Unreal Engine 5 – Summary of New Features
Early this morning, Epic Games announced its newest version of the Unreal Engine, Unreal Engine 5. With the announcement came the tech demo “Lumen in the Land of the Nanite” running on Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 5 hardware. The name of the tech demo is a nod to the two proprietary technologies at the head of Unreal Engine 5, “Lumen” and “Nanite”. Lumen is the new illumination tech that will allow for dynamic lighting changes in real-time.
What this means is that light sources such as explosions or even the sun moving across the sky can reflect and adapt across surfaces in the environment naturally. Optimizations like this will save game designers time by eliminating the need to wait to see how lights will look in an environment. Instead with Lumen, light sources will be movable while still functioning the way they would in-game.
Nanite utilizes virtualized micro-geometry. This technology means that millions, if not billions of triangles, can comprise a single object showing immense amounts of detail without any resource restraint. This allows for incredibly detailed textures on numerous objects at the same time. Nanite will also allow for the ability to seamlessly import film-quality assets into Unreal Engine 5, again increasing productivity and workflow for game designers. Nanite, in combination with Lumen, can lead to some stunning visuals that can easily be modified in real-time, as seen in the tech demo.
Unreal Engine 5 also brings with it upgrades to audio quality. Upgrades such as Convolution Reverb allow the use of natural reverberation characteristics. This allows sound to travel more realistically and, combined with spatial audio, will help to immerse players greatly. Unreal Engine 5 is set to preview in early 2021, and release late 2021 with support for current and next-gen consoles along with Mac, PC, Android, and iOS.
I think the tech demo looked fantastic. The texture quality made possible by Nanite is genuinely incredible, and I can’t wait to see just how far developers can push it. Lumen looks promising, and I love the productivity aspect of it. However, I’m looking forward to seeing how it will compare with Nvidia’s RTX technology in the future. The spatial audio portion of the demo has me very excited. I think it will be massive in terms of immersion and could have significant benefits to gaming in VR. I picture myself playing something like Resident Evil 7 in VR with spatial audio and being absolutely terrified of every footstep as it resonates through the house.
While I would say the presentation was mostly positive, there were a few things that worried me. Frame rate is the first significant issue that comes to my mind. Typically with High-Resolution gaming, there is a trade-off of frame rate for resolution detail. The problem is that sometimes higher resolutions put such a strain on the system that it can cause significant frame drops. For me, 4k at 30 fps feels like a sports car that drives under the speed limit, and I am not a fan. The demo didn’t show a ton of motion or fast-paced action, and my worry is that’s because, under lots of stress, the PlayStation 5 might dip to as low as 30 frames per second. Overall I think Unreal Engine 5 will be great for next-gen and help bridge the gap between high-end PC gaming and consoles.
Check out the full reveal video from the team at Unreal below.