Epic Games Unreal Engine 5 First Look at Photo Realistic Capabilities

Epic Games Unreal Engine 5 is getting to the point where gaming looks almost like real life. So close perhaps movies are not needed?

One of the most widely used game engines in the world is Epic Games’ Unreal. The software is used by game developers, advertisers and even filmmakers. The success of games like fortnite can arguably not be as addictive as it is, if it were not for the software. Because of it, Epic is worth an estimated $15 billion. With each iteration of the softwares comes with it a successful game development period. UE3 dominated the PS3/XBox 360 era, UE4 drives the current PS4/XBox One generation. Unreal 4 was used in such hits as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Final Fantasy VII Remake, and is only 6 years old. The successor Unreal 5 now shows almost photorealistic visuals on the PS5.

Epic Games Unreal Engine latest update has two main features that should be paid attention to. Nanite and Lumen systems. Nanite generates “virtualized micropolygon geometry” according to a recent Epic press release. It goes on to say,  “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.” 

Epic Games Unreal Engine 5 Geek Impulse
© Epic Games

Nanite frees developers from having to worry about polygon count and levels of detail. It enables you to author all the content in the game at its full, movie quality level of resolution, and then rely on the game engine to scale it down so it runs in real-time on every device.

We are rendering content that was sourced from billions of source polygons into a representation on screen that is indistinguishable from reality. That’s the neat principle here, Once you break triangles down to the size of the pixel, you can’t really achieve any more detail by rendering more of them because you’ve already achieved all the detail your screen is capable of displaying and your eyes are capable of seeing. So, we’ve hit this magical threshold where this is all the detail that can exist until you get a higher resolution monitor, until 8K or 16K comes along.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney Via Engadget

It’s made us realize that the real value of these games isn’t just in providing entertainment, but it’s providing social experiences for groups of people together, These games built as a social experience are much, much more powerful than a solitary experience.

Kim Libreri, Epic’s CTO Via Engadget

Unreal Engine is a complete suite of development tools for anyone working with real-time technology. From design visualizations and cinematic experiences to high-quality games across PC, console, mobile, VR, and AR, Unreal Engine gives you everything you need to start, ship, grow, and stand out from the crowd.

The first-generation Unreal Engine was developed by Tim Sweeney, the founder of Epic Games. Having created editing tools for the shareware games ZZT (1991) and Jill of the Jungle (1992), Sweeney began writing the engine in 1995 for the production of a game that would later become a first-person shooter known as Unreal. After years in development, it debuted with the game’s release in 1998, although MicroProse and Legend Entertainment had access to the technology much earlier, licensing it in 1996. According to an interview, Sweeney “wrote 90 percent of the code in the engine.”

The big goal with the Unreal technology all long was to build up a base of code that could be extended and improved through many generations of games. Meeting that goal required keeping the technology quite general-purpose, writing clean code, and designing the engine to be very extensible. The early plans to design an extensible multi-generational engine happened to give us a great advantage in licensing the technology as it reached completion. After we did a couple of licensing deals, we realized it was a legitimate business. Since then, it has become a major component of our strategy.

Sweeney, Maximum PC, 1998

To prepare for the release of its free-to-play “Battle Royale” mode in Fortnite in September 2017, Epic had to make a number of Unreal Engine modifications that helped it to handle a large number (up to 100) of connections to the same server while still retaining high bandwidth, and to improve the rendering of a large open in-game world. Epic said it would incorporate these changes into future updates of the Unreal Engine.

According to the Unreal Engine Blog:

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.

Sources: Epic Games, Engadget, Wikipedia

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