Recently, the folks at Epic Games unveiled the latest version of their platform- Unreal Engine 5- and oh, boy, does it look lovely.
Epic Games, the parent-company behind Unreal Engine, used their premier physics engine to build the wildly successful Fortnite. Now, they're using it to test and refine bold innovation. What they’ve built are new tools and tech that have the potential to simplify elements of development, and do much more than just improve graphics. If you’re curious how Unreal Engine 5 will change development, we're breaking down exactly how the new tech will improve the process of making games.
Every single object, in any game you’ve played, has a polygon count. In older games like the original PlayStation or the Nintendo 64, you could actually see these polygons, resulting in assets that looked kinda like origami, or a Picasso painting.
As the years have gone by, technology has allowed for smaller polygons, and higher budgets on how many you could fit into a scene without affecting performance.
With Nanite, developers have infinite virtualized geometry, meaning you can have billions of polygons, without the usual penalties.
According to Jerome Plateaux, the Special Projects Art Director for Epic Games, game developers can now use cinematic, film quality assets with 8k textures without having to worry about Polycounts or frame rates. Or as he says, “art that just works.” Not only does this help expedite the process of making new assets for games, it would remove the compromise of style that 3D artists work around to optimize their project.
When Nanite debuts in 2021, we can expect to see a noticeable spike in graphics and performance in games.
Described by EPIC Games Lead Technical Director Brian Caris as “dynamic, global illumination,” the Lumen Lighting system automatically implements professional-grade lighting in rendered scenes. Now, if that doesn’t sound super exciting, you’re not alone. But, consider that most AAA studios have entire teams of people whose job it is to perfect a game's lighting. Just the lighting. It’s an illusive mark to reach, especially for more realistic styles, but proper lighting gives games a level of detail that offers a deeper, more visceral experience.
Normally, developers and artists would need to handcraft the lighting in certain areas to get the right look. Bounce lighting, reflection, shadows, and many other factors would need to be considered, and baked into the map to replicate how light in the real world works. Making changes after these things have been done can be a lot of work, and set back development time.
With Lumen, your main light source completes all the ancillary real world effects for you. The way light bounces off of metal, the way bugs react to light, and the way shadows bounce to the flicker of a torch are all covered in the Unreal Engine 5 demo. A lighting system this comprehensive is every indie-dev’s dream. Atmosphere in any game is a key part of its identity, and Lumen aims to make it easier to achieve than ever.
There’s been a healthy dose of skepticism within the game development community about how well these new tools will actually work. Not to mention a little hullabaloo about a semi-controversial crack in the wall.
Despite that, the hype for Unreal Engine 5’s released in 2021 is very real. There will of course be bugs to work through, but that’s to be expected. Regular patches and fixes are pretty common in new tech.
The reveal demo ends with the main character walking through a portal, and pointedly saying “it’s time to see what’s next.”
- The INK Games Team
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