Originally developed as a game engine for Epic Game’s Unreal back in 1998, the modern Unreal Engine is one of the world’s leading 3D creation tools for various purposes, from games and cinema to engineering and fitness.
The current generation of the technology — Unreal Engine 4 — has kind of an issue with the positioning. For small game projects, developers prefer Unity. It’s easier, has a lower entry barrier, and more mobile-friendly. For big projects, big studios prefer developing their own engines, like Red Engine by CDPR or RAGE by Rockstar. It helps to avoid sharing revenue with Epic Games and to specify their engines for their needs.
Of course, UE4 has its audience and niche, but Epic Games are not happy with it now. To change this, Unreal Engine needs to offer some revolutionary and unique technology that will make using their engine better than developing a custom engine. Epic Games have a chance to do it with Unreal Engine 5.
Promised to be fully released in 2021, the 5th edition of Unreal Engine will bring change to all the digital entertainment world for sure. In this article, we will take a look at the promised functionality and predict how exactly it can influence the game development industry.
The majority of graphic evolution breakthrough examples for the last decade were mostly connected with the development of graphic cards: shader water, shader plants, realistic illumination, prominent textures, etc.
Things related to 3D modeling used to develop much slower because it relates to processor productivity. This is the reason why even the biggest games have not that many objects, not that much interactivity, and still poor physics, compared to reality.
Mesh Shading by Nvidia tried to fix that. But it was too hard to implement into games due to the need to integrate Mesh Shading deeply into the game’s engine.
Epic Games implemented several similar features to Unreal Engine 5 — the next generation of the popular game creation tools.
Let’s take a closer look at what features Epic Games will bet on to convince developers to build game with Unreal Engine 5:
- Lumen technology
Lumen is a global voxel illumination system for Unreal Engine. It’s special because of how fast it reacts to the dynamic changes in light and scene, at scales ranging from kilometers to millimeters.
Nvidia had a similar technology on PS4/Xbox One and UE4, but it wasn’t widely used by the developers because of hard implementation, a lot of visual bugs, and image artifacts.
Lumen doesn’t allow you to get rid of artifacts completely though. But still, having this kind of technology in the engine “from a box” will help to decrease the load on artists. Light from a bullet hole or a fire playing on the cave walls and characters will be much easier to create, and an artist will only need an Unreal Editor for it.
With good implementation, Lumen may become a great alternative to an expensive and resource-consuming ray tracing technology. And Epic Games promise that the light will look the same on all the supported platforms. This may become a solid reason for developers to make game with Unreal Engine 5.
- Nanite technology
Nanite is a progressive tool for operating with a virtualized micro polygon geometry. It helps to scale in-game CG assets automatically and massively.
It helps artists to create as many visible geometry details as the player’s eye can see, with much less bothering about how to optimize it. Nanite allows Unreal Engine 5 to import heavy and detailed art pieces into the engine. Nanite also streams and scales the geometry in real-time, which helps to cut resources on polygon count, polygon memory, and draw count with no loss in quality. And if the artist prefers working with mesh shaders, Nanite allows it.
Optimizing is one of the core elements of game creation. Optimizing is one of the core elements of game creation. Nanite will do a great job of optimizing games created with Unreal Engine 5.
- Meta Human Creator
MetaHuman Creator is a cloud technology by Epic Games for the fast creation of highly realistic human models for further use in Unreal Engine projects.
Meta Human Creator helps to avoid spending resources on research, scanning equipment, and additional tech artists in your team. It makes creating realistic digital humans with clothing and hair much faster, simpler, and provides better scalability. At the same time, artists will not need to sacrifice quality.
This tool provides various preset body types, hairstyles, clothing, and other details. Artists can also customize facial and skin features. When you’re done, export and download your rigged meta humans and animate them immediately in Unreal Engine, with no additional effort.
You can already experience Meta Human Creator on the sample project with Unreal Engine 4.26 or register for updates by this link
- Cross-generation and cross-device support
Epic Games developed Unreal Engine 5 in very close collaboration with creators of the 5th generation of consoles, considering their processor and SSD capabilities. Even the first tech demo video for the Unreal Engine 5 reveal is recorded on PlayStation 5.
We don’t know many details yet, but the porting process, cross-platform development, and providing backward compatibility for all the consoles look to be much easier than it is now. Transferring games from Unreal Engine 4 to Unreal Engine 5 will also be much faster, with no loss but enhancing in game quality.
With the current state of things, we can expect Unreal Engine 5 to be released in late 2021. And all the impact of this event will start to hit in early 2022. Here are the things we’re expecting to happen at the front row of the Unreal Engine 5 era:
- Changes to the amount of needed staff.
Currently promised Unreal Engine 5 functionality will help to automate dozens of game making processes: prototyping, assets creation, optimization, cross-platform developing, game art, CG, and a lot more. This means, companies will need fewer programmers, CG creators, and tech artists to deliver a piece of content than it is today. But don’t panic, colleagues. Some adaptation and you will still be needed, because of the things we mention below.
- More AAA games on UE5, not custom engines.
As mentioned above, convincing developers to use Unreal Engine 5 for big AAA projects is one of Epic Games’ goals, and they have all the chances to achieve it. New big tools like Nanite and Lumen will solve a lot of development challenges, for which developers needed to build a custom engine previously. So we are very likely to see many big IPs made with Unreal Engine 5 soon. Thus, development companies will need plenty of professionals, familiar with how to use Unreal Engine 5.
- Higher demand for cross-platform and cross-device development.
Game development with Unreal Engine 5 for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X simultaneously will be even faster and easier than it is now. But still, it needs to be performed with high quality.
There will also be plenty of companies that will need to transfer their games to Unreal Engine 5 from previous versions or third-party engines. So the demand for porting services and cross-platform video game development with Unreal Engine 5 will grow.
- Higher visual quality of indie games
Epic Games doesn’t seem to change their monetizing model for the Unreal Engine, even with the release of the new version. Using Unreal Engine 5 for free until you sell $1,000,000 worth of your game is a good offer for independent developers, so many of them may prefer it to Unity and other engines. This will bring players more indie games with advanced graphics and physics.
To be honest, all the expected technology features in Unreal Engine 5 sound too good to be true so far. But, if Epic Games manages to keep all their promises and take a niche they’re aiming for, in 10 years we will be playing completely different games we can’t imagine now. All the current AAA will feel like good old retro games like PS1 games feel now.
As experienced Unreal Engine users and Epic Games partners, Pingle Studio will be on the frontline of discovering Unreal Engine 5 game development potential and using it to create games of the next generation of technical quality and creativity. Want us to participate in your project? Contact us and let’s bring your game to life!