Unreal Engine 4 Will Make The Next Generation Of Games Look Mind-Blowing

If you've loved the look of a big-budget game in the recent years, there's a really good chance that it was built on Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3. Titles from Batman: Arkham City to Infinity Blade II all relied on the software suite to create astounding visuals.

As good as current-generation Unreal 3 games look, the ones that follow them are going to make them look like kindergarten drawing. The first look at images created by Unreal 4 show up in a Wired article that features Epic mastermind Tim Sweeney talking about the power he wants to see in the next generation of gaming machines:

As early as last March, Epic was making the case for more power with a demo screened at the 2011 GDC. Called Samaritan and built in Unreal Engine 3 with a new set of specialised plug-ins, the video showcased the rendering power of current high-end hardware, displaying an impressive array of effects, like realistic clothing, lifelike lighting, and highly detailed facial expressions. It took three high-end graphics cards to handle the demand, but it grabbed people's attention. "We used it as an opportunity to make a point to the developers," Sweeney says. "‘We want 10 times more power; here's what we can do with it.

And that was merely for a souped-up version of Unreal 3. For Unreal 4, yet another quantum leap in hardware has to happen. Creating a game that operates on a level of fidelity comparable to human vision, Sweeney says, will require hardware at least 2,000 times as powerful as today's highest-end graphics processors. That kind of super-hi-def experience may be only two or three console generations away, but it hinges on manufacturers moving toward the power levels Sweeney is looking for today. He needs the next generation of consoles to be good.

The article goes on to say that some of what was shown in Epic's Samaritan demo last year -- made with a modified Unreal 3 foundation -- will be baked into Unreal 4. That includes next-level particle effects that, according to Cliff Bleszinski, "are going to be whored by developers." Nice mouth, Cliff.

The Imagination Engine: Why Next-Gen Video Games Will Rock Your World [Wired]


    sounds awesome! I thought a lot if developers seemed to be using that old engine

    A few points from a Technical Art perspective:

    -No one mentioned the amazing SSS in the Samaritan demo
    -Sure we need 2,000 times the power to produce realistically calculated lighting but to fudge it with graphical tricks we probably only need 10 times the power and 4 times the work force ... I won't expand, it's complicated and not a universal solution but it's there.
    -The main obstacle to any of this at the moment is not necessarily hardware ... it's workforce costs. That's why I exist ... but more importantly, as you increase the detail in a game you increase the amount of work that needs to be done ... to a point.
    -Methods improve / evolve with time meaning one person today can procedurally or manually produce something far more complex and detailed than his ancestors ... this needs to keep pace with technological improvement OR revenue from / for games needs to increase exponentially
    -Industry needs to be shaken up to achieve this, at present the competitive atmosphere is partially an inhibiting factor because methods are thought of as advantages for individual studios. Dialogue therefore doesn't exist to the level that it needs to. Just switching studios as an artist can improve your productivity dramatically.
    -At a point you have to decide what details are too complex to include, irrespective of your advances in method or hardware. I can create a life like scene in a day ... but it will take 30 minutes to render and I can only include things there are advanced methods for. If you want me to include something customised, hand crafted, etc. you'll need a week.

      Are you considering that to reach the limits of human vision, beyond the extra processing per pixel (which can be fudged with approximations and clever algorithms), we will also need to be rendering many many more pixels. The current FHD resolution (1920x1080) is about 2MP (2,000,000 pixels). For full clarity, we'd need to render at least 30MP. And to get that properly anti aliased, 120MP. That alone means hardware needs to be 60x more powerful than it is now.

        Tell me, what resolution do you watch movies at? Do you think of them as real? What DPI are you talking about overall to achieve this level of reality. I wasn't talking about replicating reality ... I was talking about mimicking it. Replicating reality will never happen on a console. It will happen on a BCI ... correction, IS already happening on BCI's in universities today.

          Never is a very strong word my friend.

          People said we'd never need more than 640k Memory.
          People said we'd never be able to make a video phone call.
          And people said we'd never be able to walk on the moon.
          These have all happened within the last 40 years.

          Now whos wrong?

    I don't think it scales quite like that and fudging something doesn't involve upping the res. Just think of real movies, on Blu ray perhaps. Although they often have a lot of editing and computer enhancements done. You would still definatly say most of the lighting is very realistic. Unlike in games.

    The funny thing with graphics getting more and more realistic is that they look amazing in screenshots, but when you're playing and everything is moving around you don't notice it so much.

    Cool can't wait to for 10+ year game developments to become the norm.....

    I stopped getting excited about graphics 10 years ago when it became apparent that there would be no more HUGE leaps in quality, only regular small upgrades. Its hard to get excited about a slightly prettier game.

      It's funny because the last ten years in itself has been a HUGE leap in quality.

        Everythings a huge leap if you use a 10 year measuring stick. What I mean is that the 80's and especially 90's were full of great leaps in graphicial power, where as the past decade was more consistant and evenly paced. The difference between getting a massive tub of ice cream every friday compared to a soft serve cone once a day. The amount is probably equal at the end of the week, but the tub feels more special.

    I'm just a regular pleb but to me the main graphical improvement in the 360/PS3 generation has been threefold:

    Realistic shadows and lighting (I still recall the first time I saw footage of GTA IV - while I was still deep in playing San Andreas, the realism blew my mind, but it was all down to the realistic day light effects and the way everything cast a shadow, the image of going under those rail bridges in Broker still sticks in my mind.

    Insane Polygon Counts, people go on about pixels or resolution but to me it's always been about the polygons, check out the difference in human models between 2001 and 2009 and it's like comparing stick figures to the Mona Lisa!

    Incredible animation: Especially with human characters, things like Assassin's Creed or Battlefield 3 or Red Dead Redemption showcase an incredible mastery of natural looking animation, even better facial animation has come ahead leaps and bounds to the point where 2011 and 2012 games mostly leapt right over the uncanny valley

    My only question is what happened to reflections, in the N64 and PS2 era's reflections were everywhere, nowadays games seem to avoid mirrors like the plague (I remember it being some sort of massive thing in Arkham Asylum that you at one point looked in a bathroom mirror! What the hell that sort of thing was standard a generation ago) What the hell happened to this seemingly basic effect?

    whatever happened to Euclidean's Unlimited Detail...

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