TL;DR: If you’re looking to create interactive, fancy looking interiors, then UE4 is definitely something you should look into. If you’re just looking for a tool to help you model and design the actual building structures, then you’d be better off with a modelling tool that was built with 3D modelling in mind. UE4 is more about adding interaction and life to levels with loaded in assets, it wasn’t really built to handle the actual modelling side of things, unless you’re dealing with basic primitives.
With Blueprint (UE4’s visual scripting system), you’ll probably never need to look at code for most things you’d need.
If you’re looking to create fly-by’s of your architecture, UE4 seems like a really great choice. You can harness the power of Blueprints (don’t confuse that with actual architecture blueprints) to create things like information popups as you enter rooms, or dynamically change the layout to show how a room could be built differently. You can also harness the power of UE4’s amazing lighting system and show off how your architecture will look in a lot of different lights, dynamically, as they move through the building.
The only thing I’m thinking is that if you’re looking to create fancy looking interiors, you’ll need to spend a fair bit of time looking into 3D modelling too (UE4 isn’t really built for creating those types of assets in-engine), so you may need to look into using paid 3D modelling software or a free alternative like Blender.
Either way, $19 is worth the pay even if just to play around with the tutorials. You’ll soon decide if it’s the right tool for you after you’ve seen the potential it has.
Also, on the topic of not wanting to put in all of your free time: The “Creating a level” video tutorials are a great guide to getting started with BSP brushes and understanding how and when to use Additive or Subtractive brushes, and it should only take you around an hour to go from 0 to a working room with an interactive sliding door. Plus Zak’s an awesome tutor.
I’m still pretty new to all of this, but I’d guess the hardest part is getting into the mind-set of designing in sections and piecing it all together.
- Planning - Lay out a floor plan with basic primitives in UE.
- Modelling - Modelling the assets for the building; e.g. Light fixtures, wall braces, window frames etc.
- Styling - Adding materials to the models to give the level some style.
- Lighting - Setting up lighting in the level to add some depth.
- Interactivity - Adding any blueprints to your level to make it interactive.
- Pizazz (Optional) - Adding finishing touches such as dust particles and sounds to make your level even more realistic.
So really, it depends which areas you’d consider difficult or “long” to learn. Learning the different parts in sections seems like an easy way to go, since then you won’t be bogged down with learning about lighting and blueprints while you’re trying to lay out a floor plan.
There’s a pretty good level in the Content Examples asset that highlights a good plan and steps for best approaching level design.
Edit: Man I write way too much just to get out of doing actual work.