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Making the Leap to 3d – Unity 3d versus Unreal 4

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FullColorUE4WhiteTextTransparent_smallIn the gaming industry, and especially within the indie game studio industry, there is no shortage of tools and game engines for quickly creating video games. Most new indie studios, Top Cool Fun Games included build most games using 2d game engines.

Popular 2D Game Engines

  • GameSalad
  • Clickteam Fusion 2.5
  • Construct 2
  • Buildbox
  • Game Maker Studio
  • Stencyl
  • Corona
    ..and many more

These 2D game creators are easy to learn (for the most part) and allow indie game studios and hobby game developers to quickly build games for mobile platforms, and in some case make a little money while doing so.

With the popularity of successes like Flappy Birds, 2 Cars, Tower, 2048, and more., lots of new developers are trying to recreate these successes. With the lure of easy money, the market is now floaded with these types of games, reskins and clones of these games, and games like these.

For gamers, too many of these simple quick fix games provide little real challenge, lots of frustration, have little or no features, no bosses, no levels and show an overall lack luster in the games themselves. The result has become an onslaught of games filling the app stores that are nothing more than platforms designed to deliver advertisements and no real good game play.

This problem isn’t necessarily with the game creation software, though some game creators don’t allow for creating anything more than an endless runner style game, but stems more from the pressure to turn a profit, even if its a small profit.

With so many new indie developers flocking to build simple apps with simple software, a better long term solution for indie studios is to NOT follow the crowd and start behaving more like the big boys and make the leap to 3D and use the Big Boy Toys.

Mecanim_JumperMaking the Leap to 3D – What are the Options

When making the decision to adopt a new game development platform, there are several things you need to take into consideration.

  • Expense
  • Ease of Use/Learning Curve
  • Community
  • Available Assets
  • Scripting Language
  • Extensibility
  • Portability (which game platforms can you export to)

Gaming Engines

As far as available gaming engines go, there are really only three options (3 game engines) that are available to indie developers.

  • Unity 3D
  • Unreal Engine 4
  • CryEngine

In the past the pricing model of Unreal and Crytek were both prohibitive to adoption by small indie companies, however recently both have introduced new subscription models making it extremely affordable for small companies with tiny or no budgets to build games using these amazing tools

The Expense

Unreal is now only $19 a month plus a small royalty fee (5% over $3000), CryEngine is similar at only $9.90 per month with no royalty fees.

Unity on the other hand is free to download, however charges for  deploying games to most popular platforms.  This is great for being able to learn the tool and get your feet wet developing games. There is also an amazing asset store with tons of free asset available for creating anything you like.  However the cost for Unity starts to get a bit shocking at $1500 for PRO and additional fees for iOS and Android.

To Unity’s defense they do have a monthly subscription fee, but this is significantly higher than it’s competitors at $75/month and requires a one year contract.

Ease of Use/Learning Curve

Editor_Devices_wGamesDepending on how deep your pockets are, the pricing models above maybe of little consequence.  A larger concern may be other softer costs you may have. If you’ve never used a 3D gaming engine, and don’t have any vested interest, the next larger concern is how quickly you can ramp up to take advantage of this new technology.

Anytime you adopt a new tool, you have to take into consideration the time you will loose to develop games and direct that into learning the new tool.  The incentive is that the loss of productivity will pay for itself with the new games you can create with the new tools.  So which ever tool you decide to go with better be worth the production loss.

Ease of learning this new tool needs to be a fast and intuitive as possible.  Plus most of these big boy toys also require some experience with real programming.

Learning a new programming language

You may need to learn a programming language.  C#, C++, JavaScript, Boo, etc., maybe needed in order to produce a game.  How long will it take to learn a new programming language? Have you ever programmed before?  This could be a serious barrier to entry into this new realm of 3D.

Available Assets

Believe it or not, assets are not always transferable between these different gaming engines.  Each engine has its own store where you can buy assets.  Some stores like the Unity asset store has a lot of assets, many are free that you can use.  The may or not drive an added expense to your game development if you have to buy assets.


As you can see there are many things to consider when making the leap to 3D.  Only you can decide base on your own finances, resources, back ground, talents, and tenacity which direction you should choose.

For us at Top Cool Fun Games, we are considering either Unity 3D or Unreal.  Both are exceptional platforms. We are testing both right now and are seeing which one will fit our business model.  Unreal looks to have better rendering, a new Blue Prints visual scripting engine as well as a nice pricing model that reduces the up front costs and allows us to pay as each game makes money.

What is left to be seen is the over all learning curve, usable assets, and responsiveness of each of the communities.  Both will produce a superb product and like any tool, it’s only as good as the person wielding it.   A hammer can build a beautiful house or it can crush someones skull.

Have you made the leap to 3D or have experience with any of the gaming engines mentioned?  Leave a comment and let us know!




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