What is the Difference Between Unity & Unreal Engine?

The art of video game creation requires a combination of creative passion and technical prowess. Those incredibly fun gameplay sequences you blast through in a few minutes can take months of demanding work to create. Despite the arduous length of game development cycles, most game designers consider the toil worth it. The looks of excitement and words of praise from fans all over the world overshadows each tribulation faced by the video game design team. At the end of the day, a career in game development provides immense levels of satisfaction for video game developers looking to express themselves. And there are many industry-standard tools that can help you create a video game including Unity and Unreal Engine.

What is the Difference Between Unity and Unreal?

Unity and Unreal are the two most popular game engines for students to develop for. You can expect to explore both applications as you make your way through a creative arts college. Each program is highly versatile and designed to facilitate as many game genres as possible. This explains why they are so conducive to a school setting. Keep in mind that both engines are robust enough to help you make your own titles after graduation. There are many indie and AAA projects alike that are powered by each engine.

Unreal Engine

Unreal Engine is one of the most widely used engines throughout the industry. The original version was released alongside the FPS of the same name in 1998. The titular game was created to highlight what the engine could do. The reception was so positive that numerous studios agreed to purchase a license for use in their own projects. Fast-forward to today where Unreal Engine 5 is available to download free for anyone. The latest iteration has enough horsepower to facilitate the near photorealistic games expected by modern gamers.

The ability to create games with such a high degree of professionalism comes with an equal level of complexity. Unreal Engine provides a steep learning curve for newcomers. You will grow familiar with the hundreds of options available to you, though you must realize that it takes some time for it all to sink in. Once you become proficient in the application, you will have free rein to design any game you choose.

Unity Game Engine

Unity game engine is a rising star throughout the game industry. Ever since its first iteration back in 2005, it has been championed by developers who wish to make large scale titles on a smaller budget. Indie teams in particular have been drawn to the cost-effective nature of the program. Until Unreal allowed you to use their software for free, Unity was the obvious choice for people just getting started as designers.

Although the cost of each engine is roughly on par with each other these days, Unity is still more beginner friendly. The game engine has a simple interface that takes less time to learn. The ease-of-use does reduce the number of features that come standard with the program. Advanced developers can produce some creative tricks to navigate these limitations, but Unreal may be the better choice for technically demanding projects.

Available Coding Languages

Unreal engine supports numerous coding languages to cast the widest umbrella possible. You may choose the engine simply because you prefer to write scripts using C++ or other languages not supported by Unity. Unity only recognizes C# and JavaScript libraries at the present time. This is perfectly fine for most projects, though some specific use-cases will force you to look elsewhere.

What Does a Video Game Developer Do?

As the title implies, a video game developer creates the virtual worlds and scenarios that entice gamers to keep picking up the controller each week. The tasks you will perform each day will vary depending on your position within the game studio. The expansive digital worlds you expect from modern titles can be built by teams of more than one hundred people. Each game studio is subdivided into smaller teams that focus on specific aspects of development. Here are a few common specialties that you may wish to explore. Keep in mind that each studio uses slightly different nomenclature and hierarchy structures.

Level Designer

A level designer decides the overall layout of the map, as well as the placement of key game elements. This includes where enemies spawn, which items are available to pick up, and what obstacles the player must avoid. Level design is typically conducted without adding any visual bells and whistles. The goal is to create fun and interesting gameplay scenarios that someone else on the team will make pretty.


Programmers dive deep into the coding side of each project. The underlying code determines the behavior of characters and objects throughout the game world. Everything reacts as you would expect because a programmer accounts for it and adds a relevant function to the code.

Environmental Artist

Environmental artists add the visual details to the levels and backgrounds that the player sees. Once a specific art style is chosen, these game developers ensure that every asset in the project conform to the same visual standard. Since many objects and characters are created outside the game engine, a team of artists must confirm that each asset fits into the overall aesthetic.

Narrative Designer/Writer

There are numerous types of writing that game developers must consider. Depending on the genre of the project, you may need to write long conversations of dialogue or descriptions for thousands of enchanted items. Even arcade-style games require a sizeable amount of menu text. This portion of development has become increasingly emphasized as the industry evolves.

How Do You Become a Video Game Developer?

There are two main ways to become a video game developer. Each route has several variations that allow you to carve out a unique path. The first option is to teach yourself via the internet. Although this method is a fantastic way to see if you enjoy the process of game development initially, you should consider a formal education once you know the industry is for you.

Attending a formal education program

Digital arts schools have diligently worked to keep up with the growing demand for degree programs. Digital entertainment is a multibillion-dollar industry filled with an abundance of opportunities, and video games are leading this surge of popularity. These opportunities are readily available to all who cultivate their creative talent. So, choosing the highest quality education you have access to is vital. You want the best chance at seizing the opportunities that lay before you.

The Benefits of a Formal Education Program

There are numerous ways a formal education program can help set you on the right track. In addition to giving you the most relevant information, you gain access to a network of advantages that will serve you for the rest of your career. Here are some of the benefits that video game development students enjoy.

Proper Training From the Get Go

When you enroll into a dedicated curriculum, you can rest assured the structure of the program makes it easy to progress. When you engage in self-study, you learn many things out of order and are prone to picking up bad habits. Bad habits must be trained out of you once you land your first job in the industry. Each game studio will direct you on the way they do things. Formal education programs know what employers expect and teach you accordingly.

While you are not required to be perfect on your first day in an entry-level position, you will be making a first impression based upon how easily you can acclimate to the standards of the company. Having to deprogram negative habits will influence what your team thinks of you. A formal education helps you go with the flow and eases your transition into the workforce.

Gain Familiarity with All Aspects of Game Development

Your curriculum allows you to dabble in each specialty that comprises a typical design team. You can decide if you prefer animation, writing, coding, level design, lighting, or any other role by acquiring firsthand experience in each. This is crucial because game developers often choose a specialty to perfect throughout their career. This makes landing your next position that much easier. You also get experience using different game engines such as Unity and Unreal. Both offer advantages that lead to preferences in each individual artist. You can determine which engine you prefer by trying them both during your assignments.

Networking and Industry Status

Your network of contacts within the game industry can be just as important as your raw skill as a game designer. A game development education program is just the place to meet relevant individuals. In addition to classmates who may offer you a job one day, you also meet teachers who have worked on published titles. The faculty itself has many connections to iconic publishers and developers throughout the industry. When attempting to get a job at one of the established major studios, a degree from a school an employer trusts will improve your chances of being hired.

Why You Should Learn both Unity and Unreal

As mentioned above, you will undoubtedly develop a preference for either Unreal or Unity during your education. Learning both is still useful, even after you have chosen a favorite. Experience in each will bolster your resume and prepare you for additional job offers. Most likely, you will not turn down your first job simply because the employer asks you to use Unity over Unreal. The confidence to accept a position regardless of which engine you will be working in is the ultimate victory for a game designer.

The great news is that your knowledge of one engine will help you learn the other much faster. This applies to other proprietary game engines offered throughout the industry as well. Becoming adept in both Unity and Unreal is easier than you think. The core logic transfers over and you can reconcile the differences in layout and feature sets. This is why understanding both engines make up a key portion of your game development education program.

Want to Learn More?

What are the reasons you want to become a video game developer? Ready to break into the video game industry with theoretical, technical, and business knowledge gained at one of The Princeton Review’s Top 25 Schools for Game Design. As the video game industry continuously grows, employers are zeroed in on game design and development degree program students who understand both the creative and technical sides of the industry. The University of Silicon Valley offers degrees in both game design art and game design engineering in the Game Design & Development department. Learn more about these degree programs and pick your passion.

University of Silicon Valley is uniquely poised to offer a meaningful and valuable education for 21st century students. We believe in an education that directly correlates with the work you’ll be doing after you graduate. Interested in learning more? Contact Us today.

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