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UE4: How to Transition from UDK to UE4

Category: UE4, UDK
July 20, 2015

How do you switch or transition from UDK to UE4?

If you have been working with UDK (UE3) for a few weeks, months or years, there will come a time when you'll want to switch to Unreal Engine 4. The updated tools, easier workflow and new improved tech are too appealing to pass up. And it is best time as any to make this transition.

Epic has focused on making Unreal Engine 4 the game engine to use. It is now free (no more subscription fee) and constantly being updated. While UDK is being phased out and will no longer receive any updates.

With the experience and knowledge you have from UDK, it will be easier to make the jump to UE4. Most of the functions, principles and workflows haven't changed, they just received an upgrade.

In this tutorial you will learn how to make the quick transition and how to get started with UE4 when you are coming from UDK (UE3).

UE4 is very easy to get into, even for a complete beginner.

Here is a broad overview of just a few improvements and upgrades:

  • Overall appearance of the editor has been changed and updated; the system interface is completely fluid and you can customize it to exactly how you want it
  • Scripting/Coding is now in C++, no more Unreal Script
  • Kismet visual scripting language has been replaced with a much more powerful tool called Blueprints
  • Material creation is different than what you are used to in UDK - UE4 now uses PBR (Physically Based Rendering) workflow
  • Lighting has been improved
  • Bringing assets into UE4 is a simpler process
  • Various game templates to get your game started
  • Ability to create and manage your projects

These are just a few of many changes.

Before we get started there is one question that often comes up.

"Should I start with UE4 right away or should I learn UDK first and then switch to UE4?"

At this point I would recommend starting with Unreal Engine 4 and not worry about UDK at all. There are some users who still prefer UDK over UE4. Even I still love UDK, as I have spent so much time with it. But as a complete beginner, start with Unreal Engine 4.

Now, let's get started with how quickly transition from UDK to UE4.

1. Free Unreal Engine 4

Unreal Engine 4 is now free. It started off as a monthly subscription service, but since then Epic has let that pricing go, making it free for everyone. So just like UDK, you can freely download UE4.

Tutorial: UE4 - How to Download and Install Unreal Engine 4

As for royalties and releasing your own game with UE4, visit here for all the details.

2. Unreal Engine/Epic Games Launcher

In UDK, you would download a specific version of the engine as a large exe file and install.

In UE4, the download and install works a bit different.

First, you download a small installation file that will set up Epic Games/Unreal Engine Launcher. This is a portal through which you download and install any version of the engine, old and new. Any future updates will be applied and downloaded through this Launcher.

So you no longer have to check if there is a new Unreal Engine 4 version out, the Launcher will keep everything up to date and notify you what's new.

Through the Launcher you will also have the ability to create and manage your projects, purchase Marketplace content for your projects, download examples and game engine content from the Learn section.

3. Project Management

In UDK, to create a project you would launch the editor and start working on your project. There was no way to keep various projects separate other than setting up folders ahead of time and saving all the maps, packages and content into it.

In UE4, you have to launch a project you will be working on in order to open the editor. To work on another project, you have to launch another instance of the editor for that project.

All of your current, worked on project will be under the Library tab:

Before starting UE4 editor you would define a project and then you would launch the UE4 editor for that project and all the files associated with that project. This is a great way to keep everything separate and organized.

Tutorial: UE4 - How to Create, Start and Open Your First New Project

Each Unreal Engine project will exist in its own directory and will contain its own project files.

Unreal Engine/Epic games Launcher is also where you manage and open any project that you are working on.

4. Game Templates

In UDK, you would start with first person game mode. If you wanted third-person, top down or side-scroller game, you had to set this up yourself. There was no choice for game templates that gives you basic functionality of a game you want to create.

In UE4, you get to choose to start any project with a game template. You can choose to have C++ or Blueprint template.

Then, you choose first-person shooter, third-person, side-scroller or any other available game template which gives you a starting point for basic functionality to build and expand upon for your own game.

5. New Level Templates

Level template gives you few necessary actors to begin creating the game world without having to insert these actors yourself. It is a very quick and efficient way to get a level started.

In UDK, if you go to File > New Level, a menu pops up to choose between various map templates. You had 4 templates for different time of day and one blank map template:

In UE4, you still have new level templates, but as of right now there are only 2 templates to choose from. Default and Blank Map:

The current single template in UE4 is enough to get started. But perhaps later we'll have more additional time of day templates. This isn't a big deal, since you can just the position of the sun and change the light color to set up different types of day yourself.

6. Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are almost identical between many common functions from UDK to UE4, but not all.

For example in UDK you have Alt+W (Static Mesh Visibility) or Alt+X (Maximizing/Restore Active Viewport). In UE4, these don't exist.

But in UE4, it is extremely simple to add/update shortcuts by going to Edit > Editor Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts:

Search for a shortcut you want to add and enter the keys for that shortcut to use:

Important note about shortcuts in UE4 is they do not transfer from one project to another. All the Project/Editor Settings are self-contained within a project. So if you created a new project, you would have to re-assign all the shortcuts keys again.

Solution is to export all the shortcuts to a file and every time you start a project, import this file to get access to your shortcuts, every time.

To export or import keyboard shortcuts, go to Edit > Editor Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts and press Import/Export:

7. Tabs and Fluid Interface

UDK interface contained a lot of buttons, icons and menus. As a complete beginner, it was overwhelming to make sense of it all.

The entire UE4 interface has received a complete overhaul - from colors, to panels to functionality. Everything is now fluid. You can change and customize the entire interface to exactly how you like it. Resize or drag and drop any panel within the editor to modify the interface.

Another useful function I like is the ability to have tabs - just like a web browser. You can have multiple tabs running across the editor. Dock these tabs anywhere you want so you can have Blueprint, Matinee and Material Editor all in their own tabs to avoid having multiple floatable windows open. You can still have menus as float windows, but tabbing adds additional organizational option.

8. Viewport Navigation in UE4

Viewport navigation from UDK to UE4 is almost identical with a few slight changes.


In UDK, you use WASD keys to move viewport camera in front/back/side directions.

In UE4 you have to press and hold right mouse button while using WASD.

You can disable having to press/hold right mouse button for viewport navigation by going to Edit > Editor Preferences:

Under Viewport and Controls section, change Flight Camera Control Type to "Use WASD for Camera Controls":

The rest of the viewport navigation is the same from UDK. Such as holding the right or the left mouse button to look around and move forward and back; and if you hold both left+right mouse buttons you move up/down/side-to-side.

In UDK, if you liked Maya style navigation you had to press L + left or right mouse button in to use it.

In UE4, for Maya style navigation press and hold Alt + left or right mouse button.

Also in UE4, press F to center view on selected object and then press and hold Alt while holding and moving the left mouse button. This will rotate around the selected object. Very useful for looking at a single selected object inside the scene.


In UDK, if you hold and move either the right or the left mouse button both enabled panning inside the viewport.

In UE4 if you left-click and drag will now marquee select. While the right mouse button is the same from UDK, which will make you pan within the viewport in all direction.

Hold right+left mouse buttons and move will zoom in and out. Same as UDK.

9. Modes Panel

In UE4, placing objects is a lot easier with the addition of the modes panel (Shift+1).

Within the Basic, Lights, Visual Effects, BSP, Volumes and All Classes tabs you will find most of the needed actors. Left click and drag right into the viewport as in UDK.

You can still right click inside the perspective viewport to insert actors:

For all the available actors inside UE4 you now have to use Class Viewer.

10. Class Viewer

In UDK, to view all actors you had to access them through Actor Classes menu.

View > Browser Window > Actor Classes:

In UE4, Actor Classes is now called Class Viewer. Go to Window > Developer Tools > Class Viewer:

11. Developer Tools

In UDK, you had View > Browser Window, which gave you access to various developer tools such as Log, Texture Stats and Primitive Stats:

In UE4, these developer tools are under Window > Developer Tools:

To access Statistics for primitive objects, go to Window > Statistics:

12. Content Browser

Content Browser is the content management system in both UDK and UE4.

In UDK, Content Browser was a floating window and could be accessed via top toolbar icon or Ctrl+Shift+F shortcut:

In UE4 Content Browser is now part of the interface, by default it is on the bottom panel of the editor (or on the left, if you are using older than 4.7 of the engine):

You can open up additional Content Browser windows and dock them as tabs:

Using the Content Browser in UE4 is more intuitive and easy. You can quickly import or create any object by clicking on Add New:

You can drag and drop assets from any folder right into Content Browser.

Everything is organized by folders and all of your project assets will be found inside Project Folder > Content:

You can create folders to organize your content inside the Content Browser itself. Right click and choose New Folder:

You can also create folder by navigating to your Project Folder directory and inside Content folder. In here if you create any folders, they will automatically show up inside Content Browser:

13. Working with Objects

Working with Actors (objects inside the editor) is similar to UDK.

Placing, selecting, deleting, resizing, moving and rotating are the same. Such as drag and drop right from the Content Browser and using the Spacebar to cycle between move/rotate/scale gizmo.

World Outliner panel window gives you additional control over your entire scene and selecting objects inside your level but more on this later.

14. Details Panel

In UDK, you have to double click to access the object properties. This would always be a floating window.

In UE4, object properties are now called Details. This menu is part of the editor and you'll find it on the lower right hand side:

Every time you select an actor/object in UE4, the detail panel will change and show the properties for that selected object.

Of course you could also have Details menu as floating window:

15. Show All Advanced Detail Property

While looking at Object Properties via Details Panel in UE4, you will not see All Advanced Properties. You can enable by left clicking on the eye icon to "Show All Advanced Details":

16. Scale

Scale is different in UE4 from UDK.

  • UDK: 1uu = 2cm
  • UE4: 1uu = 1cm

Make sure to change working units inside your modeling application to centimeters.

Tutorial: UE4/Maya: How to Set Up Grid in MayaLT/Maya to Match Unreal Engine 4

UE4 Character Scale Dimensions are:

  • Height: 180 cm/uu
  • Width: 60 cm/uu
  • Length/Depth: 60 cm/uu

Tutorial: UE4 - Guide to Player Scale and World/Architecture Dimensions

17. Grid Setting Size

In UDK, grid size follows the power of 2 grid. This means that when you increase your grid size it goes from 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048 and 4096.

In UE4, now follows the standard decimal grid size system. Values are 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000. You have to set up 3d modeling application to match the grid size in Unreal Engine 4.

If you still want to use power of 2 grid in UE4, you can switch settings by going to Edit > Editor Preferences:

Then in Level Editor > Viewports and under the Grid Snapping option, you will see a check box to Use Power of Two Snap Size:

While you can still use the power of 2 grid, it is best to stick with the new grid system.

18. World Outliner

In UDK, to see every single object placed inside your level you have to go to View > Browser Window > Scene:

In UE4, this is now contained within its own editor panel called World Outliner and you will find this menu on upper right-hand side. This lists all of the objects inside your scene.

If you don't see the World Outliner go to Window > World Outliner:

Through the World Outliner, you can select, search and organize all of the actors currently placed within your environment.

19. World Settings

World Settings are universal properties for the entire environment. You will find settings to World, Game Mode, Physics and Lightmass.

In UDK, to access World Properties, go to View > World Properties:

In UE4, World Properties are now called World Settings and you can access this menu by going to Window > World Settings:

20. BSP Brushes

BSP brushes are extremely useful for blocking-in and prototyping a level. You can build a map with BSP brushes and have a layout to test very quickly.

In UDK, BSP process was slow and cumbersome. You had to build geometry every time you modified any BSP brush to see changes. There is a setting under Preferences to update this option to automatic BSP visualization, but it would build geometry every time you move a brush and slowed down your workflow.

In UE4, BSP brushes process has been improved. You no longer need to be rebuilt geometry if brushes have been modified. The entire BSP process is now much faster. It's still not as streamlined as some other BSP based game engines. But it is a step in the right direction and it is much better than before.

Use Place Mode (Shift+1) to drag BSP brush into the level:

At this point you can use Details panel to input manual size values for this brush:

Or, you can use Geometry Editing Mode (Shift+5) to resize the brush via vertices, edges and faces:

21. PBR Material Creation

Material creation in UE4 is very different from UDK.

The material editor and how it works is similar to UDK but methodology and approach of creating materials has changed. UE4 now uses PBR or Physically Based Rendering, which offers more realistic way of rendering these materials.

At first using PBR workflow may seem confusing. But once you learn how to construct few PBR materials, you'll find that it is actually easier than the previous workflow.

22. Lighting

Each light you place in UE4 will contain 3 different properties inside the Detail Panel. Static, Stationary and Moveable.

Once you insert a light, using the Details panel you can change that light to be Static, Stationary or Moveable:

Static vs Stationary vs Movable:

  • Static: A completely static light that has no overhead during a running game
  • Stationary: Light type that can change its color and brightness at runtime (via Blueprint) but cannot move, rotate or change influence size
  • Movable: A fully dynamic light capable of changing all of its properties during runtime

For important lights use Stationary (default).

For secondary fill-in lights, small area lights and far away lights use Static.

For fully dynamic lights use Moveable.

One thing to note is that you cannot have more than 3 overlapping Stationary lights in an area. Meaning that you can have more than 3 Stationary lights inside your scene but the radius of influence for 3 of these Stationary lights cannot overlap at the same time:

23. Blueprint Replaces Kismet

In UDK, we had Kismet, which is the visual scripting language in UDK.

In UE4, you now have Blueprint, which is a more powerful and improved system than Kismet.

Most simple way to access Blueprint is through the main toolbar:

Blueprint has many improvements and functionalities. One of them is the ability to create Class Blueprints.  These are self-contained items that you create to have Blueprint functionality (like a prefab). You would then place this Class Blueprint throughout the level without having to re-create it over again.

Using Blueprint you can create simple actors, components, behaviors and gameplay mechanics without having to code.

24. Importing and Storing Custom Assets

In UDK, when you import any asset (Static Meshes, textures, materials, audio, animations etc.) you had to create a package where all of the imported content would go into.

There were 2 most common file types .UDK and .UPK

  • .udk = map file, this is your level that you see inside UDK
  • .upk = package file, this file type contains 3d models (Static Meshes), textures, materials, sounds, animations etc that you use to place into your level

This system worked ok but I always wanted a better and more intuitive way to organize my imported content; such as a way to grab a single asset and move it to another project without having to create a separate package to move it into.

In UE4, there are no more packages. Importing assets is very simple process. Hit import or just left-click and drag right into the Content Browser.

You now have .umap and .uasset:

  • .umap = map or level file
  • .uasset = individual asset file, such as a texture, a Static Mesh, a material etc.

In UE4, each project has a Content folder. This is where your game assets are stored in. You can see the Content folder when you are inside the editor looking at the Content Browser. Anything you import for a project needs to be placed inside this Content folder. You can create sub-folders within the Content folder for better organization.

25. Project Settings

In UDK, game and level configurations were stored inside .ini configuration file. You would have to create and update this file with any changes.

In UE4, you can change your configurations inside Project Settings and you no longer need to create .ini files.

To access Project Settings go to Edit > Project Settings:

Through here you can change settings for Project, Engine and Editor:

26. Current Project in UDK to UE4

If you have a UDK project that you want to bring over to UE4. Here are some tips of what you can or cannot do:

  • You can't open .upk or .udk files inside UE4
  • Static Meshes and textures have to be re-imported. This should be simple if you kept your texture files and 3d modeling files (.fbx, .obj)
  • Due to scale and different size use from UDK to UE4, Static Meshes used in UDK and if imported into UE4 will be smaller. You would have to scale them up in 3d modeling app or in UE4
  • Materials have to be recreated following PBR workflow
  • Particles Effects/Systems have to be recreated
  • Kismet set-ups have to be recreated in Blueprint
  • Any code has to be re-written from Unreal Script to C++
  • Landscape heightmaps can be exported from UDK and imported into UE4

Recommended UE4 Tutorial series

Here are two recommended premium tutorial guides for Unreal Engine 4:

UE4 Fundamentals: this is a complete beginner guide to learning and using Unreal Engine 4. Highly recommended if you are a complete beginner with UE4. Click here for more info...

UE4 The Corridor Project: this is a bit more intermediate tutorial guide in which you construct a game environment with provided custom Static Meshes, then light it, post-process it and create a fly-through video to show it off. An in-depth guide for putting together an environment from start-to-finish. Click here for more info...

Recommended External Links

Epic Games - Transitioning From UE3 to UE4

Unreal Engine Wiki UE3 to UE4 Transition Guide

From Unity3D to UE4


Subscribe to receive NEW/UPDATED and FREE "UE5 Beginner's Quick Start Guide" PDF (90 pages).

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My name is AlexG. I am self-taught level designer, game environment artist and the creator of World of Level Design.com. I've learned everything I know from personal experimentation and decades of being around various online communities of fellow environment artist and level designers. On World of Level Design you will find tutorials to make you become the best level designer and game environment artist.

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