Unreal Engine 5 Announced By Epic Games, Boasts The Ability To Deliver Graphics On-Par With Real Life

Unreal Engine 5 Announced By Epic Games, Boasts The Ability To Deliver Graphics On-Par With Real Life
Credit: Epic Games via YouTube

Epic Games is known world-over for the creation and huge financial success of Fortnite, the world’s most popular free-to-play game. But it’s also known for creating the Unreal Engine, a gaming engine known for its versatility and ability to create 3-D graphics.

Unreal Engine, in all of its forms, boasts a large and rather impressive list of games and movies that use it, from Outer Worlds to Surf’s Up. Even Disney’s Mandolorian uses it in its production.

Around 200 games and movies use a version of the Unreal Engine in some way, shape, or fashion, so Epic Games’ announcement of Unreal Engine 5 was met with excitement and anticipation.

Unreal Engine 5 promises to deliver “photorealism on par with movie CG and real life.” To showcase the power of the new engine, Epic created a tech demo called “Lumen in the Land of Nanite.”

Epic Games’ tech demo, featured on the PS5, looked to be a major improvement to Unreal Engine 4, with the demo featuring in-depth commentary going over a full range of features, but the two core technologies of the engine, Nanite and Lumen, is what will be discussed below.

Lumen is a “fully dynamic global illumination solution” that will react dynamically to lighting changes as they happen. For example, if designers wanted to change the time of day or set off an explosion, the indirect lighting will adapt without designers having to redo the entire scene.

Lumen is going to directly influence lighting graphically within scenes and frames as well. The system will have the capability of rendering infinitely-bouncing light reflections throughout dynamic environments as small as millimeters and as large as kilometers.

Essentially, this system is going to make lighting environments quicker and easier, from a design perspective. It seeks to eliminate the need to procedurally and meticulously author entire environments and scenes, things that would normally cost huge amounts of time.

As well as Lumen, Unreal Engine 5 adds Nanite, a system that will allow designers to be as detailed as the eye can follow. It does this by using micro-polygon geometry to generate images.

Basically it’s going to use millions of tiny triangles to generate images. The great thing about this technology is it’s going to allow the addition of film-quality source art to be imported directly into Unreal Engine 5 if the designer so chooses.

The nanite geometry is streamed and scaled in real-time as well, so the cost of creating similar environments in comparison to other engines is expected to be relatively low, as it takes most of the need for budgets that would perform similar functions completely out of the equation.

The engine will be available, in a preview state, starting in early 2021 with the full release scheduled for later that year. In addition to the PS5 and Xbox Series X, the engine will support development on PS4 and Xbox One, as well as PC, Mac, iOS, and Android.