How to Develop a Game Using Unreal Engine?
unreal engine game development process

Unreal Engine Game Development Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

Unreal Engine has become the go-to choice for gaming studios developing games across varied genres, from simple 2D platformers to expansive open-world RPGs and high-fidelity AAA titles. If you’re considering powering your game with this versatile engine, our blog will guide you through the detailed Unreal Engine game development process and more.

Consider popular titles like Fortnite, Rocket League, the Batman: Arkham series, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), and more. 

What these games have in common is that they are developed using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine.

Fortnite became the top free-to-play (F2P) game by downloads on the PlayStation Store in the United States, Canada, and the EU in 2023. In the same rank list, Rocket League made it to the sixth rank. 

PUBG, on the other hand, generated monthly revenue of $113.77 million in March 2024.
The technical backbone behind these games—Unreal Engine—has contributed to their success by offering impressive realistic visuals, smooth online play, a fluid combat system, extensive customizations, and more.

But ‘How do you get started? What are the basic steps of Unreal Engine game development?’ 

From downloading and installing Unreal Engine to creating your first playable level, this blog tells you all. 

Before we start developing the game using Unreal Engine, let’s first understand the fundamentals of Unreal Engine.

What is the Unreal Engine?

Unreal Engine (UE) is a proprietary advanced 3D creation tool developed by Epic Games for game development, film animation, space and product simulations, and other immersive interfaces.

Initially released in 1998, it has evolved significantly over the years, with the latest version, Unreal Engine 5, introducing groundbreaking features such as Nanite, which allows for the use of incredibly detailed models, and Lumen, which provides real-time global illumination for natural lighting.

Apart from that, Unreal Engine features a high degree of portability, and users have the ability to use it across different platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows, PlayStation, and Xbox.

Reasons to Choose Unreal Engine for Game Development

Game development in Unreal Engine brings numerous benefits, making it a standout option for gaming studios. Its powerful features, adaptability, and comprehensive support system offer compelling reasons to select Unreal Engine for your game development needs. Here are the key advantages of using Unreal Engine for game development:

Stunning Visuals

Nanite is a groundbreaking technology introduced in Unreal Engine 5. It allows for the creation and rendering of incredibly detailed 3D models without compromising performance. Traditional game engines often require models to be simplified or “baked” into lower-resolution versions to ensure smooth gameplay. 

Nanite eliminates this need by efficiently managing and displaying billions of polygons in real time, which means you can use high-resolution assets directly from 3D modeling software. Lumen is another advanced feature in Unreal Engine 5 that significantly enhances lighting realism. 

It provides real-time global illumination and dynamic lighting, allowing for natural and realistic light behavior in various environments. Moreover, the game engine also supports Physically Based Rendering (PBR), Advanced Post-Processing Effects, High Dynamic Range (HDR), Volumetric Effects, etc. 

Blueprint Visual Scripting

Blueprints provide a visual, node-based interface that represents gameplay logic as interconnected nodes. Each node corresponds to a function, variable, or control flow element, making it intuitive to see how different parts of the game interact.

The visual nature of Blueprints makes it easier for non-programmers, such as artists and designers, to understand and create game logic. Nodes can be added and connected using simple drag-and-drop actions, streamlining the process of building complex behaviors.

Blueprints enable rapid prototyping and iteration of gameplay ideas. The feature is particularly useful in the early stages of development when experimenting with different mechanics and features.

Robust Toolset 

For rendering and graphics, Unreal Engine supports real-time ray tracing and post-processing effects like bloom, depth of field, motion blur, and ambient occlusion to enhance the visual quality and atmosphere of the game. Complex materials and shaders are created using a node-based interface.

The game engine also has a high-performance physics system that enables detailed simulations of rigid bodies, fluid dynamics, cloth, and destructible environments. High-end tools like Maya, Blender, Substance Painter, Figma, and Photoshop are used to create game assets. Animation tools like Sequencer, Control Rig, Animation Blueprints, etc., are designed to develop smooth and realistic character animations. 

Real-time Rendering 

Real-time rendering allows for monitoring and immediate adjustments, enabling modifications to lighting, textures, animations, and other elements without the need for lengthy rendering times. The game development engine leverages advanced technologies, including ray tracing, global illumination, and physically-based rendering (PBR), to create photorealistic visuals in real time. These technologies help create immersive and visually stunning experiences in games, simulations, and virtual production. 

Asset Management 

The Unreal Engine asset management system aids in project management and organization, ensuring systematic handling of assets such as textures, models, audio files, and scripts for easy retrieval and efficient utilization.

Its asset management tools integrate well with version control systems and support collaborative workflows, enabling multiple team members to work on different project parts simultaneously without conflicts. It also helps track changes and revert to previous versions if needed.

Assets can be reused across different projects within Unreal Engine. For example, a character model or texture used in one game can be easily adapted for another. This reusability not only saves time but also ensures consistency in the look and feel of multiple projects.

Physics Simulation 

Unreal Engine’s physics system allows for dynamic interactions between objects. Characters can interact with the environment in lifelike ways, such as moving or breaking objects, contributing to more interactive and responsive gameplay.

The physics engine supports complex mechanics and simulations, including ragdoll physics for characters, fluid simulations, and soft body dynamics. These capabilities are essential for creating sophisticated and varied gameplay experiences, such as realistic character movements or detailed destruction systems.

Cost-Free Access

Unreal Engine offers a cost-free access model, allowing users to download and use the engine without any upfront fees. This includes access to the full suite of tools and features provided by Unreal Engine, including the source code. Projects can be created and distributed without cost until you generate $1 million USD in gross revenue. Beyond that threshold, titles earning more than $1 million USD are subject to a 5% royalty fee.

Cross-Platform Development

By using Unreal Engine for cross-platform game development, you can create your game or application once and deploy it across various platforms without having to rewrite significant portions of code for each platform. This efficiency ensures a consistent user experience, and saves time and resources, enabling faster development cycles and reducing costs.

Step-by-Step Process of Game Development in Unreal Engine

Developing a game in Unreal Engine involves a structured process that ensures all aspects of the game are meticulously planned, created, and polished. Here’s a step-by-step process of game development with Unreal Engine. 

Step 1: Conceptualization

Brainstorm and develop a unique game concept, decide on genre & theme, and overall gameplay mechanics. Create a story and effectively use storytelling and other elements that make the gameplay fun and compelling. Create a backstory, world-building, and character bios, and develop the narrative, characters, and setting of the game. A strong narrative can enhance player engagement and provide context for gameplay mechanics.

Look at similar games to identify what works well and what can be improved. Outline primary gameplay elements, including game character design, objectives, level, challenges, and player interactions. 

Step 2: MVP Creation 

To continue the process from this step, you may have to hire Unreal Engine developers if you are not familiar with Unreal Engine technicalities. If you are then let us tell you the step in detail. 

While creating MVP, implement the primary gameplay mechanics in Unreal Engine using Blueprints or C++. You should include basic player controls, fundamental interactions, and the main gameplay loop. For example, if the game is a platformer, focus on character movement, jumping, and collision detection.

Develop or use placeholder assets to represent the game’s visual elements. Work on simple models, textures, and animations that are good enough to convey the game’s concept without demanding final art quality. Design and build a few initial levels or sections of the game world to demonstrate the core gameplay. 

Game levels should showcase the main mechanics and provide a basic sense of the game’s environment and style. Create a simple user interface (UI) with essential elements such as the main menu, HUD (heads-up display), and basic in-game controls. The UI should be functional but does not need to be fully polished. Work on the final MVP model and take feedback before making iterations. 

Step 3: Game Development 

Begin by setting up your Unreal Engine project, including the necessary folder structure for organizing assets, scripts, and other resources. Create subfolders for Blueprints, C++ classes, UI, audio, and other asset types to maintain a clean and organized project. 

Define the Game Mode and Game State classes. The Game Mode controls the game rules, such as player spawning and game flow, while the Game State manages the state of the game that needs to be replicated across clients in a multiplayer game.

Create the Player Character class, displaying the properties and behaviors of the player character, including movement, actions, and interactions. Also, set up the Player Controller class, which handles input from the player and translates it into actions performed by the Player Character.

Utilize Unreal Engine’s component-based architecture to create reusable and modular components. Code the rest of the structure, establish code standards, and document the basic code structure. The process involves commenting on code, writing clear documentation for each module and component, and ensuring consistent coding practices across the development team.

After this, most of the game content and functionality are created in this step. It transforms the initial concept and basic framework into a fully playable game. Here is an overview of the key activities involved:

Game Character Design: Create concept art for the characters and visualize the characters’ appearance, clothing, accessories, and unique features. Develop a backstory and personality for each character and define their motivations, behaviors, and interactions within the game world. 

Put the character design through 3D modeling, rigging, and skinning stages. Develop animations for various character actions using animation software or Unreal Engine built-in animation tools. Set up Animation Blueprints in Unreal Engine to manage and control the character animations. 

Animation Blueprints allow for blending different animations smoothly and handling complex animation logic. At last, create character blueprints, and implement the character abilities and special mechanics. Test the design to ensure smooth functionality. 

Game Level Design: For game-level designing, use the Unreal Engine Landscape tool and sculpt terrains like hills, valleys, and cliffs. Apply materials and textures to the terrain to create realistic or stylized ground surfaces. Use landscape layers for different textures like grass, rock, and dirt.

Populate the level with static meshes, including buildings, trees, rocks, and other environmental assets. Ensure assets are placed thoughtfully to guide the player and enhance the level’s visual appeal.

Use modular pieces for buildings and structures to create a cohesive and reusable set of assets that fit together seamlessly. Set up dynamic or static lighting to create the desired atmosphere. Implement post-processing effects like bloom, depth of field, ambient occlusion, and color grading to enhance the visual quality and mood of the level.

Lastly, add details, integrate objects, add sounds and animation, and implement LOD models for complex assets to reduce polygon count at a distance. Work on the final output before moving to the next step.

Game Asset Creation: Now, move to game asset creation and develop 3D models, textures, design game weapons, animations, sound effects, background music, voice-overs, UI elements, and visual effects. Import the created assets into Unreal Engine via the Content Browser. Assign materials and textures to 3D models. 

Create Animation Blueprints and Blend Spaces for character animations. Add audio assets and configure sound cues and ambient sounds. Design and implement the game’s UI using UMG. Work on the final output to finish game asset creation with perfection. 

Step 4: Optimization

Use Unreal Engine’s built-in profiling tools like the Profiler, Stat Commands, and Session Frontend to identify performance bottlenecks. Analyze frame rates to determine if the game maintains a consistent and high frame rate. Monitor CPU and GPU usage to identify which parts of the game are taxing the system the most.

Implement Level of Detail (LOD) models for complex assets, reducing polygon counts at greater distances. Use distance culling to avoid rendering objects that are too far from the camera. 

Compress textures to reduce memory usage without significantly affecting visual quality. Simplify complex shaders and reduce the number of shader instructions. Optimize assets and reduce the polygon count of models while maintaining visual fidelity. Also, work on collision meshes to improve physics performance.

Optimize 3D models, animations, codes, physics simulations, network, server, loading time, audio, etc., while ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience for players across different platforms and devices.

Step 5: Game Testing

Game testing is a critical phase to ensure its quality, performance, and overall player experience meet expectations. To test the game, you can employ various testing methodologies, including functional testing to validate gameplay mechanics, UI/UX, and game progression. 

You must conduct Performance testing to assess frame rates, load times, and memory usage across different hardware configurations to ensure smooth gameplay. Also, go for compatibility testing to check whether the game runs seamlessly on various platforms and hardware setups or not. 

Perform regression testing to verify bug fixes. At last, utilize both manual and automated testing with QA environments for thorough testing and bug tracking.

Hence, game development with Unreal Engine is not merely a technical endeavor—it requires dedication, boundless expertise, perseverance, and creativity. It’s about harnessing the power of technology to tell compelling stories, evoke emotions, and transport players to worlds beyond their wildest imagination. To achieve the standard quality, you must hire game developers from a reliable company. Only expert professionals can build your game with interactive experiences that captivate audiences around the globe.

Why Choose 300Mind for Unreal Engine Game Development?

If you are looking for a Unreal game development company, then 300Mind is the outstanding choice for you. Our team of developers and designers possesses a deep understanding of Unreal Engine’s advanced capabilities and crafts immersive and visually stunning gaming experiences that push the boundaries of what’s possible in the digital realm.

By leveraging Unreal Engine’s robust features, such as real-time rendering, advanced physics simulation, and dynamic lighting, we can create lifelike environments, fluid animations, and captivating gameplay mechanics that captivate players from the moment they start playing your game.

Moreover, 300Mind excels in efficiency and optimization, leveraging industry best practices and innovative techniques to streamline development workflows and maximize performance. Whether it’s optimizing assets for seamless loading times, fine-tuning gameplay mechanics for smooth and responsive controls, or implementing network optimizations for flawless multiplayer experiences, we leave no stone unturned in our quest to deliver a polished and high-performing game.

FAQs on Unreal Engine

Should I use Unity or Unreal for my game?

When it comes to Unity vs Unreal Engine, opt for Unity if you prioritize ease of use, cross-platform support, and a large active community. While choose for Unreal Engine if you need advanced graphics, realistic visuals, and extensive toolset for AAA game development.

Which programming languages does Unreal Engine use in game development?

Unreal Engine primarily uses C++ for game development, providing you with the ability to create high-performance, complex game mechanics and systems. Additionally, Unreal Engine features Blueprints, a visual scripting language that allows you to create gameplay elements and logic without needing to write C++ code, making it accessible to designers and those less familiar with programming.

How Much Does Unreal Engine Game Development Cost?

The ballpark range for Unreal Engine game development typically falls between $10,000 and $2.5 million or more, depending on the complexity of the game. Factors influencing the cost include gameplay complexity, multiplayer capabilities, graphics quality and asset creation, choice of gaming platform, development team size and expertise, engagement model, and more.

Is multiplayer game development with Unreal Engine possible?

Multiplayer game development is highly feasible with Unreal Engine. The engine offers robust support for creating multiplayer experiences, providing built-in networking features, replication systems, and tools to manage player connections and game state across a network. With Unreal Engine, you can create small-scale and large-scale multiplayer games, leveraging its powerful Blueprints system for visual scripting and C++ for more advanced customizations.

What are the limitations of Unreal Engine?

Unreal Engine is less suitable for mobile games. You may face optimization and rendering issues, leading the game to overall poor performance. Games developed with Unreal Engine may have larger file sizes because of the engine overhead and high-quality assets’ inclusivity.

Ankit Dave

Ankit Dave is a team leader (Game) with more than 5 years of experience in 2D & 3D gaming/console gaming/AR/VR/Machine Learning. Requirement understands, create a GDD, create an architecture of the game to make them as scalable as possible, deploy the games on various platforms.