dotBunny Game Development

Unreal Engine Refamiliarize

A second day on evaluating engines. Looking at Unreal Engine’s Signed Distance Field Shadows. It makes the decision easy.

Image from Ray Traced Distance Field Soft Shadows in Unreal Engine 4

A second day on evaluating engines. I am pretty sure about moving development of our internal project over to Unreal Engine. That about sums up the day really, I am feeling more and more confident in taking the risk of switching.

Day 1

Yesterday, I sat down and evaluated many of the engines out there. I had a preconceived idea that I would ultimately find myself using Unreal. My company, dotBunny, is most known for its years of Unity experience, not our past work in Unreal. Moving away from Unity for an internal project would push us outside our comfort zone. We could make the project inside of Unity in a relatively short period. Unity’s technical limitations, however, are a hurdle we cannot get around.

A lot of developers are coming out at GDC this year talking about how they all love Unity. On the backside of those statements, they are talking about switching over to Unreal, however. These developers are running into Unity’s limitations, like many before them. Stumbling over what to do in large teams. The hours lost waiting for asset imports, all the while questioning the graphical fidelity out of the box. Albeit, Unity’s new standard shader definitely comes a long way in catching up. It’s just some of the graphical features which I’m looking for, just aren’t there, and based on plans are not coming any time soon.

Distance Field Soft Shadows

For example Distance Field Soft Shadows, this beautiful shadowing technique bakes shadowing information into each mesh itself so that a shadow gets generated from it at runtime that looks pretty damn good. Why is that important? Well, in our case we plan on having almost the entirety of our level geometry being procedurally created. Being able to have our placed decorators having a high fidelity on their shadows needs to work.

Now the argument can definitely be made that we could build out the technology we need on top of the Unity engine. That is just it, “on top of”. We have limited time and a limited budget, which means we need to focus on features and technology that is going to separate Dethol from other games. Worrying about a specific shadowing technique is a waste of resources. Unity 2017’s announcement also revealed little or no change in the terrain backend.

I’m spending a fair bit of time now going over all the features in Unreal. I’m making notes on how we might use them when we finally get the ball rolling on development, as well as finding areas of concern which need a little more testing.

Being agnostic is important when considering game engines. Being a fanboy only limits your ability to make an educated decision.

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