It’s been a full year since Epic showed off what the future of the Unreal Engine, which powers Fortnite and many of the biggest games in the world, could do. Later this week, Epic will delve deeper into the tools and changes in Unreal Engine 5 that will help influence the latest generation of video games.
Last year we saw the “Nanite” demo running on the PlayStation 5, which was basically a small real-time graphical demo showcasing a series of next-gen effects, animations, lighting and other systems that will be available to developers with the new engine.
A full walkthrough of some of Unreal Engine 5’s new tools and workflows will be shown off midnight Thursday Australian time. Ahead of that, Unreal overnight released a series of snippets breaking down some of the Nanite demo’s features, like a node-based programmable visual effects system called Niagara.
Niagara is supposed to give developers access to more complex simulations. Particles, like beetles on the ground, are all supposedly capable of communicating with each other to presumably avoid collision errors and also enable more realistic movement, like you’d expect from insects.
Another benefit is what Epic developers say is the ability to upload movie-quality assets directly into the engine, without wasting time baking those assets down to a lower-poly or normal resolution maps or proxies. Epic also talked about making full use of the Quixel library, which is the world’s largest asset repository of 3D assets and megascans.
Epic’s new dynamic global illumination tech, Lumen, also got a highlight video of its own. The argued benefit here is the ability to provide real-time interactions in the editor, so designers, artists and developers can move geometry around and get a real-time, realistic portrayal of how the lighting would behave in that scene.
Not having to rely on baking the lighting could be a potential timesaver — but, of course, the devil will always be in the detail. How performant all of this tech is will be the key determining factor in whether it actually gains adoption. And it’s worth remembering that many studios still use their own in-house engines, although performance improvements and upgrades in something as large as Unreal always has a habit of moving the industry forward.
If you want to get a proper look at the toolset, Unreal will be livestreaming a first look at Unreal Engine 5 from Thursday midnight Australian time. You can watch via the link below, or simply save the link so you can enjoy it at a more reasonable time with a cup of coffee/tea/your beverage of choice. Epic isn’t promising to show off another next-gen graphics demo like they did for last year’s Summer Games Fest, but if you’re someone who works with Unreal, or in video game production, these developments could be very interesting to watch.