Using Video Game Engines for More Than Just Game Design
Published on Nov 2, 2022 by Jess Reider
How knowledge in game engines like Unreal and Unity can be applied outside of game development and open up more career opportunities.
Popular video game engines like Unreal, Frostbite, and Unity are powerful tools used to support the mechanics of gameplay and level design, but more and more companies outside of gaming are utilizing the flexibility of this technology for their own products. Military and medical simulations, filmmaking, business applications, and even engineering and architectural design are just a few examples of how these engines have been applied beyond your favorite video games.
“Game engines have built-in features that are useful for all kinds of content, including film, education, advertising, etc.,” says Game Design Program Manager Phoebe Elefante. “For example, in Unreal Engine, one existing feature of the software is a built-in camera that can be moved with, or independently from, the user’s point of view. That can be used in games, architectural visualization, engineering, film, and pretty much any other situation where you might want to build a 3D version of something and explore it in detail.”
The recent reveal of Unreal Engine 5 from Epic is ushering in a new wave of possibilities in not only game design, but 3D modeling, metaverse experiences, film, and more. From applications in instructional design, such as developing training for NASA, to building incredibly detailed architectural designs, engines like Unreal and Unity allow intricate ideas to be brought to life without exorbitant costs.
“In the past, architects who wanted to pitch a building design would make sketches on paper, then blueprints, and often handmade three-dimensional models of the entire building, built to meticulously rendered scale. Each of those processes might take days, weeks, or even months, and in the end, you still have no idea how any of the building's interior spaces or systems will feel or work together. But inside Unreal Engine, you can construct each piece of the building and its internal systems, like plumbing or HVAC, use scale-model replicas of floors, walls, and structural elements, and even create materials and textures that mimic everything from glass to grass. Then when you’re done, you can see each of those systems all by itself, or walk around inside of your scale model just like you walk around inside of a 3D immersive video game,” says Phoebe.
Aside from cutting costs, the application of game engines in spaces like film and television allows for expedited processes in pre-production for assets including set and character design. Using techniques like nanite visualization, programmers can render things backgrounds or ambient effects without having to individually model each item. This allows programmers and designers to quickly build virtual stages, CGI elements, and more.
At Full Sail, students are putting these applications into practice at Studio V1: Virtual Production. In Studio V1, film students work with game artists in pre-production to construct sets with striking realism that can be manipulated and enhanced both in real-time and in post. This experience reflects the industry as major studios like HBO and Netflix are utilizing virtual production for series including House of the Dragon and 1899.
As the possibilities for the applications of engines like Unreal continue to grow, so do the employment opportunities. "Beyond the obvious application to all kinds of games, designers and developers can build applications for education, medicine, architecture, engineering, banking, film, mobile app development, or almost any combination of these,” shares Phoebe. “And, of course, if you build it, you never know who may want to use it.”
Check out our Game Degrees page to learn more about game design and development at Full Sail.