Welcome to the ultimate tutorial on the Unreal Engine for Beginners, in this article we will go over how to make a game in Unreal 5, the basics of the IDE (integrated development environment), the free templates that are available out of the box to utilize for a beginner with no money, and then we will create a new character in Daz3D, import him into the game, and I will teach you how to remap his skeleton to the new character.
The point at which that character is running around in the world ready for combat, is when the tutorial ends.
Read this article on how to make a story based game. From Baskin, with love.
Can a beginner learn Unreal engine?
Yes, it is very simple for a beginner to download the Unreal Engine and make a game with it with no previous experience. Simply download the Unreal Engine, and start experimenting, it’s like a game, just even better than playing any other videogame. You can make a game without coding much, or use blueprint to make things even easier, or an expert can code in C++.
How do I start Unreal Engine 5?
How hard is it to learn Unreal Engine 5?
Learning Unreal Engine 5 is easy, just download the free program, experiment with blueprint, start adding and creating characters, use the templates, buy resources from the asset store, learn behavior trees, learn animation and skeletal rigging, learn lighting, eventually you’ll get around to everything. Don’t be intimidated, it’s easy to earn money with Unreal.
Which license should I get?
To quote from Epic Games:
“Unreal Engine “End User License Agreement” Publisher Edition : This license allows free use of Unreal Engine and triggers a 5% share fee when your game or other interactive commercial off-the-shelf or technology starts commercial operations, when the total revenue during the product life cycle exceeds $1,000,000.”
Get this one, the other license is for free to play games, and internal projects and things like that, it implies you will never monatize or sell your work. Unless you are earning a million dollars, Publisher Edition or Issued License is free, if your game earns over a million dollars, you pay a five percent cut.
Considering what you’re getting, a steal would be too ungenerous. This is the greatest game engine on the market, more fun than anything else you could buy or play, and it’s not just free, when you get good at it, it MAKES YOU MONEY.
Think about how fun it is to play Persona 4 Golden, then imagine there was a game that was even better than that, and playing it gives you money, and it’s not World of Warcraft.
Next up, Install and Open Unreal Engine 5
I’m not going to get into the details of how to install it. Watch these tutorials, so starting out, what’s the first thing we’ll do when starting it up?
- Open the Epic Games Launcher
- Go to the Library Tab
- Add a New Engine Version (I suggest the latest Unreal Engine 5 beta and Unreal Engine 4.26+ for compatibility until Unreal Engine 5 releases outright in early 2022)
- Wait for it to Download and Install
- Launch the Engine
- Choose a Template
- Learn the IDE
- Make your first game
Launching the Engine
Ok, click launch and choose “New Project” and this is what you will see:
Here are a list of templates for your Unreal Game. You can buy more complex stuff, but this will give you an idea of what the Engine is capable of. You could choose a blank empty project, but let’s choose “top down” for the heck of it.
But there’s also:
- First Person
- Third Person
- Top Down
- Virtual Reality
Choose a location for the project files, and name your project. Then click “CREATE”. This is what you will see:
Ok, Press “Play” as your first action. The Game will play. It is kind of like the foundation for an srpg like Baldur’s Gate or Pillars of Eternity or Divinity Original Sin.
That will all come later. Press escape to exit out of the editor.
Let’s go over some of the things we see here:
- Content Browser
- World Outliner
- Details Panel
- Editing modes
- Console Command
- Content Drawer
This is where all your files will be found, they are organized into folders located in your Content folder. You can right click to create new folders, place content in your folders, in a complex heirarchy.
Here you will find all of your characters, blueprints, materials, sounds, songs, scenes, behavior trees and basically any kind of file you might include in your game. Whatever you import into the game, you’ll find it here, think of it as your file explorer for your Unreal project.
If you want to learn game dev from scratch, be sure to check out our subscription service, it’s like Netflix for Game Dev Tutorials. You can learn everything you need to know about game dev here.
Here you will find everything that has been placed in the current level or “scene”. Anything that has a physical presence in the level can be found here, organized into a heirarchy. You can create the heirarchies however you wish, organizing your objects into folders usually based on their function or type.
The details panel on the right will show you information about whatever you have selected in the world outliner, or content browser. All associated functions and properties will be listed here, this is where you will make changes to the objects in question.
This is where you can create anything that can be created within the Unreal Engine 5, this tab will add it to the current level. Start by creating a sphere. Choose “Create” “Shapes” “Sphere”. This is what you will see:
Note that in the World Outliner, a Sphere Object has been created, in the Details Panel, there are a number of properties, let’s look through them.
- Static Mesh
- Virtual Texture
- World Partition
- Material Parameters
- Asset User Data
- Data Layers
This is too much to go over in one lesson, but let’s start with a few of them. Let’s start with the Transform. The transform has location, rotation, and scale, on an X Y and Z Axis. Location can be static, stationary or moveable.
You’ll start to get a feel for which direction is X, left and right, which direction is Y, up and down, and which direction is Z, forward and backward.
You’ll also get a feeling for how rotations will affect your object, maybe a cube would have been better.
Let’s scale that sphere, I’ll set x to 10 y to 7 and z to 10, this is the result:
The egg is not a sphere per-se, it is a Static Mesh, a shape, that can be transformed(moved), rotated, and scaled. It could just as easily be something else…. Choose a different static mesh and see how it changes. Look it’s this now:
Note the distortion remains….. We can distort it even further, for instance, this is what happens when you set Y to 40:
There are also Skeletal Meshes, for animated moving characters like humans and animals.
Materials are the skin of the static mesh, for instance, this is what happens when I replace the two materials with twisty leaves texture and shiny gold texture:
Here you can choose “Simulate Physics”, to apply physics to your object, so it will fall, or collide with other objects, you can apply acceleration, momentum, force. The behavior exhibited is determined by the physics properties you assign your object.
In this way we can have a character sliding across and icey floor, conversely, walking on something with so much friction, you can barely move.
With physics, comes ballistics, force application, acceleration, momentum, basically everything you need for a car game. Experiment with it, it is beyond the scope of this tutorial.
Collision contains everything you need to know about whether an object will collide with another object, what it will pass through, what it will collide with, if passing through, does it generate overlap events, triggers employed when two objects pass through each other.
Anyway, there is too much to cover in one tutorial but you will learn it all eventually.
Open the top down character blueprint class from the blueprint menu, and have a look at what you see:
Here we are in the event graph. A blueprint is like a complex object made up of lots of different parts. In the event graph, you see a bunch of nodes, connected by wires. Each node is a function, the wires indicate which direction the flow of execution is running in. Here is an example:
Getting Started with Blueprint
Here we have some basic elementary nodes, “Event Begin Play” and “Event Tick”. Event Begin Play regards the functions activated when the blueprint is first spawned into the level. Event Tick takes place roughly every frame or so.
In both cases they are using a “Branch” node to select true or false, from a condition plugged into it, which is “Is head mounted display enabled”. If it is, then it runs the “true” wire to it’s next function, if it is not, it runs the “false” wire to it’s next function. Very complex sets of behavior can be programed into the truth or falsity of a condition. You can also have sequence nodes that go through multiple levels of conditions.
Basically every function you need to use in Unreal is available in blueprint form. You can and may, never use C++ at any point in your Unreal Experience, and you can make a fully featured game, with no knowledge of programming, entirely within blueprint, it’s not just possible, I would RECOMMEND IT.
It will take a long time to learn all the important blueprint functions, but you can get the hang of it in a few months without much difficulty, even if you don’t spend too much time on it.
Here is the viewport:
The Skeletal Mesh
Here you will find, everything that makes up your third person character, on the left you will see his Skeletal Mesh, which is changeable, character movement component, components can be added with the ADD button. There is also a capsule collider, to collide with other objects.
On the right you will see everything associated with your selected object. So it is telling me about the base character object right now, if you clicked on the mesh, you could change the mesh, and change the animation blueprint, which controls how the character animates. These can be retargeted to different skeletons, or different meshes for the same skeleton and blueprint.
You can have lots of different characters who all share the same skeleton, then you don’t have to change the animation blueprint, you just change the character mesh, otherwise you must do both.
There is also the construction script where the object deals with pre-spawning behavior.
Making a New Character
Ok, opening up Daz Studio.
So the first thing I’ll do is go to the figures tab and choose genesis 8 essentials. You will need to purchase a variety of interactive licenses to utilize this, but I think Genesis 8 Starter Essentials should give you everything you need to make your first character, without running afoul of copyright. You are responsible for acquiring all licenses before bringing your characters into a commercial game for sale or even available to view in pictures or videos, unless it is a still or animated render created directly in Daz Studio.
Let’s create a character, put some clothes on him, and see what we’ve got.
Exporting our character
Ok, so here’s our character, the first thing I’m going to do is fit all of the clothes and hair to our new character, by rightclicking in the top right window, choosing “fit to”, and selecting the genesis 8 male, for each individual item.
Then we will export our character with “file” “export”. If this was Unreal Engine 4 we would just use the Daz to Unreal Plugin, but in situations where that is not possible, SmartPoly’s joint renamer is a very useful tool.
It renames the bones and joints in the newly created skeleton, so that it is compatible with the Unreal Engine 4’s humanoid skeletal animation system. The Daz to Unreal Plugin solves this and much else for you, but we will have to wait until the full release of Unreal 5 in 2022 to utilize this easy method.
The Export Window
Pick a name for your FBX character, I recommend the original name of the figure as well as any associated clothing items, so you can handle licenses more efficiently. Press “Save”.
You must purchase a license for each character, item of clothing, or bundle of items you wish to put into your game.
This is what you will see:
- Selected: ON = only items selected in viewport exported, OFF = all items exported
- No Hidden: Remove hidden objects
- Figures: Include base character
- Props: Include props
- Lights: Include selected lights
- Cameras: Include cameras
- Animations: Include any character animations
- Base Figure Pose Only: Import in the A-Pose, any changes overriden, swith off to import in whatever pose you have selected. (we’ll change it to the T-Pose in Unreal)
- Maya Helper Scripts: Scripts to help with Maya
- Locks: Not sure
- Limits: I like to remove limits, so characters can bend better
- Morphs: Here you will select any included morphs, (Morph Targets in Unreal and Blendshapes in Unity) which change or warp body parts of your character.
- Choose FBX 2012 — Binary, this is important for the FBX Joint Renamer.
- Embedded Textures: You want this on, it means that the textures are applied to and embedded in your character, no idea why you’d want this off.
- Collect Textures to folder: Keep this one on, you don’t want your textures taking up a whole bunch of space in your folder, collect them neatly into their own folder.
- Merge Diffuse and Opacity Textures: Not sure why you’d want to this, I keep it switched off.
- Merge Clothing into Figure Skeleton: This one, depends on what you want, if you’re making a static character who will never swap out their wardrobe, like a knight who is always in shiny armor, then merge the clothing and the character, if not. I would recommend exporting the base character first, then exporting each individual item, then applying the mesh to the character, in the construction script set master pose component for the new wearable to the base mesh, set animation blueprint to none. Animate the base mesh with an animation blueprint and the wearables will follow it’s motions, as if affixed to it.
- Convert Clothing to Static Geometry: Not sure about this one, I keep it off. Sounds bad to me, but I’m sure there are reasons you would do it.
- Allow Degraded Skinning: I think you should leave this on, I think it makes the character better quality or something.
- Allow Degraded Scaling: Not sure, I leave it on.
- Subd Information: No clue, I leave it off.
- Collapse UV Tiles: No clue, I leave it off.
Staging will tell you what assets you will be bringing with you in export. And you can now click “Accept”.
We can close Daz now.
Now take your exported FBX and rename the joints
Copy your Gen8m and images folder to the debug folder of your joint renamer. Right click and edit the “rig” file. Put the name of your new FBX in the name area. No spaces or it won’t work.
Run the rig file. It will open up a window showing it renaming the joints, which should pretty quickly close, leaving behind and output file and an fbm folder.
Put in a safe location, and import into Unreal. By rightclicking on the content browser and choosing import to the selected folder, choose your fbx, this is what you will see:
Your standard settings are probably fine.
This is what you see:
Let it load, and then open the character’s skeleton. Compiling shaders takes a while, just let it work, don’t interrupt it. This is what you will see:
Go to the retarget manager. Select Rig “Humanoid”, and automap bones. Fix Spine 1 2 and 3. Fix Thigh L and R. Anything that doesn’t match up. Remove Calf twist L and R. Save your bonemapping. Select use current pose to be sure.
Then Move onto the skeleton tree
In settings choose show retargeting options, and it will look like this:
Click the Genesis8Male and choose “recursively set translation retargeting skeleton”. Set Genesis 8 male to Animation, set Pelvis to Animation scaled, and set Spine 1 to Animation Scaled.
Save your skeleton, save all, go to the preview scene settings panel on the top right, and choose “apply to asset”, in the mesh tab.
Find the Unreal Mannequin’s Skeleton and do the same to it, should be as easy as selecting humanoid rig and automapping, the bones are all the right names.
We are now ready to retarget our animations
Go to the Unreal Mannequin folder, and find the “Third Person Anim_BP”:
Right click on it, and select “Retarget anim blueprints” and then “Duplicate anim blueprints and retarget”. Select your newly created Gen8skeleton. It should be in roughly the same position. You can put a prefix and a suffix, I like GEN8_as a prefix. Click “Retarget”.
You can also just retarget the unreal skeleton to fit to the new skeleton if you want.
This is what you will see:
Here is your newly created animation blueprint and associated animations.
Put them somewhere safe. Go to “content” “topdownBP” “blueprints” Top Down Character Blueprint. Go to the viewport. This is what you will see:
Select the Mesh, on the left.
On the right, change the mesh to your new character mesh, change the animation blueprint to your new anim_bp. Compile, Save and close.
And with that, we’ve reached the end of our first tutorial. There’s our little guy running around the level, having a blast, and as you can see, he animates normally, and as expected. You can use this technique to rig just about any humanoid skeleton, and you can use this technique to rig ANYTHING humanoid from Daz.
You have now reached the end of our tutorial. I hope this was illuminating, it certain was for me to write, I hope it was fun for you to read as well.
I hope you learned a lot, and I hope you’re well on your way to getting started on your journey towards mastering Unreal. I hope in our next tutorial I can show you how to make something with third party assets. Have a great day, friend!