People who play battle royale Fortnite, know Epic Games very well. It is an America based software and video game development organization. The company was established in 1991 with the name of ‘Potomac Computer Systems.’ Later, in 1992, they switched their name to ‘Epic MegaGames Inc.’ They removed the Mega from their name in 1999, making it only Epic Games. In 1998, the company managed to develop their own game engine, which debuted with the game Unreal. And recently they announced the 5th version of the engine, i.e., Unreal Engine 5. The announcement was made on their official YouTube channel. The video demonstrated the new Unreal Engine 5 with the “Lumen in the Land of Nanite.”
The video featured two directors of Epic Games,
- Jerome Platteaux, the special projects art director
- Brian Karis, the technical director of graphics
They both explained the new features of the engine while demonstrating it on PlayStation 5. Before moving on to the features of the latest Unreal Engine 5, here is a little history of the gaming engines developed by Epic Games.
Unreal Engine History:
The founder of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney, began with the development of the first engine in 1995. However, it only went public with the release of Unreal in 1998. Some of the original features of the engine were:
- Colored lighting
- Collision detection
- Texture filtering (limited)
- Level editor
Initially, the engine made the graphic calculations through the CPU. But when people started using graphic cards for their games, Tim had to make some changes in the code so that it could match the latest requirements of players. A lot of problems still emerged out of the engine. However, when Epic Games solved most of those issues, more and more external projects started contacting them to use their technology. By 1999, sixteen of them were already using the engine for their game developments.
By 2012, Tim managed to develop four versions of the engine, making some drastic changes into it that were loved by everyone.
Unreal Engine 5:
The rapidly changing technology requires new development environments. That is why in 2018, Epic Games started its work on the latest Unreal Engine 5, the announcement of which has been made a few days earlier. The engine is supposed to make its entry into the market in 2021. However, its features have already left everyone shocked and excited. The few new features that people can expect to see with the latest Unreal Engine 5 are:
Nanite is a virtualized micro polygon geometry that provides the benefit of automatic scalability of the art assets that are present in-game. If we look into the current systems, the artists break their in-game 3D models into various LODs (Level Of Details.) The lower the level, the lesser the polygons and the smaller the textures. The lower polygon models are usually substituted when they are away from the camera of the game. It not only saves memory for the player but also provides some time when the scenes are complex.
With Unreal Engine 5, this whole exercise of the artists has been reduced. They do not need to break the 3D models into the level of details anymore. The engine itself will create the levels based on the specific scenes and the platform on which the player is playing the game. So their effort of resigning according to the various platforms will be diminished. They only need to import a raw 3D model to the engine, and the rest will be automatically done. Moreover, it enhances the game’s quality, as the assets are automatically scaled according to the display of the game.
As Epic Games describes this feature, “A fully dynamic global illumination solution.” According to them, with this solution in Unreal Engine 5, the games can react immediately to any light and scene changes. Players only saw this feature in PC games as NVIDIA was working on it for years. Epic Games is the first one to bring it to console-based games.
Currently, artists need to develop the light-maps on their own as they are only provided with static lighting. The whole effort required in it will be reduced, as they now only have to import a source of light into the engine and their work is done. They can also see the effects of the source when the game will be running on their respective consoles.
With the Lumen dynamic light source, developers will also be able to check the light bends throughout the game by moving the source all around. The feature will enable developers to introduce new light elements in the game as they can show the light bends easily everywhere.
Both of these features of Unreal Engine 5 suggest that the artists can provide the players with better game characteristics, in very fewer efforts as compared to current development engines.
The demo of the engine shown by Epic Games also includes a lot of features of its previous products. Some of them are:
- Niagara VFX: It is used by developers to create visual effects of a game by using particle manipulation methods.
- Chaos Physics And Destruction: Fornite players know how well their game deals with in-game destruction. Unreal Engines use this feature to enable the developers to create better effects for the damage of the property and environment.
- Ambisonics Rendering: It is used for the sound effects of the games.
- Convolution Reverb: Another feature that helps in maintaining the in-game sounds.
With all these features, Unreal Engine 5 becomes the new age solution for game development.
The engine is expected to arrive early next year. It will support the development of games for all the upcoming gaming consoles like Playstation 5. One thing people are getting confused at is the “Lumen in the Land of Nanite” game that was shown in the demo. Just to be clear, it was made only for the demonstration purpose, and it does not exist for the players. Also, Players can expect some high-level features in their upcoming console games, as they will be developed on the more advanced Unreal Engine 5.