Over the past year, the global gaming industry has mammothed the mainstream film industry, leading to a growing focus on design alongside the launches of next-gen consoles Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5, ushering in a groundswell of games such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Outriders, Doom Eternal and Cyberpunk 2077.
Then there is the anticipation of design suites, particularly Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5 (UE5).
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Much to the delight of developers and designers around the world, Unreal Engine 5 is now available in Early Access, offering the opportunity to start testing features and prototyping their upcoming games.
“Unreal Engine 5 will deliver the freedom, fidelity, and flexibility to create next-generation games that will blow players’ minds. Groundbreaking new features such as Nanite and Lumen provide a generational leap in visual fidelity, while the new World Partition system enables the creation of expansive worlds with scalable content. As always, we’re committed to battle-testing the engine in-house, as we prepare to ship Fortnite on UE5 across all platforms down the line,” says Epic Games in a company statement.
As UE5 is expected to ship in early 2022, the Early Access build has only been tested on game development workflows and offers a chance for game developers to go hands-on with some new features. However, additional features and other improvements for all industries will be part of the full Unreal Engine 5.0 release in early 2022.
The main components of successful game design relies on storyline, music and sound design, character and environment design, and quality assurance. And UE5’s new features should be upgrading each of these aspects.
Nanite is UE5’s virtualised micro-polygon system letting users create games with massive, unprecedented amounts of geometric detail, so this means life-like graphics! Developers can directly import film-quality source assets comprising millions of polygons and place them millions of times, all while maintaining a real-time frame rate, and without any noticeable loss of fidelity.
Meanwhile, Lumen sees indirect lighting adapting on-the-fly to changes to direct lighting or geometry. Examples include changing the sun’s angle with the time of day, turning on a flashlight, or opening an exterior door. This one should be great for atmosphere-focussed games.
Time-consuming round-tripping is a pet peeve for many designers. UE5 brings in artist-friendly tools such as Control Rig to create rigs and share them across multiple characters, pose them in Sequencer and save and apply the poses with the new Pose Browser , and easily create natural movement with the new Full-Body IK solver. Meanwhile, Motion Warping enables dynamic adjustments of a character’s root motion to align to different targets with a single animation.
To cater to the high demand of superior character design, UE5 welcomes MetaHumans which can be created in MetaHuman Creator. This is actually compatible with both UE4 and UE5. Developers have to sign up for MetaHuman Creator Early Access to begin importing their own MetaHumans, or they can simply download any of over 50 premade digital humans from 3D asset management platform Quixel Bridge.
Level design is integral in a game’s experiential success and gamer satisfaction. That said, UE5’s new World Partition system is Open Worlds which changes how levels are managed and streamed, automatically dividing the world into a grid and streaming the necessary cells. At the same time, multiple designers can also work on the same region of the same World without stepping on each other’s toes via the new One File Per Actor system.
Speaking of experiential success, MetaSounds from UE5 introduces a fundamentally new way of making audio with a high-performance system that offers complete control over audio digital-signal-processing graph generation of sound sources, letting users manage all aspects of audio rendering to drive next-generation procedural audio experiences.
All of this has to be empowered by a fluid and responsive workflow system, and UE5 has brought about a revamped Unreal Editor which sports an updated visual style, streamlined workflows, and optimized use of screen real estate, making it easier, faster, and more pleasing to use.