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Game development, to put it lightly, is a very harrowing undertaking. With crunch culture firmly established within the industry and many artists suffering the mental and physical consequences of their artistic endeavors, AAA (high budget, high profile) games are becoming increasingly demanding work to produce. Standing out in a sea of competition has become even more challenging.
The basis to improve the development cycle starts with a good engine. Some studios opt for their in-house engines, while others use one or two widely accessible and popular established engines. The latest to floor us is Epic Game’s Unreal Engine 5, specifically 5.2.
Boasting the usual improvement in fidelity and performance, what makes Unreal Engine 5 a vast improvement is a pair of fascinating features: Nanite and Lumen. With these features alongside other enhancements, Unreal Engine 5 is already set to aid game developers in creating more immersive environments and experiences. However, further advancements were announced at the recent State of Unreal event: Metahuman Animator and experimental procedural generation. These two innovations, among others, will be released soon and will improve the development cycle immensely. Now let’s look at what’s available and what’s to come.
While the Unreal Engine has been around since the mid-90s, it came into the mainstream from the third iteration. Unreal Engine 3 was a major step forward with cutting-edge graphics and gameplay capabilities. It introduced advanced features such as a highly optimized renderer, a robust physics engine, and comprehensive level design and scripting tools.
Unreal Engine 4 represented a major overhaul of the engine’s architecture and performance. It ushered in several new features, including a visual scripting system called Blueprint, a new audio engine, and improved support for mobile platforms. On top of this, throughout the years, 4.1 through 4.26 saw Epic Games refine and improve the engine, VR development and support, and the Blueprint system, among other attributes.
Unreal Engine 5 builds on top of previous iterations and allows developers to produce almost hyperrealistic environments with advanced lighting and rendering capabilities with Nanite and Lumen.
Nanite uses advanced algorithms and micro polygon geometry (MPG) technology to allow developers to import highly detailed, film-quality assets into their games without worrying about performance or memory restrictions.
Lumen is a fully dynamic global illumination system that allows developers to create more realistic and immersive environments by simulating how light interacts with different surfaces in real time.
Both of these features help immerse players when in the game and ensure that creators of all sizes can still compete with the right developer on their side. Furthermore, with the recently revealed 5.2, the animation of characters will also see massive improvements and more. With that put into perspective, Unreal Engine 5 is a greater leap into optimized performance, enhanced graphical fidelity, and an even better streamlining of incredibly time-consuming tasks. Below is a breakdown of what’s to come.
Metahuman Animator is an animation tool that allows you to record your face on your phone and then reproduce it as a high-fidelity animation for a character in a game. This function could be an even greater tool to cut down on cost and time for creators and game developers alike.
Experimental Procedural Generation Tool
The experimental procedural generation tool is an innovative solution for open-world creation. It uses prefab assembly that can appropriately react to placement, movement, etc., and adjusts the environment around it in a deterministic way. This means that creating large open worlds can be streamlined if a developer chooses to do so, once again cutting down on time and costs it would take to make the assets painstakingly individual.
Interestingly enough, Unreal Engine 5 isn’t only for game development. Expert developers can leverage this software to assist other industries such as healthcare, architecture, retail, education, and the most logical leap, film, and TV. Speaking of which, Unreal has already been used in film and television.
“The Mandalorian” is a beautiful example of the synergy between hardware and software advancement with “The Volume,” an almost 360-degree stage with LED screens making up the walls and ceiling. With this technology, actors can act in accordance with their environment as they no longer have to imagine what something looks like or its scale. If something’s off, a developer can change things on the fly with Unreal to accommodate the take.
As hardware continues to evolve with the release of new consoles or PC components, it only makes sense that the engines that produce games and other media work also evolve. Only a few games that use Unreal Engine 5 have been released. However, dozens of titles are already in development with the engine, some of which will be released this year.
With established improvements in performance, fidelity, and a wide array of tools to make any creator’s dream game, expert software engineers can leverage this technology to assist game developers in making it a reality. Additionally, with even more advancements on the horizon that would slice production time in half and provide supplementary tools for other industries to use, Unreal Engine 5.2 can’t come soon enough.
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