gaming can become a developer and even launch their own creation for others to enjoy. Although there are a few free game engines online to choose from that have a variety of features needed to create your favorite type of game, Unreal Engine 4 (https://www.unrealengine.com/) stands above the others in many ways.
The engine was developed by Epic Games and unveiled at the Game Developers Conference in 2012. It is the perfect platform for would-be game developers with a need to allow their imaginations to run wild while applying gaming skills to the production of a product. Best of all, games can be generated at home for fun, in school for a project or for future profit.
Epic Games was originally known as Potomac Computer Systems and later Epic MegaGames, Inc. Based in North Carolina, it is currently led by CEO/Technical Director Tim Sweeney with support from Vice President Mark Rein and associate Tencent Holdings. It is probably best known for the games Paragon, Infinity Blade and the Gears of War series. It’s Unreal Engine series, however, has provided a working game engine that has excited game developers throughout the world.
Features of the Unreal Engine
If you’re looking for amazing graphic abilities and a wide variety of options Unreal Engine 4 is a must have. It was designed to replace the Unreal Development Kit (UDK) that was packaged with Unreal Engine 3. For those with UDK experience it may take some time to make the transition to version 4, but the fact that the program is easier to use and comes with better demonstrations than 3, makes it very desirable for those new to game development.
As a complete game development suite, Unreal Engine 4 allows current and future designers to develop programs from 2D to console mega-hits and every level in-between. Included are features that teach you how to start, develop, ship, grow and even create a unique product that will target a specific niche market. Between the newer work-flow features, an extensive tool-set and even a complete C++ source code, any would-be game developer will have exactly what they need to achieve success.
One of the biggest changes in the newer version is the scripting language. The original versions used, UnrealScript, was replaced with C++. Additionally, Kismet was replaced with the more spontaneous Blueprint Visual Scripting system. Fortunately, a great demonstration mode of the Blueprint Script is embedded into the software allowing new game designers to create a playable game in a single day. The feature negates the need for beginners to master C++ before beginning experimentation with game design.
The one thing to keep in mind is that Unreal Engine 4 cannot be used on older consoles. It can only be used with PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 4. In addition to being supported on upgraded consoles, the good news is that it means the program has gone mobile. That provides the ability to develop games with either simple side scrolls or fabulous graphics.
Other Special Features for Unreal Engine
There are so many additional features it would be difficult to list them all in detail here. Following is a list of several features that will provide a small glimpse into the program package.
- DirectX Rendering Features include thousands of dynamic lights per scene, full-scene HDR reflections, artist-programmable tessellation and displacement and much more.
- Persona Animation allows developers to preview animation sequences and morph targets, blend animation spaces and montages, preview sequences and modify physics to name a few.
- Cascade Visual Effects provides tools that allow the creation of smoke, fire, snow, dust, etc. in fast, low-cost GPU particle simulation. Millions of dynamic particles can receive and emit light while allowing you to control all kinds of particle properties.
- Matinee Cinematic allows developers to set up action within a scene, animate the properties over time and produce impressive cinematic moments.
- Other features include Artificial Intelligence, C++ Code View, Instant Game Preview, Post-Process Effects and much more.
There are two distinct advantages of Unreal Engine 4. One is that any new game developer has the potential to generate breathtaking games using next-generation graphics. The program is able to manage a million particles per scene at a single time. The feature is a huge improvement over the hundred particles achieved by the Unreal Engine 3. It should be remember that the more powerful the machine used when creating the game the faster the system works. A developer also has the ability to produce smaller versions of games such as 2D platforms and apply them directly to web browsers.
The second big advantage is the inclusion of Blueprint Visual Scripting. The system allows developers to quickly image and design levels, behaviors and gameplay performance without being required to write a single line of code. Gameplay ideas, events at each level and many other aspects of the game design can be implemented quickly without having to spend an exorbitant amount of time writing script.
Frequency of Updates
Since the release of Unreal Engine 4 in 2016, Epic Games has unveiled the newest version, Unreal Engine 4.14. As if the original wasn’t amazing enough, the newest release contains hundreds of additional upgrades. On the positive side, 106 new and upgraded features have been added to an already long list of amazing options. Virtual Reality Editor, for example, allows developers to freely navigate the world they created in VR using motion controllers. The Sequencer, on the other hand, joined 3D animation editing with the power of a non-linear editor. The feature allows designers to sequence the shots for television, film and pre-visualization as well as produce in-game cinematics. It should also be noted that in order to use the upgraded program on Windows, game developers need to ensure they have downloaded Visual Studio 2015 first. All desktop versions of VS 2015 are supported including such programs as the free Express and Community versions. A full listing of new features can be found at https://www.unrealengine.com/blog/unreal-engine-4-12-released
Trepidation about tackling such a daunting project as creating a game is no longer a concern with support built into the Unreal Engine 4. Technology included in the program can power hundreds of games, 3D real-time films, visualizations, training simulations and so much more.
Early game developers started with a vision but had to learn the skills needed for program design and project development along the way. Over the past 15 years Epic Games learned much about the needs of those gamers and game developers. The knowledge gained over that time is evident in the Unreal Engine 4 system design. Using engines like Unreal Engine 4 also come with online support and have resulted in thousands of teams and individuals that have built careers as well as companies on such products.
Unreal Engine 4 removed the limitation that game development could only be accomplished by larger companies that paid millions of dollars for such software. Instead, game design was put into the hands of actual players. For those that would like to eventually sell their creation to the public there are a couple of things that should be kept in mind.
First, it’s important to keep in mind that for each type of game console the game can be used on, a license and software development kit is required. Additionally, as a game developer you must have a history of success to even get a software development kit which is why many new developers start by creating games that work with PC platforms and mobile devices.
Secondly, Unreal Engine 4 is a program that is completely free to everyone and a 5% royalty fee is only charged when $3,000 is earned per quarter per game. What that means is that if you have three games that only make $2,900 per game per quarter you would be exempt from royalties. However, once over the $3,000 mark, Epic Games would need to be paid.
Whether you’re an established game developer or new to the art, Unreal Engine 4 cannot be beat. The program has everything needed for game development and utilizes virtual reality for education, architecture, film, profit or fun and it’s absolutely FREE. Epic Games does not get paid until the programmer does. Best of all, the program evolves as you do so it will be there now as well as in your future.