Epic Games announced the Unreal Engine 5 (UE5), with a fantastic demo running on PS5. Epic said that the demo showed off what the next-gen game console will be capable of when developers get full access to great tools like UE5, plus the capability to squeeze the maximum out of software and hardware baked into Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Sony’s PS5.
“The graphics speak for themselves, and Epic has always pushed the bleeding edge of what’s possible,” Tim Sweeney, the CEO of the company, told The Verge. The goal of Epic Games is to make the lives of developers easier and more productive, he added.
To show the capabilities of the UE5, Epic Games put a demo running on a developer version of the PS5 hardware. The results showed amazing quality and photo-realistic lighting that Epic promises its upcoming tools will deliver.
Kim Liberi, the chief technology officer at Epic, said that he is confident that their developers will achieve amazing visuals like the ones on the demo within a full studio title using UE5 and next-gen consoles. But he said it might take some time before it is realized so that developers can become more fluent in tools like UE5, and Sweeny concurred.
The launch of Xbox 360, as well as the release of Gears of War, which was released nearly a year after, were cited as an example of how it may take a year or more to see next-gen titles.
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According to reports, the demo was rendering at 1440p, making use of dynamic resolution without the next-generation bells and whistles like ray tracing, and at what looked like 30 fps.
That is because it was designed to show off the tech from Epic without having to think about elements such as performance and resolution, which will be something next-gen developers will need to make regardless of the type of hardware or engine people use to run a game.
The immediate goal of Epic Games with the UE5 is to help developers begin thinking of games like holistic products that can possibly exist anywhere, from phones to high-end computers. “Each generation introduces a new set of problems you don’t have to worry about. We’re trying to remove content scalability problem from this generation,” Tim Sweeny said.
He notes that by doing so, a game can build a far bigger audience as it will ship to more platforms. The UE5 is set to launch in 2021, and Sweeny says that it will support PC, iOS, Mac, and Android.
For developers who are not ready to create games using up-to-date tech, UE5 comes in a pair of development tools around lighting and graphical details, as well as deep commitment from Epic Games to support next-generation game development.
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He also added that Epic has been working with Sony for several years to ensure UE5 can utilize the upcoming PlayStations to the maximum.
According to Tim, “The PS5, combined with tools like UE5, will enable nothing but seamless, continuous worlds, and you can have this degree of fidelity going on for as many kilometers and gigabytes as you wish.”
Sweeny was referring to the new M.2 solid-state drive from PS5 that Sony claims will have a massive effect on how fast video games loads, plus how developers can manage the data of their game while it is running on hardware. And according to Sony, the end result is worlds that load super-fast, freeing up developers to put their time and resources toward maximizing the quality of visuals, and rethinking the level design.
The two new technologies coming with UE5 are Lumen and Nanite. According to Epic, Nanite can handle data streams and scale in real-time, and it does not lose its quality. Lumen, on the other hand, is a dynamic illumination tool that will work in real-time for the development of the game the same way advanced computer-generated graphic work for film productions.
“Artists and designers can create more dynamic scenes using Lumen, for example, changing the sun angle for the time of day, turning on a flashlight, or blowing a hole in the ceiling, and indirect lighting will adapt accordingly,” Epic explained.
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The first preview of UE5 will be released later this year, but the full release will happen next year. But the company says that developers who are currently using UE4 will have a smooth transition.
Epic Games is also launching Epic Online Service platform, a tool built specifically to operate Fortnite. This service will take cross-platform matchmaking as well as account management tech that allows Fortnite accounts to play between console, mobile, and PC, and gives it out for free. It will operate as a single development kit. It is available in PC, MAC, and all major consoles, with mobile expected to come soon.