As part of the Summer Game Fest, Epic Games has shared a first look at the next iteration of the Unreal Engine. The tech demo, “Lumen in the Land of Nanite” was released to highlight two of the new features that will be a part of Unreal Engine 5. Speaking on what they wanted to do with this iteration of their 3-D creation tool, Epic said: “One of our goals in this next generation is to achieve photorealism on par with movie CG and real life, and put it within practical reach of development teams of all sizes through highly productive tools and content libraries.” The real-time demo they released was running live on PlayStation 5 marking this as the first time we have seen the possibilities of how games can look and run on Sony’s next-generation console.
The two new features that Epic wanted to highlight with the demo are called Nanite and Lumen. Nanite virtualized micropolygon geometry frees artists to create as much geometric detail as the eye can see. With it, developers will be able to bring in film-quality source art directly into Unreal Engine. Nanite geometry is streamed and scaled in real-time so there will be no polygon count budgets, polygon memory budgets, or draw count budgets. Developers won’t have to bake details to normal maps or manually author LODs. This also includes no loss in quality.
Lumen is a new fully dynamic global illumination system that immediately reacts to scene and light changes. The system renders diffuse interreflection with infinite bounces and indirect specular reflections in huge, detailed environments, at scales ranging from kilometers to millimeters. Artists and designers will be able to create more dynamic scenes as everything from changing the sun angle, turning on a flashlight, or blowing a hole in the ceiling will adapt accordingly including indirect lighting. The demo also includes examples of other systems already in Unreal Engine such as Chaos physics and destruction, Niagara VFX, convolution reverb, and ambisonics rendering, which get brought up in the tech demo.
“Numerous teams and technologies have come together to enable this leap in quality. To build large scenes with Nanite geometry technology, the team made heavy use of the Quxiel Megascans library, which provides film-quality objects up to hundreds of millions of polygons,” Epic Games said. “To support vastly larger and more detailed scenes than previous generations, PlayStation 5 provides a dramatic increase in storage bandwidth.”
Speaking to The Verge about Unreal Engine 5, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeny said: “The graphics speak for themselves. And Epic has always pushed the bleeding edge of what’s possible. Our goal isn’t just to bring more features to developers. The hardest problem in game development right now is building high-quality games takes enormous time and cost. So we want to make developers’ lives easier and more productive.”
Tim Sweeny also talked about the PlayStation 5 saying: “It has an immense amount of GPU power, but also multi-order bandwidth increase in storage management. That’s going to be absolutely critical. It’s one thing to render everything that can fit in memory,” but it is nothing compared to render a world that “might be tens of gigabytes in size” in no time at all which is what is something Mark Cerny touched on when revealing the technical specs and details of PlayStation 5 earlier this year.
Epic Games has been working closely with Sony during the development of UE5 and PlayStation 5 to ensure that Epic’s game development toolsets for developers are optimized for the hardware that the software will be running on. Tim Sweeny said: “We’ve been working super close with Sony for quite a long time on storage. The storage architecture on the PS5 is far ahead of anything you can buy on anything on PC for any amount of money right now. It’s going to help drive future PCs. The PC market is going to see this thing ship and say, ‘oh wow. SSDs are going to need to catch up with this.”
The next thing coming up during the Summer Game Fest is an extended look at one of Sony’s highly anticipated titles coming in the next few months, Ghost of Tsushima. The State of Play is set for tomorrow, May 14 at 1:00 pm PT / 4:00 pm ET.