Unreal Engine 5 has been revealed at the Summer Game Fest Special Showcase, with a demo running on PlayStation 5.
Having its broadcast only being announced 24 hours before hand, and toted as “One of the Most Important Events on the SGF Schedule,” the real-time demo acts as one of the first glimpses of gameplay on PlayStation 5.
The Unreal Engine’s official blog explains the goal of the new engine was for photo-realism “on par with movie CG and real life,” without unreasonable development demands. This is through two new pieces of technology- Nanite and Lumen.
In short, Nanite allows for exceptional detail without a limits due to polygon count or draw count, or even baked details or adjusting LODs (Level of Detail). Lumen uses full dynamic global illumination, that also calculate diffuse interreflection, specular reflections, and more- at any distance. Lightmaps no longer need to be baked either.
Not only are elements of game development now removed, but scenes can be automatically lit, detailed, and adapted based on gameplay and events.
“Nanite virtualized micropolygon geometry frees artists to create as much geometric detail as the eye can see. Nanite virtualized geometry means that film-quality source art comprising hundreds of millions or billions of polygons can be imported directly into Unreal Engine—anything from ZBrush sculpts to photogrammetry scans to CAD data—and it just works. Nanite geometry is streamed and scaled in real time so there are no more polygon count budgets, polygon memory budgets, or draw count budgets; there is no need to bake details to normal maps or manually author LODs; and there is no loss in quality.
Lumen is a fully dynamic global illumination solution that immediately reacts to scene and light changes. The system renders diffuse interreflection with infinite bounces and indirect specular reflections in huge, detailed environments, at scales ranging from kilometers to millimeters. Artists and designers can create more dynamic scenes using Lumen, for example, changing the sun angle for time of day, turning on a flashlight, or blowing a hole in the ceiling, and indirect lighting will adapt accordingly. Lumen erases the need to wait for lightmap bakes to finish and to author light map UVs—a huge time savings when an artist can move a light inside the Unreal Editor and lighting looks the same as when the game is run on console.”
The use of Nanite geometry was possible thanks to the Quixel Megascans library “which provides film-quality objects up to hundreds of millions of polygons.” These larger and more detailed scenes are supported by the PlayStation 5’s increased storage and bandwidth. The blog post also contains a tag for Xbox Series X.
The “Lumen in the Land of Nanite” demo also uses existing Unreal Engine systems, such as Chaos physics, Niagara VFX, convolution reverb, and ambisonics rendering.
While Unreal Engine 4.25 already supports PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, Epoc Games states they are “working closely with console manufacturers and dozens of game developers and publishers using Unreal Engine 4 to build next-gen games.” Unreal Engine 5 will also support current-generation consoles, Windows PC, Mac, Android, and iOS.
Those already using Unreal Engine 4 will be able to move their projects into Unreal Engine 5 when it is ready. Fortnite in Unreal 4 will be released on next-generation consoles at launch, and then migrated to Unreal Engine 5 in mid-2021.
The blog also states that Epic will waive the first $1 million in game revenue royalties, starting today (and retroactively applied to January 1st under the new Unreal Engine licence terms). You can find more via the FAQ here.
Finally, Epic Games have launched Epic Online Services. The friends, matchmaking, lobbies, achievements, leaderboards, and account systems and services in Fortnite are now open to all developers for free as a multiplatform SDK.
“Mix and match these services together with your own account services, platform accounts, or Epic Games accounts, which reach the world’s largest cross-platform social graph with over 350 million players and their 2.2 billion friend connections across half a billion devices.”
You can find the Next-Gen Real-Time Demo (running on PlayStation 5) below, along with the interviews with Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, CTO Kim Libreri, and VP of Engineering Nicholas Penwarden.
The Unreal Engine 5 launches 2021.