Unreal Engine 5, the game development engine that will power probably half the games on next-gen consoles has been revealed.
This morning Epic Games hosted a live stream unveiling the fifth version of their incredibly prolific Unreal Engine. According to Epic the two biggest technical updates to Unreal Engine 5 are the inclusion of Nanite virtualized micropolygon geometry, which allows sharper more detailed rendered images, and a new lighting system called Lumen. To illustrate the practical use for the new tech a short demo video titled “Lumen in the Land of Nanite” was played running in real-time on PlayStation 5 hardware.
In addition to the live stream the Unreal Engine Blog also provides some details on the new tech:
“Lumen is a fully dynamic global illumination solution that immediately reacts to scene and light changes. The system renders diffuse interreflection with infinite bounces and indirect specular reflections in huge, detailed environments, at scales ranging from kilometers to millimeters. Artists and designers can create more dynamic scenes using Lumen, for example, changing the sun angle for time of day, turning on a flashlight, or blowing a hole in the ceiling, and indirect lighting will adapt accordingly.”
“Nanite virtualized micropolygon geometry frees artists to create as much geometric detail as the eye can see. Nanite virtualized geometry means that film-quality source art comprising hundreds of millions or billions of polygons can be imported directly into Unreal Engine—anything from ZBrush sculpts to photogrammetry scans to CAD data—and it just works. Nanite geometry is streamed and scaled in real time so there are no more polygon count budgets, polygon memory budgets, or draw count budgets; there is no need to bake details to normal maps or manually author LODs; and there is no loss in quality.”
Unreal Engine 5 will be available for preview early in 2021 and will be fully released later next year. This means any launch titles made with Unreal will be using the 4.25 version of the engine which also supports next-gen consoles. The two engines are designed to be compatible so some games that started with 4.25 could migrate to Unreal Engine 5 as is planned for Epic Game’s Fortnite. As with the 4.25 version, Unreal Engine 5 will be free to download with royalties collected after a game’s first $1 million in gross revenue.
The games industry has changed a great deal since 1998 when the first game made with Unreal Engine was published. There was the jump from SD to HD, the motion control bubble, the ill-advised flirtation with 3D tech, and now the uncertain VR launch. Through it all Unreal Engine became a mainstay in development not just because it could produce good looking games but also because of the ability for the engine to be modified to make different types of games. While the new demo is pretty, only experience with the new engine will reveal its useability.
Stephen Krusel, known as Sven Kroosl to some, has played video and tabletop games since 1987 and has written about the gaming industry since 2008. He has yet to be convinced that Final Fantasy Tactics is not the pinnacle of gaming.