Epic Games today revealed a first look at Unreal Engine 5. Epic says that one of the company’s goals in this next generation is to achieve photorealism on par with movie CG and real life, and put it within practical reach of development teams of all sizes through highly productive tools and content libraries.
Unreal Engine 5 was introduced with Lumen in the Land of Nanite, a real-time demo running live on PlayStation 5, to showcase Unreal Engine technologies that will free creators to reach the highest level of real-time rendering detail in the next generation of games and beyond.
This demo previews two of the new core technologies that will debut in Unreal Engine 5:
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.
Numerous teams and technologies have come together to enable this leap in quality. To build large scenes with Nanite geometry technology, Epic’s team made heavy use of the Quixel Megascans library, which provides film-quality objects up to hundreds of millions of polygons. To support vastly larger and more detailed scenes than previous generations, PlayStation 5 provides a dramatic increase in storage bandwidth.
The demo also showcases existing engine systems such as Chaos physics and destruction, Niagara VFX, convolution reverb, and ambisonics rendering.
Unreal Engine 4.25 already supports next-generation console platforms from Sony and Microsoft, and Epic is 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 be available in preview in early 2021, and in full release late in 2021, supporting next-generation consoles, current-generation consoles, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android.
Epic is designing for forward compatibility, so developers can get started with next-gen development now in UE4 and move projects to UE5 when ready.
Epic will release Fortnite, built with UE4, on next-gen consoles at launch and, in keeping with the team’s commitment to prove out industry-leading features through internal production, migrate the game to UE5 in mid-2021.
Starting today, game developers can download and use Unreal Engine for free as always, except now royalties are waived on the first $1 million in gross revenue per title. The new Unreal Engine license terms, which are retroactive to January 1, 2020, give game developers an unprecedented advantage over other engine license models.
Epic Games today also announced the launch of Epic Online Services, unlocking the ability to effortlessly scale games and unify player communities for all developers.
First announced in December 2018, Epic Online Services are battle-tested and powered by the services built for Fortnite across seven major platforms (PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android). Open to all developers, Epic Online Services is completely free and offers creators a single SDK to quickly and easily launch, operate, and scale their games across engines, stores, and platforms of their choice.
Included at launch are two suites of services that help developers further enrich connected experiences for players. With the highly anticipated addition of the Game Services and Epic Account Services — which include cross-play, cross-progression, and other preeminent online features — developers can now facilitate even greater engagement by enabling players to connect with their friends without platform boundaries.