A “preview” version of Unreal Engine 5 has been available for some time, but today it has officially taken over Unreal Engine 4’s place as the current version of Unreal. We can expect new Unreal-based games to use it as well. some games in progressas Stalker 2.
What this means will vary depending on the game and the studio. The 2020 technology demo embedded above showcases the updated engine’s new “micropolygon geometry system”, Nanite, and its “global illumination solution”, Lumen. With Nanite and Lumen, Epic says developers can import film-quality 3D assets with “enormous amounts of geometric detail” and configure dynamic lights without worrying about certain complex technical steps, especially those related to optimization. The engine handles the ‘making it work on our PCs’ part, or at least more of it.
There are some features specific to open world games too, which might be useful for CD Projekt Red’s new Witcher game; the studio announced last month which is moving to Unreal Engine 5. One such feature is World Partition, which handles the on-the-fly loading and unloading of open worlds as players move through them. Another is Data Layers, which allows developers to “create different variations of the same world – such as day and night versions or intact and broken geometry – as layers that exist in the same space,” says Epic.
UE5 also includes new modeling and animation tools, “a fundamentally new way to make audio” and other features aimed at simplifying game development work and keeping as much of the Unreal Engine development environment as possible. In fact, using Epic Quixel Megascans (opens in new tab) (super detailed environment models) and Metahumans (opens in new tab) (realistic and customizable human models), which are free to use in Unreal Engine projects, you can create a playable game without ever minimizing the UE5 dev kit.
“With this release, we aim to empower teams large and small to truly push the boundaries of what’s possible, visually and interactively,” says Epic.
Like the previous version, Unreal Engine 5 is free to download and use; Epic does not collect royalties on indie games until they earn more than $1 million in revenue. I downloaded the UE5 preview the other day (it’s available on the Epic Games Store app) and while I found some aspects of it unintuitive – I’m not a game developer! – I was able to import some Quixel Megascans and build a scene with less Google searching than I would need to fix a sink.
Epic told me that a new UE5 community hub with tutorials is being added, as well as two new demo projects: Lyra, a new starter game that replaces the old ShooterGame model, and most interestingly, City Sample, which contains the city of Array technology demo which strangely was only released on consoles. Someone will surely compile and distribute City sample (opens in new tab) for those who just want to try it out, but for now, you’ll have to install UE5 if you want to try it out. Note that Keanu Reeves’ face is not included (and neither is the other Matrix stuff), but you can always try to make his face in MetaHuman Creator.
You can read more about Unreal Engine 5 features at epic blog.