Game engines and animation software serve different purposes in the broad spectrum of digital content creation. Understanding their differences can guide your decision on which tool to use depending on your project's needs.
A game engine provides the core technologies needed to create games, such as a rendering engine for 2D or 3D graphics, physics engine for collision detection and response, sound, scripting, animation, artificial intelligence, networking, streaming, memory management, threading, localization support, and a scene graph. Examples of popular game engines include Unity, Unreal Engine, Godot, and GameMaker.
In addition to these technical features, game engines also provide certain tools and interfaces that help streamline the game development process. They allow you to script game logic, design levels, import artwork and assets, define physics interactions, and more.
Animation software, on the other hand, is specialized for creating animated sequences and visual effects. It does not typically involve gameplay mechanics, AI, or player input. Instead, it focuses on tools for rigging characters, creating keyframes, shaping morphs, simulating physics for animation (like cloth or hair), and rendering high-quality images or video. Examples include Blender, Maya, 3ds Max, and Cinema 4D.
While game engines can also create animations, the level of detail, control, and complexity you can achieve with dedicated animation software is generally higher.
In summary, a game engine is a comprehensive platform designed to handle the wide variety of tasks involved in creating a game, from graphics rendering to physics simulation to AI. Animation software is a more focused tool intended to create complex, high-quality animations and visual effects. The choice between the two will depend on the needs of your particular project: if you are looking to create an interactive experience, a game engine would be more suitable; if your goal is to produce detailed animated sequences, then animation software might be the better choice.