Hello, Unreal!

Blog Posts ,Programming ,Unreal
January 6, 2016

2016 is off to a good start.

As the holiday season wraps up, I found myself with some spare time over the weekend and finally got a chance to sit down at my desktop and start playing with Unreal Engine – something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Up until now, I’ve been doing all of my work in WebVR or Unity, so I figured it was time to take Unreal for a spin to see how it compared.

Right off the bat, there are a few things that I’ve really taken a liking to in Unreal Engine. The support for mesh creation and customization feels incredibly smooth – I started with the ’empty’ template, and was suprised at how easily I was able to put together a decent looking environment without importing extra resource packages. It does seem like the Unreal Marketplace is a little less stocked with free assets than I was hoping for, but the ones I grabbed an added into the project were really nice, so kudos there!

One thing in particular that stood out to me was how I was able to place different materials on objects that seemed to be one item – the stairway object was a great example of a compound structure that had some flexibility with material placement, and I thought that was pretty cool.

Another detail about Unreal that I really loved was the way that the input works within the environment editor. I could easily see which axes were being rotated and where I was moving things, and the “lock-to” functionality for the rotation transform was incredibly helpful in making a uniform circular stairway. We tend to want to operate in whole numbers (or at least, I do!) so having it snap to degree increments was a really nice touch.

One downside of Unreal is that it seems to really need a pretty beefy machine to run – I don’t have too much of an issue running Unity on my two laptops, but experienced some trouble trying to build lighting with Unreal on them. Even my desktop, which hits the Oculus recommended specs, froze once importing assets, but it fixed itself quickly and it’s not really too big of an issue, since I do most development on my desktop anyway.

The detail inspector in Unreal is still unfamiliar territory for me (which is to be expected after an hour!) but I’m excited to work with it for a while and start to see what Unreal is really capable of. I’m always blown away by apps built with Unreal Engine, so it’s going to be fun to start playing with it myself!

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