Epic Games has released “Lumen in the Land of Nanite,” which is an incredible real-time demo of the next-generation Unreal Engine 5 running live on PlayStation 5. UE5 will be fully available in 2021.
This demo previews several new core technologies that will debut in UE5, which will be available in 2021. The lighting and level of detail are jaw-dropping for a console rendering in real-time. Unlike some other previous ray-tracing demos the PS5 real-time imagery is based on an AMD graphics GPU. The new UE5 supports film-grade assets that no longer need normal maps and fully dynamic global illumination (GI) to produce beautiful photographic real-time renders.
“These rendering features are driven by our awesome graphics team, that are dedicated to the pursuit of the perfect pixel. But all this technology is not worth anything unless the assets are great, and this is why Quixel is an important part of the team, and now for the first time the ultra realism of their film quality megascans can now be used to create real-time scenes”, commented Kim Libreri, CTO of Epic Games.
Lumen in the Land of Nanite Demo
The demo presents as a game, but it is not a game or a prototype for any actual game. The Lumen in the Land of Nanite was custom made just to show UE5’s features. The Epic team decided to make a short piece that could be experienced fully interactively, as if it was part of a new game. Numerous teams and technologies came together to enable the leap in quality on display. “Everything’s dynamic, you can move any object. Its all fully dynamic GI and each of the soldier statues alone is over 30 million triangles,” Libreri points out. The large scenes that demonstrate the Nanite geometry technology, made heavy use of the Quixel Megascans library. Quixel is now part of Epic and it provides film-quality objects with up to hundreds of millions of polygons.
Nanite is a virtualized micropolygon geometry system that allows incredible geometric detail. For many years there has been a strong divide between film grade assets and game assets. Asset conversion was neither simple nor quick. Optimizations had to be gone to de-res the film assets for use in a real-time context, with special low-resolution meshes, normal maps and a series of tricks to emulate the higher geometric complexity. Nanite virtualized geometry allows film-quality source assets with literally hundreds of millions or billions of polygons to be imported directly into UE5. Assets generated in ZBrush, photogrammetry, or CAD data can all be imported into UE5. Nanite geometry is streamed and scaled in real-time so there is no more need for complex polygon budgets, polygon memory budgets, or draw count budgets. It also removes the need to bake details to normal maps or manually author Levels of Detail (LODs). As Natite virtualises the process, not unlike how a Mipmap works, so there is no visible loss in quality. -the results are stunning.
Lumen is a fully dynamic multi-bounce global illumination solution for real-time 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 can create more dynamic scenes using Lumen, for example, changing the sun angle for time of day, turning on a flashlight, or blowing a hole in the ceiling, and indirect lighting will adapt accordingly. Lumen erases the need to wait for lightmap bakes to finish and to author light map SUVs, which is a huge time-saving. When an artist using UE5 moves a light inside the Unreal Editor, the lighting looks the same as when the game is run on a console.
To support vastly larger and more detailed scenes than previous generations, PlayStation 5 provides a dramatic increase in storage bandwidth. The demo also showcases existing engine systems such as Chaos physics and destruction, Niagara VFX, convolution reverb, special audio and ambisonics rendering. The demo shows complex particle interactions and interconnectivity, in one scene the torchlight drives the particle driven bugs to scatter the beetles into the darkness, as they can communicate with each other and understand their environment. There are also enhanced flocking behaviors in Niagara, which all allow for much more complex and natural background elements.
On the character side, there are new tools to help with the central gravity of characters, there is a new predictive foot placement for walking over complex terrain, and game designers can now seamlessly trigger contextual character animation to allow characters to lean on, effect or move objects that they come close to.
“Our philosophy in providing all these tools is making it easy for people to make the content that they need for their games so they can concentrate on gameplay or if they’re making a movie – then concentrate on making a great story. And it’s about empowering creatives so they can actually cut to the chase and not waste time around doing stuff that they shouldn’t have to or replicating effort,” explains Libreri.
UE4 and UE5
Unreal Engine 4.25, released in May 2020, supports PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, and Epic is working closely with console manufacturers and dozens of game developers and publishers using Unreal Engine to build next-gen games.
UE5 is forward compatible with UE4, so developers building today in UE4 will be able to easily move their projects to UE5. Unreal Engine 5 will be available in preview in early 2021, and in full release late in 2021, supporting next-generation consoles, current-generation consoles, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. Developers will be able to migrate their UE4 projects to UE5. Developers targeting next-gen consoles are encouraged to start building with UE4 and port their projects to UE5 as needed.
Unreal Engine royalties waived on the first $1 million in-game revenue, which is a serious increase over the previous arrangement. Effective May 13, 2020, and retroactive to the 1st of Jan, 2020, the royalty exemption amount is increased to US$1,000,000 per title, up from the previous $3,000 USD per quarter in gross revenue level. If your team has already paid royalties, then Epic will refund the difference.
Epic Online Services
One of the impressive aspects of playing Epic’s Fortnite has been how the same experience and user data is shared and carried over between various modes of play or devices. Epic is now offering the services create for Fortnite to other game developers. For example: friends, matchmaking, lobbies, achievements, leaderboards, and accounts: will be able to be shared across seven major platforms – PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. Epic is opening up Epic Online Services to all developers for free, using a simple multiplatform SDK. This means that developers can mix and match these services together with a company’s own account services, platform accounts, or Epic Games accounts.
Epic Games as a company has been benefiting from the world going into a global shutdown, as gaming worldwide has seen massive growth, some estimate put games sales generally up by 35% and online gaming up over 70%. Fortnite now has the world’s largest social graph with over 350 million players and their 2.2 billion friend connections across half a billion devices. Significantly, Epic has been expanding Fortnite’s scope with more ‘live’ concerts, reinforcing it as so much more than just a game.
The recent Travis Scott music event built on the ground broken by DJ/producer Marshmello with their live motion-capture concert last year. That first concert had over 10 million virtual attendees. The Travis Scott event saw over 27.7 million unique players in-game participating live, 45.8 million times across the five events. There were 12.3 million concurrent players in-game during the first concert alone. The “Astronomical” virtual concert premiered the new track The Scotts (with Kid Cudi). The Scotts had 7.45 million plays in its first 24 hours on Spotify, according to Rolling Stone, and became the world’s Number One hit.
The influence of the company can now be felt across the entire entertainment space. UE4 is being used in architecture, car design, product design and education, – it even powered the visual effects for the first season of The Mandalorian. With the advent of UE5 it is not hard to see how Epic will continue to soar as the reality engine of visualisation and the key platform for new forms of entertainment.