Updated: May 23, 2020 7:22:18 pm
Epic Games says Unreal Engine 5, the new version of its popular graphics engine, will help achieve photorealistic graphics in games, coming to the next-generation consoles like the PlayStation 5.
“We are chasing photorealism with Unreal Engine 5,” Quentin Staes-Polet, General Manager, India and SEA, of Epic Games told Indianexpress.com. “The new engine will save a lot of time and at the same time, it gets us one step closer to full reality simulation.”
Based in Cary, North Carolina, Epic Games recently revealed Unreal Engine 5 with a demo running on Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 5. The tech demo, called Lumen in the Land of Nanite, blew everyone’s mind and gave a preview of Unreal Engine 5 and what the next-generation hardware is capable of. A lot of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X games will take advantage of Unreal Engine 5, although developers other than Epic Games won’t get access to the new graphics engine before 2021.
One of the new technologies that made its debut with Unreal Engine 5 is Nanite, which enables developers to bring photorealism into games and not worry about polygon budgets or LODs. “With Unreal Engine 5, you can take 4K Cinema quality 3D assets and ingest them in the engine as it is and work with them. So that’s like a massive change as you can save a lot of time and on top of it, it brings photorealistic gaming in the future,” he said.
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The other technology that is a core part of Unreal Engine 5 is Lumen, which is a new lighting technology. Lumen is a new version of Ray Tracing that allows for more realistic lighting. “Ray tracing was a big step in the previous version of the engine using the RTX technology from the GPU, available in the market. This [Lumen] is pushing to the next level; it brings the number of bounds and the number of red light rays that we can track and simulate to a much higher number and a much more precise reproduction,” he explains.
‘Epic makes money through Unreal Engine’
Unreal, which is a game engine developed by Epic Games, is a set of tools that helps developers render graphics, build characters, animations, and reproduce environments. The business model behind the Unreal Engine is simple. Epic does not charge licensing fees from other developers to use the Unreal Engine. Instead, it takes a 5 per cent cut of all gross revenue on games they make using Unreal Engine.
“We’ve waived the revenue share for the first $1 million. Our thought is that a lot of the indie developers and bootstrap who do not have a lot of money paying royalty before the game really started to bring revenue and some profit is challenging. We don’t want that to be an impediment to the adoption of the engine,” Quentin explains.
“We’ve made it a lot easier for smaller teams to dig into the engine and take all the benefits of the engine at no cost.”
In a way, Unreal Engine 5 will impact the gaming industry as a whole. The new version of the engine is not meant for just big developers with fancy budgets and access to the latest hardware. The idea is to democratise game development, cut down on technical costs of game development and allow small developers to take advantage of the latest technology.
“We are a developer ourselves and we know the pains of the developer,” Quentin said. “We always very much try to make the engine and the act of digital creation easier.”
Epic Games’ Unreal Engine has been used to make many popular games, including its own hit Fortnite as well as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), developed by South Korea’s Bluehole. “In the past you needed to be a C++ programmer to use Unreal Engine but after we released visual scripting with blueprints, artists that are not coders can use Unreal Engine,” he continued.
‘Unreal Engine is beyond gaming’
While many think that Unreal Engine is limited to gaming, that is not the case. According to Quentin, the Unreal Engine is transforming many industries from movie production to broadcasting and automobiles. “Unreal Engine and the main push in India for us was actually not gaming but the use of the engine by moviemakers, broadcasters, animation and VFX houses, architects to do simulation and 3D visualisation of data,” he said. Quentin says the game technology was invented purely to support game developers. “The features we are adding in the engine are going to change both the film and broadcasting industry very dramatically.”
‘Epic Games’ bets on cross-play’
One of the trends that are emerging in the game industry is cross-play. Both Fortnite and PUBG are cross-platform titles, which means it can be played on a wide range of platforms including PCs, game consoles, and even smartphones. The model has proven to be successful in the case of free-to-play titles.
Epic Games recently announced its Epic Online Services, a free SDK integration that allows all developers to include friends, matchmaking, lobbies, achievements, and Epic account systems in their games across PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android.
“We are releasing those as a service which means that any other game company, even if they developed in Unity, or regardless of the platform they developed, now has access to cross-platform. It will be a simple SDK that you integrate,” he says.
Quentin, who shuttles between Goa and Singapore, is excited about the launch of Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X. Quentin was tight-lipped on the PS5, but said the company works closely with all console manufacturers so that Unreal Engine performs well on it.
Tim Sweeney founded Epic Games in his parents’ basement in 1991. Over the past few years, Epic has delivered hit titles including Fortnite and Infinity Blade, among others. In 2012, Sweeney sold 40 per cent of the company to Chinese internet giant Tencent. Epic Games acquired social network app Houseparty last year for an undisclosed sum. The company also operates Epic Games Store, the digital video game marketplace, that sells games for Windows and macOS.
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