23rd May 2020
Next-generation graphics revealed on PS5
Epic Games, the developers of Unreal Engine, have demonstrated the graphics rendering software's next major version, due for release in 2021.
Unreal Engine, first launched in 1998, is widely used in the gaming industry. It allows developers to create highly detailed landscapes, textures, animations, physics and AI. Version 4.0, the most recent of the major iterations, debuted in March 2014. Six years on, Epic Games have now showcased an early preview of version 5.0, which promises to bring even greater levels of realism and immersion to video games. For this next generation, Epic's aim is to achieve photorealism on a par with movie CGI, through powerful tools and content libraries.
In this video, Brian Karis (Technical Director of Graphics) and Jerome Platteaux (Special Projects Art Director) explore some of the new features. Two core technologies that will debut in 5.0 are explained:
• Nanite – virtualised micropolygon geometry, which frees artists to create as much geometric detail as the eye can see. Nanite geometry is streamed and scaled in real time, so there are no more polygon count budgets; no need to manually author levels of detail. Film-quality source art comprising billions of polygons can be imported directly into Unreal Engine without loss of quality. In other words, game artists can produce extremely detailed game worlds, without having to spend excessive amounts of time creating new detailed assets. Instead, these are now rendered by the graphics engine automatically, appropriate to the target platform and draw distance.
• Lumen – a fully dynamic, global illumination system that instantly reacts to scene and light changes. Lumen eliminates the need for artists and developers to craft a lightmap for a given scene, but instead calculates light reflections and shadows on the fly, therefore allowing for real-time behaviour to light sources. Additional components include "Niagara" for fluid and particle dynamics, and "Chaos" for improved physics.
With potentially tens of billions of polygons present on a single screen at 8k resolution, Epic has developed Unreal Engine 5 to take advantage of the upcoming high-speed storage solutions in the next-generation console hardware that will use a mix of RAM and custom solid-state drives. Epic is working closely with Sony to optimise graphics for the PlayStation 5 and its storage architecture, which Tim Sweeney (founder and CEO of Epic Games) has said is "far ahead of anything you can buy on anything on PC for any amount of money right now."
Seen here is a real-time demo, "Lumen in the Land of Nanite," running live on a PlayStation 5. Unreal Engine 5.0 will be available in preview in early 2021, and in full release by late 2021, supporting both current and next-generation consoles, alongside PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. Full-screen viewing mode is recommended for this video: