highlights
  1. 4 weeks with Unreal Engine 5: First Impressions
  2. Unreal Engine 5 System Requirements
  3. Unreal Engine 5 New Features
  4. Conclusion

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4 weeks with Unreal Engine 5: First Impressions

Since May 26th, when UE5 became available in an early access, we couldn’t help but spend a lot of hours with our main toy for the nearest years. Working with assets, light, animations and sound changed pretty noticeably, as well as some older systems and tools got a reasonable upgrade.

The alpha version of UE5 and a Valley of the Ancient sample project were available on the release day, so we, of course, couldn’t miss a chance to touch the future.

Unreal Engine 5 System Requirements

You can launch UE5 on a PC with the same specs as UE4, but you’ll need a more powerful device to use new technology.

Minimum Required Hardware:

  • Operating system: Windows 10 64-bit
  • Processor: Quad-core Intel or AMD, 2.5 GHz or faster
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Video Card/DirectX Version: DirectX 11 or DirectX 12 compatible graphics card

Recommended Hardware:

  • Operating system: Windows 10 64-bit
  • Processor: 12 cores, 3.4 GHz or faster
  • RAM: 64 GB
  • Video Card/DirectX Version: NVIDIA RTX 2080 or AMD Radeon 5700+ XT or better.

Minimum Software Requirements

Running the Engine

  • Your computer should have an operating system of Windows 7 and above.
  • Your computer should be able to support Direct X Runtime: DirectX End-User Runtimes (June 2010)

Developing with the Engine

  • Your computer should have at least Visual studio 2017 v 15.6 version or above. Visual studio 2019 version is much preferred.

Unreal Engine 5 New Features

The engine’s UI and basic using concepts remained almost unchanged, so an experienced Unreal Engine 4 user would have no problem in moving up to Unreal Engine 5. The biggest professional challenge would be optimizing and applying new features. We tried using new Unreal Engine 5 features in an early access mode. Take a look at our impressions below.

NANITE

Unreal Engine 5’ Nanite provides a good option for those who want to get rid of traditional LODs. Virtual Geometry allows working with higher polygonage, which makes the process of changing high-quality assets to simpler ones more transparent. You can display millions of triangles without visible issues.

The new format of meshes is highly compressed and supports streaming with automated LODs. This helps to avoid manual LODs creation. The content for Nanite still uses usual static meshes, but it can process much higher numbers of instances and triangles, compared to rendering usual geometry. We recommend using virtual textures.

Meshes are being divided into hierarchical clusters of triangle groups during import. After that, clusters change locations on the fly, with various LODs, depending on a camera position. Clusters connect with the nearest clusters in the single object with no fractures. Memory only contains visible elements. We recommend using an SSD for proper streaming. 

You can assign LODs for proxy-meshes.


Unreal Engine 5 supports using proxy-meshes for ray tracing, collisions on polygon level, light baking, etc. Auto-generated LOD0 is being used by default. Here you still can select the custom proxy and set the ordinary LODs, like we used to do in Unreal Engine 4. 

There’s no need to create more triangles than pixels on the screen, so the number of triangles is proportional to the number of pixels, no matter how complex are geometry and initial data on the stage.

We faced some issues while using occlusion culling. If there’s a complex geometry close to the higher surface, Nanite won’t be able to define which one is the top one and will draw them both. Nanite separates layers perfectly on the short distance, but on the longer range, the difference in the distance between geometries may be shorter than a pixel, which causes unnecessary drawing. 

According to the documentation, Nanite mesh provides better quality with a smaller size.

The temporal super resolution, UE5’s anti-aliasing system, helps to get 4K resolution with the number of resources we used to get 1080p before.

LUMEN LIGHT AND ATMOSPHERE

Realistic real-time light is available in Unreal Engine 5 due to the new global illumination system called Lumen. Combining Lumen with photoreal assets provides a truly next-level picture.

Some light features from UE4, like Global Illumination Screen Space (SSGI) and Distance Field Ambient Occlusion (DFAO), can now be done via Lumen Global Illumination, as well as Screen Space Reflections functionality from UE4 can be done in Lumen Reflections.

Lumen generates Surface Cache for the nearest surfaces of the stage, which is ~200 meters from the camera. Screen Traces works on longer distances.

Remember the impressive indirect light in the canyon on the Lumen in the Land of Nanite demo? The experimental Distant Scene representation covers 200-1000m from the camera and works via Reflective Shadowmap rendering.  Low resolution rendering from the sun, combined with Nanite, picks up indirect light from the sun via tracing the highfield. The technology is impressive, but we’d better wait until it gets more polished before using it in actual projects.

The tracing works like that: more resource-friendly Screen Tracing goes first, then comes the Lumen Ray Tracing, which consists of software tracing for the majority of available platforms, and hardware tracing, for the graphic cards that support that technology.

Hardware Ray Tracing supports a bigger geometry specter. We noticed FPS drops when it’s 100k+ instances. 

Working with Lumen would require  NVIDIA RTX-2000 series / AMD RX-6000 or a better graphic card.

ANIMATION TOOLS

The new Full Body IK solver automatically adapts to the surface type and height.

New Game Feature Plugins framework helps to split content into modules. It may connect actions, animations, and other systems.

All the VFX, sounds, blueprints, and inputs may be added as a single plugin, which helps the project to be more configurable and flexible.

Animation Motion Warping is great for adapting root animations. Same elements may be reused. 

Notifications for reactions on transform from blueprints can be set manually. 

System reacts with obstacles height and characters pivots from the box. You can also configure the animation for 3rd party factors like enemy position, weather changes, etc, via Full body IK.

All the animations can be edited in the engine via Control Rig.

CREATING LEVELS AND WORLDS

A big new tool for designers, World Partition, changes the approach to working with game worlds. From now on, the game world is huge, automatically divided by smaller cells, not a set of streaming levels, like it used to be in Unreal Engine 4.

Cells may be loaded into an editor in pieces, which saves a solid amount of resources. Changes take place on the actors, not on the map. This helps multiple people to work on the same map without bothering about merge issues. 

Data layers system helps multiple artists to work on the same stage, creating various versions of it. These layers may be switched in a runtime, which helps to load thousands of assets on the fly, but the additional subload may still be required here.

Conclusion

New features are impressive, but there’s also plenty of things we used in Unreal Engine 4, that became much different. Especially blueprints, VFX, chaos physics and Niagara particles. Another piece of good new is that UE4 lessons are still relevant for UE5. You can also move your assets and plugins from UE4. Comment if you’d like to read another article about Unreal Engine 4 features in Unreal Engine 5.

Despite having to learn many new materials, the UE4-UE5 transition is much smoother than UE3-UE4 used to be. We already discuss doing few UE5 projects with our established partners. Do you have an idea for a game on Unreal Engine 5? Maybe you’d like to change your game’s engine to Unreal Engine 5? Contact us and we'll be glad to do all the heavy lifting for you!

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