Unreal Engine 3 Vs Reality Engine: The Battle Of Compatibility

Some of you may be a bit confused as to why some games are multi-platform and others are not.... Or more clearly, why the Reality Engine has no games coming to any of the next-gen consoles this year, while the Unreal Engine seems to be stamped on every other “next-gen” title. Well, I’ll set the record straight by stating that it has nothing to do with raw horse-power, but rather, it has everything to do with compatibility.

On the forefront of gaming is the sole proprietor of success, and it’s called multi-platforming. Time and time over again we’ve discussed these matters here on CB Games regarding why one console may have a greater edge over another, or the very importance of third-party multi-platform support. Despite what a lot of people think, the next-generation of gaming has nothing to do with what’s under the hood (e.g., the Wii is proof of that) but it has everything to do with how well the available horsepower is utilized.

Unlike the PS2/Xbox era, an installed base isn’t a guarantee for kicking over a crate and calling dibs for being king of the gaming console hill. Right now, the war between the third-generation PlayStation, second-generation Xbox and first-generation Wii, is still heating up, drastically. And the key to each system’s success is in the software. More importantly, it’s in the software that makes the software; I’m talking about game engines. Even more specifically, I’m talking about the premier engines of today, which happens to be the Unreal Engine and the Reality Engine.

(Gears of War - UE3)

(Hellion - RE)

Now the difference between these two is more than just skin deep. But in brief, the Reality Engine is a bit more of a high-end engine. The problem is that it’s just not very compatible. It's sort of been obvious, though, that the Unreal Engine 3 has an edge over the Reality Engine when it comes to compatibility, simply with many console games being ported from the PC using the Unreal Engine 3, such as Rainbow Six: Vegas. This was verified a while back, as it was stated in an interview I conducted with Artificial Studios back in October:

“Reality Engine was a proprietary game engine that we developed a couple years back, before Artificial Studios switched to game development with "CellFactor." Reality Engine is a great PC game engine, which is why we're still using it for CellFactor PC, but it was not an Xbox 360 or multi-platform technology.”... “Thankfully, in UE3 Epic has created a very elegant solution for game development. In addition to having a beautiful renderer, advanced physics capabilities, and well-tuned network systems, UE3 really just makes the task of multi-platform development a whole lot easier, so that you can write your game code once and have it work the same across the different consoles and PC. UE3's allowed us to focus our attention on the high-level game design, rather than on the low-level guts of the technology. “

It’s common knowledge in the development sector of game designing that the Reality Engine suffers greatly from being incompatible with anything outside of the PC platform. However, that hasn’t stopped Vision Studios from going forward with their ambitious next-gen project for the Xbox 360 and PS3, Strike Force Red Cell. In an interview I conducted with Mike Hamlett, the President of Vision Studios, he stated that...“We really wanted to work with the Unreal Technology but the price didn't fit into our budget. We managed to purchase the Reality Engine before it was bought out by Epic and we are expanding the engine’s capabilities even more to fit our needs. The engine is amazing and it will compete rather well with other up and coming AAA titles.”

(Rainbow Six: Vegas - UE3)

(INC.orporated - RE)

So despite the incompatibility stigma for using the Reality Engine, it does appear to have some form of compatibility with consoles if the technology is stripped down and redesigned for other platforms. Does this necessarily mean that a varient of CellFactor could potentially end up on the 360 sooner than expected? Well, Mike had a few more words to share regarding the Reality Engine, in comparison to the Unreal Engine’s multi-platform popularity, stating... “The Reality Engine can compete really well with Unreal3 and we can actually pull off some things with Reality that U3 can't do.” He continued on to say, “I think one reason Reality doesn't get as much coverage anymore is because Epic bought them out and nobody can purchase the engine at this point. We got a really great deal with Reality and we have unlimited development rights with the engine.”

There’s actually a comparison sheet detailing which engine does what better. You might be surprised to see how the Reality Engine measures up to the Unreal Engine 3. To be fair, you can also check out the Unreal Engine 3's features list (i.e., for those of you who actually know what you’re looking to compare). Again, the biggest drawback is the lacking multi-platform support for the Reality Engine, which in the long run means that next-gen console gaming may be several steps behind next-gen PC gaming.

Heck, you can check out several-year-old screenshots from games still in development, such as INC.orperated, Armageddon, Hellion, Under Pressure and Metronome. All of which look a lot better than some of the recent console outings for 2006 and 2007. Metronome is especially impressive on the Reality Engine, given its overly complex art-style and deep draw-distances.

Realistically, though, the Unreal Engine 3 is a spearhead for publishers to efficiently pump out pseudo-next-gen games across the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, while the real next-generation of gaming appears to lie in the untapped potential of very high-end development platforms such as the Reality Engine. It’s just too bad no one else will be able to make use of it unless Epic does something with the original Reality Engine licence, or Vision Studios re-releases the engine for public use. But given the unpredictability of the gaming industry, anything can happen.

(Editor’s Note: You may have noticed the comparison pictures throughout the article between the Unreal Engine 3 and the Reality Engine. Feel free to post your comments on which one looks more next-gen).

(Gears of War - UE3)

(Metronome - RE)

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.