Introduction: How to Get Started With Unreal Engine


If you’re interested in learning how to get started with making video games then this Instructable will show you how to do just that. We’ll be using Unreal Engine because it’s a modern game engine that makes it easy for anyone with very little technical knowledge to immediately start making games. Furthermore, Unreal Engine is highly extensible, provides a lot of starter content, and has an excellent community of enthusiasts that welcome newcomers. You can checkout a showcase of games here:

Most importantly, it’s free for everybody.

To follow this instructable, you’ll need an internet connection to download and install Unreal Engine. Unreal Engine requires that you have Windows 7 or Windows 8 64 bit, Mac OS X 10.9.2, or on Linux, any reasonably new Linux distribution. For the full specs, follow the installation steps below.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Learn the Basic Concepts

  • Game engines are the software that control the rules, physics, and visual/auditory rendering of video games. Unreal Engine by Epic Games software includes a customizable game engine as well as development tools that make it easier to create game content.

  • Levels, also known as maps, are (usually 3D) spaces in which gameplay takes place.

  • Actors are objects that are placed within the 3D environment of a level by game designers. They exist in a specific location and have a size but can move, rotate, shrink, and grow. Their functionality depends on the components added to them.

  • Components can be added to actors to change the their functionality and the way they behave. For example, an actor can become a light or sound source, a camera through which the player can view the level, or an object visible to the player such as a wall or another player’s avatar.

  • Projects in Unreal Engine contain all of the code and content (including audio and image files) for one game.

Step 2: Download the Epic Games Launcher

  1. Go to the Unreal Engine website.
  2. Click on “GET UNREAL” in the center of the page or the top right corner.

  3. Fill out the “Join the Community” information and sign up for free.
  4. Accept the terms of the agreement.

  5. Select the download for your operating system (Windows or OSX) and click “Download”.

Step 3: Install and Launch the Epic Games Launcher - Windows Users

If you're on a Mac skip this step.

  1. Launch the installer.
  2. Click "Install."
  3. Wait until the installer finishes and click "Finish"
  4. If the Epic Games Launcher does not launch, search your PC by pressing Windows+Q and typing “Epic Games” and select the launcher.

Step 4: Install and Launch the Epic Games Launcher - Mac Users

If you're on a Windows computer skip this step.

  1. Click on the .dmg file you downloaded.
  2. Drag the Epic Games Launcher icon to your applications folder.

  3. Open your Applications folder (Command + Shift + A).

  4. Hold the Control key and Click on Epic Games Launcher
  5. Hold the Command key and click "Open"
  6. If a warning appears, click "Open."

Note: If you do not have the option to open, exit the warning and repeat steps “d” and “e” in your Applications folder.

Step 5: Launch the Epic Games Launcher and Sign In

Ensure that you have launched your Epic Games Launcher.

If asked to sign in, then use the account you created earlier.

Step 6: Click on the “Unreal Engine” Tab in the Top Navigation Area

Step 7: Click “Install Engine” in the Top Left

Accept any terms that pop up.

Step 8: Click on the “Library” Tab in the Left Navigation Area

If you do not see “Downloading” in the “Engine Versions” section of the "Library" tab, click “Download.”

Note: Once your download is complete, you may receive a notification that files were backed up. If this happens, just click “OK.”

Step 9: Take a Break

The Epic Games Launcher will take a while to download, install, and verify Unreal Engine. Move on to the next step once it's done.

Step 10: Click the Yellow “Launch Unreal Engine” Button in the Top Left

Make sure that Unreal Engine finished installing from the previous step.

Step 11: Click the New Project Tab on the Unreal Project Browser

Step 12: Select “First Person” Template From the “Blueprint” Tab

Step 13: Choose a Name and Save Location for Your Project

Step 14: Click the "Create Project" Button

Step 15: Wait Until the Unreal Engine Editor Opens

Study the image above to become familiar with the most important parts of the Unreal Engine Editor. Alternatively, watch the YouTube video.

Blue Rectangle (Middle)

This is the Viewport. This is your view into the game that you're creating. You can fly around the map by Holding down the Right Mouse Button and using the W, A, S, or D keys on your keyboard, and Move your mouse to move your "head."

You can click on objects you see in the viewport and manipulate them by using the red, green, or blue arrows as shown by the cube in above image, near the left edge of the viewport.

Purple Rectangle (Top Middle)

This is the Toolbar. The Toolbar contains quick access to common tasks. The most useful button is the Play button, which allows you to play your game. Go ahead and Click Play. When you're done, press the ESC key on your keyboard.

Red Rectangle (Bottom Left)

This is the Content Browser. It contains all assets available for your game. You can drag and drop images, audio files, and 3D files here to add new assets. This is one of the most important parts of the editor.

Orange Rectangle (Top Left)

This is the Modes panel. This panel allows you to add new things to your game, create landscapes, and modify objects.

White Rectangle (Top Right)

This is the World Outliner. A World is a collection of Levels. The World Outliner lists all of the Actors that are in the world. You can type into the "Search" box to find something you've placed into the world.

Lime Rectangle (Bottom right)

This is the Details tab. It shows all of the information for the currently selected Actor in the Viewport. You can modify the variables you see here.

Pink Rectangle (Within the Lime Rectangle)

This is a view into the hierarchy of Components of a selected Actor. In this case, since a cube is selected in the Viewport, we see that there is a "Static Mesh Component" attached. The "Static Mesh" is just the shape of the cube.

Step 16: Become Familiar With the First Tab of the Modes Panel

The first tab within the Modes panel contains these section:

Basic - Basic shapes and character actors
Lights - Differing lighting utility actors Visual Effects - environmental effects like fog and reflection

Space Partitioning - Useful level design brushes for creating space and solid objects in your level

Volumes - Tools used for differing physics effects like level boundaries, health reduction, low-gravity or submerged environment.

Step 17: Click on the "Basic" Section on the First Tab of the Modes Panel

We're going to place a Cube into the Level.

Step 18: Place Your Mouse Arrow on the Cube Actor

Step 19: Drag the Cube Out to the Viewport and Place It in the Level

Note: After placement, the Cube remains selected, shown with red, green, and blue arrows that signify its movable position. Clicking and dragging any arrow allows you to move the Cube along the arrow’s axis.

Step 20: Click the Landscape Tab in the Modes Panel and Select a Material

M_Ground_Moss is shown in the image.

Step 21: Click on the "Fill World" Button First and Then the "Create" Button

After clicking the two buttons, your game should have a grassy landscape.

Step 22: Click on the Sculpt Tab to Use Various Tools to Modify the Landscape

Step 23: Select Any of the Cubes That Are in the Level

We're going to make that Cube rotate by attaching a component to it.

Step 24: Click on the Add Component Button in the Details Panel

This will lower the drop down menu where you can select many of the in-game functions for your actor. For this example, we will choose the “Rotating Movement” option located under the “Movement” section, and we will call it “RotatingMovement”.

Step 25: ​View the New Parameters in the Details Tab

Step 26: Modify the Roll, Pitch, and Yaw Values in the Details Tab

This let's you change the rate at which the Cube will rotate around each axis. Roll, pitch, and yaw represent a rotation of a 3D object. View the image with the person's head to figure what rotation Roll, Pitch, and Yaw corresponds to.

Step 27: Click Play on the Toolbar

You should see your Actor rotating as you specified in the previous step.

Step 28: Finding Help With Unreal Engine

If you still need more help doing something with Unreal Engine, then here are a few steps you can take to find answers:

  1. Search through the Official Unreal Engine Documentation.
  2. Search through the Unreal Engine Wiki.
  3. Search the Unreal Engine AnswerHub (Community Q&A).
    • Login and click “Post a question”
  4. Chat in The Unreal Engine IRC (Real-time instant chat room).
    1. Type in a user name into the Nickname box (#1 in the image).
    2. Complete the Humanity check (#2 in the image).
    3. Click the Connect button (#3 in the image).
    4. Once connected, begin typing your question into the chat.
  5. Search and post in The Unreal Engine Forums.
  6. Browse the video tutorials in The Unreal Engine YouTube Channel.

Step 29: Next Steps

The Unreal Engine Editor contains more features and tools for animators, landscape artists, programmers, and hobbyists that we didn’t explore. What this Instructable covered is only the beginning of all that is possible with Unreal Engine.

The following is a discussion on what else you can learn to do in Unreal Engine. Following the discussion are steps you can follow to find answers whenever questions come up as you’re learning.

Step 30: Programming

Programming (or coding) allows you to add functionality to your game that is not provided by the Unreal Engine Editor. For example, in Section 3 you learned how to rotate an actor using a Rotating Component. But what if you would like to make a component that acts as a shield, protecting the Actor it’s attached to? That’s an example of a game mechanic that you’ll have to create yourself.

Here are the tools you can use for programming:

Blueprints allow you to program your game visually. You can create a Blueprint for your own custom characters, vehicles, or entity. Here’s the beginner’s guide to Blueprints Visual Scripting in the Unreal Engine documentation.

For example, with Blueprints you could put together the logic for a tank. View the above training video to learn how to do just that.

For beginners, Blueprints are a recommended starting point because Blueprints make it easy to add functionality to your game. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to want to jump right into text-based programming.

You can program your Unreal Engine games using C++. If that last sentence absolutely baffled you, then it’s recommended to learn Blueprints first, otherwise it’s still perfectly acceptable to jump straight into programming. If you have no prior programming experience, then read the C++ programming tutorials in the Unreal Engine documentation.

Step 31: Art and Animation

Everything you see above was created with Unreal Engine's graphics.

Unreal Engine is renowned for it’s photo realistic images, like the one above. The artistry tools provided within Unreal Engine give you the capability to render something realistic like in the Paris hotel demo.

You can learn more about Unreal Engine’s graphics capabilities by browsing through the Engine Features section in the Unreal Engine Documentation.

Step 32: Conclusion

Read as much as you can about the topics you are interested on in Unreal Engine. You’ll have a lot of fun creating new worlds and games as you learn. Good luck!