Unreal Engine 5: A Leap in Quality

Posted ·by William Neild·817 Words·5 min read

Hey there, although I wouldn’t call myself an avid gamer, I would say I’m a technology nerd and I just can’t help myself when I find out that Epic Games have announced the next iteration of their game engine. Unreal Engine 5.

Epic Games, on the 13th May 2020, announced the next iteration of their game engine Unreal Engine 5 in a first look blog post with an absolutely outstanding demo which was running on the Play Station 5 (which is set to release in holiday 2020). This demo can be seen below:

This demo of the engine showcases two of the new core technologies which will debut in Unreal Engine 5. These technologies are Nanite and Lumen.

Nanite

Wow, such poly

Epic Games: A first look at Unreal Engine 5

Nanite is the name given to the new technology packed inside of the UE5 Core that virtualises polygon geometry which allows artists to create as much geometric detail as the eye can see. Furthermore, the nanite virtualised geometry means that film-quality source art comprising of hundreds of millions or billions of polygons can be imported directly into Unreal Engine and will be able to handle the data streams and scaling in real-time without a loss in quality.

For developers, this means that extremely high-detail assets will be a lot easier to implement as they can be used with a much less time and resource-intensive process.

Lumen

Let there be light

Epic Games: A first look at Unreal Engine 5

Lumen is Epic Games’ new fully dynamic global illumination solution which can immediately react to scene and light changes. The system is able to render diffuse interreflection with infinite bounces and indirect specular reflections in huge detailed environments, ranging from scales of a couple of millimetres to kilometres. At first, this seems difficult to comprehend as all of this has to happen in real-time but after seeing the demo that Epic released, well they’ve somehow managed to pull it off.

As a result of this new technology, Artists and designers will be able to create more dynamic scenes such as blowing a hole in the ceiling of a cave and letting light ‘pour in’ (which was shown in the demo).

However, although Lumen and Nanite were the key technologies that Epic wanted to show off, they were in no way shape or form the only amazing things they showed off. The demo also showcases existing engine systems such as Chaos physics and destruction, Niagara VFX, convolution reverb, and ambisonics rendering which in combination with the new global illumination and the ease of increased poly count, will be sure to lead the way towards true photo-realistic gameplay.

Engine timeline

Epic, in their first look blog post, said that: “Unreal Engine 5 will be available in preview in early 2021, and in full release late in 2021, supporting next-generation consoles, current-generation consoles, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android.”.

Furthermore, they also mentioned that they are designing forward compatibility, so game developers can get started with next-generation development now in their existing engine, UE4, and then be able to move them up to Unreal Engine 5 upon release.

However, there is one discrepancy that has been pointed out in Epic’s post that disheartens a proportion of the tech community. That is the notable absence of Linux support. As a moderate Linux user, I hope that this is not the case as gaming on Linux has come so far in the past 5 years with developments in Steam’s Proton library and Google’s Stadia, however, Unreal engine 4 already supports Linux out of the box so I would hope that Epic games stick with it.

Extras

And if that news about Epic releasing UE5 wasn't enough, they've even decided to change their licensing terms of using Unreal Engine by saying that royalties are waived on the first $1,000,000 of revenue.

Moreover, Epic have also launched their Epic Online Services for free in a 'simple multiplatform SDK'

Conclusion

Although we are still a year away from the engine's release, This next generation technology is genuinely amazing and I'm sure that we will hear more about the engine from Epic as the release gets closer, as well as hopefuly finding out what games will be made using these new core features.