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From Unity to Unreal… Why switch?

2015.02.11 - Posted in blog , Maximum Viable Progress , Unreal Adventures Posted by:

EDIT: I’ve crossed out outdated info to jive with Epic’s recent announcement to remove the $20 a month fee from UE4.

TLDR; I’m a hippy programmer who lives on the fringes and isn’t afraid of a challenge if it means expanding my horizons.

I’ve been using Unity both personally and professionally for a combined total for about 7 years. I’ve done product comparisons between Unity, Unreal, and others for project managers showing Unity to be the preferred engine of choice (before the BIG change from Epic to go open source) at the time. So why switch to this after such an investment in another stack?

Before I go over the reasons I would like to point out that I have two major concerns with Unreal:

  • Adjusting my skill-set – After so much time in one environment it’s going to take time to adjust my habits to this new environment. Hopefully, the adjustment will be the difficult aspect and not the learning curve of the engine itself.
  • Cross-platform support – I know that Unreal supports all the platforms Unity does. However, I’m curious as to how difficult it will be to be able to switch between these platforms. Unreal is an unknown for the time being. Meanwhile, I know that Unity’s platform switching is as simple as a toggle button and some waiting for assets to re-import.

However, here are the reasons for the switch in no particular order:

  • Unity Pro costs are significant (though I will admit a Pro license is now less necessary than in previous versions)
    • $1500 total in or $75 a month
    • Add $1500 or $75 a month for Android or iOS Pro.
    • For both iOS and Android Pro licenses it comes to $4500 or $225 a month.
    • Unreal Engine 4 costs $20 a month and 5% of your net for all of those same features.
      • If you’re upset at the percentage and are an indie I question your sanity…
      • If you’re a big studio and are upset at the percentage I recommend a dose of humble gratitude for getting full access to an engine representing almost two decade’s worth of R&D.
    • While “free” up front, the costs of getting additions from the Asset Store quickly stack up even for Unity free license.
  • Epic has gone open source
    • Unity will almost never support Linux at the editor level.
    • For more advanced developers and studios Unity’s lack of exposure to “the metal” of the engine cause simple implementations to be very cumbersome.
      • I’ve seen developers hack in their own game loops and message pumps into game objects via the MonoBehaviour class just to get comfy with their own methods.
      • Get ready to spend more money at the Asset Store if you want something like Blueprint, dependency injection, or even more than basic line rendering.
    • I <3 Linux and the open source philosophy.
    • The whole effort seems very developer friendly while Unity’s ecosystem always seems to begrudgingly care about the developer’s environment.
      • Improvements to the development environment are limited to, “Hey folks, we’re letting MS integrate Visual Studio into our engine! Monodevelop? Meh.”
    • As a developer the learning curve for Unity quickly ramps up once you want to do something beyond the trivial much of the time.
      • Up until recently (and maybe still so despite Unity’s efforts) UI’s in Unity are painful.
  • Feels more version control friendly.
    • Have to have a bit more experience before I can say this with more authority.
    • Unity is still version control obnoxious despite the massive strides since version 2.
  • Something different.
    • Monotony is annoying and I want to learn something new.