Review: Unreal Engine 4 Game Development Quick Start Guide: Programming professional 3D games with Unreal Engine 4 by Rachel Cordone

Rachel Cordone’s Unreal Engine 4 Game Development Quick Start Guide is the perfect book for people with some programming chops, or users of other engines (like Unity), that want to get up to speed quickly with Unreal. I really liked how the author does not waste time explaining basic things (like what functions or variables are) and jumps to the practical steps for getting things working. Unreal experience is not required at all, though you should have some foundation of how programming works to get the most out of the text.

Most of the book is using Blueprints, the built-in visual scripting language of UE4. I’m a huge fan of Blueprints, and visual scripting in general, and you can accomplish many things, even a whole game, without touching C++. However, Rachel does show how to use C++ and interface with Blueprints code (very handy). Within the book, the author explains each step along the way to accomplish various things, along with screenshots of the Blueprints, making everything easy to follow.

Some of the topics covered include: the basics of navigating the editor, using variables, functions, events, and creating a Blueprint from scratch. Adding C++ to a Blueprint project. Creating menus and HUDs with UMG, animation, scripting AI, multiplayer, and optimization. Definitely not an exhaustive list, but a good range of information to get a feel for how powerful Unreal is and how to quickly start working with it.

So far, I’ve only read maybe a couple other Unreal books, but I think I can say this is the best I’ve seen. While some other books are longer and more in depth, as this one only clocks in at just under 200 pages, I feel like the brevity helps keep things focused. While you’re not creating Grand Theft Auto here, the simple demo built in the book is functional and teaches the basics of how you would make a game in Unreal.

This is a case where the title of the book is very apt and honest. This is a “quick start” guide for game developers not familiar with Unreal Engine 4, but maybe that have experience with Unity or some other engine or framework. I think if you are a complete beginner, you might want to read up on basic programming concepts first, though the book is simple enough you could probably just jump in if you really wanted. For people with experience elsewhere, this is perfect to get up to speed with Unreal fast. I can’t recommend this book enough.