The time has come! Epic Games announced their newest iteration of their gaming engine, Unreal Engine 5. Yes, believe it or not, Epic Games does make something else besides Fortnite. With the release of this trailer, we are given a snapshot into what future games could look like on the next generation of consoles thanks to a real time demo of what the engine is capable of on a Playstation 5. During this demo, there were 2 technological creations that we were introduced to; nanite and lumen.
This new tech is as close to a no compromise system with assets as you can get. What do I mean by that? How about I answer that with a question. What if I told you there was no need to create multiple assets for different level of detail (LOD) settings? And, what if you could just drop those cinematic quality models right into the game? Yeah, it’s possible. But not only is this possible for character models but terrain and objects as well. Those assets can support 8k textures on top of everything. The level of compression has also received a great boost, allowing for what would be over 1 billion triangles in the first scene to be compressed into about 20 million triangles “losslessly”. This results in triangles that are as small as a pixel, as seen in the image above.
You would think the shadows shown were also rendered in real-time thanks to nanite. As Epic Games put it, the shadows are pixel-accurate. And that is why the lighting must have the same level of detail.
In my opinion, Lumen is the largest upgrade. This addition allows the use of multi global illumination. With this in mind, above is an example of the use of this technology only using the sun as a light source. What a world of difference this new tech makes. No lightmaps or baking was used according to Brian Karis, Epic Game‘s technical director of graphics. The angle of light can even be adjusted on the fly, allowing for what could be some amazing day and night cycles.
And as usual, the god rays are top notch.
Some Other New and Improved Tech With Unreal Engine 5
Convolution reverb has been introduced to improve the accuracy of acoustic characteristics of real-world places in-game. This new tech is actually a new testing system that aids in this process of measuring the characteristics of real-world places. Allowing for the recording and playback of those tests in both physical and virtual environments.
The Niagara effects system also received a nice upgrade with particle communication. Allowing them to react to the environment “like never before”. Now I will be honest, I don’t know what it means and I would love some clarity. Going to our discord server and reaching out to us on Twitter would be a great place to do so!
Love is being given to all of the systems, including the animation system. Body movement has been improved to make everything more organic. This is done with the use of motion warping and predictive foot placement. Seamless contextual animation events have also been brought in as well. Those little details like how the character in the trailer puts her hand on the door shows just how much care can be put into a game.
Unreal! When Can Our Games Start Looking Like This?
Well, it is going to be a while. Unreal Engine V comes out sometime in late 2021. Then games will have to be built on it, and given the time frame of modern-day AAA titles, anywhere from 3-5 years could be possible. Games could be produced faster since there would be no need for creating a cinematic quality asset and then having to go back and create several different LOD models. Even the use Lightmaps, UV maps, and baked detail would be out of the picture as well. This can be quite a promising time saver if I do say so myself.
Just like everything else, the incentive to use this program has also been raised. The biggest one is that royalties are waived for the first $1 million in gross revenue. Quite the departure from their gross $3,000 quarterly earnings threshold that was in place retroactively on January 1st of this year. Couple that with the 12% cut that Epic Games takes out of sales on the Epic Games Store, and you have a pretty strong pairing that will entice a lot of developers in possible using Unreal Engine 5. Let’s just hope they can bring their service up to spec.