Unreal Engine

Unreal Engine

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Updated Mar 16, 2016 at 01:30PM EDT by Ari Spool.

Added Mar 16, 2016 at 12:06PM EDT by Ari Spool.

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Unreal Engine is a game engine created by Epic Games and released for free use by game developers interested in making first-person shooters, MMORPGs, and other popular game types. Because it's code is based in C++, which makes it easy to learn, it became popular with game developers. Upon the release of version 4, Epic Games announced that the software would become free to all interested parties.


The Unreal Engine was first developed by Epic Games for the production of the game Unreal in 1998. The engine was created to be used to develop a range of games, so that game developers would not have to build an entirely new basis for game physics each time they wanted to develop a game. Features of the original engine included integrated rendering, collision detection, AI, visibility, networking, scripting, and file system management, as well as an advanced rasterizer. It also included a scripting language called UnrealScript, which made it easy for users to mod, and a stable release including this feature was made publicly available for a fee in 2000. The engine was compatible with a range of operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS and OS X, Dreamcast, and PlayStation 2.

Version 2 was released in 2001, with a completely rewritten set of core code and increased support for a variety of other operating systems and also an increased support for ragdoll physics, as well as vehicle physics. Version 3 was released in 2004, and had much more support for lighting and shader systems, soft body dynamics, iPod touch functionality, Steamworks integration, and stereoscopic 3D. In November 2009, Epic Games released a version of UE3's software development kit to be available to the general public, instead of just those who had licensed it for the development of specific games.

Version 4

Unreal Engine 4 was released in 2012, but it had been in development since 2003, even before the initial release of Unreal Engine 3. One of the largest changes was in the time it took for the builds to compile; some minor builds were able to be compiled in 30 seconds, as opposed to 15 minutes. This made it much easier for developers to iterate through changes, and test new ideas. Along with other updates in the software's tools and increased support for even more operating systems, this change was acclaimed by game developers, who applauded the release of Unreal Engine 4.

In 2014, Epic Games announced that it would change the model of how people could use Unreal Engine, opening the software up to a subscription model of $19.95 a month for anyone who was interested in using it. They also began to offer grants from a large fund to people who came up with innovative uses for the software, encouraging people to use it for development and experimentation even outside the gaming world. In 2015, Epic announced that the software would now be available to anyone for any use for free, with the caveat that if a user released a commercial product, they would need to pay a royalty for the use of the software.


Unreal Engine is very highly regarded by game developers, and each successive release has won awards and accolades from the industry. In addition, it is the current holder of the Guinness World Record for "most used video game engine." There are over 257,000 results on YouTube for Unreal Engine video playthroughs.

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Mistress Fortune
Mistress Fortune

I always have a tendency to tell when something is running on Unreal Engine, though more so with UE3 than others. I think it's because last generation Unreal Engine 3 was one of the more commonly licensed engines by third party companies. Some games last gen did still use a heavily modified Unreal Engine 2 (called Unreal Engine 2.5), most notably BioShock since UE3 wasn't finished when development began, and the Splinter Cell series has already ran on a heavily modified Unreal Engine 2, to the point where UbiSoft created a new engine called "LEAD" based on UE2 for Splinter Cell: Blacklist.

Of course making a new engine out of a pre-existing one is nothing new, Valve's first engine, GoldSrc, used stuff from the Quake II engine due to Gabe's connections with id Software, and the engine the Call of Duty series ran off of for a long time has been using heavily modified Quake 3 code for a long time now.

Now back to what I was saying about how I can tell if a game uses UE3, it's mainly because there's just something about the texturing techniques, lighting, and particle effects that UE3 can do that feel very recognizable. For example UE3 engine games always have a very distinctive look to how they light shafts look. Like I was just playing the Deadpool game recently, which runs on UE3, and it has the telltale light shaft effect in spots.


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