Unreal UIs and Performance

It’s important to preface this with by mentioning that you should never optimise prematurely. And you should always be careful to only optimise what you are sure is causing problem.

That being said, knowing some of the things I mention below could help avoid performance-affecting things as you are developing your game.

Benchmark Your Code

Before guessing what is slow about your UI and applying fixes based on some half-baked tutorial you read online, you should benchmark your UI to find out exactly what is taking up the most time.

Open up your console with the tilde key and enter one of the following

  • stat dumpframe -ms=0.1
  • stat slate

Be Careful What is Calculated Every Frame

If something is only run once, and is hidden during a screen transition, it is pretty easy to argue that there’s no point in optimising it. Or at least that it should be pretty far down your list of things to optimise.

However operations that are run every frame are usually prime candidates for optimisation. These could be:

  • any HUD-style elements: health bars, minimaps, on-screen notifications

Be Careful What is Instantiated

When you instantiate a widget in-game, a lot of other stuff can be created. In particular:

  • The widget itself
  • The entire contents of any WidgetSwitcher panels (even if it seems the panel is hidden)
  • The entire contents of any UserWidgets that the
  • Everything that is created or called on Event Construct for all touched UserWidgets
  • Any TSubclassOf<T> references will have their DefaultObjects loaded and any assets that are not TAssetPtr<T> or similar.

This can cause some serious hitches/frame-drops that could be a problem.

  • Only instantiate what is shown to the player. Widgets hidden in subtabs or that are set to Hidden by default could be instantiated only when needed.
  • Change large, less-important textures from UTexture2D* to TAssetPtr<UTexture2D> and stream them in asynchronously
  • Similarly, TSubclassOf<T> variables whose contents is not needed every time the object is instantiated can be changed to TODO
  • If you have the memory to spare, instantiate your UI once during initial loading, and show/hide it as needed, instead of re-creating it every time it is shown.

Moving Complex Operations to C++

Exactly how much slower is constantly disputed, mainly because there is no single number that makes sense across all cases, but Blueprints are be significantly slower than C++ code.

Complex mathematical operations that you are performing every frame are best moved to C++.

Use InvalidationBox

The UMG InvalidationBox widget caches its contents so it does not need to be re-rendered widget-by-widget every frame. It is especially useful for reducing the amount of time spent per frame rendering complex hierarchies of widgets.

When its contents change, as a developer you must call explicitly call the cache invalidation function.

UMG and Performance

FText’s FormatText isn’t Free

Calling FormatText is vital to creating localizable UIs. However FormatText isn’t free. I’ve seen one example of it taking 0.04ms per call on PS4. You should especially avoid calling it every frame. Instead call it only when it needs to be changed using delegates and events. Or cache the value you’re using for the FormatText (e.g. an integer), and only update your text when the value itself changes.

SetVisibility isn’t Free

If you’re like me, you maybe assumed that calling SetVisibility on a widget is very performance-light, or that calling SetVisibility(Hidden) on an already hidden widget is effectively free.

It’s not.

Calling SetVisibility every frame with your desired visibility is very easy, but it can also be surprisingly heavy. As with FormatText, you should change your UI so that SetVisibility is only called when a change of state is needed.