With Epic Games Unreal Engine 5 now available, developers are working on games to tap into its new features.
Developers use UE5 as a tool to create games and run them real time on consoles, mobile devices, and the PC. Epic's goal with Unreal Engine 5 is to offer more tools for developers to create highly realistic game worlds.
While UE5 offers improvements for developers such as an upgraded UI and better performance, the biggest changes are centered on photorealism.
For example, the updated engine introduces new features for rendering real-time worlds. That includes Lumen, "a fully dynamic global illumination solution" where indirect lighting adapts on the fly to changes, such as changing the sun’s angle according to the time of day. And Nanite, a new "virtualized micropolygon geometry system" that allows you to create games with greater geometric detail. And Virtual Shadow Maps (VSMs), designed to work with Lumen and Nanite, which increases shadow resolution to match the more detailed Nanite geometry.
Alonside UE5, Epic is shipping Lyra, a starter game. It's a complete end-to-end networked multiplayer game project that can be used as a foundation to build a game upon without the need to start from a blank slate, Epic said at the State of Unreal 2022 event.
During the State of Unreal 2022 live stream, Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics announced that its new game was being made with UE5. No word yet on the plot of Lara Croft's next adventure. But Rhianna Pratchet, writer of two of the three reboot games, says she wants to see Croft return to her pre-reboot wit and grit.
Epic also displayed a long list of major developers that are working on games powered by UE5. That list includes Xbox, PlayStation (and PSVR 2), Ninja Theory, Tencent Games, CD PROJEKT RED, Obsidian Entertainment, and Gearbox.
Fortnite got in early, moving over to Unreal Engine 5 in December with Fortnite Chapter 3. And Epic released The Matrix Awakens tech demo around the same time. "The pinnacle…of that is the Matrix city that we built in its entirety…we have drivable vehicles, the AI MetaHumans, the whole city, as a playable level. It is going out so that people can learn from it," Kim Libreri, CTO of Epic Games, told VentureBeat.
Unreal Engine 5 can be downloaded for free. For commercial products, a 5% royalty is due if you are distributing an off-the-shelf product that incorporates Unreal Engine code and the lifetime gross revenue from that product exceeds US$1 million. The first $1 million is royalty-exempt.