Real-time engines have limitless amounts of uses and potential. Many people get stuck trying to figure out where they should start, the right techniques to use, and how long it will take to put together their first masterpiece. But with the help of online resources, it is easier than ever to dive into real-time engines and start creating amazing projects in no time!
As members of Falcon’s real-time team, we have a lot of experience in this area, so we are happy to shed light on where to start. We utilize real-time engines not only to create games, render animations, and produce all sorts of interactive experiences, but also to pre-visualize and pre-program attractions in many different ways, including using virtual reality (VR) to fully simulate the attractions before they’ve even been built. We’re also excited to share our personal experiences with real-time engines. We’ll start with Caroline Way.
Junior Real-Time Generalist
The first real-time engine that I learned to use was Unreal Engine 4. Before doing 3D work, I mostly did traditional art. At first, it seemed like there was so much to learn in Unreal, but with each project I completed, it got easier and faster to create finished pieces. The biggest thing to get used to was how technical creating art in real-time engines could be. During my time at Falcon’s, I’ve learned how to create content alongside like-minded developers like Arooj. We work together to balance art and functionality. It’s good to understand the full pipeline and how one aspect of a project might affect another.
The first project I worked on at Falcon’s was created in Unity. At the time I had not used Unity before, but my experience with UE4 made me feel capable to take on any challenges I came across. There are a lot of differences between engines but knowing how to navigate through development in one of them will ultimately help you develop content in others. I’ll turn it over to Arooj now so she can explain her own journey.
Unlike Caroline, I started with the other very popular engine called Unity. I delved into some other engines like RPG Maker, and I even made PowerPoint point-and-click games, but I ended up using Unity as my first main engine. Because I studied software development in school, I had to change my mindset from simply developing software that works efficiently to developing with all the nuances of real-time. I had to focus on optimization, repeating calls, keeping lag low, and making it visually look good. I also wanted to make sure you get a good ‘feel’ out of the experience you are creating. This is all on top of the human-computer interaction, the UI and UX, the ease of access, and extra accessibility options.
Once I figured out Unity and began making more and more projects in it, I began my journey with Unreal Engine 4. Unreal and Unity look very different. Even though I knew at this point how real-time engines work, I still didn’t really know where to start with UE4. That’s when I found Epic Games’ free Unreal tutorials on their website and on YouTube. I started with a generic introduction course on the website, and then I broadened my research and figured out all the different systems in Unreal. I made a list of all the systems I felt like I should learn and those that interested me and found tutorials for these systems. Slowly, my research became more nuanced with each step bringing me closer to my first functioning game demo in Unreal Engine 4, and it only took a month.
Near the end of 2021, Falcon’s made a commitment to teach members of the Digital Media team the basics of Unreal Engine in order to prepare them for future projects. This was the start of our own Unreal Academy. Our department supervisors took a few weeks to curate and review tutorials from Epic Games, and then the team members had eight weeks to develop a project for our Unreal Challenge. This was a big event where our team made environments from a short art brief, to showcase all they had learned. In each of their scenes, a character walked forward as the world around them moved past.
The results were absolutely stunning.
The creativity of everyone’s narrative, their environments, the lighting, the effects, and even how the walking cycle was melded into their world’s creative vision, blew us away. All of this was accomplished in two months, thanks to the amazing tools and online resources at our disposal. It was so exciting to see what everyone created for this challenge. Each piece has a completely different style and vision. Our team was able to dive into so many different aspects of real-time engines over a relatively short period of time. This challenge not only prepared us for future projects, but also helped them grow as artists!
Both Unreal and Unity have a large selection of free online courses to help you along your way, whether you’re a beginner or looking to strengthen your skills. Another resource used to jumpstart these projects was Quixel Megascans, which has a library of scanned 3D assets, 3D plants, and materials, allowing us to blend lifelike, premade assets with custom assets to create these stunning worlds.
With real-time engines, anything is possible, and the evidence can be seen in our team’s Unreal Challenge efforts. There are plenty of tutorials and courses online to help you start, and in no time, you can create projects of your own.Check out the trailer from 'Net Sprinter', an amazing real-time game our team recently developed in Unreal Engine. It was designed to run in stereoscopic 3D at 120 frames per second!
Junior Real-Time Generalist
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