A free comprehensive real-time 3D creation tool
Unreal Engine by Epic Games is an advanced engine that allows users to create real-time experiences in 3D. It’s been used to produce popular video games like Gears of War and Fortnite, but you can use it to create more than just games. Various industries like film and TV, simulation, architecture, transportation, and many more also use Unreal Engine to create unique 3D experiences.
Unreal Engine is free to download and comes with lots of useful features that make it easier to create multi-platform games and other forms of entertainment. You’ll have full access to the C++ source code, along with a visual scripting tool called Blueprint, which is ideal if you lack the necessary coding skills. Unreal Engine shares some similarities with Unity but is more beginner-friendly thanks to the visual scripting tool.
What main features does Unreal Engine have?
One of Unreal Engine’s most prominent features is Blueprints. It’s a visual scripting tool that lets you completely bypass the need to know any code in C++. Behind the scenes, games are created using code, such as C++. With Blueprints, you can define object behavior, how objects interact with each other, toggle input controls, animations, gameplay flow, and more without any knowledge of coding whatsoever.
This allows anyone to pick up Unreal Engine and create a working prototype of a fully functional product in a short amount of time without touching one line of code. If you have knowledge of C++, you can gain full access to the source code. This is useful if you want to study the code, customize it, extend it, or need to perform debugging. The source code repository is available on GitHub.
Graphics are a vital component of any 3D design engine, and Unreal Engine lets you achieve breathtaking visuals from the very beginning. You can take advantage of 3D reflections, lighting tools, dynamic shadow options, and node-based materials to create realistic-looking visuals.
Another essential feature is the rugged multiplayer framework which has been tested across multiple platforms and genres for many years. If you plan on releasing a multiplayer-based game, Unreal Engine comes with easy client/server architecture and scalability so gamers can play with multiple people online.
Here’s the full list of features available when you download and install Unreal Engine:
- Content: Quixel megascans, industry-specific templates, marketplace ecosystem, sample projects
- Animation: Character animation tools, animation blueprints, Live Link data streaming, take recorder, nonlinear sequencer editing, and animation
- World building: The Unreal Editor, scalable foliage, asset optimization, mesh editing tools, landscape and terrain tools, sky and environment lighting
- Developer tools: Full access to C++ source code, seamless perforce integration, C++ API, profiling, and performance
- Platform support: Multi-platform development, XE (AR, VR, and MR) support, pixel streaming
- Virtual production: Remote control protocols, virtual scouting for filmmakers, efficient multi-display rendering, virtual camera plugin
- Pipeline integration: FBX, USD, Alembic support, Python scripting, data conversion, visual data prep, shotgun integration, LiDAR point cloud support
- Simulation and effects: Niagara particles ad visual effects, clothing tools, chaos physics and destruction system, strand-based hair and fur
- Integrated media support: Professional video I/O support and playback, Unreal audio engine, media framework
- Rendering, lighting, and materials: forward rendering, flexible material editor, photoreal rasterizing and ray tracing in real-time, virtual texturing, post-process and screen-space effects, color-accurate final output, movie render queue, advanced shading models
- Gameplay and interactivity authoring: Robust multiplayer framework, AI, Unreal motion graphics UI designer, variant manager, Blueprint visual scripting system
What is the Unreal Engine marketplace?
The marketplace is an e-commerce platform where content creators can purchase pre-made content or code to use with their games.
Is Unreal Engine difficult to learn?
Without any prior game development experience, you’ll find it difficult to start creating content with Unreal Engine. To help newcomers, free online courses are available, such as using Blueprints or becoming an environmental artist.
Is Unreal Engine free to use?
Unreal Engine is free to use. If you monetize your game or product, you will need to pay a 5% royalty fee when your gross revenues exceed 1 million USD.
Unreal Engine is an excellent free tool you can use for game or content development. The extensive library of assets, marketplace, and Blueprints makes it accessible even if you have zero coding knowledge.
Should you download it?
Unless you’re already familiar with another engine like Unity, consider downloading Unreal Engine.
- Free to use
- Don’t require in-depth coding knowledge
- Blueprints allow visual scripting
- Free online courses available
- Steep learning curve