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Unreal Engine 4 - Initial Impressions

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Last week I said I was going to subscribe to Epic's UE4 package. I did, and spent most of the weekend with it. I really liked it, actually. There are pros and cons to discuss, but the cons can be kinda big ones so I'm going to lay those out first.

Cons:
- not intuitive
- little documentation
- massively resource intensive
- somewhat unstable
- cannot choose install location

Not Intuitive
The control scheme is mostly keyboard shortcuts that aren't labeled, and are hidden in documentation and tutorials. Once you learn the first few you'll start grasping how they intended it to work, and from there it's easier to figure out what does what - but for someone just getting their feet wet, the water is icy.

Little Documentation
Like above, there isn't much documentation. Yet. It's worth noting that this is the first release and I'm an early adopter. I'm certain in 6 months there will be plenty of documentation from both Epic and users alike.

Massively Resource Intensive and Somewhat Unstable
My computer is getting up there in age, but it's still a powerhouse even today. A Radeon HD 7970, 8-core Bulldozer, 16 GB RAM. The more you put on the level or object you're manipulating, the more it eats. Loading one of the example games eats 9gb of RAM and pushes my GPU to 65% utilization. Interacting in it caused me to crash. Actual BSOD, not just client crash. I loaded it again with Visual Studios also open and was able to spend more time in it before crashing, but it crashed when I passed the camera through a wall.

My last, and biggest, irritation with it is that it installs to a default location. The launcher has no option to set a download location for additional content, or an installation location for the engine and client. Since my C: drive is only 50gb, and the Engine alone is 8gb, this is a huge problem. I use a 64gb SSD to hold my OS and swap file. There's barely any room to spare. I managed to find room, but it wasn't pretty.

Now all that said, Epic has announced that they intend to have it polished in 6 months, but right now it's just the quick and dirty first release. So I get that some or all of these cons will be resolved.

What about the pros?
- Little/no C++ required
- Blueprints make game logic easy to manage
- Prebuilt "dev art" objects provides generic models to construct actors and apply art later.
- Fully accessible C++

Little/no C++ required
Required is the keyword here. So far I've been able to do everything I wanted without touching any raw code. However, I suspect that I will need to code for what I want to do. But with the resources available, there's a great deal that can be done out of the box.

Blueprints
These are cool. If you've used Visio or UML you already understand the underlying premise to these. Properties and functions are implemented from a high level flowchart called Blue Prints. These handle everything from projectile speed and damage to dialog sequences.

Dev Art
One thing that's always struck me as a pain in the ass is that I have the artistic capacity of a stoned yak. Historically. my placeholder art has typically consisted of a stretched sprite or colored block. The UE editor has some decent models pre-packaged. I wouldn't use them in production of course, like the FPS arms are monocolored, but it's good to have a sense of what's where.

Full C++ Access
Meaning you can create custom classes, edit core functionality, etc, as long as you know/can pick up C++. Even though it's not required, some times its the only way to get what you want.

So I didn't get much done in the way of the game I want to make. Mostly I just screwed around to get a grasp on how the controls work and a feel for the editor. I did manage to create a collection of floor tiles that arranged into a pretty hexagon. I'd prefer to have a single hexagon floor tile though, and I think I'll have to write a custom class to have that. That's fine. I'm just discussing my first impression after playing with it for the weekend.

Overall, I'm happy I picked it up and I look forward to seeing what more they do with it. If any of the cons put you off, by all means I would just give it 6 months and check it back out. They have said exactly that.

1 Comments On This Entry

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modi123_1 Icon

02 April 2014 - 06:55 AM
Over the last few weekends I've been on the Unity wagon. Not bad.. not bad at all.
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