Almost two years after its first announcement, Epic Games has released its next-gen game engine. As part of a State of Unreal event today, the company revealed that Unreal Engine 5 is now available for download.
The updated engine features a number of enhancements for developers, including improved performance and an improved user interface, but the biggest changes come from a handful of technologies designed for more photorealistic visuals. These include Lumen, “a fully dynamic global lighting solution” for more realistic lighting, and Nanite, which Epic says “gives you the ability to create games and experiences with massive amounts of geometric detail.” . There are also some more practical tools, like the ability to partition sections of an open world to make it easier for teams to work on areas independently. Overall, these tools should make it easier to create large-scale games with high fidelity; CD Projekt Red has already confirmed that it is using the tool to build the next Witcher.
Although this is the first time the engine has been widely available to game developers, a few major UE5 projects have already been made public through Epic itself. Last December, fortnite moved to Unreal 5, and at the same time Epic released The matrix awakensan impressive tech demo that merged likenesses of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss with a large open world populated by the developer’s Metahuman characters.
“It’s great that we can experiment with user experience flows way before anyone else,” said Epic CTO Kim Libreri. The edge. “So actually it’s very valuable to our customers because it means they don’t have to go through that. We don’t end up putting super thoughtless workflows in front of all users. It’s great from that perspective, especially with something as big as the Matrix demo and as big as fortnite.”
As part of today’s UE5 launch, Epic is also readying a sample of The matrix awakens‘ city – without Hollywood stars – available for game developers. “I think we’re going to see some pretty awesome stuff,” Libreri said. Epic is also releasing a sample multiplayer shooter called Lyrebuilt in UE5, which looks a lot like Unreal Tournament and is something the developer says can be a “hands-on learning resource” for game creators.
Outside of games, engines like Unreal have also become increasingly popular for other applications, including film and television. The Mandalorian, for example, used Unreal for its virtual sets. With tools like UE5 and a new generation of gaming hardware, Libreri thinks we’ll see more of this kind of crossover between media. In the past, he says, creators would build “movie-grade assets” which then had to be scaled down for use in a game. Now those lines are starting to blur, opening up all sorts of possibilities.
“It really means that across media boundaries, whether you’re making a movie, a TV show, or even a business application, you don’t really have to think that much before making that choice,” explains- he. “Obviously, if you’re going to ship on low-end rigs, you still have to think about the number of triangles in the scene. But on the next generation of hardware, that’s absolutely a game changer. It’s entirely possible a scene made for a streaming show on Netflix or Disney – where they basically used the highest resolution assets – now there’s a chance things will show up in a game or, as we head into the future , show in a metaverse experience.