Knowledge Base

12th November 2018

Unity versus Unreal

user image James Burrows Managing Director

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As an immersive technology studio, we create a lot of projects in-engine, from VR to AR to games. As a rule we work in either Unity 3D or Unreal Engine, but which we use for any one project depends on a variety of factors – not least the views of our dev team. Here we run through a few key questions to ask yourself before making your choice.

What level of visuals are you after?

Straight away, one of the main differentiators is the quality of visuals. Unreal offers high fidelity visuals straight out of the box, whereas Unity – while still able to produce high quality visuals – takes a lot more work to get your assets looking close to the same level as Unreal. And even then, it won’t produce quite the same quality. It’s for this reason that you’ll find Unreal used more on big games and productions from large studios – and why we chose it to create a VR configurator for the hypercar Brabham BT62. So, if you want as close to photorealistic assets as possible, it’s quicker and easier to achieve this with Unreal.

What devices is your project aimed at?

That said, if you’re looking to create a project to run on lower-powered devices, such as mobile phones, then the high processing power demanded by Unreal isn’t necessarily for you. This is where Unity really comes into its own. Originally designed to run on devices like consoles and phones, Unity enables you to create complex projects for low-end devices without requiring such a powerful PC set up as Unreal, which is why we use it for projects ranging from mobile games to AR apps. If, on the other hand, you’re creating an experience for high-end devices then either Unity or Unreal will set you right. But that also depends on...

What size team are you working?

The consensus amongst the collective experience of the Infinite Form dev team is that to get the very best out of Unreal, you need a large and specialist team that’s dedicated to different parts of the process, for example someone dedicated just to particles or someone just to shaders. Unity, on the other hand, is much easier for developers to get to grips with straight away – making it a good choice for one-man bands and smaller teams to create an effective experience. Its asset store is also significantly bigger, making it simpler to populate your game or experience if you don’t have a massive team working on each aspect.

Are you a developer or a visual artist?

There’s no doubt about it, this seems to affect your preference. Our developers prefer Unity, but our visual artists opt for Unreal – and this is purely down to the difference in visuals. At the end of the day, both game engines offer the same sort of functionality and capability just packaged in different ways. For a while now, the lines differentiating the two have started to blur as Unreal – starting out as an AAA game engine – aims to make itself more accessible for smaller teams and experiences, while Unity – originally preferred by indie studios for simple games and experiences – continues to work its way up to the top by adding pro-level features. The main difference is visual quality and your target platform – but we think it won’t be long until both engines reach a similar level in both respects. In which case, soon it’ll simply be a case of personal preference.

James Burrows Managing Director

James has over two decades’ experience in highly technical roles – from the main IT agency of the British Government to digital marketing. He’s led development teams in three different agencies, plus worked as a freelance developer and consultant. His love of all things tech led James to co-found Infinite Form in 2015. When he’s not playing with computers, James is usually playing bass.

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