One of the key elements in the successful game development process is a development environment, which allows a wide specter of work to be done in the project. Unreal Engine by Epic Games is a great example of this kind of technology. As an Unreal engine game Development studio, we have worked with this environment since 2007, and it only gets better with every next generation.
It’s been more than a year since the release of Unreal Engine 5. We are happy to already gain experience with projects that use the latest version of Unreal Engine. In this article, we will talk about Unreal Engine 5 as a development environment and share our experience of working on the projects which use it.
Unreal Engine is a universal game development environment, based on C++ programming language. Developed by Epic Games, Unreal Engine offers a robust framework and a suite of integrated tools that enable game developers to build games for various platforms, including PC, consoles, mobile devices, and virtual reality.
Every next generation of Unreal Engine offers a set of new development tools, that usually become a development standard for the lifetime of the engine’s generation. In the case of Unreal Engine 5, Epic Games cared to provide some very progressive and demanded next-generation development features. To name a few:
- Nanite. Unreal Engine 5 introduces Nanite, a groundbreaking virtualized micropolygon geometry system. Nanite enables developers to import film-quality source art comprising hundreds of millions or billions of polygons directly into the engine, without the time-consuming and manual optimization. This technology allows for incredibly detailed and realistic environments, pushing the boundaries of visual fidelity.
- Lumen. Lumen Global Illumination: Lumen is a fully dynamic global illumination solution in Unreal Engine 5. It offers real-time lighting and global illumination that react dynamically to changes in the scene. With Lumen, developers can achieve realistic lighting and accurate shadowing, even in large open worlds. It simplifies the lighting process, allowing for more creative freedom and efficient iteration.
- Enhanced Animation System. Unreal Engine 5 introduces a new animation system called Control Rig, which empowers developers to create more immersive and dynamic character animations. Control Rig offers a flexible and intuitive toolset for authoring procedural animations and real-time control of character movements. This feature streamlines the animation pipeline and enables developers to create realistic and responsive characters with ease.
- Collaborative Development Tools. Unreal Engine 5 enhances collaboration among team members with new and improved collaborative tools. Live Link Face enables real-time facial animation capture, allowing developers to quickly capture and animate realistic facial expressions. Additionally, Multi-User Editing facilitates simultaneous collaborative editing, enabling multiple team members to work together on the same project, accelerating the development process, and fostering better teamwork.
These benefits collectively make Unreal Engine 5 a powerful and versatile tool for game developers, enabling them to create visually stunning, highly immersive, and optimized gaming experiences across multiple platforms.
Previous versions of Unreal Engine have already provided developers with some industry-standard development tools, like Blueprints Visual Scripting, Scalable Foliage, Take Recorder, and Forward Rendering. Adding to those mentioned above, Unreal Engine 5.2, released in May 2023, offers some more options to empower your game development:
- Procedural Content Generation framework. Procedural Level Generation is a booming technology in games now, so Unreal Engine offers an early look at a toolset that will make it easier to include this feature in your game. This tool allows developers to define the generated content’s settings, rules, and parameters on a large scene inside Unreal Engine. Both in-editor tools and runtime components are included in the framework. Currently, the Procedural Content Generation framework is an experimental technology, but it already shows some perspective results, so we’re looking forward to further editions.
- Substrate. Substrate is an empowering to the materials authoring functionality. It gives the developer more management abilities for the look and feel of the in-game objects. Substrate helps imagine states and other visible parameters of the objects inside Unreal Engine 5, like rust, dirt, being wet, being on fire, and many more.
- Updates for the virtual production toolset. This update for the existing functionalities provides filmmakers with a wider set of features for creative control over cutscenes and other kinds of video products. The touch-based interface makes it easy to use on a mobile device – you can set lights, color gradings, and other visible parameters right from the settings window in the Unreal Engine. Also, with Unreal Engine 5.2, performing various pre-production tasks, like operating multiple virtual cameras or program camera moves is much easier.
- Updated ML Deformer. Unreal Engine 5 uses machine learning technology heavily, allowing developers to create high-quality game characters in real-time. ML Deformer ads many more options for generating characters’ stances, body languages, states of bodies, and many other deformations for muscle, flesh, and cloth.
Unreal Engine 4 has served us well since 2014, and even now, after a year of the active presence of Unreal Engine 5 on the market, we still see many games released using the previous version. Unreal Engine 4 is a decent tool, well-known by thousands of developers worldwide, so many companies do not hurry to update their games to the fifth version.
But there are many features inside Unreal Engine 5, that can’t be done on the fourth version with the same quality. To name a few:
- API. Despite some issues at the start, Unreal Engine 5 already provides the fine-tuned API, that makes it easier to work with other tools on your Unreal Engine project. Also, migrating your game from Unreal Engine 4.24-4.27 to Unreal Engine 5 is pretty smooth.
- Dynamic Light System. It would take weeks to make a scene with a comparable complexity level of the dynamics lights in Unreal Engine 4, which would only take days with Lumen and Nanite in Unreal Engine 5. Working with light is much faster and more smooth in Unreal Engine 5. But, of course, it requires more hardware power, and the files would weigh way more in Unreal Engine 5.
- UI. The Unreal Engine 4 interface felt a little retro for some time already. Unreal Engine 5 offers a modern-looking and much more intuitive interface inside the Unreal Editor. Things like Create Tab and updated plugins support help developers feel less loaded in Unreal Engine 5. Also, Unreal Engine 5 can run UE4 projects in the updated interface, making the transition easier.
We at Pingle have used and loved Unreal Engine since our first days in the industry. We work in Unreal Engine since Unreal Engine 3 in 2007, when Stranglehold and BioShock were considered the latest AAA-gaming masterpieces.
As of this day, we can’t share the results of our work with Unreal Engine 5 due to NDA restrictions. But we will gladly share some of our success with previous versions of the engine:
- Life is Strange – we’re honored to bring this storytelling diamond to mobile devices, which required a UE3-UE4 porting and some creative approach to optimization.
- Insurgency: Sandstorm – we use all the power of Unreal Engine 4 to develop levels, game balance, updates, and optimization for this huge multiplatform online FPS.
- The Eternal Cylinder – our creative game design team used many hidden-gem Unreal Engine 4 techniques to make this game feel next-gen, with special features of the new gamepads and a very smooth game flow.
- Five Nights At Freddy’s: Security Breach – this game is a great example of how Unreal Engine’s optimizing tools and the creative approach of experienced developers can fit such a deep game inside the very limited hardware capabilities of the Nintendo Switch platform.
So, if you consider developing your game with Unreal Engine 5, make sure to drop us a line, if you have any need for additional development and creative power.