Oct 10, 2022 · 8 mins read

Unreal Engine vs. Blender - Comparison Guide

Oboubia Decker

Oboubia Decker

Architect & 3D Modelling Specialist

Unreal Engine vs. Blender - Comparison Guide

Unreal Engine and Blender are two of the most used software among game developers and they each have their own uses and place in the game development workflow. As a beginner entering the video game industry, it can be hard to sift through dozens of software to find the one that best fits your needs. Hopefully, this guide will ease that difficulty and help you decide which software to pick.

Unreal Engine is an open-source 3D game engine developed by Epic Games which has been used to make video games such as Fortnite, Octopath Traveller, Mortal Kombat, Fallen Order, and many other popular AAA game titles.

Blender, on the other hand, is a free 3D modeling program that has dedicated tools for creating 3D assets, rigging, sculpting, and animation. Blender is typically used to make the 3D assets that are ultimately imported into Unreal Engine and used to make the game.

Both software thus occupies two different niches in the game development world and can be used together. However, if you have limited resources and have to choose one software over the other, the following guide may prove useful.

Photo by Axville on Unsplash

Pricing:

The first thing to consider when choosing software is your budget. Luckily, you won’t have to worry about that in this case as both Blender and Unreal Engine are completely free and open–source; though Unreal Engine has the added caveat of a 5% royalty on your commercial product after it hits 1 million USD gross revenue.

For most indie devs, the 1 million USD threshold is a high bar to reach and you likely will never have to pay that royalty sum, so this shouldn’t stop you from installing the Unreal Engine if you need it. However, if Unreal’s royalty stipulation still doesn’t vibe with you or you don’t feel comfortable supporting Epic Games in any way, then Blender is the best choice for you.

System Requirements:

Another factor to consider when choosing software is the system requirements. Before you start learning any game development software, you must know if they are compatible with your current setup as it is way more practical to install an alternative software than it is to buy an entirely new rig.

Though both software requires a minimum of a quad-core intel CPU or the equivalent and 8GB RAM, Unreal Engine generally has steeper requirements like an RTX – 2000 series NVIDIA GPU or higher, especially if you mean to use the new Nanite and Lumen features.

Ultimately, if your PC setup is modest then Blender is the tool for you but if you have a high–end PC or you don’t mind missing out on the new UE5 features, then go ahead and install Unreal Engine.

Game Development:

As of Blender 2.8, Blender ceased to ship with a game engine and therefore has no game engine capabilities as of today. If you still want to make a game in Blender, you can use UPBGE which is an open-source fork of the old Blender game engine available for download which lets you code a game without leaving Blender.

UPBGE uses Python which is a great programming language for a beginner to ease into which is great if you’re creating small simple games. Python’s functionality is however limited when it comes to game development; it is slow and prone to lag when dealing with larger projects and is thus not ideal for bigger games.

Unreal Engine on the other hand is a dedicated game engine used by many AAA companies. It uses C++ and though it is much harder to learn than Python, C++ offers greater game dev capabilities such as speed and an extensive game dev library. Unreal Engine also ships with Blueprints, a node-based visual scripting interface that can help if you don’t want to delve too deep into coding.

In conclusion, if you’re looking to build short simple 2D games, Blender is a good choice whereas Unreal Engine can be used to build bigger, more complex 3D titles in addition to its 2D game dev capabilities.

3D Modelling and Texturing, Nanites:

Blender is primarily a 3D modeling software and thus has dedicated advanced 3D modeling tools such as procedural modeling and modifiers which allow you to edit geometry in a non – destructive way thus preserving the base mesh. Blender can use computation to create complex geometries using a fixed set of rules.

Blender’s modeling tool kit is so extensive that most developers use Blender to create 3D assets which they later import for use into Unreal Engine. Blender is therefore the premiere tool to use for 3D modeling.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for texturing in Blender, as its texturing tools have limited functionality especially if you want to create high-quality PBR textures. A lot of professionals, therefore, resort to using Substance Painter and importing the resulting textures into Blender.

Unreal Engine modeling tools are still evolving and have yet to catch up to the capabilities of Blender. They can be used to make simple 3D assets but are nowhere near as effective as Blender’s tools. If you do not want to constantly switch between third-party software and Unreal, however, Unreal’s modeling toolkit is usable.

Unreal Engine also has access to a variety of free assets on its marketplace. Users of Unreal Engine have access to the Quixel Megascans library which boasts a vast array of realistic and detailed D assets and PBR materials. Quixel Mixer can also be used to create and edit PBR textures according to your taste.

In addition to all this, Unreal Engine 5 has the Nanite system which allows for a large number of polygons to be displayed in the viewport at once thus reducing reliance on normal maps, low poly assets, and proxies. Blender has no such system so when you’re creating large complex scenes, the viewport tends to lag if low poly models aren’t used.

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

Animation and Rigging:

Blender has a variety of resources that makes keyframe creation, character animation, and rigging easier and less complicated. Python scripts Blender also has 2D rigging capabilities via Grease Pencil which allows you to rig 2D sprites. Blender skeletal meshes can be imported into Unreal Engine for further development.

Unreal Engine’s control rig allows the use of Python scripts to aid in the accurate rigging of character models. Although Unreal Engine’s control rig is nowhere as developed or as extensive as Blender’s rigging system, Unreal Engine has access to Meta Humans, a set of pre-modeled pre-rigged 3D human assets that can be set up in your Unreal Projects. They can be animated using mocap or with different poses provided by Unreal Engine.

Rendering:

When it comes to rendering the most important factors to consider are speed and photorealism. Blender ships with two engines: Cycles which is an offline CPU renderer and Eevee, an online real-time GPU rendering engine. Cycles use path tracing to calculate global illumination, resulting in accurate lighting and high–quality photorealistic renders.

The only downside of Cycles is that it relies on your CPU performance so the fewer CPU cores and RAM you have, the slower your renders. This is the real-time rendering engine Eevee which is leagues faster than Cycles but sacrifices accuracy for speed. It uses rasterization to calculate lighting for scenes which estimates how a scene should look like and not how it is resulting in lower-quality renders than Cycles.

Unreal Engine 5 unveiled Lumen in a PS5 tech demo in 2020 showcasing the powerful and dynamic global illumination and reflections system. Lumen is based on a highly optimized form of ray – tracing which generates accurate lighting and highly detailed photorealistic scenes rivaling Cycle’s output.

Unreal Engine has the advantage here as it is real-time and the final output is almost instant. Lumen however needs an RTX – 2000 series GPU to operate. Unreal Engine has access to the path-tracer tool which can correct any errors generated by the real-time rendering engine Unreal Engine also provides cinematic tools for easy cutscene creation.

If you have a low–end setup and you don’t mind Cycle’s long render times or Eevee’s less-than-stellar output, then Blender is your best bet. Other than that, Unreal Engine’s Lumen provides the best quality images in the shortest possible time which can be extremely useful when rendering animations with a lot of frames.

Also, you can always try using services like Vagon, and reduce your rendering times significantly with the power of cloud computers.

Conclusion:

Unreal Engine and Blender are both great software for different aspects of game development depending on your needs. If you aim to focus on the asset creation, character creation, and rigging side of game development, you would want to stick to Blender as its 3D modeling and rigging capabilities are vastly superior to those found in Unreal Engine.

Alternatively, if you want to focus on coding the actual game, then Unreal Engine is the better option as it is a dedicated game engine with visual scripting capabilities. All in-game cutscenes can also be rendered quickly and in real-time. Or, you could like most professionals incorporate both software into your workflow, using Blender to create your game assets and rig your characters while Unreal Engine handles the coding and rendering.

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